From The Clouds
Rightly! Oh! what impudence! to me, who brought you up! when you
could hardly lisp, I guessed what you wanted. If you said broo,
broo, well, I brought you your milk; if you asked for mam mam, I
gave you bread; and you had no sooner said, caca, than I took you
outside and held you out. And just now, when you were strangling me, I
shouted, I bellowed that I was about to crap; and you, you
scoundrel, had not the heart to take me outside, so that, though
almost choking, I was compelled to do my crapping right there.
Young men, your hearts must be panting with impatience. What is
Phidippides going to say? If, after such conduct, he proves he has
done well, I would not give an obolus for the hide of old men.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Come, you, who know how to brandish and hurl the keen shafts of
the new science, find a way to convince us, give your language an
appearance of truth.
How pleasant it is to know these clever new inventions and to be
able to defy the established laws! When I thought only about horses, I
was not able to string three words together without a mistake, but now
that the master has altered and improved me and that I live in this
world of subtle thought, of reasoning and of meditation, I count on
being able to prove satisfactorily that I have done well to thrash
Mount your horse! By Zeus! I would rather defray the keep of a
four-in-hand team than be battered with blows.
I revert to what I was saying when you interrupted me. And
first, answer me, did you beat me in my childhood?
Why, assuredly, for your good and in your own best interest.
Tell me, is it not right, that in turn I should beat you for
your good, since it is for a man's own best interest to be beaten?
What! must your body be free of blows, and not mine? am I not
free-born too? the children are to weep and the fathers go free? You
will tell me, that according to the law, it is the lot of children
to be beaten. But I reply that the old men are children twice over and
that it is far more fitting to chastise them than the young, for there
is less excuse for their faults.
But the law nowhere admits that fathers should be treated thus.
Was not the legislator who carried this law a man like you and me?
In those days be got men to believe him; then why should not I too
have the right to establish for the future a new law, allowing
children to beat their fathers in turn? We make you a present of all
the blows which were received before his law, and admit that you
thrashed us with impunity. But look how the cocks and other animals
fight with their fathers; and yet what difference is there betwixt
them and ourselves, unless it be that they do not propose decrees?
But if you imitate the cocks in all things, why don't you
scratch up the dunghill, why don't you sleep on a perch?
That has no bearing on the case, good sir; Socrates would find
no connection, I assure you.
Then do not beat at all, for otherwise you have only yourself to
I have the right to chastise you, and you to chastise your son, if
you have one.
And if I have not, I shall have cried in vain, and you will die
laughing in my face.
What say you, all here present? It seems to me that he is right,
and I am of opinion that they should be accorded their right. If we
think wrongly, it is but just we should be beaten.
Again, consider this other point.
It will be the death of me.
But you will certainly feel no more anger because of the blows I
have given you.
Come, show me what profit I shall gain from it.
I shall beat my mother just as I have you.
What do you say? what's that you say? Hah! this is far worse
And what if I prove to you by our school reasoning, that one ought
to beat one's mother?
Ah! if you do that, then you will only have to throw yourself,
along with Socrates and his reasoning, into the Barathrum. Oh! Clouds!
all our troubles emanate from you, from you, to whom I entrusted
myself, body and soul.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
No, you alone are the cause, because you have pursued the path
Why did you not say so then, instead of egging on a poor
ignorant old man?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
We always act thus, when we see a man conceive a passion for
what is evil; we strike him with some terrible disgrace, so that he
may learn to fear the gods.
Alas! oh Clouds! that's hard indeed, but it's just! I ought not to
have cheated my creditors....But come, my dear son, come with me to
take vengeance on this wretched Chaerephon and on Socrates, who have
deceived us both.
I shall do nothing against our masters.
Oh show some reverence for ancestral Zeus!
Mark him and his ancestral Zeus! What a fool you are! Does any
such being as Zeus exist?
No, a thousand times no! The ruler of the world is the
Whirlwind, that has unseated Zeus.
He has not dethroned him. I believed it, because of this whirligig
here. Unhappy wretch that I am! I have taken a piece of clay to be a
Very well! Keep your stupid nonsense for your own consumption.
(He goes back into STREPSIADES' house.)
Oh! what madness! I had lost my reason when I threw over the
gods through Socrates' seductive phrases. (Addressing the statue of
Hermes) Oh! good Hermes, do not destroy me in your wrath. Forgive
me; their babbling had driven me crazy. Be my counselor. Shall I
pursue them at law or shall I....? Order and I obey.-You are right, no
law-suit; but up! let us burn down the home of those praters. Here,
Xanthias, here! take a ladder, come forth and arm yourself with an
axe; now mount upon the Thoughtery, demolish the roof, if you love
your master, and may the house fall in upon them. Ho! bring me a
blazing torch! There is more than one of them, arch-impostors as
they are, on whom I am determined to have vengeance.
A DISCIPLE (from within)
Come, torch, do your duty! Burst into full flame!
What are you up to?
What am I up to? Why, I am entering upon a subtle argument with
the beams of the house.
SECOND DISCIPLE (from within)
Hullo! hullo who is burning down our house?
The man whose cloak you have appropriated.
You are killing us!
That is just exactly what I hope, unless my axe plays me false, or
I fall and break my neck.
SOCRATES (appearing at the window)
Hi! you fellow on the roof, what are you doing up there?
STREPSIADES (mocking SOCRATES' manner)
I am traversing the air and contemplating the sun.
Ah! ah! woe is upon me! I am suffocating!
And I, alas, shall be burnt up!
Ah! you insulted the gods! You studied the face of the moon! Chase
them, strike and beat them down! Forward! they have richly deserved
their fate-above all, by reason of their blasphemies.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
So let the Chorus file off the stage. Its part is played.