Part 6 out of 7
STREPSIADES. By Zeus! You lie not! Soon I shall be nothing but
wheat-flour, if you powder me in this fashion.
SOCRATES. Silence, old man, give heed to the prayers.... Oh! most mighty
king, the boundless air, that keepest the earth suspended in space, thou
bright Aether and ye venerable goddesses, the Clouds, who carry in your
loins the thunder and the lightning, arise, ye sovereign powers and
manifest yourselves in the celestial spheres to the eyes of the sage.
STREPSIADES. Not yet! Wait a bit, till I fold my mantle double, so as not
to get wet. And to think that I did not even bring my travelling cap!
What a misfortune!
SOCRATES. Come, oh! Clouds, whom I adore, come and show yourselves to
this man, whether you be resting on the sacred summits of Olympus,
crowned with hoar-frost, or tarrying in the gardens of Ocean, your
father, forming sacred choruses with the Nymphs; whether you be gathering
the waves of the Nile in golden vases or dwelling in the Maeotic marsh or
on the snowy rocks of Mimas, hearken to my prayer and accept my offering.
May these sacrifices be pleasing to you.
CHORUS. Eternal Clouds, let us appear, let us arise from the roaring
depths of Ocean, our father; let us fly towards the lofty mountains,
spread our damp wings over their forest-laden summits, whence we will
dominate the distant valleys, the harvest fed by the sacred earth, the
murmur of the divine streams and the resounding waves of the sea, which
the unwearying orb lights up with its glittering beams. But let us shake
off the rainy fogs, which hide our immortal beauty and sweep the earth
from afar with our gaze.
SOCRATES. Oh, venerated goddesses, yes, you are answering my call! (_To
Strepsiades._) Did you hear their voices mingling with the awful growling
of the thunder?
STREPSIADES. Oh! adorable Clouds, I revere you and I too am going to let
off _my_ thunder, so greatly has your own affrighted me. Faith! whether
permitted or not, I must, I must shit!
SOCRATES. No scoffing; do not copy those accursed comic poets. Come,
silence! a numerous host of goddesses approaches with songs.
CHORUS. Virgins, who pour forth the rains, let us move toward Attica, the
rich country of Pallas, the home of the brave; let us visit the dear land
of Cecrops, where the secret rites are celebrated, where the
mysterious sanctuary flies open to the initiate.... What victims are
offered there to the deities of heaven! What glorious temples! What
statues! What holy prayers to the rulers of Olympus! At every season
nothing but sacred festivals, garlanded victims, are to be seen. Then
Spring brings round again the joyous feasts of Dionysus, the harmonious
contests of the choruses and the serious melodies of the flute.
STREPSIADES. By Zeus! Tell me, Socrates, I pray you, who are these women,
whose language is so solemn; can they be demigoddesses?
SOCRATES. Not at all. They are the Clouds of heaven, great goddesses for
the lazy; to them we owe all, thoughts, speeches, trickery, roguery,
boasting, lies, sagacity.
STREPSIADES. Ah! that was why, as I listened to them, my mind spread out
its wings; it burns to babble about trifles, to maintain worthless
arguments, to voice its petty reasons, to contradict, to tease some
opponent. But are they not going to show themselves? I should like to see
them, were it possible.
SOCRATES. Well, look this way in the direction of Parnes; I already
see those who are slowly descending.
STREPSIADES. But where, where? Show them to me.
SOCRATES. They are advancing in a throng, following an oblique path
across the dales and thickets.
STREPSIADES. 'Tis strange! I can see nothing.
SOCRATES. There, close to the entrance.
STREPSIADES. Hardly, if at all, can I distinguish them.
SOCRATES. You _must_ see them clearly now, unless your eyes are filled
with gum as thick as pumpkins.
STREPSIADES. Aye, undoubtedly! Oh! the venerable goddesses! Why, they
fill up the entire stage.
SOCRATES. And you did not know, you never suspected, that they were
STREPSIADES. No, indeed; methought the Clouds were only fog, dew and
SOCRATES. But what you certainly do not know is that they are the support
of a crowd of quacks, both the diviners, who were sent to Thurium,
the notorious physicians, the well-combed fops, who load their fingers
with rings down to the nails, and the baggarts, who write dithyrambic
verses, all these are idlers whom the Clouds provide a living for,
because they sing them in their verses.
STREPSIADES. 'Tis then for this that they praise "the rapid flight of the
moist clouds, which veil the brightness of day" and "the waving locks of
the hundred-headed Typho" and "the impetuous tempests, which float
through the heavens, like birds of prey with aerial wings, loaded with
mists" and "the rains, the dew, which the clouds outpour." As a
reward for these fine phrases they bolt well-grown, tasty mullet and
SOCRATES. Yes, thanks to these. And is it not right and meet?
STREPSIADES. Tell me then why, if these really are the Clouds, they so
very much resemble mortals. This is not their usual form.
SOCRATES. What are they like then?
STREPSIADES. I don't know exactly; well, they are like great packs of
wool, but not like women--no, not in the least.... And these have noses.
SOCRATES. Answer my questions.
STREPSIADES. Willingly! Go on, I am listening.
