THE FROGS by Aristophanes, Part 13
Theramenes? a clever man
and wonderfully sly:
Immerse him in a flood of ills,
he'll soon be high and dry,
"A Kian with a kappa, sir,
not Chian with a chi."
I taught them all these knowing ways
By chopping logic in my plays,
And making all my speakers try
To reason out the How and Why.
So now the people trace the springs,
The sources and the roots of things,
And manage all their households to
Far better than they used to do,
Scanning and searching "What's amiss?"
And, "Why was that?" And, "How is this?"
Ay, truly, never now a man
Comes home, but he begins to scan;
And to his household loudly cries,
"Why, where's my pitcher? What's the matter?
'Tis dead and my last year's platter.
Who gnawed these olives? Bless the sprat,
Who nibbled off the head of that?
And where's the garlic vanished, pray,
I purchased only yesterday?"
-Whereas, of old, our stupid youths
Would sit, with open mouths and eyes,
Like any dull-brained Mammacouths.
"All this thou beholdest, Achilles our boldest."
And what wilt thou reply? Draw tight the rein
Lest that fiery soul of thine
Whirl thee out of the listed plain,
Past the olives, and o'er the line.
Dire and grievous the charge he brings.
See thou answer him, noble heart,
Not with passionate bickerings.
Shape thy course with a sailor's art,
Reef the canvas, shorten the sails,
Shift them edgewise to shun the gales.
When the breezes are soft and low,
Then, well under control, you'll go
Quick and quicker to strike the foe.
O first of all the Hellenic bards
high loftily-towering verse to rear,
And tragic phrase from the dust to raise,
pour forth thy fountain with right good cheer.
My wrath is hot at this vile mischance,
and my spirit revolts at the thought that
Must bandy words with a fellow like him:
but lest he should vaunt that I can't reply-
Come, tell me what are the points for which
a noble poet our praise obtains.
For his ready wit, and his counsels sage,
and because the citizen folk he trains
To be better townsmen and worthier men.
If then you have done the very reverse,
Found noble-hearted and virtuous men,
and altered them, each and all, for the worse,
Pray what is the meed you deserve to get?
Nay, ask not him. He deserves to die.
For just consider what style of men
he received from me, great six-foot-high
Heroical souls, who never would blench
from a townsman's duties in peace or war;
Not idle loafers, or low buffoons,
or rascally scamps such as now they are.
But men who were breathing spears and helms,
and the snow-white plume in its crested pride,
The greave, and the dart, and the warrior's heart
in its sevenfold casing of tough bull-hide.
He'll stun me, I know, with his armoury-work;
this business is going from bad to worse.
And how did you manage to make them so grand,
exalted, and brave with your wonderful verse?
Come, Aeschylus, answer, and don't stand mute
in your self-willed pride and arrogant spleen.
A drama I wrote with the War-god filled.
'Tis the Seven against Thebes that I mean.
Which whoso beheld, with eagerness swelled
to rush to the battlefield there and then.
O that was a scandalous thing you did!
You have made the Thebans mightier men,
More eager by far for the business of war.
Now, therefore, receive this punch on the head.
Ah, ye might have practised the same yourselves,
but ye turned to other pursuits instead.
Then next the Persians I wrote, in praise
of the noblest deed that the world can show,
And each man longed for the victor's wreath,
to fight and to vanquish his country's foe.
I was pleased, I own, when I heard their moan
for old Darius, their great king, dead;
When they smote together their hands, like this,
and "Evir alake" the CHORUS said.
Aye, such are the poet's appropriate works:
and just consider how all along
From the very first they have wrought you good,
the noble bards, the masters of song.
First, Orpheus taught you religious rites,
and from bloody murder to stay your hands:
Musaeus healing and oracle lore;
and Hesiod all the culture of lands,
The time to gather, the time to plough.
And gat not Homer his glory divine
By singing of valour, and honour, and right,
and the sheen of the battle-extended line,
The ranging of troops and the arming of men?
O ay, but he didn't teach that, I opine,
To Pantacles; when he was leading the show
I couldn't imagine what he was at,
He had fastened his helm on the top of his head,
he was trying to fasten his plume upon that.
But others, many and brave, he taught,
of whom was Lamachus, hero true;
And thence my spirit the impress took,
and many a lion-heart chief I drew,
Patrocluses, Teucers, illustrious names;
for I fain the citizen-folk would spur
To stretch themselves to their measure and height,
whenever the trumpet of war they hear.
But Phaedras and Stheneboeas? No!
no harlotry business deformed my plays.
And none can say that ever I drew
a love-sick woman in all my days.