From The Clouds:

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Tell us boldly then what you want of us; you cannot fail to succeed. If you honour and revere us and if you are resolved to become a clever man.
STREPSIADES
Oh, sovereign goddesses, it is only a very small favour that I ask of you; grant that I may outdistance all the Greeks by a hundred stadia in the art of speaking.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
We grant you this, and henceforward no eloquence shall more often succeed with the people than your own.
STREPSIADES
May the gods shield me from possessing great eloquence! That's not what I want. I want to be able to turn bad law-suits to my own advantage and to slip through the fingers of my creditors.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
It shall be as you wish, for your ambitions are modest. Commit yourself fearlessly to our ministers, the sophists.
STREPSIADES
This I will do, for I trust in you. Moreover there is no drawing back, what with these cursed horses and this marriage, which has eaten up my vitals. (More and more volubly from here to the end of speeck) So let them do with me as they will; I yield my body to them. Come blows, come hunger, thirst, heat or cold, little matters it to me; they may flay me, if I only escape my debts, if only I win the reputation of being a bold rascal, a fine speaker, impudent, shameless, a braggart, and adept at stringing lies, an old stager at quibbles, a complete table of laws, a thorough rattle, a fox to slip through any hole; supple as a leathern strap, slippery as an eel, an artful fellow, a blusterer, a villain; a knave with a hundred faces, cunning, intolerable, a gluttonous dog. With such epithets do I seek to be greeted; on these terms they can treat me as they choose, and, if they wish, by Demeter! they can turn me into sausages and serve me up to the philosophers.
CHORUS (singing)
Here have we a bold and well-disposed pupil indeed. When we have taught you, your glory among the mortals will reach even to the skies.
STREPSIADES (singing)
Wherein will that profit me?
CHORUS (singing)
You will pass your whole life among us and will be the most envied of men.
STREPSIADES (singing)
Shall I really ever see such happiness?
CHORUS (singing)
Clients will be everlastingly besieging your door in crowds, burning to get at you, to explain their business to you and to consult you about their suits, which, in return for your ability, will bring you in great sums.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But, Socrates, begin the lessons you want to teach this old man; rouse his mind, try the strength of his intelligence.
SOCRATES
Come, tell me the kind of mind you have; it's important that I know this, that I may order my batteries against you in the right fashion.
STREPSIADES
Eh, what! in the name of the gods, are you purposing to assault me then?
SOCRATES
No. I only wish to ask you some questions. Have you any memory?
STREPSIADES
That depends: if anything is owed me, my memory is excellent, but if I owe, alas! I have none whatever.
SOCRATES
Have you a natural gift for speaking?
STREPSIADES
For speaking, no; for cheating, yes.
SOCRATES
How will you be able to learn then?
STREPSIADES
Very easily, have no fear.
SOCRATES
Thus, when I throw forth some philosophical thought anent things celestial., you will seize it in its very flight?
STREPSIADES
Then I am to snap up wisdom much as a dog snaps up a morsel?
SOCRATES (aside)
Oh! the ignoramus! the barbarian! (to STREPSIADES) I greatly fear, old man, it will be necessary for me to have recourse to blows. Now, let me hear what you do when you are beaten.
STREPSIADES
I receive the blow, then wait a moment, take my witnesses and finally summon my assailant at law.
SOCRATES
Come, take off your cloak.
STREPSIADES
Have I robbed you of anything?
SOCRATES
No. but the usual thing is to enter the school without your cloak.
STREPSIADES
But I have not come here to look for stolen goods.
SOCRATES
Off with it, fool!
STREPSIADES (He obeys.)
Tell me, if I prove thoroughly attentive and learn with zeal, which O; your disciples shall I resemble, do you think?
SOCRATES
You will be the image of Chaerephon.
STREPSIADES
Ah! unhappy me! Shall I then be only half alive?
SOCRATES
A truce to this chatter! follow me and no more of it.
STREPSIADES
First give me a honey-cake, for to descend down there sets me all a-tremble; it looks like the cave of Trophonius.
SOCRATES
But get in with you! What reason have you for thus dallying at the door?