SOCRATES. Have you not sometimes seen clouds in the sky like a centaur, a
leopard, a wolf or a bull?
STREPSIADES. Why, certainly I have, but what then?
SOCRATES. They take what metamorphosis they like. If they see a debauchee
with long flowing locks and hairy as a beast, like the son of
Xenophantes, they take the form of a Centaur in derision of his
STREPSIADES. And when they see Simon, that thiever of public money, what
do they do then?
SOCRATES. To picture him to the life, they turn at once into wolves.
STREPSIADES. So that was why yesterday, when they saw Cleonymus, who
cast away his buckler because he is the veriest poltroon amongst men,
they changed into deer.
SOCRATES. And to-day they have seen Clisthenes; you see ... they are
STREPSIADES. Hail, sovereign goddesses, and if ever you have let your
celestial voice be heard by mortal ears, speak to me, oh! speak to me, ye
CHORUS. Hail! veteran of the ancient times, you who burn to instruct
yourself in fine language. And you, great high-priest of subtle nonsense,
tell us your desire. To you and Prodicus alone of all the hollow
orationers of to-day have we lent an ear--to Prodicus, because of his
knowledge and his great wisdom, and to you, because you walk with head
erect, a confident look, barefooted, resigned to everything and proud of
STREPSIADES. Oh! Earth! What august utterances! how sacred! how wondrous!
SOCRATES. That is because these are the only goddesses; all the rest are
STREPSIADES. But by the Earth! is our Father, Zeus, the Olympian, not a
SOCRATES. Zeus! what Zeus? Are you mad? There is no Zeus.
STREPSIADES. What are you saying now? Who causes the rain to fall? Answer
SOCRATES. Why, 'tis these, and I will prove it. Have you ever seen it
raining without clouds? Let Zeus then cause rain with a clear sky and
without their presence!
STREPSIADES. By Apollo! that is powerfully argued! For my own part, I
always thought it was Zeus pissing into a sieve. But tell me, who is it
makes the thunder, which I so much dread?
SOCRATES. 'Tis these, when they roll one over the other.
STREPSIADES. But how can that be? you most daring among men!
SOCRATES. Being full of water, and forced to move along, they are of
necessity precipitated in rain, being fully distended with moisture from
the regions where they have been floating; hence they bump each other
heavily and burst with great noise.
STREPSIADES. But is it not Zeus who forces them to move?
SOCRATES. Not at all; 'tis aerial Whirlwind.
STREPSIADES. The Whirlwind! ah! I did not know that. So Zeus, it seems,
has no existence, and 'tis the Whirlwind that reigns in his stead? But
you have not yet told me what makes the roll of the thunder?
SOCRATES. Have you not understood me then? I tell you, that the Clouds,
when full of rain, bump against one another, and that, being inordinately
swollen out, they burst with a great noise.
STREPSIADES. How can you make me credit that?
SOCRATES. Take yourself as an example. When you have heartily gorged on
stew at the Panathenaea, you get throes of stomach-ache and then suddenly
your belly resounds with prolonged growling.
STREPSIADES. Yes, yes, by Apollo! I suffer, I get colic, then the stew
sets a-growling like thunder and finally bursts forth with a terrific
noise. At first, 'tis but a little gurgling _pappax, pappax_! then it
increases, _papapappax!_ and when I seek relief, why, 'tis thunder
indeed, _papapappax! pappax!! papapappax!!!_ just like the clouds.
SOCRATES. Well then, reflect what a noise is produced by your belly,
which is but small. Shall not the air, which is boundless, produce these
mighty claps of thunder?
STREPSIADES. But tell me this. Whence comes the lightning, the dazzling
flame, which at times consumes the man it strikes, at others hardly
singes him. Is it not plain, that 'tis Zeus hurling it at the perjurers?
SOCRATES. Out upon the fool! the driveller! he still savours of the
golden age! If Zeus strikes at the perjurers, why has he not blasted
Simon, Cleonymus and Theorus? Of a surety, greater perjurers cannot
exist. No, he strikes his own Temple, and Sunium, the promontory of
Athens, and the towering oaks. Now, why should he do that? An oak is
STREPSIADES. I cannot tell, but it seems to me well argued. What is the
SOCRATES. When a dry wind ascends to the Clouds and gets shut into them,
it blows them out like a bladder; finally, being too confined, it bursts
them, escapes with fierce violence and a roar to flash into flame by
reason of its own impetuosity.
STREPSIADES. Forsooth, 'tis just what happened to me one day. 'Twas at
the feast of Zeus! I was cooking a sow's belly for my family and I had
forgotten to slit it open. It swelled out and, suddenly bursting,
discharged itself right into my eyes and burnt my face.
CHORUS. Oh, mortal! you, who desire to instruct yourself in our great
wisdom, the Athenians, the Greeks will envy you your good fortune. Only
you must have the memory and ardour for study, you must know how to stand
the tests, hold your own, go forward without feeling fatigue, caring but
little for food, abstaining from wine, gymnastic exercises and other
similar follies, in fact, you must believe as every man of intellect
should, that the greatest of all blessings is to live and think more
clearly than the vulgar herd, to shine in the contests of words.
