PEACE by Aristophanes, Part 11
Oh! never fear, there is nothing simpler; place yourself beside
Come, my pretty maidens, follow me quickly; there are plenty of
men waiting for you with their tools ready.
(He goes out, with OPORA and THEORIA.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Farewell and good luck be yours! Let us begin by handing over
all this gear to the care of our servants, for no place is less safe
than a theatre; there is always a crowd of thieves prowling around it,
seeking to find some mischief to do. Come, keep a good watch over
all this. As for ourselves, let us explain to the spectators what we
have in our minds, the purpose of our play.
(The CHORUS turns and faces the audience.)
Undoubtedly the comic poet who mounted the stage to praise himself
in the parabasis would deserve to be handed over to the sticks or
the beadles. Nevertheless, oh Muse, if it be right to esteem the
most honest and illustrious of our comic writers at his proper
value, permit our poet to say that he thinks he has deserved a
glorious renown. First of all, he is the one who has compelled his
rivals no longer to scoff at rags or to war with lice; and as for
those Heracleses, always chewing and ever hungry, he was the first
to cover them with ridicule and to chase them from the stage; he has
also dismissed that slave, whom one never failed to set weeping before
you, so that his comrade might have the chance of jeering at his
stripes and might ask, "Wretch, what has happened to your hide? Has
the lash rained an army of its thongs on you and laid your back
waste?" After having delivered us from all these wearisome ineptitudes
and these low buffooneries, he has built up for us a great art, like a
palace with high towers, constructed of fine phrases, great thoughts
and of jokes not common on the streets. Moreover it's not obscure
private persons or women that he stages in his comedies; but, bold
as Heracles, it's the very greatest whom he attacks, undeterred by the
fetid stink of leather or the threats of hearts of mud. He has the
right to say, "I am the first ever dared to go straight for that beast
with the sharp teeth and the terrible eyes that flashed lambent fire
like those of Cynna, surrounded by a hundred lewd flatterers, who
spittle-licked him to his heart's content; it had a voice like a
roaring torrent, the stench of a seal, the unwashed balls of a Lamia
and the arse of a camel. I did not recoil in horror at the sight of
such a monster, but fought him relentlessly to win your deliverance
and that of the islanders." Such are the services which should be
graven in your recollection and entitle me to your thanks. Yet I
have not been seen frequenting the wrestling school intoxicated with
success and trying to seduce young boys; but I took all my
theatrical gear and returned straight home. I pained folk but little
and caused them much amusement; my conscience rebuked me for
nothing. (More and more rapidly from here on) Hence both grown men and
youths should be on my side and I likewise invite the bald to give
me their votes; for, if I triumph, everyone will say, both at table
and at festivals, "Carry this to the bald man, give these cakes to the
bald one, do not grudge the poet whose talent shines as bright as
his own bare skull the share he deserves."
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Oh, Muse! drive the war far from our city and come to preside over
our dances, if you love me; come and celebrate the nuptials of the
gods, the banquets of us mortals and the festivals of the fortunate;
these are the themes that inspire thy most poetic songs. And should
Carcinus come to beg thee for admission with his sons to thy CHORUS,
refuse all traffic with them; remember they are but gelded birds,
stork-necked dancers, mannikins about as tall as a goat's turd, in
fact machine-made poets. Contrary to all expectation, the father has
at last managed to finish a piece, but he admits that a cat
strangled it one fine evening.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Such are the songs with which the Muse with the glorious hair
inspires the able poet and which enchant the assembled populace,
when the spring swallow twitters beneath the foliage; but the god
spare us from the CHORUS of Morsimus and that of Melanthius! Oh!
what a bitter discordancy grated upon my ears that day when the tragic
CHORUS was directed by this same Melanthius and his brother, these two
Gorgons, these two Harpies, the plague of the seas, whose gluttonous
bellies devour the entire race of fishes, these followers of old
women, these goats with their stinking arm-pits. Oh! Muse, spit upon
them abundantly and keep the feast gaily with me.
(TRYGAEUS enters, limping painfully, accompanied by OPORA and
Ah! it's a rough job getting to the gods! my legs are as good as
broken through it. (To the audience) How small you were, to be sure,
when seen from heaven! you had all the appearance too of being great
rascals; but seen close, you look even worse.
SERVANT (coming out of TRYGAEUS' house)
Is that you, master?
So I've been told.
What has happened to you?
My legs pain me; it was such a damned long journey.
Oh! tell me....
Did you see any other man besides yourself strolling about in
No, only the souls of two or three dithyrambic poets.
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