(They go into the Thoughtery.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Good luck! you have courage; may you succeed, you, who, though already so advanced in years, wish to instruct your mind with new studies and practise it in wisdom! (The CHORUS turns and faces the Audience.) Spectators! By Bacchus, whose servant I am, I will frankly tell you the truth. May I secure both victory and renown as certainly as I hold you for adept critics and as I regard this comedy as my best. I wished to give you the first view of a work, which had cost me much trouble, but which I withdrew, unjustly beaten by unskilful rivals. It is you, oh, enlightened public, for whom I have prepared my piece, that I reproach with this. Nevertheless I shall never willingly cease to seek the approval of the discerning. I have not forgotten the day, when men, whom one is happy to have for an audience, received my Virtuous Young Man and my Paederast with so much favour in this very place. Then as yet virgin, my Muse had not attained the age for maternity; she had to expose her first-born for another to adopt, and it has since grown up under your generous patronage. Ever since you have as good as sworn me your faithful alliance. Thus, like the Electra of the poets, my comedy has come to seek you to-day, hoping again to encounter such enlightened spectators. As far away as she can discern her Orestes, she will be able to recognize him by his curly head. And note her modest demeanour! She has not sewn on a piece of hanging leather, thick and reddened at the end, to cause laughter among the children; she does not rail at the bald, neither does she dance the cordax; no old man is seen, who, while uttering his lines, batters his questioner with a stick to make his poor jests pass muster. She does not rush upon the scene carrying a torch and screaming, 'Iou! Iou!' No, she relies upon herself and her verses....My value is so well known, that I take no further pride in it. I do not seek to deceive you, by reproducing the same subjects two or three times; I always invent fresh themes to present before you, themes that have no relation to each other and that are all clever. I attacked Cleon to his face and when he was all-powerful; but he has fallen, and now I have no desire to kick him when he is down. My rivals, on the contrary, now that this wretched Hyperbolus has given them the cue, have never ceased setting upon both him and his mother. First Eupolis presented his 'Maricas'; this was simply my 'Knights,' whom this plagiarist had clumsily furbished up again by adding to the piece an old drunken woman, so that she might dance the cordax. It was an old idea, taken from Phrynichus, who caused his old hag to be devoured by a monster of the deep. Then Hermippus fell foul of Hyperbolus and now all the others fall upon him and repeat my comparison of the eels. May those who find amusement in their pieces not be pleased with mine, but as for you, who love and applaud my inventions, why, posterity will praise your good taste.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Oh, ruler of Olympus, all-powerful king of the gods, great Zeus, it is thou whom I first invoke; protect this chorus; and thou too, Posidon, whose dread trident upheaves at the will of thy anger both the bowels of the earth and the salty waves of the ocean. I invoke my illustrious father, the divine Aether, the universal sustainer of life, and Phoebus, who, from the summit of his chariot, sets the world aflame with his dazzling rays, Phoebus, a mighty deity amongst the gods and adored amongst mortals.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
Most wise spectators, lend us all your attention. Give heed to our just reproaches. There exist no gods to whom this city owes more than it does to us, whom alone you forget. Not a sacrifice, not a libation is there for those who protect you! Have you decreed some mad expedition? Well! we thunder or we fall down in rain. When you chose that enemy of heaven, the Paphlagonian tanner, for a general, we knitted our brow, we caused our wrath to break out; the lightning shot forth, the thunder pealed, the moon deserted her course and the sun at once veiled his beam threatening, no longer to give you light, if Cleon became general. Nevertheless you elected him; it is said, Athens never resolves upon some fatal step but the gods turn these errors into her greatest gain. Do you wish that his election should even now be a success for you? It is a very simple thing to do; condemn this rapacious gull named Cleon for bribery and extortion, fit a wooden collar tight round his neck, and your error will be rectified and the commonweal will at once regain its old prosperity.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Aid me also, Phoebus, god of Delos, who reignest on the cragged peaks of Cynthia; and thou, happy virgin, to whom the Lydian damsels offer pompous sacrifice in a temple; of gold; and thou, goddess of our country, Athene, armed with the aegis, the protectress of Athens; and thou, who, surrounded by the bacchants of Delphi; roamest over the rocks of Parnassus shaking the flame of thy resinous torch, thou, Bacchus, the god of revel and joy.
