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THE FROGS by Aristophanes, Part 11

CHORUS
O surely with terrible wrath
will the thunder-voiced monarch be filled,
When he sees his opponent beside him,
the tonguester, the artifice-skilled,
Stand, whetting his tusks for the fight!
O surely, his eyes rolling-fell
Will with terrible madness be fraught I
O then will be charging of plume-waving words
with their wild-floating mane,
And then will be whirling of splinters,
and phrases smoothed down with the plane,
When the man would the grand-stepping maxims,
the language gigantic, repel
Of the hero-creator of thought.
There will his shaggy-born crest
upbristle for anger and woe,
Horribly frowning and growling,
his fury will launch at the foe
Huge-clamped masses of words,
with exertion Titanic up-tearing
Great ship-timber planks for the fray.
But here will the tongue be at work,
uncoiling, word-testing, refining,
Sophist-creator of phrases,
dissecting, detracting, maligning,
Shaking the envious bits,
and with subtle analysis paring
The lung's large labour away.

Here apparently there is a complete change of scene, to the Hall
of Pluto, with himself sitting on his throne, and Dionysus, AESCHYLUS,
and the foreground.

EURIPIDES
Don't talk to me; I won't give up the chair,
I say I am better in the art than he.
Dionysus
You hear him, Aeschylus: why don't you speak?
EURIPIDES
He'll do the grand at first, the juggling trick
He used to play in all his tragedies.
Dionysus
Come, my fine fellow, pray don't talk to big.
EURIPIDES
I know the man, I've scanned him through and through,
A savage-creating stubborn-pulling fellow,
Uncurbed, unfettered, uncontrolled of speech,
Unperiphrastic, bombastiloquent.
AESCHYLUS
Hah! sayest thou so, child of the garden quean
And this to me, thou chattery-babble-collector,
Thou pauper-creating rags-and-patches-stitcher?
Thou shalt abye it dearly!
Dionysus
Pray, be still;
Nor heat thy soul to fury, Aeschylus.
AESCHYLUS
Not till I've made you see the sort of man
This cripple-maker is who crows so loudly.
Dionysus
Bring out a ewe, a black-fleeced ewe, my boys:
Here's a typhoon about to burst upon us.
AESCHYLUS
Thou picker-up of Cretan monodies,
Foisting thy tales of incest on the stage-
Dionysus
Forbear, forbear, most honoured Aeschylus;
And you, my poor Euripides, begone
If you are wise, out of this pitiless hail,
Lest with some heady word he crack your scull
And batter out your brain-less Telephus.
And not with passion, Aeschylus, but calmly
Test and be tested. 'Tis not meet for poets
To scold each other, like two baking-girls.
But you go roaring like an oak on fire.
EURIPIDES
I'm ready, I don't draw back one bit.
I'll lash or, if he will, let him lash first
The talk, the lays, the sinews of a play:
Aye and my Peleus, aye and Aeolus.
And Meleager, aye and Telephus.
Dionysus
And what do you propose? Speak, Aeschylus.
AESCHYLUS
I could have wished to meet him otherwhere.
We fight not here on equal terms.
Dionysus
Why not?
AESCHYLUS
My poetry survived me: his died with him:
He's got it here, all handy to recite.
Howbeit, if so you wish it, so we'll have it.
Dionysus
O bring me fire, and bring me frankincense.
I'll pray, or e'er the clash of wits begin,
To judge the strife with high poetic skill.
Meanwhile (to the CHORUS) invoke the Muses with a song.

CHORUS
O Muses, the daughters divine
of Zeus, the immaculate Nine,
Who gaze from your mansions serene
on intellects subtle and keen,
When down to the tournament lists,
in bright-polished wit they descend,
With wrestling and turnings and twists
in the battle of words to contend,
O come and behold what the two
antagonist poets can do,
Whose mouths are the swiftest to teach
grand language and filings of speech:
For now of their wits is the sternest
encounter commencing in earnest.
Dionysus
Ye two, put up your prayers before ye start.
AESCHYLUS
Demeter, mistress, nourisher of my soul,
O make me worthy of thy mystic rites!
Dionysus (to EURIPIDES)
Now put on incense, you.
EURIPIDES
Excuse me, no;
My vows are paid to other gods than these.
Dionysus
What, a new coinage of your own?
EURIPIDES
Precisely.
Dionysus
Pray then to them, those private gods of yours.
EURIPIDES
Ether, my pasture, volubly-rolling tongue,
Intelligent wit and critic nostrils keen,
O well and neatly may I trounce his plays!
CHORUS
We also are yearning from these to be learning
Some stately measure, some majestic grand
Movement telling of conflicts nigh.
Now for battle arrayed they stand,
Tongues embittered, and anger high.
Each has got a venturesome will,
Each an eager and nimble mind;
One will wield, with artistic skill,
Clearcut phrases, and wit refined;
Then the other, with words defiant,
Stern and strong, like an angry giant
Laying on with uprooted trees,
Soon will scatter a world of these
Superscholastic subtleties.
Dionysus
Now then, commence your arguments,
and mind you both display
True wit, not metaphors, nor things
which any fool could say.

 

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