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THE KNIGHTS by Aristophanes, Part 04

SAUSAGE-SELLER
I do not hold myself worthy of wielding power.
DEMOSTHENES
Oh! by the gods! Why do you not hold yourself worthy? Have you
then such a good opinion of yourself? Come, are you of honest
parentage?
SAUSAGE-SELLER
By the gods! No! of very bad indeed.
DEMOSTHENES
Spoilt child of fortune, everything fits together to ensure your
greatness.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
But I have not had the least education. I can only read, and
that very badly.
DEMOSTHENES
That is what may stand in your way, almost knowing how to read.
A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to
be an ignoramus and a rogue. But do not, do not let go this gift,
which the oracle promises.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
But what does the oracle say?
DEMOSTHENES
Faith, it is put together in very fine enigmatical style, as
elegant as it is dear: "When the eagle-tanner with the hooked claws
shall seize a stupid dragon, a blood-sucker, it will be an end to
the hot Paphlagonian pickled garlic. The god grants great glory to the
sausage-sellers unless they prefeir to sell their wares."
SAUSAGE-SELLER
In what way does this concern me? Please instruct my ignorance.
DEMOSTHENES
The eagle-tanner is the Paphlagonian.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
What do the hooked claws mean?
DEMOSTHENES
It means to say, that he robs and pillages us with his claw-like
hands.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
And the dragon?
DEMOSTHENES
That is quite clear. The dragon is long and so also is the
sausage; the sausage like the dragon is a drinker of blood.
Therefore the oracle says, that the dragon will triumph over the
eagle-tanner, if he does not let himself be cajoled with words.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
The oracles of the gods flatter me! Faith! I do not at all
understand how I can be capable of governing the people.
DEMOSTHENES
Nothing simpler. Continue your trade. Mix and knead together all
the state business as you do for your sausages. To win the people,
always cook them some savoury that pleases them. Besides, you
possess all the attributes of a demagogue; a screeching, horrible
voice, a perverse, cross-grained nature and the language of the
market-place. In you all is united which is needful for governing. The
oracles are in your favour, even including that of Delphi. Come,
take a chaplet, offer a libation to the god of Stupidity and take care
to fight vigorously.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
Who will be my ally? for the rich fear the Paphlagonian and the
poor shudder at the sight of him.
DEMOSTHENES
You will have a thousand brave Knights, who detest him, on your
side; also the honest citizens amongst the spectators, those who are
men of brave hearts, and finally myself and the god. Fear not, you
will not see his features, for none have dared to make a mask
resembling him. But the public have wit enough to recognize him.
NICIAS (from within)
Oh! mercy! here comes the Paphlagonian!
(CLEON rushes out of the house.)
CLEON
By the twelve gods! Woe betide you, who have too long been
conspiring against Demos. What means this Chalcidian cup? No doubt you
are provoking the Chalcidians to revolt. You shall be killed and
butchered, you brace of rogues.
DEMOSTHENES (to the SAUSAGE-SELLER)
What! are you for running away? Come, come, stand firm, bold
Sausage-seller, do not betray us. To the rescue, oh, Knights. Now is
the time. Simon, Panaetius, get you to the right wing; they are coming
on; hold tight and return to the charge. I can see the dust of their
horses' hoofs; they are galloping to our aid. (To the
SAUSAGE-SELLER) Courage! Attack him, put him to flight.
(The CHORUS OF KNIGHTS enters at top speed.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Strike, strike the villain, who has spread confusion amongst the
ranks of the Knights, this public robber, this yawning gulf of
plunder, this devouring Charybdis, this villain, this villain, this
villain! I cannot say the word too often, for he is a villain a
thousand times a day. Come, strike, drive, hurl him over and crush him
to pieces; hate him as we hate him: stun him with your blows and
your shouts. And beware lest he escape you; he knows the way
Eucrates took straight to a bran sack for concealment.
CLEON
Oh! veteran Heliasts, brotherhood of the three obols, whom I
fostered by bawling at random, help me; I am being beaten to death
by rebels.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
And justly too; you devour the public funds that all should
share in; you treat the treasury officials like the fruit of the fig
tree, squeezing them to find which are still green or more or less
ripe; and, when you find a simple and timid one, you force him to come
from the Chersonese, then you seize him by the middle, throttle him by
the neck, while you twist his shoulder back; he falls and you devour
him. Besides, you know very well how to select from among the citizens
those who are as meek as lambs, rich, without guile and loathers of
lawsuits.

 

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