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Project Gutenberg etext, adapted for E2
Aristophanes: Peace—Scene 6
'Tis now the time to sing as Datis did, as he abused himself at high
noon, "Oh pleasure! oh enjoyment! oh delights!" 'Tis now, oh Greeks!
the moment when freed of quarrels and fighting, we should rescue sweet
Peace and draw her out of this pit, before some other pestle
prevents us. Come, labourers, merchants, workmen, artisans, strangers,
whether you be domiciled or not, islanders, come here, Greeks of all
countries, come hurrying here with picks and levers and ropes!
'Tis the moment to drain a cup in honour of the Good Genius.
Come hither all! quick, hasten to the rescue! All peoples of Greece, now is
the time or never, for you to help each other. You see yourselves
freed from battles and all their horrors of bloodshed. The day, hateful
to Lamachus1, has come. Come then, what must be done? Give your
orders, direct us, for I swear to work this day without ceasing, until
with the help of our levers and our engines we have drawn back into light
the greatest of all goddesses, her to whom the olive is so dear.
f1 An Athenian general as ambitious as he was brave. In 423 B.C. he
had failed in an enterprise against Heracles, a storm having destroyed
his fleet. Since then he had distingued himself in several actions, and
was destined, some years later, to share the command of the expedition
to Sicily with Alcibiades and Nicias.
Silence! if War should hear your shouts of joy he would bound
forth from his retreat in fury.
Such a decree overwhelms us with joy; how different to the
edict, which bade us muster with provisions for three days.1
f1 Meaning, to start a military expedition.
Let us beware lest the cursed Cerberus1 prevent us even from
the nethermost hell from delivering the goddess by his furious howling,
just as he did when on earth.
Once we have hold of her, none in the world will be able to take her
from us. Huzza! huzza!1
f1 The Chorus insist on the conventional choric dance.
You will work my death if you don't subdue your shouts. War will
come running out and trample everything beneath his feet.
Well then! LET him confound, let him trample, let him overturn
everything! We cannot help giving vent to our joy.
Oh! cruel fate! My friends! in the name of the gods, what possesses
you? Your dancing will wreck the success of a fine undertaking.
'Tis not I who want to dance; 'tis my legs that bound with delight.
Enough, an you love me, cease your gambols.
There! 'Tis over.
You say so, and nevertheless you go on.
Yet one more figure and 'tis done.
Well, just this one; then you must dance no more.
No, no more dancing, if we can help you.
But look, you are not stopping even now.
By Zeus, I am only throwing up my right leg, that's all.
Come, I grant you that, but pray, annoy me no further.
Ah! the left leg too will have its fling; well, 'tis but its right.
I am so happy,
so delighted at not having to carry my buckler any more. I sing and
I laugh more than if I had cast my old age, as a serpent does its skin.
No, 'tis not time for joy yet, for you are not sure of success.
But when you have got the goddess, then rejoice, shout and laugh;
thenceforward you will be able to sail or stay at home, to make love
or sleep, to attend festivals and processions, to play at cottabos,1
live like true Sybarites and to shout, Io, io!
f1 One of the most favourite games with the Greeks. A stick was set
upright in the ground and to this the beam of a balance was attached
by its centre. Two vessels were hung from the extremities of the beam
so as to balance; beneath these two other and larger dishes were placed
and filled with water, and in the middle of each a brazen figure, called
Manes, was stood. The game consisted in throwing drops of wine from
an agreed distance into one or the other vessel, so that, dragged
downwards by the weight of the liquor, it bumped against Manes.
Ah! God grant we may see the blessed day. I have suffered so much;
have so oft slept with Phormio1 on hard beds. You will no longer find
me an acid, angry, hard judge as heretofore, but will find me turned
indulgent and grown younger by twenty years through happiness.
We have been killing ourselves long enough, tiring ourselves out
with going to the Lyceum2 and returning laden with spear and buckler.
--But what can we do to please you? Come, speak; for 'tis a good Fate
that has named you our leader.
f1 A general of austere habits; he disposed of all his property to pay
the cost of a naval expedition, in which he beat the fleet of the foe off
the promontory of Rhium in 429 B.C.
f2 The Lyceum was a portico ornamented with paintings and surrounded
with gardens, in which military exercises took place.