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Aristophanes Index


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THE FROGS by Aristophanes, Part 10


AEACUS
By Zeus the Saviour, quite the gentleman
Your master is.
XANTHIAS
Gentleman? I believe you.
He's all for wine and women, is my master.
AEACUS
But not to have flogged you, when the truth came out
That you, the slave, were passing off as master!
XANTHIAS
He'd get the worst of that.
AEACUS
Bravo! that's spoken
Like a true slave: that's what I love myself.
XANTHIAS
You love it, do you?
AEACUS
Love it? I'm entranced
When I can curse my lord behind his back.
XANTHIAS
How about grumbling, when you have felt the stick,
And scurry out of doors?
AEACUS
That's jolly too.
XANTHIAS
How about prying?
AEACUS
That beats everything,
XANTHIAS
Great Kin-god Zeus! And what of overhearing
Your master's secrets?
AEACUS
What? I'm mad with joy.
XANTHIAS
And blabbing them abroad?
AEACUS
O heaven and earth!
When I do that, I can't contain myself.
XANTHIAS
Phoebus Apollo! clap your hand in mine,
Kiss and be kissed: and prithee tell me this,
Tell me by Zeus, our rascaldom's own god,
What's all that noise within? What means this hubbub
And row?
AEACUS
That's Aeschylus and Euripides.
XANTHIAS
Eh?
AEACUS
Wonderful, wonderful things are going on.
The dead are rioting, taking different sides.
XANTHIAS
Why, what's the matter?
AEACUS
There's a custom here
With all the crafts, the good and noble crafts,
That the chief master of art in each
Shall have his dinner in the assembly hall,
And sit by Pluto's side.
XANTHIAS
I understand.
AEACUS
Until another comes, more wise than he
In the same art: then must the first give way.
XANTHIAS
And how has this disturbed our Aeschylus?
AEACUS
'Twas he that occupied the tragic chair,
As, in his craft, the noblest.
XANTHIAS
Who does now?
AEACUS
But when Euripides came down, he kept
Flourishing off before the highwaymen,
Thieves, burglars, parricides-these form our mob
In Hades-till with listening to his twists
And turns, and pleas and counterpleas, they went
Mad on the man, and hailed him first and wisest:
Elate with this, he claimed the tragic chair
Where Aeschylus was seated.
XANTHIAS
Wasn't he pelted?
AEACUS
Not he: the populace clamoured out to try
Which of the twain was wiser in his art.
XANTHIAS
You mean the rascals?
AEACUS
Aye, as high as heaven!
XANTHIAS
But were there none to side with Aeschylus?
AEACUS
Scanty and sparse the good, (regards the
audience) the same as here.
XANTHIAS
And what does Pluto now propose to do?
AEACUS
He means to hold a tournament, and bring
Their tragedies to the proof.
XANTHIAS
But Sophocles,
How came not he to claim the tragic chair?
AEACUS
Claim it? Not he! When he came down, he kissed
With reverence Aeschylus, and clasped his hand,
And yielded willingly the chair to him.
But now he's going, says Cleidemides,
To sit third-man: and then if Aeschylus win,
He'll stay content: if not, for his art's sake,
He'll fight to the death against Euripides.
XANTHIAS
Will it come off?
AEACUS
O yes, by Zeus, directly.
And then, I hear, will wonderful things be done,
The art poetic will be weighed in scales.
XANTHIAS
What I weigh out tragedy, like butcher's meat?
AEACUS
Levels they'll bring, and measuring-tapes for words,
And moulded oblongs,
XANTHIAS
Is it bricks they are making?
AEACUS
Wedges and compasses: for Euripides
Vows that he'll test the dramas, word by word.
XANTHIAS
Aeschylus chafes at this, I fancy.
AEACUS
Well, He lowered his brows, upglaring like a bull.
XANTHIAS
And who's to be the judge?
AEACUS
There came the rub.
Skilled men were hard to find: for with the Athenians
Aeschylus, somehow, did not hit it off,
XANTHIAS
Too many burglars, I expect, he thought.
AEACUS
And all the rest, he said, were trash and nonsense
To judge poetic wits. So then at last
They chose your lord, an expert in the art.
But we go in for when our lords are bent
On urgent business, that means blows for us.

 

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