STREPSIADES. If it be a question of hardiness for labour, of spending
whole nights at work, of living sparingly, of fighting my stomach and
only eating chick-pease, rest assured, I am as hard as an anvil.
SOCRATES. Henceforward, following our example, you will recognize no
other gods but Chaos, the Clouds and the Tongue, these three alone.
STREPSIADES. I would not speak to the others, even if I should meet them
in the street; not a single sacrifice, not a libation, not a grain of
incense for them!
CHORUS. Tell us boldly then what you want of us; you cannot fail to
succeed, if you honour and revere us and if you are resolved to become a
STREPSIADES. Oh, sovereign goddesses, 'tis but a very small favour that I
ask of you; grant that I may distance all the Greeks by a hundred stadia
in the art of speaking.
CHORUS. We grant you this, and henceforward no eloquence shall more often
succeed with the people than your own.
STREPSIADES. May the god shield me from possessing great eloquence! 'Tis
not what I want. I want to be able to turn bad lawsuits to my own
advantage and to slip through the fingers of my creditors.
CHORUS. It shall be as you wish, for your ambitions are modest. Commit
yourself fearlessly to our ministers, the sophists.
STREPSIADES. This will I do, for I trust in you. Moreover there is no
drawing back, what with these cursed horses and this marriage, which has
eaten up my vitals. So let them do with me as they will; I yield my body
to them. Come blows, come hunger, thirst, heat or cold, little matters it
to me; they may flay me, if I only escape my debts, if only I win the
reputation of being a bold rascal, a fine speaker, impudent, shameless, a
braggart, and adept at stringing lies, an old stager at quibbles, a
complete table of the laws, a thorough rattle, a fox to slip through any
hole; supple as a leathern strap, slippery as an eel, an artful fellow, a
blusterer, a villain; a knave with a hundred faces, cunning, intolerable,
a gluttonous dog. With such epithets do I seek to be greeted; on these
terms, they can treat me as they choose, and, if they wish, by Demeter!
they can turn me into sausages and serve me up to the philosophers.
CHORUS. Here have we a bold and well-disposed pupil indeed. When we shall
have taught you, your glory among the mortals will reach even to the
STREPSIADES. Wherein will that profit me?
CHORUS. You will pass your whole life among us and will be the most
envied of men.
STREPSIADES. Shall I really ever see such happiness?
CHORUS. Clients will be everlastingly besieging your door in crowds,
burning to get at you, to explain their business to you and to consult
you about their suits, which, in return for your ability, will bring you
in great sums. But, Socrates, begin the lessons you want to teach this
old man; rouse his mind, try the strength of his intelligence.
SOCRATES. Come, tell me the kind of mind you have; 'tis important I know
this, that I may order my batteries against you in a new fashion.
STREPSIADES. Eh, what! in the name of the gods, are you purposing to
assault me then?
SOCRATES. No. I only wish to ask you some questions. Have you any memory?
STREPSIADES. That depends: if anything is owed me, my memory is
excellent, but if I owe, alas! I have none whatever.
SOCRATES. Have you a natural gift for speaking?
STREPSIADES. For speaking, no; for cheating, yes.
SOCRATES. How will you be able to learn then?
STREPSIADES. Very easily, have no fear.
SOCRATES. Thus, when I throw forth some philosophical thought anent
things celestial, you will seize it in its very flight?
STREPSIADES. Then I am to snap up wisdom much as a dog snaps up a morsel?
SOCRATES. Oh! the ignoramus! the barbarian! I greatly fear, old man,
'twill be needful for me to have recourse to blows. Now, let me hear what
you do when you are beaten.
STREPSIADES. I receive the blow, then wait a moment, take my witnesses
and finally summon my assailant at law.
SOCRATES. Come, take off your cloak.
STREPSIADES. Have I robbed you of anything?
SOCRATES. No, but 'tis usual to enter the school without your cloak.
STREPSIADES. But I am not come here to look for stolen goods.
SOCRATES. Off with it, fool!
STREPSIADES. Tell me, if I prove thoroughly attentive and learn with
zeal, which of your disciples shall I resemble, do you think?
SOCRATES. You will be the image of Chaerephon.
STREPSIADES. Ah! unhappy me! I shall then be but half alive?
SOCRATES. A truce to this chatter! follow me and no more of it.
STREPSIADES. First give me a honey-cake, for to descend down there sets
me all a-tremble; meseems 'tis the cave of Trophonius.
SOCRATES. But get in with you! What reason have you for thus dallying at
CHORUS. Good luck! you have courage; may you succeed, you, who, though
already so advanced in years, wish to instruct your mind with new studies
and practise it in wisdom!
CHORUS (_Parabasis_). Spectators! By Bacchus, whose servant I am, I will
frankly tell you the truth. May I secure both victory and renown as
certainly as I hold you for adept critics and as I regard this comedy as
my best. I wished to give you the first view of a work, which had cost me
much trouble, but I withdrew, unjustly beaten by unskilful rivals.
