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THE FROGS by Aristophanes, Part 17

AESCHYLUS
From noblest source for noblest ends brought them,
Unwilling in the Muses' holy field
The self-same flowers as Phrynichus to cull.
But he from all things rotten draws his lays,
From Carian flutings, catches of Meletus,
Dance-music, dirges. You shall hear directly.
Bring me the lyre. Yet wherefore need a lyre
For songs like these? Where's she that bangs and jangles
Her castanets? Euripides's Muse,
Present yourself: fit goddess for fit verse.
Dionysus
The Muse herself can't be a wanton? No!
AESCHYLUS
Halycons, who by the ever-rippling
Waves of the sea are babbling,
Dewing your plumes with the drops that fall
From wings in the salt spray dabbling.
Spiders, ever with twir-r-r-r-r-rling fingers
Weaving the warp and the woof,
Little, brittle, network, fretwork,
Under the coigns of the roof.
The minstrel shuttle's care.
Where in the front of the dark-prowed ships
Yarely the flute-loving dolphin skips.
Races here and oracles there.
And the joy of the young vines smiling,
And the tendril of grapes, care-beguiling.
O embrace me, my child, O embrace me.
(To Dionysus) You see this foot?
Dionysus
I do.
AESCHYLUS
And this?
Dionysus
And that one too.
AESCHYLUS (to EURIPIDES)
You, such stuff who compile,
Dare my songs to upbraid;
You, whose songs in the style
Of Cyrene's embraces are made.
So much for them: but still I'd like to show
The way in which your monodies are framed
"O darkly-light mysterious Night,
What may this Vision mean,
Sent from the world unseen
With baleful omens rife;
A thing of lifeless life,
A child of sable night,
A ghastly curdlinisight,
In black funereal veils,
With murder, murder in its eyes,
And great enormous nails?
Light ye the lanterns, my maidens,
and dipping your jugs in the stream,
Draw me the dew of the water,
and heat it to boiling and steam;
So will I wash me away the ill effects of my dream.
God of the sea!
My dream's come true.
Ho, lodgers, ho,
This portent view.
Glyce has vanished, carrying off my cock,
My cock that crew!
O Mania, help! O Oreads of the rock
Pursue! pursue!
For I, poor girl, was working within,
Holding my distaff heavy and full,
Twir-r-r-r-r-rling my hand as the threads I spin,
Weaving an excellent bobbin of wool;
Thinking 'To-morrow I'll go to the fair,
In the dusk of the morn, and be selling it there.'
But he to the blue up flew, up flew,
on the lightliest tips of his wings outspread;
To me he bequeathed but woe, but woe,
And tears, sad tears, from my eyes o'erflow,
Which I, the bereaved, must shed, must shed.
O children of Ida, sons of Crete,
Grasping your bows to the rescue come;
Twinkle about on your restless feet,
Stand in a circle around her home.
O Artemis, thou maid divine,
Dictynna, huntress, fair to see,
O bring that keen-nosed pack of thine,
And hunt through all the house with me.
O Hecate, with flameful brands,
O Zeus's daughter, arm thine hands,
Those swiftliest hands, both right and left;
Thy rays on Glyce's cottage throw
That I serenely there may go,
And search by moonlight for the theft."
Dionysus
Enough of both your odes.
AESCHYLUS
Enough for me.
Now would I bring the fellow to the scales.
That, that alone, shall test our poetry now,
And prove whose words are weightiest, his or mine.
Dionysus
Then both come hither, since I needs must weigh
The art poetic like a pound of cheese.
Here a large balance is brought out and placed
upon the stage.
CHORUS
O the labour these wits go through I
O the wild, extravagant, new,
Wonderful things they are going to do!
Who but they would ever have thought of it?
Why, if a man had happened to meet me
Out in the street, and intelligence brought of it,
I should have thought he was trying to cheat me;
Thought that his story was false and deceiving.
That were a tale I could never believe in.
Dionysus
Each of you stand beside his scale.
AESCHYLUS and EURIPIDES
We're here.
Dionysus
And grasp it firmly whilst ye speak your lines,
Each holds his own scale steady while he speaks
his line into it.
And don't let go until I cry "Cuckoo."
AESCHYLUS and EURIPIDES
Ready!
Dionysus
Now speak your lines into the scale.
EURIPIDES
"O that the Argo had not winged her way-"
AESCHYLUS
"River Spercheius, cattle-grazing haunts-"
Dionysus
Cuckoo! let go. O look, by far the lowest
His scale sinks down.
EURIPIDES
Why, how came that about?
Dionysus
He threw a river in, like some wool-seller
Wetting his wool, to make it weigh the more.
But threw in a light and winged word.
EURIPIDES
Come, let him match another verse with mine.
Dionysus
Each to his scale.
AESCHYLUS and EURIPIDES
We're ready.
Dionysus
Speak your lines.
EURIPIDES
"Persuasion's only shrine is eloquent speech."
AESCHYLUS
"Death loves not gifts, alone amongst the gods."

 

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