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THE CYCLOPS by Euripides, Part 05

SILENUS
I will give thee a word of advice! as for his flesh, leave not a
morsel of it, and if thou eat his tongue, Cyclops, thou wilt become
a monstrous clever talker.
CYCLOPS
Wealth, manikin, is the god for the wise; all else is mere
vaunting and fine words. Plague take the headlands by the sea, on
which my father seats himself! Why hast thou put forward these
arguments? I shudder not at Zeus's thunder, nor know I wherein Zeus is
a mightier god than I, stranger; what is more, I reck not of him; my
reasons hear. When he pours down the rain from above, here in this
rock in quarters snug, feasting on roast calf's flesh or some wild
game and moistening well my up-turned paunch with deep draughts from a
tub of milk, I rival the thunder-claps of Zeus with my artillery;
and when the north wind blows from Thrace and sheddeth snow, I wrap my
carcase in the hides of beasts and light a fire, and what care I for
snow? The earth perforce, whether she like it or not, produces grass
and fattens my flocks, which I sacrifice to no one save myself and
this belly, the greatest of deities; but to the gods, not I! For
surely to eat and drink one's fill from day to day and give oneself no
grief at all, this is the king of gods for your wise man, but
lawgivers go hang, chequering, as they do, the life of man! And so I
will not cease from indulging myself by devouring thee; and thou shalt
receive this stranger's gift, that I may be free of blame,-fire and my
father's element yonder, and a cauldron to hold thy flesh and boil
it nicely in collops. So in with you, that ye may feast me well,
standing round the altar to honour the cavern's god.

(The CYCLOPS goes into his cave, driving ODYSSEUS' men before
him.)

ODYSSEUS
Alas! escaped from the troubles of Troy and the sea, my barque now
strands upon the whim and forbidding heart of this savage. O Pallas,
mistress mine, goddess-daughter of Zeus, help me, help me now; for I
am come to toils and depths of peril worse than all at Ilium; and
thou, O Zeus, the stranger's god, who hast thy dwelling 'mid the
radiant stars, behold these things; for, if thou regard them not, in
vain art thou esteemed the great god Zeus, though but a thing of
naught.

(He follows the CYCLOPS reluctantly. SILENUS also goes in.)

CHORUS (singing)
Ope wide the portal of thy gaping throat, Cyclops; for
strangers' limbs, both boiled and grilled, are ready from off the
coals for the to gnaw and tear and mince up small, reclining in thy
shaggy goat-skin coat.
Relinquish not thy meal for me; keep that boat for thyself
alone. Avaunt this cave! avaunt the burnt-offerings, which the godless
Cyclops offers on Aetna's altars, exulting in meals on strangers'
flesh!
Oh! the ruthless monster! to sacrifice his guests at his own
hearth, the suppliants of his halls, cleaving and tearing and
serving up to his loathsome teeth a feast of human flesh, hot from the
coals.
ODYSSEUS (reappearing with a look of horror)
O Zeus! what can I say after the hideous sights I have seen inside
the cave, things past belief, resembling more the tales men tell
than aught they do?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
What news, ODYSSEUS? has the Cyclops, most godless monster, been
feasting on thy dear comrades?
ODYSSEUS
Aye, he singled out a pair, on whom the flesh was fattest and in
best condition, and took them up in his hand to weigh.
LEADER
How went it with you then, poor wretch?
ODYSSEUS
When we had entered yonder rocky abode, he lighted first a fire,
throwing logs of towering oak upon his spacious hearth, enough for
three wagons to carry as their load; next, close by the blazing flame,
he placed his couch of pine-boughs laid upon the floor, and filled a
bowl of some ten firkins, pouring white milk thereinto, after he had
milked his kine; and by his side he put a can of ivy-wood, whose
breadth was three cubits and its depth four maybe; next he set his
brazen pot a-boiling on the fire, spits too he set beside him,
fashioned of the branches of thorn, their points hardened in the
fire and the rest of them trimmed with the hatchet, and the
blood-bowls of Aetna for the axe's edge. Now when that hell-cook,
god-detested, had everything quite ready, he caught up a pair of my
companions and proceeded deliberately to cut the throat of one of them
over the yawning brazen pot; but the other he clutched by the tendon
of his heel, and, striking him against a sharp point of rocky stone,
dashed out his brains; then, after hacking the fleshy parts with
glutton cleaver, he set to grilling them, but the limbs he threw
into his cauldron to seethe. And I, poor wretch, drew near with
streaming eyes and waited on the Cyclops; but the others kept cowering
like frightened birds in crannies of the rock, and the blood forsook
their skin. Anon, when he had gorged himself upon my comrades' flesh
and had fallen on his back, breathing heavily, there came a sudden
inspiration to me. I filled a cup of this Maronian wine and offered
him a draught, saying, "Cyclops, son of Ocean's god, see here what
heavenly drink the grapes of Hellas yield, glad gift of Dionysus." He,
glutted with his shameless meal, took and drained it at one draught,
and, lifting up his hand, he thanked me thus "Dearest to me of all
my guests! fair the drink thou givest me to crown so fair a feast."
Now when I saw his delight, I gave him another cup, knowing the wine
would make him rue it, and he would soon be paying the penalty. Then
he set to singing; but I kept filling bumper after bumper and
heating him with drink. So there he is singing discordantly amid the
weeping of my fellow-sailors, and the cave re-echoes; but I have
made my way out quietly and would fain save thee and myself, if thou
wilt. Tell me then, is it your wish, or is it not, to fly from this
unsocial wretch and take up your abode with Naiad nymphs in the
halls of the Bacchic god? Thy father within approves this scheme;
but there! he is powerless, getting all he can out of his liquor;
his wings are snared by the cup as if he had flown against
bird-lime, and he is fuddled; but thou art young and lusty; so save
thyself with my help and regain thy old friend Dionysus, so little
like the Cyclops.

 

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