'Tis you, oh, enlightened public, for whom I have prepared my piece, that
I reproach with this. Nevertheless I shall never willingly cease to seek
the approval of the discerning. I have not forgotten the day, when men,
whom one is happy to have for an audience, received my 'Young Man' and my
'Debauchee' with so much favour in this very place. Then as yet
virgin, my Muse had not attained the legal age for maternity; she
had to expose her first-born for another to adopt, and it has since grown
up under your generous patronage. Ever since you have as good as sworn me
your faithful alliance. Thus, like Electra of the poets, my comedy
has come to seek you to-day, hoping again to encounter such enlightened
spectators. As far away as she can discern her Orestes, she will be able
to recognize him by his curly head. And note her modest demeanour! She
has not sewn on a piece of hanging leather, thick and reddened at the
end, to cause laughter among the children; she does not rail at the
bald, neither does she dance the cordax; no old man is seen, who,
while uttering his lines, batters his questioner with a stick to make his
poor jests pass muster. She does not rush upon the scene carrying a
torch and screaming, 'La, la! la, la!' No, she relies upon herself and
her verses.... My value is so well known, that I take no further pride in
it. I do not seek to deceive you, by reproducing the same subjects two or
three times; I always invent fresh themes to present before you, themes
that have no relation to each other and that are all clever. I attacked
Cleon to his face and when he was all-powerful; but he has fallen,
and now I have no desire to kick him when he is down. My rivals, on the
contrary, once that this wretched Hyperbolus has given them the cue, have
never ceased setting upon both him and his mother. First Eupolis
presented his 'Maricas'; this was simply my 'Knights,' whom this
plagiarist had clumsily furbished up again by adding to the piece an old
drunken woman, so that she might dance the cordax. 'Twas an old idea,
taken from Phrynichus, who caused his old hag to be devoured by a monster
of the deep. Then Hermippus fell foul of Hyperbolus and now all
the others fall upon him and repeat my comparison of the eels. May those
who find amusement in their pieces not be pleased with mine, but as for
you, who love and applaud my inventions, why, posterity will praise your
Oh, ruler of Olympus, all-powerful king of the gods, great Zeus, it is
thou whom I first invoke; protect this chorus; and thou too, Posidon,
whose dread trident upheaves at the will of thy anger both the bowels of
the earth and the salty waves of the ocean. I invoke my illustrious
father, the divine Aether, the universal sustainer of life, and Phoebus,
who, from the summit of his chariot, sets the world aflame with his
dazzling rays, Phoebus, a mighty deity amongst the gods and adored
Most wise spectators, lend us all your attention. Give heed to our just
reproaches. There exist no gods to whom this city owes more than it does
to us, whom alone you forget. Not a sacrifice, not a libation is there
for those who protect you! Have you decreed some mad expedition? Well! we
thunder or we fall down in rain. When you chose that enemy of heaven, the
Paphlagonian tanner, for a general, we knitted our brow, we caused
our wrath to break out; the lightning shot forth, the thunder pealed, the
moon deserted her course and the sun at once veiled his beam threatening
no longer to give you light, if Cleon became general. Nevertheless you
elected him; 'tis said, Athens never resolves upon some fatal step but
the gods turn these errors into her greatest gain. Do you wish that this
election should even now be a success for you? 'Tis a very simple thing
to do; condemn this rapacious gull named Cleon for bribery and
extortion, fit a wooden collar tight round his neck, and your error will
be rectified and the commonweal will at once regain its old prosperity.
Aid me also, Phoebus, god of Delos, who reignest on the cragged peaks of
Cynthia; and thou, happy virgin, to whom the Lydian damsels
offer pompous sacrifice in a temple of gold; and thou, goddess of our
country, Athené, armed with the aegis, the protectress of Athens; and
thou, who, surrounded by the Bacchanals of Delphi, roamest over the rocks
of Parnassus shaking the flame of thy resinous torch, thou, Bacchus, the
god of revel and joy.
As we were preparing to come here, we were hailed by the Moon and were
charged to wish joy and happiness both to the Athenians and to their
allies; further, she said that she was enraged and that you treated her
very shamefully, her, who does not pay you in words alone, but who
renders you all real benefits. Firstly, thanks to her, you save at least
a drachma each month for lights, for each, as he is leaving home at
night, says, "Slave, buy no torches, for the moonlight is
beautiful,"--not to name a thousand other benefits. Nevertheless you do
not reckon the days correctly and your calendar is naught but
confusion. Consequently the gods load her with threats each time
they get home and are disappointed of their meal, because the festival
has not been kept in the regular order of time. When you should be
sacrificing, you are putting to the torture or administering justice. And
often, we others, the gods, are fasting in token of mourning for the
death of Memnon or Sarpedon, while you are devoting yourselves to
joyous libations. 'Tis for this, that last year, when the lot would have
invested Hyperbolus with the duty of Amphictyon, we took his crown
from him, to teach him that time must be divided according to the phases
of the moon.
SOCRATES. By Respiration, the Breath of Life! By Chaos! By the Air! I
have never seen a man so gross, so inept, so stupid, so forgetful. All
the little quibbles, which I teach him, he forgets even before he has
learnt them. Yet I will not give it up, I will make him come out here
into the open air. Where are you, Strepsiades? Come, bring your couch out
STREPSIADES. But the bugs will not allow me to bring it.
SOCRATES. Have done with such nonsense! place it there and pay attention.
