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THE KNIGHTS by Aristophanes, Part 09

LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
Let us sing the glory of our forefathers; ever victors, both on
land and sea, they merit that Athens, rendered famous by these, her
worthy sons, should write their deeds upon the sacred peplus. As
soon as they saw the enemy, they at once sprang at him without ever
counting his strength. Should one of them fall in the conflict he
would shake off the dust, deny his mishap and begin the struggle anew.
Not one of these generals of old time would have asked Cleaenetus to
be fed at the cost of the State; but our present men refuse to
fight, unless they get the honours of the Prytaneum and precedence
in their seats. As for us, we place our valour gratuitously at the
service of Athens and of her gods; our only hope is that, should peace
ever put a term te our toils, you will not grudge us our long, scented
hair nor our delicate care for our toilet.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Oh! Pallas, guardian of Athens, you, who reign over the most pious
city, the most powerful, the richest in warriors and in poets,
hasten to my call, bringing in your train our faithful ally in all our
expeditions and combats, Victory, who smiles on our CHORUSes and
fights with us against our rivals. Oh! goddess! manifest yourself to
our sight; this day more than ever we deserve that you should ensure
our triumph.
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
We will sing likewise the exploits of our steeds! they are
worthy of our praises; in what invasions, what fights have I not
seen them helping us! But especially admirable were they, when they
bravely leapt upon the galleys, taking nothing with them but a
coarse wine, some cloves of garlic and onions; despite this, they
nevertheless seized the sweeps just like men, curved their backs
over the thwarts and shouted, "Hippapai! Give way! Come, all pull
together! Come, come! How! Samphoras! Are you not rowing?" They rushed
down upon the coast of Corinth, and the youngest hollowed out beds
in the sand with their hoofs or went to fetch coverings; instead of
luzern, they had no food but crabs, which they caught on the strand
and even in the sea; so that Theorus causes a Corinthian crab to
say, "'Tis a cruel fate, oh Posidon neither my deep hiding-places,
whether on land or at sea, can help me to escape the Knights."
(The SAUSAGE-SELLER returns.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Welcome, oh, dearest and bravest of men! How distracted I have
been during your absence! But here you are back, safe and sound.
Tell us about the fight you have had.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
The important thing is that I have beaten the Senate.
CHORUS (singing)
All glory to you! Let us burst into shouts of joy! You speak well,
but your deeds are even better. Come, tell me everything in detail;
what a long journey would I not be ready to take to hear your tale!
Come, dear friend, speak with full confidence to your admirers.
SAUSAGE-SELLER
The story is worth hearing. Listen! From here I rushed straight to
the Senate, right in the track of this man; he was already letting
loose the storm, unchaining the lightning, crushing the Knights
beneath huge mountains of calumnies heaped together and having all the
air of truth; he called you conspirators and his lies caught root like
weeds in every mind; dark were the looks on every side and brows
were knitted. When I saw that the Senate listened to him favourably
and was being tricked by his imposture I said to myself, "Come, gods
of rascals and braggarts, gods of all fools, and toad-eaters, and thou
too, oh market-place, wherein I was bred from my earliest days, give
me unbridled audacity, an untiring chatter and a shameless voice."
No sooner had I ended this prayer than a pederast farted on my
right. "Hah! a good omen," said I, and prostrated myself; then I burst
open the door by a vigorous push with my arse, and, opening my mouth
to the utmost, shouted, "Senators, I wanted you to be the first to
hear the good news; since the war broke out, I have never seen
anchovies at a lower price!" All faces brightened at once and I was
voted a chaplet for my good tidings; and I added, "With a couple of
words I will reveal to you how you can have quantities of anchovies
for an obol; all you have to do is to seize on all the dishes the
merchants have." With mouths gaping with admiration, they applauded
me. However, the Paphlagonian winded the matter and, well knowing
the sort of language which pleases the Senate best, said, "Friends,
I am resolved to offer one hundred oxen to the goddess in
recognition of this happy event." The Senate at once veered to his
side. So when I saw myself defeated by this ox dung, I outbade the
fellow, crying, "Two hundred!" And beyond this I moved that a vow be
made to Diana of a thousand goats if the next day anchovies should
only be worth an obol a hundred. And the Senate looked towards me
again. The other, stunned with the blow, grew delirious in his speech,
and at last the Prytanes and the Scythians dragged him out. The
Senators then stood talking noisily about the anchovies. Cleon,
however, begged them to listen to the Lacedaemonian envoy, who had
come to make proposals of peace; but all with one accord cried
"Certainly it's not the moment to think of peace now! If anchovies are
so cheap, what need have we of peace? Let the war take its course!"
And with loud shouts they demanded that the Prytanes should close
the sitting and then they leapt over the rails in all directions. As
for me, I slipped away to buy all the coriander seed and leeks there
were on the market and gave it to them gratis as seasoning for their
anchovies. It was marvellous! They loaded me with praises and
caresses; thus I conquered the Senate with an obol's worth of leeks,
and here I am.
CHORUS (singing)
Bravo! you are the spoilt child of Fortune. Ah! our knave has
found his match in another, who has far better tricks in his sack, a
thousand kinds of knaveries and of wily words. But the fight begins
afresh; take care not to weaken; you know that I have long been your
most faithful ally.

 

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