THE FROGS by Aristophanes, Part 12
As for myself, good people all,
I'll tell you by-and-by
My own poetic worth and claims;
but first of all I'll try
To show how this portentous quack
beguiled the silly fools
Whose tastes were nurtured, ere he came,
in Phrynichus's schools.
He'd bring some single mourner on,
seated and veiled, 'twould be
Achilles, say, or Niobe
-the face you could not see-
An empty show of tragic woe,
who uttered not one thing.
Then in the CHORUS came, and rattled off a string
four continuous lyric odes:
the mourner never stirred.
I liked it too. I sometimes think
that I those mutes preferred
To all your chatterers now-a-days.
Because, if you must know,
You were an ass.
An ass, no doubt;
what made him do it though?
That was his quackery, don't you see,
to set the audience guessing
When Niobe would speak; meanwhile,
the drama was progressing.
The rascal, how he took me in!
'Twas shameful, was it not?
(To AESCHYLUS) What makes you stamp and fidget so?
He's catching it so hot.
So when he had humbugged thus awhile,
and now his wretched play
Was halfway through, a dozen words,
great wild-bull words, he'd say,
Fierce Bugaboos, with bristling crests,
and shaggy eyebrows too,
Which not a soul could understand.
Be quiet, do.
But not one single word was clear.
St! don't your teeth be gnashing.
'Twas all Scamanders, moated camps,
and griffin-eagles flashing
In burnished copper on the shields,
Expressions, hard to comprehend.
Aye, by the Powers, and
Full many a sleepless night have spent
in anxious thought, because
I'd find the tawny cock-horse out,
what sort of bird it was!
It was a sign, you stupid dolt,
engraved the ships upon.
Eryxis I supposed it was,
Now really should a cock be brought
into a tragic play?
You enemy gods and men,
what was your practice, pray?
No cock-horse in my plays, by Zeus,
no goat-stag there you'll see,
Such figures as are blazoned forth
in Median tapestry.
When first I took the art from you,
bloated and swoln, poor thing,
With turgid gasconading words
and heavy dieting,
First I reduced and toned her down,
and made her slim and neat
With wordlets and with exercise
and poultices of beet,
And next a dose of chatterjuice,
distilled from books, I gave her,
And monodies she took, with sharp
Cephisophon for flavour.
I never used haphazard words,
or plunged abruptly in;
Who entered first explained at large
the drama's origin
Its source, I really trust,
was better than your own.
Then from the very opening lines
no idleness was shown;
The mistress talked with all her might,
the servant talked as much,
The master talked, the maiden talked,
the beldame talked.
An outrage was not death your due?
No, by Apollo, no:
That was my democratic way.
Ah, let that topic go.
Your record is not there, my friend,
Then next I taught all these to speak.
You did so, and I would
That ere such mischief you had wrought,
your very rungs had split.
Canons of verse I introduced,
and neatly chiselled wit;
To look, to scan: to plot, to plan:
to twist, to turn, to woo:
On all to spy; in all to pry.
You did: I say so too.
I showed them scenes of common life,
the things we know and see,
Where any blunder would at once
by all detected be.
I never blustered on, or took
their breath and wits away
By Cycnuses or Memnons clad
in terrible array,
With bells upon their horses' heads,
the audience to dismay.
Look at his pupils, look at mine:
and there the contrast view.
Uncouth Megaenetus is his,
and rough Phormisius too;
flesh-tearers with the pine:
But natty smart Theramenes,
and Cleitophon are mine.