STREPSIADES. Well, here I am.
SOCRATES. Good! Which science of all those you have never been taught, do
you wish to learn first? The measures, the rhythms or the verses?
STREPSIADES. Why, the measures; the flour dealer cheated me out of two
_choenixes_ the other day.
SOCRATES. 'Tis not about that I ask you, but which, according to you, is
the best measure, the trimeter or the tetrameter?
STREPSIADES. The one I prefer is the semisextarius.
SOCRATES. You talk nonsense, my good fellow.
STREPSIADES. I will wager your tetrameter is the semisextarius.
SOCRATES. Plague seize the dunce and the fool! Come, perchance you will
learn the rhythms quicker.
STREPSIADES. Will the rhythms supply me with food?
SOCRATES. First they will help you to be pleasant in company, then to
know what is meant by oenoplian rhythm and what by the
STREPSIADES. Of the dactyl? I know that quite well.
SOCRATES. What is it then?
STREPSIADES. Why, 'tis this finger; formerly, when a child, I used this
SOCRATES. You are as low-minded as you are stupid.
STREPSIADES. But, wretched man, I do not want to learn all this.
SOCRATES. Then what _do_ you want to know?
STREPSIADES. Not that, not that, but the art of false reasoning.
SOCRATES. But you must first learn other things. Come, what are the male
STREPSIADES. Oh! I know the males thoroughly. Do you take me for a fool
then? The ram, the buck, the bull, the dog, the pigeon.
SOCRATES. Do you see what you are doing; is not the female pigeon called
the same as the male?
STREPSIADES. How else? Come now?
SOCRATES. How else? With you then 'tis pigeon and pigeon!
STREPSIADES. 'Tis true, by Posidon! but what names do you want me to give
SOCRATES. Term the female pigeonnette and the male pigeon.
STREPSIADES. Pigeonnette! hah! by the Air! That's splendid! for that
lesson bring out your kneading-trough and I will fill him with flour to
SOCRATES. There you are wrong again; you make _trough_ masculine and it
should be feminine.
STREPSIADES. What? if I say _him_, do I make the _trough_ masculine?
SOCRATES. Assuredly! would you not say him for Cleonymus?
SOCRATES. Then trough is of the same gender as Cleonymus?
STREPSIADES. Oh! good sir! Cleonymus never had a kneading-trough; he
used a round mortar for the purpose. But come, tell me what I _should_
SOCRATES. For trough you should say _her_ as you would for Sostraté.
SOCRATES. In this manner you make it truly female.
STREPSIADES. That's it! _Her_ for trough and _her_ for Cleonymus.
SOCRATES. Now I must teach you to distinguish the masculine proper names
from those that are feminine.
STREPSIADES. Ah! I know the female names well.
SOCRATES. Name some then.
STREPSIADES. Lysilla, Philinna, Clitagora, Demetria.
SOCRATES. And what are masculine names?
STREPSIADES. They are countless--Philoxenus, Melesias, Amynias.
SOCRATES. But, wretched man, the last two are not masculine.
STREPSIADES. You do not reckon them masculine?
SOCRATES. Not at all. If you met Amynias, how would you hail him?
STREPSIADES. How? Why, I should shout, "Hi! hither, Amyni_a_!"
SOCRATES. Do you see? 'tis a female name that you give him.
STREPSIADES. And is it not rightly done, since he refuses military
service? But what use is there in learning what we all know?
SOCRATES. You know nothing about it. Come, lie down there.
STREPSIADES. What for?
SOCRATES. Ponder awhile over matters that interest you.
STREPSIADES. Oh! I pray you, not there! but, if I must lie down and
ponder, let me lie on the ground.
SOCRATES. 'Tis out of the question. Come! on to the couch!
STREPSIADES. What cruel fate! What a torture the bugs will this day put
SOCRATES. Ponder and examine closely, gather your thoughts together, let
your mind turn to every side of things; if you meet with a difficulty,
spring quickly to some other idea; above all, keep your eyes away from
all gentle sleep.
STREPSIADES. Oh, woe, woe! oh, woe, woe!
SOCRATES. What ails you? why do you cry so?
STREPSIADES. Oh! I am a dead man! Here are these cursed Corinthians
advancing upon me from all corners of the couch; they are biting me, they
are gnawing at my sides, they are drinking all my blood, they are
twitching off my testicles, they are exploring all up my back, they are
SOCRATES. Not so much wailing and clamour, if you please.
STREPSIADES. How can I obey? I have lost my money and my complexion, my
blood and my slippers, and to cap my misery, I must keep awake on this
couch, when scarce a breath of life is left in me.
SOCRATES. Well now! what are you doing? are you reflecting?
STREPSIADES. Yes, by Posidon!
SOCRATES. What about?
STREPSIADES. Whether the bugs will not entirely devour me.
SOCRATES. May death seize you, accursed man!
STREPSIADES. Ah! it has already.
SOCRATES. Come, no giving way! Cover up your head; the thing to do is to
find an ingenious alternative.
STREPSIADES. An alternative! ah! I only wish one would come to me from
within these coverlets!
SOCRATES. Hold! let us see what our fellow is doing. Ho! you! are you
STREPSIADES. No, by Apollo!