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
As we were preparing to come here, we were hailed by the Moon and were charged to wish joy and happiness both to the Athenians and to their allies; further, she said that she was enraged and that you treated her very shamefully, her, who does not pay you in words alone, but who renders you all real benefits. Firstly, thanks to her, you save at least a drachma each month for lights, for each, as he is leaving home at night, says, "Slave, buy no torches, for the moonlight is beautiful,"-not to name a thousand other benefits. Nevertheless you do not reckon the days correctly and your calendar is naught but confusion. Consequently the gods load her with threats each time they get home and are disappointed of their meal, because the festival has not been kept in the regular order of time. When you should be sacrificing, you are putting to the torture or administering justice. And often, we others, the gods, are fasting in token of mourning for the death of Memnon or Sarpedon, while you are devoting yourselves to joyous libations. It is for this, that last year, when the lot would have invested Hyperbolus with the duty of Amphictyon, we took his crown from him, to teach him that time must be divided according to the phases of the moon.
SOCRATES (coming out)
By Respiration, the Breath of Life! By Chaos! By the Air! I have never seen a man so gross, so inept, so stupid, so forgetful. All the little quibbles, which I teach him, he forgets even before he has learnt them. Yet I will not give it up, I will make him come out here into the open air. Where are you, Strepsiades? Come, bring your couch out here.
STREPSIADES (from within)
But the bugs will not allow me to bring it.
SOCRATES
Have done with such nonsense! place it there and pay attention.
STREPSIADES (coming out, with the bed)
Well, here I am.
SOCRATES
Good! Which science of all those you have never been taught, do you wish to learn first? The measures, the rhythms or the verses?
STREPSIADES
Why, the measures; the flour dealer cheated me out of two choenixes the other day.
SOCRATES
It's not about that I ask you, but which, according to you, is the best measure, the trimeter or the tetrameter?
STREPSIADES
The one I prefer is the semisextarius.
SOCRATES
You talk nonsense, my good fellow.
STREPSIADES
I will wager your tetrameter is the semisextarius.
SOCRATES
Plague seize the dunce and the fool! Come, perchance you will learn the rhythms quicker.
STREPSIADES
Will the rhythms supply me with food?
SOCRATES
First they will help you to be pleasant in company, then to know what is meant by enhoplian rhythm and what by the dactylic.
STREPSIADES
Of the dactyl? I know that quite well.
SOCRATES
What is it then, other than this finger here?
STREPSIADES
Formerly, when a child, I used this one.
SOCRATES
You are as low-minded as you are stupid.
STREPSIADES
But, wretched man, I do not want to learn all this.
SOCRATES
Then what do you want to know?
STREPSIADES
Not that, not that, but the art of false reasoning.
SOCRATES
But you must first learn other things. Come, what are the male quadrupeds?
STREPSIADES
Oh! I know the males thoroughly. Do you take me for a fool then? The ram, the buck, the bull, the dog, the pigeon.
SOCRATES
Do you see what you are doing; is not the female pigeon called the same as the male?
STREPSIADES
How else? Come now!
SOCRATES
How else? With you then it's pigeon and pigeon!
STREPSIADES
That's right, by Poseidon! but what names do you want me to give them?
SOCRATES
Term the female pigeonnette and the male pigeon.
STREPSIADES
Pigeonnette! hah! by the Air! That's splendid! for that lesson bring out your kneading-trough and I will fill him with flour to the brim.
SOCRATES
There you are wrong again; you make trough masculine and it should be feminine.
STREPSIADES
What? if I say, him, do I make the trough masculine?
SOCRATES
Assuredly! would you not say him for Cleonymus?
STREPSIADES
Well?
SOCRATES
Then trough is of the same gender as Cleonymus?
STREPSIADES
My good man! Cleonymus never had a kneading-trough; he used a round mortar for the purpose. But come, tell me what I should say!
SOCRATES
For trough you should say her as you would for Soctrate.
