THE KNIGHTS by Aristophanes, Part 14
Oh! happy day for us and for our children if Cleon perish. Yet
just now I heard some old cross-grained pLEADERs on the marketplace
who hold not this opinion discoursing together. Said they, "If Cleon
had not had the power, we should have lacked two most useful tools,
the pestle and the soup-ladle." You also know what a pig's education
he has had; his school-fellows can recall that he only liked the
Dorian style and would study no other; his music-master in displeasure
sent him away, saying; "This youth, in matters of harmony, will only
learn the Dorian style because it is akin to bribery."
CLEON (coming out of the house with a large package)
There, look at this heap; and yet I'm not bringing them all.
SAUSAGE-SELLER (entering witk an even larger package)
Ugh! The weight of them is squeezing the crap right out of me, and
still I'm not bringing them all!
What are these?
Does that astonish you? Why, I have another whole boxful of them.
And I the whole of my attic and two rooms besides.
Come, let us see, whose are these oracles?
Mine are those of Bacis.
DEMOS (to the SAUSAGE-SELLER)
And whose are yours?
SAUSAGE-SELLER (without hesitating)
Glanis's, the elder brother of Bacis.
And of what do they speak?
Of Athens and Pylos and you and me and everything.
Of Athens and lentils and Lacedaemonians and fresh mackerel and
scoundrelly flour-sellers and you and me. Ah ha! now watch him gnaw
his own tool with chagrin!
Come, read them out to me and especially that one I like so
much, which says that I shall become an eagle and soar among the
Then listen and be attentive! "Son of Erechtheus, understand the
meaning of the words, which the sacred tripods set resounding in the
sanctuary of Apollo. Preserve the sacred dog with the jagged teeth,
that barks and howls in your defence; he will ensure you a salary and,
if he fails, will perish as the victim of the swarms of jays that hunt
him down with their screams."
By Demeter! I do not understand a word of it. What connection is
there between Erechtheus, the jays and the dog?
I am the dog, since I bark in your defence. Well! Phoebus commands
you to keep and cherish your dog.
That is not what the god says; this dog seems to me to gnaw at the
oracles as others gnaw at doorposts. Here is exactly what Apollo
says of the dog.
Let us hear, but I must first pick up a stone; an oracle which
speaks of a dog might bite my tool.
"Son of Erechtheus, beware of this Cerberus that enslaves free
men; he fawns upon you with his tail when you are dining, but he is
lying in wait to devour your dishes should you turn your head an
instant; at night he sneaks into the kitchen and, true dog that he is,
licks up with one lap of his tongue both your dishes and.... the
By god, Glanis, you speak better than your brother.
Condescend again to hear me and then judge: "A woman in sacred
Athens will be delivered of a lion, who shall fight for the people
against clouds of gnats with the same ferocity as if he were defending
his whelps; care ye for him, erect wooden walls around him and
towers of brass." Do you understand that?
Not the least bit in the world.
The god tells you here to look after me, for I am your lion.
How! You have become a lion and I never knew a thing about it?
There is only one thing which he purposely keeps from you; he does
not say what this wall of wood and brass is in which Apollo warns
you to keep and guard him.
What does the god mean, then?
He advises you to fit him into a five-holed wooden collar.
Hah! I think that oracle is about to be fulfilled.
Do not believe it; these are but jealous crows, that caw against
me; but never cease to cherish your good hawk; never forget that he
brought you those Lacedaemonian fish, loaded with chains.