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THE CLOUDS by Aristophanes, Part 15

Who is to speak first?
Let it be my opponent, he has my full consent; then I shall follow
upon the very ground he shall have chosen and shall shatter him with a
hail of new ideas and subtle fancies; if after that he dares to
breathe another word, I shall sting him in the face and in the eyes
with our maxims, which are as keen as the sting of a wasp, and he will
CHORUS (singing)
Here are two rivals confident in their powers of oratory and in
the thoughts over which they have pondered so long. Let us see which
will come triumphant out of the contest. This wisdom, for which my
friends maintain such a persistent fight, is in great danger.
Come then, you, who crowned men of other days with so many
virtues, plead the cause dear to you, make yourself known to us.
Very well, I will tell you what was the old education, when I used
to teach justice with so much success and when modesty was held in
veneration. Firstly, it was required of a child, that it should not
utter a word. In the street, when they went to the music-school, all
the youths of the same district marched lightly clad and ranged in
good order, even when the snow was falling in great flakes. At the
master's house they had to stand with their legs apart and they were
taught to sing either, "Pallas, the Terrible, who overturneth cities,"
or "A noise resounded from afar" in the solemn tones of the ancient
harmony. If anyone indulged in buffoonery or lent his voice any of the
soft inflexions, like those which to-day the disciples of Phrynis take
so much pains to form, he was treated as an enemy of the Muses and
belaboured with blows. In the wrestling school they would sit with
outstretched legs and without display of any indecency to the curious.
When they rose, they would smooth over the sand, so as to leave no
trace to excite obscene thoughts. Never was a child rubbed with oil
below the belt; the rest of their bodies thus retained its fresh bloom
and down, like a velvety peach. They were not to be seen approaching a
lover and themselves rousing his passion by soft modulation of the
voice and lustful gaze. At table, they would not have dared, before
those older than themselves, to have taken a radish, an aniseed or a
leaf of parsley, and much less eat fish or thrushes or cross their
What antiquated rubbish! Have we got back to the days of the
festivals of Zeus Polieus, to the Buphonia, to the time of the poet
Cecides and the golden cicadas?
Nevertheless by suchlike teaching I built up the men of
Marathon-But you, you teach the children of to-day to bundle
themselves quickly into their clothes, and I am enraged when I see
them at the PanATHENAea forgetting Athene while they dance, and
covering their tools with their bucklers. Hence, young man, dare to
range yourself beside me, who follow justice and truth; you will
then be able to shun the public place, to refrain from the baths, to
blush at all that is shameful, to fire up if your virtue is mocked at,
to give place to your elders, to honour your parents, in short, to
avoid all that is evil. Be modesty itself, and do not run to applaud
the dancing girls; if you delight in such scenes, some courtesan
will cast you her apple and your reputation will be done for. Do not
bandy words with your father, nor treat him as a dotard, nor
reproach the old man, who has cherished you, with his age.
If you listen to him, by Bacchus! you will be the image of the
sons of Hippocrates and will be called mother's big ninny.
No, but you will pass your days at the gymnasia, glowing with
strength and health; you will not go to the public place to cackle and
wrangle as is done nowadays; you will not live in fear that you may be
dragged before the courts for some trifle exaggerated by quibbling.
But you will go down to the Academy to run beneath the sacred olives
with some virtuous friend of your own age, your head encircled with
the white reed, enjoying your ease and breathing the perfume of the
yew and of the fresh sprouts of the poplar, rejoicing in the return of
springtide and gladly listening to the gentle rustle of the plane tree
and the elm. (With greater warmth from here on) If you devote yourself
to practising my precepts, your chest will be stout, your colour
glowing, your shoulders broad, your tongue short, your hips
muscular, but your tool small. But if you follow the fashions of the
day, you will be pallid in hue, have narrow shoulders, a narrow chest,
a long tongue, small hips and a big thing; you will know how to spin
forth long-winded arguments on law. You will be persuaded also to
regard as splendid everything that is shameful and as shameful
everything that is honourable; in a word, you will wallow in
degeneracy like Antimachus.
CHORUS (singing)
How beautiful, high-souled, brilliant is this wisdom that you
practise! What a sweet odour of honesty is emitted by your
discourse! Happy were those men of other days who lived when you
were honoured! And you, seductive talker, come, find some fresh
arguments, for your rival has done wonders.
You will have to bring out against him all the battery of your
wit, it you desire to beat him and not to be laughed out of court.
At last! I was choking with impatience, I was burning to upset his
arguments! If I am called the Weaker Reasoning in the schools, it is
just because I was the first to discover the means to confute the laws
and the decrees of justice. To invoke solely the weaker arguments
and yet triumph is an art worth more than a hundred thousand drachmae.
But see how I shall batter down the sort of education of which he is
so proud. Firstly, he forbids you to bathe in hot water. What
grounds have you for condemning hot baths?
Because they are baneful and enervate men.


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