THE CLOUDS by Aristophanes, Part 09
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Oh, ruler of Olympus, all-powerful king of the gods, great Zeus,
it is thou whom I first invoke; protect this CHORUS; and thou too,
Posidon, whose dread trident upheaves at the will of thy anger both
the bowels of the earth and the salty waves of the ocean. I invoke
my illustrious father, the divine Aether, the universal sustainer of
life, and Phoebus, who, from the summit of his chariot, sets the world
aflame with his dazzling rays, Phoebus, a mighty deity amongst the
gods and adored amongst mortals.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
Most wise spectators, lend us all your attention. Give heed to our
just reproaches. There exist no gods to whom this city owes more
than it does to us, whom alone you forget. Not a sacrifice, not a
libation is there for those who protect you! Have you decreed some mad
expedition? Well! we thunder or we fall down in rain. When you chose
that enemy of heaven, the Paphlagonian tanner, for a general, we
knitted our brow, we caused our wrath to break out; the lightning shot
forth, the thunder pealed, the moon deserted her course and the sun at
once veiled his beam threatening, no longer to give you light, if
Cleon became general. Nevertheless you elected him; it is said, Athens
never resolves upon some fatal step but the gods turn these errors
into her greatest gain. Do you wish that his election should even
now be a success for you? It is a very simple thing to do; condemn
this rapacious gull named Cleon for bribery and extortion, fit a
wooden collar tight round his neck, and your error will be rectified
and the commonweal will at once regain its old prosperity.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Aid me also, Phoebus, god of Delos, who reignest on the cragged
peaks of Cynthia; and thou, happy virgin, to whom the Lydian damsels
offer pompous sacrifice in a temple; of gold; and thou, goddess of our
country, Athene, armed with the aegis, the protectress of Athens;
and thou, who, surrounded by the bacchants of Delphi; roamest over the
rocks of Parnassus shaking the flame of thy resinous torch, thou,
Bacchus, the god of revel and joy.
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
As we were preparing to come here, we were hailed by the Moon
and were charged to wish joy and happiness both to the Athenians and
to their allies; further, she said that she was enraged and that you
treated her very shamefully, her, who does not pay you in words alone,
but who renders you all real benefits. Firstly, thanks to her, you
save at least a drachma each month for lights, for each, as he is
leaving home at night, says, "Slave, buy no torches, for the moonlight
is beautiful,"-not to name a thousand other benefits. Nevertheless you
do not reckon the days correctly and your calendar is naught but
confusion. Consequently the gods load her with threats each time
they get home and are disappointed of their meal, because the festival
has not been kept in the regular order of time. When you should be
sacrificing, you are putting to the torture or administering
justice. And often, we others, the gods, are fasting in token of
mourning for the death of Memnon or Sarpedon, while you are devoting
yourselves to joyous libations. It is for this, that last year, when
the lot would have invested Hyperbolus with the duty of Amphictyon, we
took his crown from him, to teach him that time must be divided
according to the phases of the moon.
SOCRATES (coming out)
By Respiration, the Breath of Life! By Chaos! By the Air! I have
never seen a man so gross, so inept, so stupid, so forgetful. All
the little quibbles, which I teach him, he forgets even before he
has learnt them. Yet I will not give it up, I will make him come out
here into the open air. Where are you, Strepsiades? Come, bring your
couch out here.
STREPSIADES (from within)
But the bugs will not allow me to bring it.
Have done with such nonsense! place it there and pay attention.
STREPSIADES (coming out, with the bed)
Well, here I am.
Good! Which science of all those you have never been taught, do
you wish to learn first? The measures, the rhythms or the verses?
Why, the measures; the flour dealer cheated me out of two
choenixes the other day.
It's not about that I ask you, but which, according to you, is the
best measure, the trimeter or the tetrameter?
The one I prefer is the semisextarius.
You talk nonsense, my good fellow.
I will wager your tetrameter is the semisextarius.
Plague seize the dunce and the fool! Come, perchance you will
learn the rhythms quicker.