STREPSIADES
Her?
SOCRATES
In this manner you make it truly female.
STREPSIADES
That's it! Her for trough and her for Cleonymus.
SOCRATES
Now I must teach you to distinguish the masculine proper names from those that are feminine.
STREPSIADES
Ah! I know the female names well.
SOCRATES
Name some then.
STREPSIADES
Lysilla, Philinna, Clitagora, Demetria.
SOCRATES
And what are masculine names?
STREPSIADES
They are are countless-Philoxenus, Melesias, Amynias.
SOCRATES
But, wretched man, the last two are not masculine.
STREPSIADES
You do not count them as masculine?
SOCRATES
Not at all. If you met Amynias, how would you hail him?
STREPSIADES
How? Why, I should shout, "Hi, there, Amynia!"
SOCRATES
Do you see? it's a female name that you give him.
STREPSIADES
And is it not rightly done, since he refuses military service? But what use is there in learning what we all know?
SOCRATES
You know nothing about it. Come, lie down there.
STREPSIADES
What for?
SOCRATES
Ponder awhile over matters that interest you.
STREPSIADES
Oh! I pray you, not there but, if I must lie down and ponder, let me lie on the ground.
SOCRATES
That's out of the question. Come! on the couch!
STREPSIADES (as he lies down)
What cruel fate! What a torture the bugs will this day put me to!
(Socrates turns aside.)
CHORUS (singing)
Ponder and examine closely, gather your thoughts together, let your mind turn to every side of things; if you meet with a difficulty, spring quickly to some other idea; above all, keep your eyes away from all gentle sleep.
STREPSIADES (singing)
Ow, Wow, Wow, Wow is me!
CHORUS (singing)
What ails you? why do you cry so?
STREPSIADES
Oh! I am a dead man! Here are these cursed Corinthians advancing upon me from all corners of the couch; they are biting me, they are gnawing at my sides, they are drinking all my blood, they are yanking of my balls, they are digging into my arse, they are killing me!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Not so much wailing and clamour, if you please.
STREPSIADES
How can I obey? I have lost my money and my complexion, my blood and my slippers, and to cap my misery, I must keep awake on this couch, when scarce a breath of life is left in me.
(A brief interval of silence ensues.)
SOCRATES
Well now! what are you doing? are you reflecting?
STREPSIADES
Yes, by Poseidon!
SOCRATES
What about?
STREPSIADES
Whether the bugs will entirely devour me.
SOCRATES
May death seize you, accursed man!
(He turns aside again.)
STREPSIADES
Ah, it has already.
SOCRATES
Come, no giving way! Cover up your head; the thing to do is to find an ingenious alternative.
STREPSIADES
An alternative! ah! I only wish one would come to me from within these coverlets!
(Another interval of silence ensues.)
SOCRATES
Wait! let us see what our fellow is doing! Ho! are you asleep?
STREPSIADES
No, by Apollo!
SOCRATES
Have you got hold of anything?
STREPSIADES
No, nothing whatever.
SOCRATES
Nothing at all?
STREPSIADES
No, nothing except my tool, which I've got in my hand.
SOCRATES
Aren't you going to cover your head immediately and ponder?
STREPSIADES
On what? Come, Socrates, tell me.
SOCRATES
Think first what you want, and then tell me.
STREPSIADES
But I have told you a thousand times what I want. Not to pay any of my creditors.
SOCRATES
Come, wrap yourself up; concentrate your mind, which wanders to lightly; study every detail, scheme and examine thoroughly.
STREPSIADES
Alas! Alas!
SOCRATES
Keep still, and if any notion troubles you, put it quickly aside, then resume it and think over it again.
STREPSIADES
My dear little Socrates!
SOCRATES
What is it, old greybeard?
STREPSIADES
I have a scheme for not paying my debts.
SOCRATES
Let us hear it.
STREPSIADES
Tell me, if I purchased a Thessalian witch, I could make the moon descend during the night and shut it, like a mirror, into a round box and there keep it carefully....
SOCRATES
How would you gain by that?
STREPSIADES
How? why, if the moon did not rise, I would have no interest to pay.
