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Project Gutenberg etext, adapted for E2

Aristophanes: Peace—Scene 3

Scene 3

Alas! alas! dear little girls, your father is deserting you secretly to go
to heaven. Ah! poor orphans, entreat him, beseech him.

Father! father! what is this I hear? Is it true? What! you would
leave me, you would vanish into the sky, you would go to the crows?1
'Tis impossible! Answer, father, an you love me.

f1 "Go to the crows," a proverbial expression equivalent to our "Go
to the devil."

Yes, I am going. You hurt me too sorely, my daughters, when you
ask me for bread, calling me your daddy, and there is not the ghost of
an obolus in the house; if I succeed and come back, you will have a
barley loaf every morning--and a punch in the eye for sauce!

But how will you make the journey? 'Tis not a ship that will
carry you thither.

No, but this winged steed will.

But what an idea, daddy, to harness a beetle, on which to fly to the gods.

We see from Aesop's fables that they alone can fly to the abode of
the Immortals.1

f1 Aesop tells us that the eagle and the beetle were at war; the eagle
devoured the beetle's young and the latter got into its nest and tumbled
out its eggs. On this the eagle complained to Zeus, who advised it to lay its
eggs in his bosom; but the beetle flew up to the abode of Zeus, who,
forgetful of the eagle's eggs, at once rose to chase off the objectionable
insect. The eggs fell to earth and were smashed to bits.

Father, father, 'tis a tale nobody can believe! that such a stinking
creature can have gone to the gods.

It went to have vengeance on the eagle and break its eggs.

Why not saddle Pegasus? you would have a more TRAGIC1 appearance
the eyes of the gods.

f1 Pegasus is introduced by Euripides both in his 'Andromeda' and his

Eh! don't you see, little fool, that then twice the food would
be wanted? Whereas my beetle devours again as filth what I have
eaten myself.

And if it fell into the watery depths of the sea, could it
escape with its wings?

I am fitted with a rudder in case of need, and my Naxos beetle
will serve me as a boat.1

f1 Boats, called 'beetles,' doubtless because in form they resembled these
insects, were built at Naxos.

And what harbour will you put in at?

Why is there not the harbour of Cantharos at the Piraeus?1

f1 Nature had divided the Piraeus into three basins--Cantharos,
Aphrodisium and Zea. Cantharos is Greek for dung-beetle.

Take care not to knock against anything and so fall off into
space; once a cripple, you would be a fit subject for Euripides, who
would put you into a tragedy.1

f1 In allusion to Euripides' fondness for introducing lame heroes in
his plays.

I'll see to it. Good-bye! (TO THE ATHENIANS.) You, for love of whom
I brave these dangers, do ye neither let wind nor go to stool for the
space of three days, for, if, while cleaving the air, my steed should scent
anything, he would fling me head foremost from the summit of my hopes.
Now come, my Pegasus, get a-going with up-pricked ears and make
your golden bridle resound gaily. Eh! what are you doing? What are you
up to? Do you turn your nose towards the cesspools? Come, pluck up a
spirit; rush upwards from the earth, stretch out your speedy wings and
make straight for the palace of Zeus; for once give up foraging in
your daily food.--Hi! you down there, what are you after now? Oh! my
god! 'tis a man emptying his belly in the Piraeus, close to the house
where the bad girls are. But is it my death you seek then, my death?
Will you not bury that right away and pile a great heap of earth upon
it and plant wild thyme therein and pour perfumes on it? If I were to fall
from up here and misfortune happened to me, the town of Chios1 would
owe a fine of five talents for my death, all along of your cursed rump.
Alas! how frightened I am! oh! I have no heart for jests. Ah!
machinist, take great care of me. There is already a wind whirling
round my navel; take great care or, from sheer fright, I shall form
food for my beetle.... But I think I am no longer far from the gods;
aye, that is the dwelling of Zeus, I perceive. Hullo! Hi! where is the
doorkeeper? Will no one open?

f1 An allusion to the proverbial nickname applied to the Chians (in
Greek)--'crapping Chian.' There is a further joke, of course, in connection
with the hundred and one frivolous pretexts which the Athenians invented
for exacting contributions from the maritime allies.

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