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THE THESMOPHORIAZUSAE by Aristophanes, Part 03

MNESILOCHUS
Where, where?
EURIPIDES
That's the man they are bringing out yonder on the eccyclema.
(AGATHON appears on the eccyclema, softly reposing on a bed,
clothed in a saffron tunic, and surrounded with feminine toilet
articles.)
MNESILOCHUS
I am blind then! I see no man here, I only see Cyrene.
EURIPIDES
Be still! He is getting ready to sing.
MNESILOCHUS
What subtle trill, I wonder, is he going to warble to us?
AGATHON
(He now sings a selection from one of his tragedies, taking first
the part of the LEADER of the CHORUS and then that of the whole
CHORUS.)
(As LEADER OF THE CHORUS)
Damsels, with the sacred torch in hand, unite your dance to shouts
of joy in honour of the nether goddesses; celebrate the freedom of
your country.
(As CHORUS)
To what divinity is your homage addressed? I wish to mingle mine
with it.
(As LEADER OF THE CHORUS)
Oh! Muse! glorify Phoebus with his golden bow, who erected the
walls of the city of the Simois.
(As CHORUS)
To thee, oh Phoebus, I dedicate my most beauteous songs; to
thee, the sacred victor in the poetical contests.
(As LEADER OF THE CHORUS)
And praise Artemis too, the maiden huntress, who wanders on the
mountains and through the woods....
(As CHORUS)
I, in my turn, celebrate the everlasting happiness of the chaste
Artemis, the mighty daughter of Leto!
(As LEADER OF THE CHORUS)
....and Leto and the tones of the Asiatic lyre, which wed so
well with the dances of the Phrygian Graces.
(As CHORUS)
I do honour to the divine Leto and to the lyre, the mother of
songs of male and noble strains. The eyes of the goddess sparkle while
listening to our enthusiastic chants. Honour to the powerful
Phoebus! Hail! thou blessed son of Leto.
MNESILOCHUS
Oh! ye venerable Genetyllides, what tender and voluptuous songs!
They surpass the most lascivious kisses in sweetness; I feel a
thrill of delight pass up me as I listen to them. (To EURIPIDES) Young
man, if you are one, answer my questions, which I am borrowing from
Aeschylus' "Lycurgeia." Whence comes this androgyne? What is his
country? his dress? What contradictions his life shows! A lyre and a
hair-net! A wrestling school oil flask and a girdle! What could be
more contradictory? What relation has a mirror to a sword? (To
AGATHON) And you yourself, who are you? Do you pretend to be a man?
Where is your tool, pray? Where is the cloak, the footgear that belong
to that sex? Are you a woman? Then where are your breasts? Answer
me. But you keep silent. Oh! just as you choose; your songs display
your character quite sufficiently.
AGATHON
Old man, old man, I hear the shafts of jealousy whistling by my
ears, but they do not hit me. My dress is in harmony with my thoughts.
A poet must adopt the nature of his characters. Thus, if he is placing
women on the stage, he must contract all their habits in his own
person.
MNESILOCHUS (aside)
Then you make love horse-fashion when you are composing a Phaedra.
AGATHON
If the heroes are men, everything in him will be manly. What we
don't possess by nature, we must acquire by imitation.
MNESILOCHUS (aside)
When you are staging Satyrs, call me; I will do my best to help
you from behind, if I can get my tool up.
AGATHON
Besides, it is bad taste for a poet to be coarse and hairy. Look
at the famous Ibycus, at Anacreon of Teos, and at Alcaeus, who handled
music so well; they wore head-bands and found pleasure in the
lascivious dances of Ionia. And have you not heard what a dandy
Phrynichus was and how careful in his dress? For this reason his
pieces were also beautiful, for the works of a poet are copied from
himself.
MNESILOCHUS
Ah! so it is for this reason that Philocles, who is so hideous,
writes hideous pieces; Xenocles, who is malicious, malicious ones, and
Theognis, who is cold, such cold ones?
AGATHON
Yes, necessarily and unavoidably; and it is because I knew this
that I have so well cared for my person.
MNESILOCHUS
How, in the gods' name?
EURIPIDES
Come, leave off badgering him; I was just the same at his age,
when I began to write.
MNESILOCHUS
Ah! then, by Zeus! I don't envy you your fine manners.
EURIPIDES (to AGATHON)
But listen to the cause that brings me here.
AGATHON
Say on.
EURIPIDES
Agathon, wise is he who can compress many thoughts into few words.
Struck by a most cruel misfortune, I come to you as a suppliant.

 

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