SOCRATES
Why so?
STREPSIADES
Because money is lent by the month.
SOCRATES
Good! but I am going to propose another trick to you. If you were condemned to pay five talents, how would you manage to quash that verdict? Tell me.
STREPSIADES
How? how? I don't know, I must think.
SOCRATES
Do you always shut your thoughts within yourself? Let your ideas fly in the air, like a may-bug, tied by the foot with a thread.
STREPSIADES
I have found a very clever way to annul that conviction; you will admit that much yourself.
SOCRATES
What is it?
STREPSIADES
Have you ever seen a beautiful, transparent stone at the druggists', with which you may kindle fire?
SOCRATES
You mean a crystal lens.
STREPSIADES
That's right. Well, now if I placed myself with this stone in the sun and a long way off from the clerk, while he was writing out the conviction, I could make all the wax, upon which the words were written, melt.
SOCRATES
Well thought out, by the Graces!
STREPSIADES
Ah! I am delighted to have annulled the decree that was to cost me five talents.
SOCRATES
Come, take up this next question quickly.
STREPSIADES
Which?
SOCRATES
If, when summoned to court, you were in danger of losing your case for want of witnesses, how would you make the conviction fall upon your opponent?
STREPSIADES
That's very simple and easy.
SOCRATES
Let me hear.
STREPSIADES
This way. If another case had to be pleaded before mine was called, I should run and hang myself.
SOCRATES
You talk rubbish!
STREPSIADES
Not so, by the gods! if I were dead, no action could lie against me.
SOCRATES
You are merely beating the air. Get out! I will give you no more lessons.
STREPSIADES (imploringly)
Why not? Oh! Socrates! in the name of the gods!
SOCRATES
But you forget as fast as you learn. Come, what was the thing I taught you first? Tell me.
STREPSIADES
Ah let me see. What was the first thing? What was it then? Ah! that thing in which we knead the bread, oh! my god! what do you call it?
SOCRATES
Plague take the most forgetful and silliest of old addlepates!
STREPSIADES
Alas! what a calamity! what will become of me? I am undone if I do not learn how to ply my tongue. Oh! Clouds! give me good advice.
CHORUS-LEADER
Old man, we counsel you, if you have brought up a son, to send him to learn in your stead.
STREPSIADES
Undoubtedly I have a son, as well endowed as the best, but he is unwilling to learn. What will become of me?
CHORUS-LEADER
And you don't make him obey you?
STREPSIADES
You see, he is big and strong; moreover, through his mother he is a descendant of those fine birds, the race of Coesyra. Nevertheless, I will go and find him, and if he refuses, I will turn him out of the house. Go in, Socrates, and wait for me awhile.
(SOCRATES goes into the Thoughtery, STREPSIADES into his own house.)
CHORUS (singing)
Do you understand, Socrates, that thanks to us you will be loaded with benefits? Here is a man, ready to obey you in all things. You see how he is carried away with admiration and enthusiasm. Profit by it to clip him as short as possible; fine chances are all too quickly gone.
STREPSIADES (coming out of his house and pushing his son in front of him) No, by the Clouds! you stay here no longer; go and devour the ruins of your uncle Megacles' fortune.
PHIDIPPIDES
Oh! my poor father! what has happened to you? By the Olympian Zeus! You are no longer in your senses!
STREPSIADES
Look! "the Olympian Zeus." Oh! you fool! to believe in Zeus at your age!
PHIDIPPIDES
What is there in that to make you laugh?
STREPSIADES
You are then a tiny little child, if you credit such antiquated rubbish! But come here, that I may teach you; I will tell you something very necessary to know to be a man; but do not repeat it to anybody.
PHIDIPPIDES
Tell me, what is it?
STREPSIADES
Just now you swore by Zeus.
PHIDIPPIDES
Sure I did.
STREPSIADES
Do you see how good it is to learn? Phidippides, there is no Zeus.
PHIDIPPIDES
What is there then?
STREPSIADES
The Whirlwind has driven out Zeus and is King now.
PHIDIPPIDES
What drivel!
STREPSIADES
You must realize that it is true.
