THE WASPS by Aristophanes, Part 19
A man of Sybaris fell from his chariot and wounded his head most
severely; he was a very poor driver. One of his friends came up to him
and said, "Every man to his trade." Well then, go you to Pittalus to
You are incorrigible.
ACCUSER (to his witness)
At all events, make a note of his reply. (They start to leave.)
Listen, instead of going off so abruptly. A woman at Sybaris broke
ACCUSER (to his witness)
I again ask you to witness this.
The box therefore had the fact attested, but the woman said,
"Never worry about witnessing the matter, but hurry off to buy a
cord to tie it together with; that will be the more sensible course."
Oh! go on with your ribaldry until the Archon calls the case.
(He and his witness depart.)
BDELYCLEON (to PHILOCLEON)
By Demeter! you'll stay here no longer! I am going to take you and
carry you off.
And what for?
What for? I am going to carry you into the house, so that the
accusers will not run out of witnesses.
One day at Delphi, Aesop....
I don't care a fig for that.
....was accused of having stolen a sacred vase. But he replied,
that the horn-beetle....
Oh, dear, dear! You'll drive me crazy with your horn-beetle.
(PHILOCLEON goes on with his fable while BDELYCLEON is carrying him
off the scene by main force.)
I envy you your happiness, old man. What a contrast to his
former frugal habits and his very hard life! Taught now in quite
another school, he will know nothing but the pleasures of ease.
Perhaps he will jibe at it, for indeed it is difficult to renounce
what has become one's second nature. However, many have done it, and
adopting the ideas of others, have changed their use and wont. As
for Philocleon's son, I, like all wise and judicious men, cannot
sufficiently praise his filial tenderness and his tact. Never have I
met a more amiable nature, and I have conceived the greatest
fondness for him. How he triumphed on every point in his discussion
with his father, when he wanted to bring him back to more worthy and
XANTHIAS (coming out of the house)
By Bacchus! Some Evil Genius has brought this unbearable
disorder into our house. The old man, full up with wine and excited by
the sound of the flute, is so delighted, so enraptured, that he is
spending the night executing the old dances that Thespis first
produced on the stage, and just now he offered to prove to the
modern tragedians, by disputing with them for the dancing prize,
that they are nothing but a lot of old dotards.
(BDELYCLEON comes out of the house with his father who is costumed
as POLYPHEMUS in Euripides' Cyclops.)
"Who loiters at the door of the vestibule?"
Here comes our pest, our plague!
Let down the barriers. The dance is now to begin.
(He begins to dance in a manner grotesquely parodying that of
Or rather the madness.
Impetuous movement already twists and racks my sides. How my
nostrils wheeze! how my back cracks!
Go and fill yourself with hellebore.
Phrynichus is as bold as a cock and terrifies his rivals.
He'll be stoned.
His leg kicks out sky-high....
....and his arse gapes open.
Mind your own business. Look how easily my leg-joints move.
Isn't that good?
God, no, it's merely insane!
And now I summon and challenge my rivals. It there be a tragic
poet who pretends to be a skilful dancer, let him come and contest the
matter with me. Is there one? Is there not one?
Here comes one, and one only.
(A very small dancer, costumed as a crab, enters.)
Who is the wretch?
The younger son of Carcinus.
I will crush him to nothing; in point of keeping time, I will
knock him out, for he knows nothing of rhythm.
Ah! ah! here comes his brother too, another tragedian, and another
son of Carcinus.
(Another dancer, hardly larger than the first, and similarly
Him I will devour for my dinner.
Oh! ye gods! I see nothing but crabs. Here is yet another son of
(A third dancer enters, likewise resembling a crab, but smaller
than either of the others.)
What's this? A shrimp or a spider?
It's a crab,-a hermit-crab, the smallest of its kind; it writes
Oh! Carcinus, how proud you should be of your brood! What a
crowd of kinglets have come swooping down here! But we shall have to
measure ourselves against them. Have marinade prepared for seasoning
them, in case I prove the victor.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Let us stand out of the way a little, so that they may twirl at
(It divides in two and accompanies with its song the wild
dancing of PHILOCLEON and the sons of CARCINUS in the centre of the
Orchestra.) Come, illustrious children of this inhabitant of the
brine, brothers of the shrimps, skip on the sand and the shore of
the barren sea; show us the lightning whirls and twirls of your nimble
limbs. Glorious offspring of Phrynichus, let fly your kicks, so that
the spectators may be overjoyed at seeing your legs so high in air.
Twist, twirl, tap your bellies, kick your legs to the sky. Here
comes your famous father, the ruler of the sea, delighted to see his
three lecherous kinglets. Go on with your dancing, if it pleases
you, but as for us, we shall not join you. Lead us promptly off the
stage, for never a comedy yet was seen where the CHORUS finished off
with a dance.