SOCRATES. Have you got hold of anything?
STREPSIADES. No, nothing whatever.
SOCRATES. Nothing at all!
STREPSIADES. No, nothing but my tool, which I've got in my hand.
SOCRATES. Are you not going to cover your head immediately and ponder?
STREPSIADES. Over what? Come, Socrates, tell me.
SOCRATES. Think first what you want, and then tell me.
STREPSIADES. But I have told you a thousand times what I want. 'Tis not
to pay any of my creditors.
SOCRATES. Come, wrap yourself up; concentrate your mind, which wanders
too lightly, study every detail, scheme and examine thoroughly.
STREPSIADES. Oh, woe! woe! oh dear! oh dear!
SOCRATES. Keep yourself quiet, and if any notion troubles you, put it
quickly aside, then resume it and think over it again.
STREPSIADES. My dear little Socrates!
SOCRATES. What is it, old greybeard?
STREPSIADES. I have a scheme for not paying my debts.
SOCRATES. Let us hear it.
STREPSIADES. Tell me, if I purchased a Thessalian witch, I could make the
moon descend during the night and shut it, like a mirror, into a round
box and there keep it carefully....
SOCRATES. How would you gain by that?
STREPSIADES. How? Why, if the moon did not rise, I would have no interest
SOCRATES. Why so?
STREPSIADES. Because money is lent by the month.
SOCRATES. Good! but I am going to propose another trick to you. If you
were condemned to pay five talents, how would you manage to quash that
verdict? Tell me.
STREPSIADES. How? how? I don't know, I must think.
SOCRATES. Do you always shut your thoughts within yourself. Let your
ideas fly in the air, like a may-bug, tied by the foot with a thread.
STREPSIADES. I have found a very clever way to annul that conviction; you
will admit that much yourself.
SOCRATES. What is it?
STREPSIADES. Have you ever seen a beautiful, transparent stone at the
druggists, with which you may kindle fire?
SOCRATES. You mean a crystal lens.
SOCRATES. Well, what then?
STREPSIADES. If I placed myself with this stone in the sun and a long way
off from the clerk, while he was writing out the conviction, I could make
all the wax, upon which the words were written, melt.
SOCRATES. Well thought out, by the Graces!
STREPSIADES. Ah! I am delighted to have annulled the decree that was to
cost me five talents.
SOCRATES. Come, take up this next question quickly.
SOCRATES. If, when summoned to court, you were in danger of losing your
case for want of witnesses, how would you make the conviction fall upon
STREPSIADES. 'Tis very simple and most easy.
SOCRATES. Let me hear.
STREPSIADES. This way. If another case had to be pleaded before mine was
called, I should run and hang myself.
SOCRATES. You talk rubbish!
STREPSIADES. Not so, by the gods! if I was dead, no action could lie
SOCRATES. You are merely beating the air. Begone! I will give you no more
STREPSIADES. Why not? Oh! Socrates! in the name of the gods!
SOCRATES. But you forget as fast as you learn. Come, what was the thing I
taught you first? Tell me.
STREPSIADES. Ah! let me see. What was the first thing? What was it then?
Ah! that thing in which we knead the bread, oh! my god! what do you call
SOCRATES. Plague take the most forgetful and silliest of old addlepates!
STREPSIADES. Alas! what a calamity! what will become of me? I am undone
if I do not learn how to ply my tongue. Oh! Clouds! give me good advice.
CHORUS. Old man, we counsel you, if you have brought up a son, to send
him to learn in your stead.
STREPSIADES. Undoubtedly I have a son, as well endowed as the best, but
he is unwilling to learn. What will become of me?
CHORUS. And you don't make him obey you?
STREPSIADES. You see, he is big and strong; moreover, through his mother
he is a descendant of those fine birds, the race of Coesyra.
Nevertheless, I will go and find him, and if he refuses, I will turn him
out of the house. Go in, Socrates, and wait for me awhile.
CHORUS (_to Socrates_). Do you understand, that, thanks to us, you will
be loaded with benefits? Here is a man, ready to obey you in all things.
You see how he is carried away with admiration and enthusiasm. Profit by
it to clip him as short as possible; fine chances are all too quickly
STREPSIADES. No, by the Clouds! you stay no longer here; go and devour
the ruins of your uncle Megacles' fortune.
PHIDIPPIDES. Oh! my poor father! what has happened to you? By the
Olympian Zeus! you are no longer in your senses!
STREPSIADES. See! see! "the Olympian Zeus." Oh! the fool! to believe in
Zeus at your age!
PHIDIPPIDES. What is there in that to make you laugh?
STREPSIADES. You are then a tiny little child, if you credit such
antiquated rubbish! But come here, that I may teach you; I will tell you
something very necessary to know to be a man; but you will not repeat it
PHIDIPPIDES. Come, what is it?
STREPSIADES. Just now you swore by Zeus.
PHIDIPPIDES. Aye, that I did.
STREPSIADES. Do you see how good it is to learn? Phidippides, there is no
PHIDIPPIDES. What is there then?
STREPSIADES. 'Tis the Whirlwind, that has driven out Jupiter and is King
PHIDIPPIDES. Go to! what drivel!
