THE WASPS by Aristophanes, Part 17
At this game you seem at home. But come, we will go and dine
with Philoctemon.-Slave! slave! place our dinner in a basket; we are
going out for a good long drinking bout.
By no means, it is too dangerous; for after drinking, one breaks
in doors, one comes to blows, one batters everything. Anon, when the
wine is slept off, one is forced to pay.
Not if you are with decent people. Either they undertake to
appease the offended person or, better still, you say something witty,
you tell some comic story, perhaps one of those you have yourself
heard at table, either in Aesop's style or in that of Sybaris;
everyone laughs and the trouble is ended.
Faith! it's worth while learning many stories then, if you are
thus not punished for the ill you do. But come, no more delay!
(They go out.)
More than once have I given proof of cunning and never of
stupidity, but how much more clever is Amynias, the son of Sellus
and of the race of forelock-wearers; him we saw one day coming to dine
with Leogaras, bringing as his share one apple and a pomegranate,
and bear in mind he was as hungry as Antiphon. He went on an embassy
to Pharsalus, and there he lived solely among the Thessalian
mercenaries; indeed, is he not the vilest of mercenaries himself?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Oh! blessed, oh! fortunate Automenes, how enviable is your
fortune! You have three sons, the most industrious in the world; one
is the friend of all, a very able man, the first among the
lyre-players, the favourite of the Graces. The second is an actor, and
his talent is beyond all praise. As for Ariphrades, he is by far the
most gifted; his father would swear to me, that without any master
whatever and solely through the spontaneous effort of his happy
nature, he taught himself to exercise his tongue in the whorehouses,
where he spends the whole of his time.
Some have said that I and Cleon were reconciled. This is the truth
of the matter: Cleon was harassing me, persecuting and belabouring
me in every way; and, when I was being fleeced, the public laughed
at seeing me uttering such loud cries; not that they cared about me,
but simply curious to know whether, when trodden down by my enemy, I
would not hurl at him some taunt. Noticing this, I have played the
wheedler a bit; but now, look! the prop is deceiving the vine!
(XANTHIAS enters, weeping and wailing and rubbing his sides.)
Oh! tortoises! happy to have so hard a skin! Oh! creatures full of
sense! what a happy thought to cover your bodies with this shell,
which shields it from blows! As for me, I can no longer move; the
stick has so belaboured my body.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Why, what's the matter, my child? for, old as he may be, one has
the right to call anyone a child who has let himself be beaten.
Alas! my master is really the worst of all plagues. He was the
most drunk of all the guests, and yet among them were Hippyllus,
Antiphon, Lycon, Lysistratus, Theophrastus and Phrynichus. But he
was hundred times more insolent than any. As soon as he had stuffed
himself with a host of good dishes, he began to leap and spring, to
laugh and to fart like a little ass well stuffed with barley. Then
he set to beating me with all his heart, shouting, "Slave! slave!"
Lysistratus, as soon as he saw him, let fly this comparison at him.
"Old fellow," said he, "you resemble one of the scum assuming the airs
of a rich man or a stupid ass that has broken loose from its
stable." "As for you," bawled the other at the top of his voice,
"you are like a grasshopper, whose cloak is worn to the thread, or
like Sthenelus after his clothes had been sold." All applauded
excepting Theophrastus, who made a grimace as behoved a well-bred
man like him. The old man called to him, "Hi! tell me then what you
have to be proud of? Not so much mouthing, you, who so well know how
to play the buffoon and to lick-spittle the rich!" In this way he
insulted each in turn with the grossest of jests, and he reeled off
a thousand of the most absurd and ridiculous speeches. At last, when
he was thoroughly drunk, he started towards here, striking everyone he
met. Wait, here he comes reeling along. I will be off for fear of
(PHILOCLEON enters, inebriated and hilarious, carrying a torch;
his other hand is occupied with a wholly nude flute-girl; he is
followed by a group of angry victims of his exuberance.)
Halt! and let everyone begone, or I shall do an evil turn to
some of those who insist on following me. Clear off, rascals, or I
shall roast you with this torch!
We shall all make you smart to-morrow for your youthful pranks. We
shall come in a body to summon you to justice.
Ho! ho! summon me? what old women's babble! Know that I can no
longer bear to hear even the name of suits. Ha! ha! ha! this is what
pleases me, "Down with the urns!" Get out of here! Down with the
dicasts! away with them, away with them!
(Dropping into speech; to the flute-girl)
Mount up there, my little gilded cock-chafer; take hold of this
rope's end in your hand. Hold it tight, but have a care; the rope's
a bit old and worn. But even though it's worn, it still has its
virtues. Do you see how opportunely I got you away from the
solicitations of those fellators, who wanted you to make love to
them in their own odd way? You therefore owe me this return to gratify
me. But will you pay the debt? Oh! I know well you will not even
try; you will play with me, you will laugh heartily at me as you
have done at many another man. And yet, if you would not be a
naughty girl, I would redeem you, when my son is dead, and you
should be my concubine, my little one. At present I am not my own
master; I am very young and am watched very closely. My dear son never
lets me out of his sight; he's an unbearable creature, who would
quarter a thread and skin a flint; he is afraid I should get lost, for
I am his only father. But here he comes running towards us. But be
quick, don't stir, hold these torches. I am going to play him a
young man's trick, the same as he played me before I was initiated
into the mysteries.