PHIDIPPIDES
And who says so?
STREPSIADES
Socrates, the Melian, and Chaerephon, who knows how to measure the jump of a flea.
PHIDIPPIDES
Have you reached such a pitch of madness that you believe those bilious fellows?
STREPSIADES
Use better language, and do not insult men who are clever and full of wisdom, who, to economize, never shave, shun the gymnasia and never go to the baths, while you, you only await my death to eat up my wealth. But come, come as quickly as you can to learn in my stead.
PHIDIPPIDES
And what good can be learnt of them?
STREPSIADES
What good indeed? Why, all human knowledge. Firstly, you will know yourself grossly ignorant. But await me here awhile. (He goes back into his house.)
PHIDIPPIDES
Alas! what is to be done? Father has lost his wits. Must I have him certificated for lunacy, or must I order his coffin?
STREPSIADES (returning with a bird in each hand)
Come! what kind of bird is this? Tell me.
PHIDIPPIDES
A pigeon.
STREPSIADES
Good! And this female?
PHIDIPPIDES
A pigeon.
STREPSIADES
The same for both? You make me laugh! In the future you must call this one a pigeonnette and the other a pigeon.
PHIDIPPIDES
A pigeonnette! These then are the fine things you have just learnt at the school of these sons of Earth!
STREPSIADES And many others; but what I learnt I forgot at once, because I am to old.
PHIDIPPIDES
So this is why you have lost your cloak?
STREPSIADES
I have not lost it, I have consecrated it to Philosophy.
PHIDIPPIDES
And what have you done with your sandals, you poor fool?
STREPSIADES
If I have lost them, it is for what was necessary, just as Pericles did. But come, move yourself, let us go in; if necessary, do wrong to obey your father. When you were six years old and still lisped, I was the one who obeyed you. I remember at the feasts of Zeus you had a consuming wish for a little chariot and I bought it for you with the first obolus which I received as a juryman in the courts.
PHIDIPPIDES
You will soon repent of what you ask me to do.
STREPSIADES
Oh! now I am happy! He obeys. (loudly) Come, Socrates, come! Come out quick! Here I am bringing you my son; he refused, but I have persuaded him.
SOCRATES
Why, he is but a child yet. He is not used to these baskets, in which we suspend our minds.
PHIDIPPIDES
To make you better used to them, I would you were hung.
STREPSIADES
A curse upon you! you insult your master!
SOCRATES
"I would you were hung!" What a stupid speech! and so emphatically spoken! How can one ever get out of an accusation with such a tone, summon witnesses or touch or convince? And yet when we think, Hyperbolus learnt all this for one talent!
STREPSIADES
Rest undisturbed and teach him. He has a most intelligent nature. Even when quite little he amused himself at home with making houses, carving boats, constructing little chariots of leather, and understood wonderfully how to make frogs out of pomegranate rinds. Teach him both methods of reasoning, the strong and also the weak, which by false arguments triumphs over the strong; if not the two, at least the false, and that in every possible way.
SOCRATES
The Just and Unjust Discourse themselves shall instruct him. I shall leave you.
STREPSIADES
But forget it not, he must always, always be able to confound the true.
(Socrates enters the Thoughtery; a moment later the JUST and the UNJUST DISCOURSE come out; they are quarrelling violently.)
JUST DISCOURSE
Come here! Shameless as you may be, will you dare to show your face to the spectators?
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Take me where you will. I seek a throng, so that I may the better annihilate you.
JUST DISCOURSE
Annihilate me! Do you forget who you are?
UNJUST DISCOURSE
I am Reasoning.
JUST DISCOURSE
Yes, the weaker Reasoning.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
But I triumph over you, who claim to be the stronger.
JUST DISCOURSE
By what cunning shifts, pray?
UNJUST DISCOURSE
By the invention of new maxims.
JUST DISCOURSE
.... which are received with favour by these fools.
(He points to the audience.)
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Say rather, by these wise men.
JUST DISCOURSE
I am going to destroy you mercilessly.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
How pray? Let us see you do it.
JUST DISCOURSE
By saying what is true.

The Clouds - Part 3

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