STREPSIADES. Know it to be the truth.
PHIDIPPIDES. And who says so?
STREPSIADES. 'Tis Socrates, the Melian, and Chaerephon, who knows
how to measure the jump of a flea.
PHIDIPPIDES. Have you reached such a pitch of madness that you believe
those bilious fellows?
STREPSIADES. Use better language, and do not insult men who are clever
and full of wisdom, who, to economize, are never shaved, shun the
gymnasia and never go to the baths, while you, you only await my death to
eat up my wealth. But come, come as quickly as you can to learn in my
PHIDIPPIDES. And what good can be learnt of them?
STREPSIADES. What good indeed? Why, all human knowledge. Firstly, you
will know yourself grossly ignorant. But await me here awhile.
PHIDIPPIDES. Alas! what is to be done? My father has lost his wits. Must
I have him certificated for lunacy, or must I order his coffin?
STREPSIADES. Come! what kind of bird is this? tell me.
PHIDIPPIDES. A pigeon.
STREPSIADES. Good! And this female?
PHIDIPPIDES. A pigeon.
STREPSIADES. The same for both? You make me laugh! For the future you
will call this one a pigeonnette and the other a pigeon.
PHIDIPPIDES. A pigeonnette! These then are the fine things you have just
learnt at the school of these sons of the Earth!
STREPSIADES. And many others; but what I learnt I forgot at once, because
I am too old.
PHIDIPPIDES. So this is why you have lost your cloak?
STREPSIADES. I have not lost it, I have consecrated it to Philosophy.
PHIDIPPIDES. And what have you done with your sandals, you poor fool?
STREPSIADES. If I have lost them, it is for what was necessary, just as
Pericles did. But come, move yourself, let us go in; if necessary,
do wrong to obey your father. When you were six years old and still
lisped, 'twas I who obeyed you. I remember at the feasts of Zeus you had
a consuming wish for a little chariot and I bought it for you with the
first obolus which I received as a juryman in the Courts.
PHIDIPPIDES. You will soon repent of what you ask me to do.
STREPSIADES. Oh! now I am happy! He obeys. Here, Socrates, here! Come out
quick! Here I am bringing you my son; he refused, but I have persuaded
SOCRATES. Why, he is but a child yet. He is not used to these baskets, in
which we suspend our minds.
PHIDIPPIDES. To make you better used to them, I would you were hung.
STREPSIADES. A curse upon you! you insult your master!
SOCRATES. "I would you were hung!" What a stupid speech! and so
emphatically spoken! How can one ever get out of an accusation with such
a tone, summon witnesses or touch or convince? And yet when we think,
Hyperbolus learnt all this for one talent!
STREPSIADES. Rest undisturbed and teach him. 'Tis a most intelligent
nature. Even when quite little he amused himself at home with making
houses, carving boats, constructing little chariots of leather, and
understood wonderfully how to make frogs out of pomegranate rinds. Teach
him both methods of reasoning, the strong and also the weak, which by
false arguments triumphs over the strong; if not the two, at least the
false, and that in every possible way.
SOCRATES. 'Tis Just and Unjust Discourse themselves that shall instruct
STREPSIADES. I go, but forget it not, he must always, always be able to
confound the true.
JUST DISCOURSE. Come here! Shameless as you may be, will you dare to show
your face to the spectators?
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Take me where you list. I seek a throng, so that I may
the better annihilate you.
JUST DISCOURSE. Annihilate me! Do you forget who you are?
UNJUST DISCOURSE. I am Reasoning.
JUST DISCOURSE. Yes, the weaker Reasoning.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. But I triumph over you, who claim to be the stronger.
JUST DISCOURSE. By what cunning shifts, pray?
UNJUST DISCOURSE. By the invention of new maxims.
JUST DISCOURSE. ... which are received with favour by these fools.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Say rather, by these wiseacres.
JUST DISCOURSE. I am going to destroy you mercilessly.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. How pray? Let us see you do it.
JUST DISCOURSE. By saying what is true.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. I shall retort and shall very soon have the better of
you. First, I maintain that justice has no existence.
JUST DISCOURSE. Has no existence?
UNJUST DISCOURSE. No existence! Why, where are they?
JUST DISCOURSE. With the gods.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. How then, if justice exists, was Zeus not put to death
for having put his father in chains?
JUST DISCOURSE. Bah! this is enough to turn my stomach! A basin, quick!
UNJUST DISCOURSE. You are an old driveller and stupid withal.
JUST DISCOURSE. And you a debauchee and a shameless fellow.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Hah! What sweet expressions!
JUST DISCOURSE. An impious buffoon!
UNJUST DISCOURSE. You crown me with roses and with lilies.
JUST DISCOURSE. A parricide.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Why, you shower gold upon me.
JUST DISCOURSE. Formerly, 'twas a hailstorm of blows.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. I deck myself with your abuse.
JUST DISCOURSE. What impudence!
UNJUST DISCOURSE. What tomfoolery!
JUST DISCOURSE. 'Tis because of you that the youth no longer attends the
schools. The Athenians will soon recognize what lessons you teach those
who are fools enough to believe you.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. You are overwhelmed with wretchedness.
