THE FROGS by Aristophanes, Part 14
For you no lot or portion had got
in Queen Aphrodite.
Thank Heaven for that.
But ever on you and yours, my friend,
the mighty goddess mightily sat;
Yourself she cast to the ground at last.
O ay, that uncommonly pat.
You showed how cuckolds are made, and lo,
you were struck yourself by the very same fate.
But say, you cross-grained censor of mine,
how my Stheneboeas could harm the state.
Full many a noble dame, the wife
of a noble citizen, hemlock took,
And died, unable the shame and sin
of your Bellerophon-scenes to brook.
Was then, I wonder, the tale I told
of Phaedra's passionate love untrue?
Not so: but tales of incestuous vice
the sacred poet should hide from view,
Nor ever exhibit and blazon forth
on the public stage to the public ken.
For boys a teacher at school is found,
but we, the poets, are teachers of men.
We are hound things honest and pure to speak.
And to speak great Lycabettuses, pray,
And massive blocks of Parnassian rocks,
is that things honest and pure to say?
In human fashion we ought to speak.
Alas, poor witling, and can't you see
That for mighty thoughts and heroic aims,
the words themselves must appropriate be?
And grander belike on the ear should strike
the speech of heroes and godlike powers,
Since even the robes that invest their limbs
are statelier, grander robes than ours.
Such was my plan: but when you began,
you spoilt and degraded it all.
Your kings in tatters and rags you dressed,
and brought them on, a beggarly show,
To move, forsooth, our pity and ruth.
And what was the harm, I should like to know.
No more will a wealthy citizen now
equip for the state a galley of war.
He wraps his limbs in tatters and rags,
and whines he is "poor, too poor by far."
But under his rags he is wearing a vest,
as woolly and soft as a man could wish.
Let him gull the state, and he's off to the mart;
an eager, extravagant buyer of fish.
Moreover to prate, to harangue, to debate,
is now the ambition of all in the state.
Each exercise-ground is in consequence found
deserted and empty: to evil repute
Your lessons have brought our youngsters, and taught
our sailors to challenge, discuss, and refute
The orders they get from their captains and yet,
when I was alive, I protest that the knaves
Knew nothing at all, save for rations to call,
and to sing "Rhyppapae" as they pulled
through the waves.
And bedad to let fly from their sterns in the eye
of the fellow who tugged at the undermost oar,
And a jolly young messmate with filth to besmirch,
and to land for a filching adventure ashore;
But now they harangue, and dispute, and won't row
And idly and aimlessly float to and fro.
Of what ills is lie not the creator and cause?
Consider the scandalous scenes that he draws,
His bawds, and his panders, his women who give
Give birth in the sacredest shrine,
Whilst others with brothers are wedded and bedded,
And others opine
That "not to be living" is truly "to live."
And therefore our city is swarming to-day
With clerks and with demagogue-monkeys, who play
Their jackanape tricks at all times, in all places,
Deluding the people of Athens; but none
Has training enough in athletics to run
With the torch in his hand at the races.
By the Powers, you are right! At the PanATHENAea
I laughed till I felt like a potsherd to see
Pale, paunchy young gentleman pounding along,
With his head butting forward, the last of the throng,
In the direst of straits; and behold at the gates,
The Ceramites flapped him, and smacked him, and slapped him,
In the ribs, and the loin, and the flank, and the groin,
And still, as they spanked him, he puffed and he panted,
Till at one mighty cuff, he discharged such a puff
That he blew out his torch and levanted.
Dread the battle, and stout the combat,
mighty and manifold looms the war.
Hard to decide is the fight they're waging,
One like a stormy tempest raging,
One alert in the rally and skirmish,
clever to parry and foin and spar.
Nay but don't be content to sit
Always in one position only:
many the fields for your keen-edged wit.
On then, wrangle in every way,
Argue, battle, be flayed and flay,
Old and new from your stores display,
Yea, and strive with venturesome daring
something subtle and neat to say.
Fear ye this, that to-day's spectators
lack the grace of artistic lore,
Lack the knowledge they need for taking
All the points ye will soon be making?
Fear it not: the alarm is groundless:
that, be sure, is the case no more.
All have fought the campaign ere this:
Each a book of the words is holding;
never a single point they'll miss.
Bright their natures, and now, I ween,
Newly whetted, and sharp, and keen.
Dread not any defect of wit,
Battle away without misgiving,
sure that the audience, at least, are fit.
Well then I'll turn me to your prologues now,
Beginning first to test the first beginning
Of this fine poet's plays. Why he's obscure
Even in the enunciation of the facts.
Which of them will you test?
Many: but first
Give us that famous one from the Oresteia.
St! Silence all! Now, Aeschylus, begin.
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