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PEACE by Aristophanes, Part 09

Friends, let us first adore the goddess, who has delivered us from
crests and Gorgons; then let us hurry to our farms, having first
bought a nice little piece of salt fish to eat in the fields.
By Posidon! what a fine crew they make and dense as the crust of a
cake; they are as nimble as guests on their way to a feast.
See, how their iron spades glitter and how beautifully their
three-pronged mattocks glisten in the sun! How regularly they align
the plants! I also burn to go into the country and to turn over the
earth I have so long neglected.-Friends, do you remember the happy
life that Peace afforded us formerly; can you recall the splendid
baskets of figs, both fresh and dried, the myrtles, the sweet wine,
the violets blooming near the spring, and the olives, for which we
have wept so much? Worship, adore the goddess for restoring you so
many blessings.
CHORUS (singing)
Hail! hail! thou beloved divinity! thy return overwhelms us with
joy. When far from thee, my ardent wish to see my fields again made me
pine with regret. From thee came all blessings. Oh! much desired
Peace! thou art the sole support of those who spend their lives
tilling the earth. Under thy rule we had a thousand delicious
enjoyments at our beck; thou wert the husbandman's wheaten cake and
his safeguard. So that our vineyards, our young fig-tree woods and all
our plantations hail thee with delight and smile at thy coming.
But where was she then, I wonder, all the long time she spent away
from us? Hermes, thou benevolent god, tell us!
Wise husbandmen, hearken to my words, if you want to know why
she was lost to you. The start of our misfortunes was the exile of
Phidias; Pericles feared he might share his in-luck, he mistrusted
your peevish nature and, to prevent all danger to himself, he threw
out that little spark, the Megarian decree, set the city aflame, and
blew up the conflagration with a hurricane of war, so that the smoke
drew tears from all Greeks both here and over there. At the very
outset of this fire our vines were a-crackle, our casks knocked
together; it was beyond the power of any man to stop the disaster, and
Peace disappeared.
That, by Apollo is what no one ever told me; I could not think
what connection there could be between Phidias and Peace.
Nor I, until now. This accounts for her beauty, if she is
related to him. There are so many things that escape us.
Then, when the towns subject to you saw that you were angered
one against the other and were showing each other your teeth like
dogs, they hatched a thousand plots to pay you no more dues and gained
over the chief citizens of Sparta at the price of gold. They, being as
shamelessly greedy as they were faithless in diplomacy, chased off
Peace with ignominy to let loose War. Though this was profitable to
them, it was the ruin of the husbandmen, who were innocent of all
blame; for, in revenge, your galleys went out to devour their figs.
And with justice too; did they not break down my black fig tree,
which I had planted and dunged with my own hands?
Yes, by Zeus! yes, that was well done; the wretches broke a
chest for me with stones, which held six medimni of corn.
Then the rural labourers flocked into the city and let
themselves be bought over like the others. Not having even a
grape-stone to munch and longing after their figs, they looked towards
the demagogues. These well knew that the poor were driven to extremity
and lacked even bread; but they nevertheless drove away the Goddess,
each time she reappeared in answer to the wish of the country, with
their loud shrieks that were as sharp as pitchforks; furthermore, they
attacked the well-filled purses of the richest among our allies on the
pretence that they belonged to Brasidas' party. And then you would
tear the poor accused wretch to pieces with your teeth; for the
city, all pale with hunger and cowed with terror, gladly snapped up
any calumny that was thrown it to devour. So the strangers, seeing
what terrible blows the informers dealt, sealed their lips with
gold. They grew rich, while you, alas! you could only see that
Greece was going to ruin. It was the tanner who was the author of
all this woe.
Enough said, Hermes leave that man in Hades, whither he has
gone; be no longer belongs to us, but rather to you. That he was a
cheat, a braggart, a calumniator when alive, why, nothing could be
truer; but anything you might say now would be an insult to one of
your own folk.
(To PEACE) Oh! venerated Goddess! why art thou silent?
And how could she speak to the spectators? She is too angry at all
that they have made her suffer.
At least let her speak a little to you, Hermes.
Tell me, my dear, what are your feelings with regard to them?
Come, you relentless foe of all bucklers, speak; I am listening to
you. (PEACE whispers into Hermes' ear.) Is that your grievance against
them? Yes, yes, I understand. Hearken, you folk, this is her
complaint. She says, that after the affair of Pylos she came to you
unbidden to bring you a basket full of truces and that you thrice
repulsed her by your votes in the assembly.


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