THE WASPS by Aristophanes, Part 08
Let us note this first point, the supplicants.
These entreaties have appeased my wrath, and I enter-firmly
resolved to do nothing that I have promised. Nevertheless I listen
to the accused. Oh! what tricks to secure acquittal! Ah! there is no
form of flattery that is not addressed to the Heliast! Some groan over
their poverty and exaggerate it. Others tell us anecdotes or some
comic story from Aesop. Others, again, cut jokes; they fancy I shall
be appeased if I won If we are not even then won over, why, then
they drag forward their young children by the hand, both boys and
girls, who prostrate themselves and whine with one accord, and then
the father, trembling as if before a god, beseeches me not to
condemn him out of pity for them, "If you love the voice of the
lamb, have pity on my sons"; and because I am fond of little sows, I
must yield to his daughter's prayers. Then we relax the heat of our
wrath a little for him. Is not this great power indeed, which allows
even wealth to be disdained?
A second point to note, the disdain of wealth. And now recall to
me what are the advantages you enjoy, you, who pretend to rule over
We are entrusted with the inspection of the young men, and thus we
have a right to examine their tools. If Oeagrus is accused, he is
not acquitted before he has recited a passage from 'Niobe' and he
chooses the finest. If a flute-player gains his case, he adjusts his
mouth-strap in return and plays us the final air while we are leaving.
A father on his death-bed names some husband for his daughter, who
is his sole heir; but we care little for his will or for the shell
so solemnly placed over the seal; we give the young maiden to him
who has best known how to secure our wavour. Name me another duty that
is so important and so irresponsible.
Aye, it's a fine privilege, and the only one on which I can
congratulate you; but surely to violate the will is to act badly
towards the heiress.
And if the Senate and the people have trouble in deciding some
important case, it is decreed to send the culprits before the
Heliasts; then Euathlus and the illustrious Colaconymus, who cast away
his shield, swear not to betray us and to fight for the people. Did
ever an orator carry the day with his opinion if he had not first
declared that the jury should be dismissed for the day as soon as they
had given their first verdict? We are the only ones whom Cleon, the
great bawler, does not badger. On the contrary, he protects and
caresses us; he keeps off the flies, which is what you have never done
for your father. Theorus, who is a man not less illustrious than
Euphemius, takes the sponge out of the pot and blacks our shoes. See
then what good things you deprive and despoil me of. Pray, is this
obeying or being a slave, as you pretended to be able to prove?
Talk away to your heart's content; you must come to a stop at last
and then you shall see that this grand power only resembles an anus;
no matter how much you wash it, you can never get it clean.
But I am forgetting the most pleasing thing of all. When I
return home with my pay, everyone runs to greet me because of my
money. First my daughter bathes me, anoints my feet, stoops to kiss me
and, while she is calling me "her dearest father," fishes out my
triobolus with her tongue; then my little wife comes to wheedle me and
brings a nice light cake; she sits beside me and entreats me in a
thousand ways, "Do take this now; do have some more." All this
delights me hugely, and I have no need to turn towards you or the
steward to know when it shall please him to serve my dinner, all the
while cursing and grumbling. But if he does not quickly knead my cake,
I have something which is my defence, my shield against all ills. If
you do not pour me out drink, I have brought this long-eared jar
full of wine. How it brays, when I bend back and bury its neck in my
mouth! It farts like a whole army, and how I laugh at your wine-skins.
(With increasing excitement) As to power, am I not equal to the king
of the gods? If our assembly is noisy, all say as they pass, "Great
gods! the tribunal is rolling out its thunder!" If I let loose the
lightning, the richest, aye, the noblest are half dead with terror and
crap for fright. You yourself are afraid of me, yea, by Demeter! you
are afraid. But may I die if you frighten me.
Never have I heard speech so elegant or so sensible.
Ah! he thought he had only to turn me round his finger; he should,
however have known the vigour of my eloquence.
He has said everything without omission. I felt myself grow taller
while I listened to him. Methought myself meting out justice in the
Islands of the Blest, so much was I taken with the charm of his words.
How overjoyed they are! What extravagant delight! Ah! ah! you
are going to get a thrashing to-day.
Come, plot everything you can to beat him; 'tis not easy to soften
me if you do no talk on my side.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
If you have nothing but nonsense to spout, it's time to buy a good
millstone, freshly cut withal, to crush my anger.
The cure of a disease, so inveterate and so widespread in
Athens, is a difficult task and of too great importance for the
scope of comedy. Nevertheless, my old father....