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Project Gutenberg etext, adapted for E2
Aristophanes: Peace—Scene 5
WAR (ENTERS, CARRYING A HUGE MORTAR)
Oh! mortals, mortals, wretched mortals, how your jaws will snap!
Oh! divine Apollo! what a prodigious big mortar! Oh, what misery
the very sight of War causes me! This then is the foe from whom I fly,
who is so cruel, so formidable, so stalwart, so solid on his legs!
Oh! Prasiae!1 thrice wretched, five times, aye, a thousand times
wretched! for thou shalt be destroyed this day.
f1 An important town in Eastern Laconia on the Argolic gulf, celebrated
for a temple where a festival was held annually in honour of Achilles.
It had been taken and pillaged by the Athenians in the second year of
the Peloponnesian War, 430 B.C. As he utters this imprecation, War
throws some leeks, the root-word of the name Praisae, into his mortar.
This does not concern us over much; 'tis only so much the worse for
Oh! Megara! Megara! how utterly are you going to be ground up! what
fine mincemeat1 are you to be made into!
f1 War throws some garlic into his mortar as emblematical of the city of
Megara, where it was grown in abundance.
Alas! alas! what bitter tears there will be among the Megarians!1
f1 Because the smell of bruised garlic causes the eyes to water.
Oh, Sicily! you too must perish! Your wretched towns shall be grated
like this cheese.1 Now let us pour some Attic honey2 into the mortar.
f1 He throws cheese into the mortar as emblematical of Sicily, on account
of its rich pastures.
f2 Emblematical of Athens. They honey of Mount Hymettus was famous.
Oh! I beseech you! use some other honey; this kind is worth four obols;
be careful, oh! be careful of our Attic honey.
Hi! Tumult, you slave there!
What do you want?
Out upon you! Standing there with folded arms! Take this cuff o' the head
for your pains.
Oh! how it stings! Master, have you got garlic in your fist, I wonder?
Run and fetch me a pestle.
But we haven't got one; 'twas only yesterday we moved.
Go and fetch me one from Athens, and hurry, hurry!
Aye, I hasten there; if I return without one, I shall have no cause
for laughing. (EXIT.)
Ah! what is to become of us, wretched mortals that we are? See the
danger that threatens if he returns with the pestle, for War will
quietly amuse himself with pounding all the towns of Hellas to pieces.
Ah! Bacchus! cause this herald of evil to perish on his road!
TUMULT (WHO HAS RETURNED)
You have brought back nothing?
Alas! the Athenians have lost their pestle--the tanner, who ground Greece
f1 Cleon, who had lately fallen before Amphipolis, in 422 B.C.
Oh! Athene, venerable mistress! 'tis well for our city he is dead,
and before he could serve us with this hash.
Then go and seek one at Sparta and have done with it!
Aye, aye, master!
Be back as quick as ever you can.
TRYGAEUS (TO THE AUDIENCE)
What is going to happen, friends? 'Tis the critical hour. Ah! if there
is some initiate of Samothrace1 among you, 'tis surely the moment
to wish this messenger some accident--some sprain or strain.
f1 An island in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Thrace and opposite
the mouth of the Hebrus; the Mysteries are said to have found their first
home in this island, where the Cabirian gods were worshipped; this cult,
shrouded in deep mystery to even the initiates themselves, has remained
an almost insoluble problem for the modern critic. It was said that
the wishes of the initiates were always granted, and they were fear as
to-day the 'jettatori' (spell-throwers, casters of the evil eye) in Sicily
TUMULT (WHO RETURNS)
Alas! alas! thrice again, alas!
What is it? Again you come back without it?
The Spartans too have lost their pestle.
They had lent it to their allies in Thrace,1 who have lost it for them.
f1 Brasidas perished in Thrace in the same battle as Cleon at Amphipolis,
Long life to you, Thracians! My hopes revive, pluck up courage,
Take all this stuff away; I am going in to make a pestle for myself.