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THE THESMOPHORIAZUSAE by Aristophanes, Part 06

EURIPIDES
Hurry up! The signal for the meeting has just been raised on the
Temple of Demeter. Farewell.
(They both depart. The scene changes to the interior of the
Thesmophorion, where the women who form the CHORUS are
assembled. Mnesilochus enters, in his feminine attire, striving
to act as womanly as possible, and giving his voice as female a
pitch and lilt as he can; he pretends to be addressing his
slave-girl.)
MNESILOCHUS
Here, Thratta, follow me. Look, Thratta, at the cloud of smoke
that arises from all these lighted torches. Ah! beautiful
Thesmophorae! grant me your favours, protect me, both within the
temple and on my way back! Come, Thratta, put down the basket and take
out the cake, which I wish to offer to the two goddesses. Mighty
divinity, oh, Demeter, and thou, Persephone, grant that I may be
able to offer you many sacrifices; above all things, grant that I
may not be recognized. Would that my well-holed daughter might marry a
man as rich as he is foolish and silly, so that she may have nothing
to do but amuse herself. But where can a place be found for hearing
well? Be off, Thratta, be off; slaves have no right to be present at
this gathering.
(He sits down amongst the women.)
WOMAN HeraLD
Silence! Silence! Pray to the Thesmophorae, Demeter and Cora; pray
to Plutus, Calligenia, Curotrophus, the Earth, Hermes and the
Graces, that all may happen for the best at this gathering, both for
the greatest advantage of Athens and for our own personal happiness!
May the award be given her who, by both deeds and words, has most
deserved it from the Athenian people and from the women! Address these
prayers to heaven and demand happiness for yourselves. Io Paean! Io
Paean! Let us rejoice!
CHORUS (singing)
May the gods deign to accept our vows and our prayers! Oh!
almighty Zeus, and thou, god with the golden lyre, who reignest on
sacred Delos, and thou, oh, invincible virgin, Pallas, with the eyes
of azure and the spear of gold, who protectest our illustrious city,
and thou, the daughter of the beautiful Leto, queen of the forests,
who art adored under many names, hasten hither at my call. Come,
thou mighty Posidon, king of the Ocean, leave thy stormy whirlpools of
Nereus; come, goddesses of the seas, come, ye nymphs, who wander on
the mountains. Let us unite our voices to the sounds of the golden
lyre, and may wisdom preside at the gathering of the noble matrons
of Athens.
WOMAN HeraLD
Address your prayers to the gods and goddesses of Olympus, of
Delphi, Delos and all other places; if there be a man who is
plotting against the womenfolk or who, to injure them, is proposing
peace to Euripides and the Medes, or who aspires to usurping the
tyranny, plots the return of a tyrant, or unmasks a supposititious
child; or if there be a slave who, a confidential party to a wife's
intrigues, reveals them secretly to her husband, or who, entrusted
with a message, does not deliver the same faithfully; if there be a
lover who fulfils naught of what he has promised a woman, whom he
has abused on the strength of his lies; if there be an old woman who
seduces the lover of a maiden by dint of her presents and
treacherously receives him in her house; if there be a host or hostess
who sells false measure, pray the gods that they will overwhelm them
with their wrath, both them and their families, and that they may
reserve all their favours for you.
CHORUS (singing)
Let us ask the fulfilment of these wishes both for the city and
for the people, and may the wisest of us cause her opinion to be
accepted. But woe to those women who break their oaths, who
speculate on the public misfortune, who seek to alter the laws and the
decrees, who reveal our secrets to the foe and admit the Medes into
our territory so that they may devastate it! I declare them both
impious and criminal. Oh! almighty Zeus! see to it that the gods
protect us, albeit we are but women!
WOMAN HeraLD
Hearken, all of you! this is the decree passed by the Senate of
the Women under the presidency of Timoclea and at the suggestion of
Sostrate; it is signed by Lysilla, the secretary: "There will be a
gathering of the people on the morning of the third day of the
Thesmophoria, which is a day of rest for us; the principal business
there shall be the punishment that it is meet to inflict upon
Euripides for the insults with which he has loaded us." Now who asks
to speak?
FIRST WOMAN
I do.
WOMAN HeraLD
First put on this garland, and then speak.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Silence! let all be quiet! Pay attention! for here she is spitting
as orators generally do before they begin; no doubt she has much to
say.
FIRST WOMAN
If I have asked to speak, may the goddesses bear me witness, it
was not for sake of ostentation. But I have long been pained to see us
women insulted by this Euripides, this son of the green-stuff woman,
who loads us with every kind of indignity. Has he not hit us enough,
calumniated us sufficiently, wherever there are spectators,
tragedians, and a CHORUS? Does; he not style us adulterous, lecherous,
bibulous, treacherous, and garrulous? Does he not repeat that we are
all vice, that we are the curse of our husbands? So that, directly
they come back from the theatre, they look at us doubtfully and go
searching every nook, fearing there may be some hidden lover. We can
do nothing as we used to, so many are the false ideas which he has
instilled into our husbands. Is a woman weaving a garland for herself?
It's because she is in love. Does she let some vase drop while going
or returning to the house? her husband asks her in whose honour she
has broken it: "It can only be for that Corinthian stranger." Is a
maiden unwell? Straightway her brother says, "That is a colour that
does not please me." And if a childless woman wishes to substitute
one, the deceit can no longer be a secret, for the neighbours will
insist on being present at her delivery. Formerly the old men
married young girls, but they have been so calumniated that none think
of them now, thanks to that line of his: "A woman is the tyrant of the
old man who marries her." Again, it is because of Euripides that we
are incessantly watched, that we are shut up behind bolts and bars,
and that dogs are kept to frighten off the adulterers. Let that
pass; but formerly it was we who had the care of the food, who fetched
the flour from the storeroom, the oil and the wine; we can do it no
more. Our husbands now carry little Spartan keys on their persons,
made with three notches and full of malice and spite. Formerly it
sufficed to purchase a ring marked with the same sign for three obols,
to open the most securely sealed-up door! but now this pestilent
Euripides has taught men to hang seals of worm-eaten wood about
their necks. My opinion, therefore, is that we should rid ourselves of
our enemy by poison or by any other means, provided he dies. That is
what I announce publicly; as to certain points, which I wish to keep
secret, I propose to record them on the secretary's minutes.

 

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