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THE CLOUDS by Aristophanes, Part 08

CHORUS (singing)
You will pass your whole life among us and will be the most envied
of men.
STREPSIADES (singing)
Shall I really ever see such happiness?
CHORUS (singing)
Clients will be everlastingly besieging your door in crowds,
burning to get at you, to explain their business to you and to consult
you about their suits, which, in return for your ability, will bring
you in great sums.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But, Socrates, begin the lessons you want to teach this old man;
rouse his mind, try the strength of his intelligence.
SOCRATES
Come, tell me the kind of mind you have; it's important that I
know this, that I may order my batteries against you in the right
fashion.
STREPSIADES
Eh, what! in the name of the gods, are you purposing to assault me
then?
SOCRATES
No. I only wish to ask you some questions. Have you any memory?
STREPSIADES
That depends: if anything is owed me, my memory is excellent,
but if I owe, alas! I have none whatever.
SOCRATES
Have you a natural gift for speaking?
STREPSIADES
For speaking, no; for cheating, yes.
SOCRATES
How will you be able to learn then?
STREPSIADES
Very easily, have no fear.
SOCRATES
Thus, when I throw forth some philosophical thought anent things
celestial., you will seize it in its very flight?
STREPSIADES
Then I am to snap up wisdom much as a dog snaps up a morsel?
SOCRATES (aside)
Oh! the ignoramus! the barbarian! (to STREPSIADES) I greatly fear,
old man, it will be necessary for me to have recourse to blows. Now,
let me hear what you do when you are beaten.
STREPSIADES
I receive the blow, then wait a moment, take my witnesses and
finally summon my assailant at law.
SOCRATES
Come, take off your cloak.
STREPSIADES
Have I robbed you of anything?
SOCRATES
No. but the usual thing is to enter the school without your cloak.
STREPSIADES
But I have not come here to look for stolen goods.
SOCRATES
Off with it, fool!
STREPSIADES (He obeys.)
Tell me, if I prove thoroughly attentive and learn with zeal,
which O; your disciples shall I resemble, do you think?
SOCRATES
You will be the image of Chaerephon.
STREPSIADES
Ah! unhappy me! Shall I then be only half alive?
SOCRATES
A truce to this chatter! follow me and no more of it.
STREPSIADES
First give me a honey-cake, for to descend down there sets me
all a-tremble; it looks like the cave of Trophonius.
SOCRATES
But get in with you! What reason have you for thus dallying at the
door?
(They go into the Thoughtery.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Good luck! you have courage; may you succeed, you, who, though
already so advanced in years, wish to instruct your mind with new
studies and practise it in wisdom! (The CHORUS turns and faces the
Audience.) Spectators! By Bacchus, whose servant I am, I will
frankly tell you the truth. May I secure both victory and renown as
certainly as I hold you for adept critics and as I regard this
comedy as my best. I wished to give you the first view of a work,
which had cost me much trouble, but which I withdrew, unjustly
beaten by unskilful rivals. It is you, oh, enlightened public, for
whom I have prepared my piece, that I reproach with this. Nevertheless
I shall never willingly cease to seek the approval of the
discerning. I have not forgotten the day, when men, whom one is
happy to have for an audience, received my Virtuous Young Man and my
Paederast with so much favour in this very place. Then as yet
virgin, my Muse had not attained the age for maternity; she had to
expose her first-born for another to adopt, and it has since grown
up under your generous patronage. Ever since you have as good as sworn
me your faithful alliance. Thus, like the ELECTRA of the poets, my
comedy has come to seek you to-day, hoping again to encounter such
enlightened spectators. As far away as she can discern her ORESTES ,
she will be able to recognize him by his curly head. And note her
modest demeanour! She has not sewn on a piece of hanging leather,
thick and reddened at THE END, to cause laughter among the children;
she does not rail at the bald, neither does she dance the cordax; no
old man is seen, who, while uttering his lines, batters his questioner
with a stick to make his poor jests pass muster. She does not rush
upon the scene carrying a torch and screaming, 'Iou! Iou!' No, she
relies upon herself and her verses....My value is so well known,
that I take no further pride in it. I do not seek to deceive you, by
reproducing the same subjects two or three times; I always invent
fresh themes to present before you, themes that have no relation to
each other and that are all clever. I attacked Cleon to his face and
when he was all-powerful; but he has fallen, and now I have no
desire to kick him when he is down. My rivals, on the contrary, now
that this wretched Hyperbolus has given them the cue, have never
ceased setting upon both him and his mother. First Eupolis presented
his 'Maricas'; this was simply my 'Knights,' whom this plagiarist
had clumsily furbished up again by adding to the piece an old
drunken woman, so that she might dance the cordax. It was an old idea,
taken from Phrynichus, who caused his old hag to be devoured by a
monster of the deep. Then Hermippus fell foul of Hyperbolus and now
all the others fall upon him and repeat my comparison of the eels. May
those who find amusement in their pieces not be pleased with mine, but
as for you, who love and applaud my inventions, why, posterity will
praise your good taste.

 

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