THE WASPS by Aristophanes, Part 02
XANTHIAS (turning to the audience)
Come, I must explain the matter to the spectators. But first a few
words of preamble: expect nothing very high-flown from us, nor any
jests stolen from Megara; we have no slaves, who throw baskets of nuts
to the spectators, nor any Heracles to be robbed of his dinner, nor
does Euripides get loaded with contumely; and despite the happy chance
that gave Cleon his fame we shall not go out of our way to belabour
him again, Our little subject is not wanting in sense; it is well
within your capacity and at the same time cleverer than many vulgar
comedies.-We have a master of great renown, who is now sleeping up
there on the other story. He has bidden us keep guard over his father,
whom he has locked in, so. that he may not go out. This father has a
curious complaint; not one of you could hit upon or guess it, if I did
not tell you.-Well then, try! I hear Amynias, the son of Pronapus,
over there, saying, "He is addicted to gambling." He's wrong! He is
imputing his own malady to others. Yet love is indeed the principal
part of his disease. Ah! here Sosias is telling Dercylus, "He loves
drinking." Wrong again! the love of wine is a good man's failing.
"Well then," says Nicostratus of the Scambonian deme, "he either loves
sacrifices or else strangers." God no! he is not fond of strangers,
Nicostratus, for he who says "Philoxenus" means a pederast, It's
mere waste of time, you will not find it out. If you want to know
it, keep silence! I will tell your our master's complaint; of all men,
it is he who is fondest of the Heliaea. Thus, to be judging is his
hobby, and he groans if he is not sitting on the first seat. He does
not close an eye at night, and if he dozes off for an instant his mind
flies instantly to the clepsydra. He is so accustomed to hold the
balloting pebble, that he awakes with his three fingers pinched
together as if he were offering incense to the new moon. If he sees
scribbled on some doorway, "How charming is Demos, the son of
Pyrilampes!" he will write beneath it, "How charming is Cemos!" His
cock crowed one evening; said he, "He has had money from the accused
to awaken me too late. As soon as he rises from supper he bawls for
his shoes and away he rushes down there before dawn to sleep
beforehand, glued fast to the column like an oyster. He is a merciless
judge, never failing to draw the convicting line and return home
with his nails full of wax like a bumble-bee. Fearing he might run
short of pebbles he keeps enough at home to cover a sea-beach, so that
he may have the means of recording his sentence. Such is his
madness, and all advice is useless; he only judges the more each
day. So we keep him under lock and key, to prevent his going out;
for his son is broken-hearted over this mania. At first he tried him
with gentleness, wanted to persuade him to wear the cloak no longer,
to go out no more; unable to convince him, he had him bathed and
purified according to the ritual without any greater success, and then
handed him over to the Corybantes; but the old man escaped them, and
carrying off the kettledrum, rushed right into the midst of the
Heliasts. As Cybele could do nothing with her rites, his son took
him to Aegina and forcibly made him lie one night in the temple of
Asclepius, the God of Healing, but before daylight there he was to
be seen at the gate of the tribunal. Since then we let him go out no
more, but he escaped us by the drains or by the skylight, so we
stuffed up every opening with old rags and made all secure; then he
drove short sticks into the wall and sprang from rung to rung like a
magpie. Now we have stretched-nets all around the court and we keep
watch and ward. The old man's name is Philocleon, it's the best name
he could have, and the son is called Edelycleon, for he is a man
very fit to cure an insolent fellow of his boasting.
BDELYCLEON (from the roof)
Xanthias! Sosias! Are you asleep?
What is the matter?
Why, Bdelycleon is getting up.
Will neither of you come here? My father has got into the
stove-chamber and is ferreting about like a rat in his hole. Take care
he does not escape through the bath drain. You there, put all your
weight against the door.
By Zeus! what is that noise in the chimney? Hullo! who are you?
PHILOCLEON (poking his head out of the chimney)
I am the smoke going up.
Smoke? smoke of what wood?
Ah! that's the most acrid of all. But you shall not get out. Where
is the chimney cover? Come down again. Now, up with another cross-bar.
Now look out for some fresh dodge. But am I not the most unfortunate
of men? Henceforward I shall only be called the son of Capnius.
He is pushing the door.
Throw your weight upon it, come, put heart into the work. I will
come and help you. Watch both lock and bolt. Take care he does not
gnaw through the peg.
PHILOCLEON (from within)
What are you doing, you wretches? Let me go out; it is
imperative that I go and judge, or Dracontides will be acquitted.
Would you mind that?
Once at Delphi, the god, whom I was consulting, foretold, that
if an accused man escaped me, I should die of consumption.