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THE WASPS by Aristophanes, Part 04

What! you dare to speak so? Why, this class of old men, if
irritated, becomes as terrible as a swarm of wasps. They carry below
their loins the sharpest of stings, with which to prick their foes;
they shout and leap and their stings burn like so many sparks.
Have no fear! If I can find stones to throw into this nest of
jurymen-wasps, I shall soon have them cleared off.
(Enter the CHORUS, composed of old men costumed as wasps.)
March on, advance boldly and bravely! Comias, your feet are
dragging; once you were as tough as a dog-skin strap and now even
Charinades walks better than you. Ha! Strymodorus of Conthyle, you
best of mates, where is Euergides and where is Chabes of Phlya? Ha,
ha, bravo! there you are, the last of the lads with whom we mounted
guard together at Byzantium. Do you remember how, one night,
prowling round, we noiselessly stole the kneading-trough of a
baker's wife; we split it in two and cooked our green-stuff with
it.-But let us hasten, for the case of Laches comes on to-day, and
they all say he has embezzled a pot of money. Hence Cleon, our
protector, advised us yesterday to come early and with a three days'
stock of fiery rage so as to chastise him for his crimes. Let us
hurry, comrades, before it is light; come, let us search every nook
with our lanterns to see whether those who wish us ill have not set us
some trap.
Father, father, watch out for the mud.
Pick up a blade of straw and trim your lamp.
No. I can trim it quite well with my finger.
Why do you pull out the wick, you little dolt? Oil is scarce,
and it's not you who suffer when it has to be paid for. (Strikes him.)
If you teach us again with your fists, we shall put out the
lamps and go home; then you will have no light and will squatter about
in the mud like ducks in the dark.
I know how to punish offenders bigger than you. But I think I am
treading in some mud. Oh! it's certain it will rain in torrents for
four days at least; look at the snuff in our lamps; that is always a
sign of heavy rain; but the rain and the north wind will be good for
the crops that are still standing. Why, what can have happened to
our mate, who lives here? Why does he not come to join our party?
There used to be no need to haul him in our wake, for he would march
at our head singing the verses of Phrynichus; he was a lover of
singing. Should we not, friends, make a halt here and sing to call him
out? The charm of my voice will fetch him out, if he hears it.
CHORUS (singing)
Why does the old man not show himself before the door? Why does he
not answer? Has he lost his shoes? has he stubbed his toe in the
dark and thus got a swollen ankle? Perhaps he has a tumour in his
groin. He was the hardest of us all; he alone never allowed himself to
be moved. If anyone tried to move him, he would lower his head,
saying, "You might just as well try to boil a stone." But I bethink
me, an accused man escaped us yesterday through his false pretence
that he loved Athens and had been the first to unfold the Samian plot.
Perhaps his acquittal has so distressed Philocleon that he is abed
with fever-he is quite capable of such a thing.-Friend, arise, do
not thus vex your heart, but forget your wrath. To-day we have to
judge a man made wealthy by-treason, one of those who set Thrace free;
we have to prepare him a funeral march on, my boy, get
(Here a duet begins between the BOY and the CHORUS.)
Father, would you give me something if I asked for it?
Assuredly, my child, but tell me what nice thing do you want me to
buy you? A set of knuckle-bones, I suppose.
No, father, I prefer figs; they are better.
No, by Zeus! even if you were to hang yourself with vexation.
Well then, I will lead you no farther.
With my small pay, I am obliged to buy bread, wood, and stew;
and now you ask me for figs!
But, father, if the Archon should not form a court to-day, how are
we to buy our dinner? Have you some good hope to offer us or only
"Helle's sacred waves"?
Alas! alas! I have not a notion how we shall dine.
Oh! my poor mother! why did you let me see this day?
So that you might give me troubles to feed on.
Little wallet, you seem like to be a mere useless ornament!
It is our destiny to groan.
PHILOCLEON (appearing at an upper window; singing)
My friends, I have long been pining away while listening to you
from my window, but I absolutely know not what to do. I am detained
here, because I have long wanted to go with you to the law-court and
do all the harm I can. Oh! Zeus! cause the peals of thy thunder to
roll, change me quickly into smoke or make me into a Proxenides, a
tissue of falsehoods, like the son of Sellus. Oh, King of Heaven!
hesitate not to grant me this favour, pity my misfortune or else may
thy dazzling lightning instantly reduce me to ashes; then carry me
hence, and may thy breath hurl me into some strong, hot marinade or
turn me into one of the stones on which the votes are counted.


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