THE KNIGHTS by Aristophanes, Part 11
Ah! great gods! I am undone! At home this old fellow is the most
sensible of men, but the instant he is seated on those cursed stone
seats, he is there with mouth agape as if he were hanging up figs by
their stems to dry.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Come, loose all sail. Be bold, skilful in attack and entangle
him in arguments which admit of no reply. It is difficult to beat him,
for he is full of craft and pulls himself out of the worst corners.
Collect all your forces to come forth from this fight covered with
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But take care! Let him not assume the attack, get ready your
grapples and advance with your vessel to board him!
Oh! guardian goddess of our city! oh! Athene if it be true that
next to Lysicles, Cynna and Salabaccho none have done so much good for
the Athenian people as I, suffer me to continue to be fed at the
Prytaneum without working; but if I hate you, if I am not ready to
fight in your defence alone and against all, may I perish, be sawn
to bits alive and my skin cut up into thongs.
And I, Demos, if it be not true, that I love and cherish you,
may I be cooked in a stew; and if that is not saying enough, may I
be grated on this table with some cheese and then hashed, may a hook
be passed through my balls and let me be dragged thus to the
Is it possible, Demos, to love you more than I do? And firstly, as
long as you have governed with my consent, have I not filled your
treasury, putting pressure on some, torturing others or begging of
them, indifferent to the opinion of private individuals, and solely
anxious to please you?
There is nothing so wonderful in all that, Demos; I will do as
much; I will thieve the bread of others to serve up to you. No, he has
neither love for you nor kindly feeling; his only care is to warm
himself with your wood, and I will prove it. You, who, sword in
hand, saved Attica from the Median yoke at Marathon; you, whose
glorious triumphs we love to extol unceasingly, look, he cares
little whether he sees you seated uncomfortably upon a stone;
whereas I, I bring you this cushion, which I have sewn with my own
hands. Rise and try this nice soft seat. Did you not put enough strain
on your bottom at Salamis?
(He gives DEMOS the cushion; DEMOS sits on it.)
Who are you then? Can you be of the race of Harmodius? Upon my
faith, that is nobly done and like a true friend of Demos.
Petty flattery to prove him your goodwill!
But you have caught him with even smaller baits!
Never had Demos a defender or a friend more devoted than myself;
on my head, on my life, I swear it!
You pretend to love him and for eight years you have seen him
housed in casks, in crevices and dovecots, where he is blinded with
the smoke, and you lock him in without pity; Archeptolemus brought
peace and you tore it to ribbons; the envoys who come to propose a
truce you drive from the city with kicks in their arses.
The purpose of this is that Demos may rule over all the Greeks;
for the oracles predict that, if he is patient, he must one day sit as
judge in Arcadia at five obols per day. Meanwhile, I will nourish him,
look after him and, above all, I will ensure to him his three obols.
No, little you care for his reigning in Arcadia, it's to pillage
and impose on the allies at will that you reckon; you wish the war
to conceal your rogueries as in a mist, that Demos may see nothing
of them, and harassed by cares, may only depend on yourself for his
bread. But if ever peace is restored to him, if ever he returns to his
lands to comfort himself once more with good cakes, to greet his
cherished olives, he will know the blessings you have kept him out of,
even though paying him a salary; and, filled with hatred and rage,
he will rise, burning with desire to vote against you. You know this
only too well; it is for this you rock him to sleep with your lies.
Is it not shameful, that you should dare thus to calumniate me
before Demos, me, to whom Athens, I swear it by Demeter, already
owes more than it ever did to Themistocles?
Oh! citizens of Argos, do you hear what he says? (to CLEON) You
dare to compare yourself to Themistocles, who found our city half
empty and left it full to overflowing, who one day gave us the Piraeus
for dinner, and added fresh fish to all our usual meals. You, on the
contrary, you, who compare yourself with Themistocles, have only
sought to reduce our city in size, to shut it within its walls, to
chant oracles to us. And Themistocles goes into exile, while you gorge
yourself on the most excellent fare.
Oh! Demos! Am I compelled to hear myself thus abused, and merely
because I love you?
Silence! stop your abuse! All too long have I been your dupe.
Ah! my dear little Demos, he is a rogue who has played you many
a scurvy trick; when your back is turned, he taps at the root the
lawsuits initiated by the peculators, swallows the proceeds
wholesale and helps himself with both hands from the public funds.
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