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THE KNIGHTS by Aristophanes, Part 08

DEMOSTHENES
Well done! Forge on, if he be a wheelwright.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
And there are men at Sparta who are hammering the iron with you;
but neither gold nor silver nor prayers nor anything else shall impede
my denouncing your trickery to the Athenians.
CLEON
As for me, I hasten to the Senate to reveal your plotting, your
nightly gatherings in the city, your trafficking with the Medes and
with the Great King, and all you are foraging for in Boeotia.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
What price then is paid for forage by Boeotians?
CLEON
Oh! by Heracles! I will tan your hide.
(He departs.)
DEMOSTHENES
Come, if you have both wit and heart, now is the time to show
it, as on the day when you hid the meat in your crotch, as you say.
Hasten to the Senate, for he will rush there like a tornado to
calumniate us all and give vent to his fearful bellowings.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
I am going, but first I must rid myself of my tripe and my knives;
I will leave them here.
DEMOSTHENES
Stay! rub your neck with lard; in this way you will slip between
the fingers of calumny.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
Spoken like a finished wrestling coach.
DEMOSTHENES
Now, bolt down these cloves of garlic.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
Pray, what for?
DEMOSTHENES
Well primed with garlic, you will have greater mettle for the
fight. But hurry, make haste rapidly!
SAUSAGE-SELLER
That's just what I'm doing.
(He departs.)
DEMOSTHENES
And, above all, bite your foe, rend him to atoms, tear off his
comb and do not return until you have devoured his wattles.
(He goes into the house of DEMOS.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Go! make your attack with a light heart, avenge me and may Zeus
guard you! I burn to see you return the victor and laden with chaplets
of glory. And you, spectators, enlightened critics of all kind of
poetry, lend an ear to my anapests. (The CHORUS moves forward and
faces the audience.)
Had one of the old authors asked me to mount this stage to
recite his verses, he would not have found it hard to persuade me. But
our poet of to-day is likewise worthy of this favour; he shares our
hatred, he dares to tell the truth, he boldly braves both
waterspouts and hurricanes. Many among you, he tells us, have
expressed wonder, that he has not long since had a piece presented
in his own name, and have asked the reason why. This is what he bids
us say in reply to your questions; it is not without grounds that he
has courted the shade, for, in his opinion, nothing is more
difficult than to cultivate the comic Muse; many court her, but very
few secure her favours. Moreover, he knows that you are fickle by
nature and betray your poets when they grow old. What fate befell
Magnes, when his hair went white? Often enough had he triumphed over
his rivals; he had sung in all keys, played the lyre and fluttered
wings; he turned into a Lydian and even into a gnat, daubed himself
with green to become a frog. All in vain! When young, you applauded
him; in his old age you hooted and mocked him, because his genius
for raillery had gone. Cratinus again was like a torrent of glory
rushing across the plain, up-rooting oak, plane tree and rivals and
bearing them pell-mell in his wake. The only songs at the banquet
were, "Doro, shod with lying tales" and "Adepts of the Lyric Muse," so
great was his renown. Look at him now! he drivels, his lyre has
neither strings nor keys, his voice quivers, but you have no pity
for him, and you let him wander about as he can, like Connas, his
temples circled with a withered chaplet; the poor old fellow is
dying of thirst; he who, in honour of his glorious past, should be
in the Prytaneum drinking at his ease, and instead of trudging the
country should be sitting amongst the first row of the spectators,
close to the statue of Dionysus and loaded with perfumes. Crates,
again, have you done hounding him with your rage and your hisses?
True, it was but meagre fare that his sterile Muse could offer you;
a few ingenious fancies formed the sole ingredients, but
nevertheless he knew how to stand firm and to recover from his
falls. It is such examples that frighten our poet; in addition, he
would tell himself, that before being a pilot, he must first know
how to row, then to keep watch at the prow, after that how to gauge
the winds, and that only then would he be able to command his
vessel. If then you approve this wise caution and his resolve that
he would not bore you with foolish nonsense, raise loud waves of
applause in his favour this day, so that, at this Lenaean feast, the
breath of your favour may swell the sails of his triumphant galley and
the poet may withdraw proud of his success, with head erect and his
face beaming with delight.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Posidon, god of the racing steeds, I salute you, you who delight
in their neighing and in the resounding clatter of their brass-shod
hoofs, god of the swift galleys, which, loaded with mercenaries,
cleave the seas with their azure beaks, god of the equestrian
contests, in which young rivals, eager for glory, ruin themselves
for the sake of distinction with their chariots in the arena, come and
direct our CHORUS; Posidon with the trident of gold, you, who reign
over the dolphins, who are worshipped at Sunium and at Geraestus
beloved of Phormio, and dear to the whole city above all the
immortals, I salute you!

 

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