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Project Gutenberg etext, adapted for E2
Aristophanes: Peace—Scene 2
As for me, I will explain the matter to you all, children, youths,
grownups and old men, aye, even to the decrepit dotards. My master
is mad, not as you are, but with another sort of madness, quite a
new kind. The livelong day he looks open-mouthed towards heaven and
never stops addressing Zeus. "Ah! Zeus," he cries, "what are thy
intentions? Lay aside thy besom; do not sweep Greece away!"
Ah! ah! ah!
Hush, hush! Mehinks I hear his voice!
Oh! Zeus, what art thou going to do for our people? Dost thou
not see this, that our cities will soon be but empty husks?
As I told you, that is his form of madness. There you have a
sample of his follies. When his trouble first began to seize him, he
said to himself, "By what means could I go straight to Zeus?" Then he
made himself very slender little ladders and so clambered up towards
heaven; but he soon came hurtling down again and broke his head.
Yesterday, to our misfortune, he went out and brought us back this
thoroughbred, but from where I know not, this great beetle, whose
groom he has forced me to become. He himself caresses it as though
it were a horse, saying, "Oh! my little Pegasus,1 my noble aerial
steed, may your wings soon bear me straight to Zeus!" But what is my
master doing? I must stoop down to look through this hole. Oh! great
gods! Here! neighbours, run here quick! here is my master flying off
mounted on his beetle as if on horseback.
f1 The winged steed of Perseus--an allusion to a lost tragedy of Euripides,
in which Bellerophon was introduced riding on Pegasus.
Gently, gently, go easy, beetle; don't start off so proudly, or
trust at first too greatly to your powers; wait till you have sweated,
till the beating of your wings shall make your limb joints supple.
Above all things, don't let off some foul smell, I adjure you; else
I would rather have you stop in the stable altogether.
Poor master! Is he crazy?
SECOND SERVANT (TO TRYGAEUS)
But why start up into the air on chance?
'Tis for the weal of all the Greeks; I am attempting a daring
and novel feat.
But what is your purpose? What useless folly!
No words of ill omen! Give vent to joy and command all men to keep
silence, to close down their drains and privies with new tiles and
to stop up their own vent-holes.1
f1 Fearing that if it caught a whiff from earth to its liking, the beetle
might descend from the highest heaven to satisfy itself.
No, I shall not be silent, unless you tell me where you are going.
Why, where am I likely to be going across the sky, if it be not to
For what purpose?
I want to ask him what he reckons to do for all the Greeks.
And if he doesn't tell you?
I shall pursue him at law as a traitor who sells Greece to the Medes.1
f1 The Persians and the Spartans were not then allied as the scholiast
states, since a treaty between them was only concluded in 412 B.C., i.e.
eight years after the production of 'Peace'; the great king, however, was
trying to derive advantages out of the dissensions in Greece.
Death seize me, if I let you go.
It is absolutely necessary.