JUST DISCOURSE. And you, you prosper. Yet you were poor when you said, "I
am the Mysian Telephus," and used to stuff your wallet with maxims
of Pandeletus to nibble at.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Oh! the beautiful wisdom, of which you are now
JUST DISCOURSE. Madman! But yet madder the city that keeps you, you, the
corrupter of its youth!
UNJUST DISCOURSE. 'Tis not you who will teach this young man; you are as
old and out of date as Saturn.
JUST DISCOURSE. Nay, it will certainly be I, if he does not wish to be
lost and to practise verbosity only.
UNJUST DISCOURSE (_to Phidippides_). Come hither and leave him to beat
JUST DISCOURSE (_to Unjust Discourse_). Evil be unto you, if you touch
CHORUS. A truce to your quarrellings and abuse! But expound, you, what
you taught us formerly, and you, your new doctrine. Thus, after hearing
each of you argue, he will be able to choose betwixt the two schools.
JUST DISCOURSE. I am quite agreeable.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. And I too.
CHORUS. Who is to speak first?
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Let it be my opponent, he has my full consent; then I
will follow upon the very ground he shall have chosen and shall shatter
him with a hail of new ideas and subtle fancies; if after that he dares
to breathe another word, I shall sting him in the face and in the eyes
with our maxims, which are as keen as the sting of a wasp, and he will
CHORUS. Here are two rivals confident in their powers of oratory and in
the thoughts over which they have pondered so long. Let us see which will
come triumphant out of the contest. This wisdom, for which my friends
maintain such a persistent fight, is in great danger. Come then, you, who
crowned men of other days with so many virtues, plead the cause dear to
you, make yourself known to us.
JUST DISCOURSE. Very well, I will tell you what was the old education,
when I used to teach justice with so much success and when modesty was
held in veneration. Firstly, it was required of a child, that it should
not utter a word. In the street, when they went to the music-school, all
the youths of the same district marched lightly clad and ranged in good
order, even when the snow was falling in great flakes. At the master's
house they had to stand, their legs apart, and they were taught to sing
either, "Pallas, the Terrible, who overturneth cities," or "A noise
resounded from afar" in the solemn tones of the ancient harmony. If
anyone indulged in buffoonery or lent his voice any of the soft
inflexions, like those which to-day the disciples of Phrynis take so
much pains to form, he was treated as an enemy of the Muses and
belaboured with blows. In the wrestling school they would sit with
outstretched legs and without display of any indecency to the curious.
When they rose, they would smooth over the sand, so as to leave no trace
to excite obscene thoughts. Never was a child rubbed with oil below the
belt; the rest of their bodies thus retained its fresh bloom and down,
like a velvety peach. They were not to be seen approaching a lover and
themselves rousing his passion by soft modulation of the voice and
lustful gaze. At table, they would not have dared, before those older
than themselves, to have taken a radish, an aniseed or a leaf of parsley,
and much less eat fish or thrushes or cross their legs.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. What antiquated rubbish! Have we got back to the days
of the festivals of Zeus Polieus, to the Buphonia, to the time of
the poet Cecydes and the golden cicadas?
JUST DISCOURSE. 'Tis nevertheless by suchlike teaching I built up the men
of Marathon. But you, you teach the children of to-day to bundle
themselves quickly into their clothes, and I am enraged when I see them
at the Panathenaea forgetting Athené while they dance, and covering
themselves with their bucklers. Hence, young man, dare to range yourself
beside me, who follow justice and truth; you will then be able to shun
the public place, to refrain from the baths, to blush at all that is
shameful, to fire up if your virtue is mocked at, to give place to your
elders, to honour your parents, in short, to avoid all that is evil. Be
modesty itself, and do not run to applaud the dancing girls; if you
delight in such scenes, some courtesan will cast you her apple and your
reputation will be done for. Do not bandy words with your father, nor
treat him as a dotard, nor reproach the old man, who has cherished you,
with his age.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. If you listen to him, by Bacchus! you will be the image
of the sons of Hippocrates and will be called _mother's great
JUST DISCOURSE. No, but you will pass your days at the gymnasia, glowing
with strength and health; you will not go to the public place to cackle
and wrangle as is done nowadays; you will not live in fear that you may
be dragged before the courts for some trifle exaggerated by quibbling.
But you will go down to the Academy to run beneath the sacred olives
with some virtuous friend of your own age, your head encircled with the
white reed, enjoying your ease and breathing the perfume of the yew and
of the fresh sprouts of the poplar, rejoicing in the return of springtide
and gladly listening to the gentle rustle of the plane-tree and the elm.
If you devote yourself to practising my precepts, your chest will be
stout, your colour glowing, your shoulders broad, your tongue short, your
hips muscular, but your penis small. But if you follow the fashions of
the day, you will be pallid in hue, have narrow shoulders, a narrow
chest, a long tongue, small hips and a big tool; you will know how to
spin forth long-winded arguments on law. You will be persuaded also to
regard as splendid everything that is shameful and as shameful everything
that is honourable; in a word, you will wallow in debauchery like
CHORUS. How beautiful, high-souled, brilliant is this wisdom that you
practise! What a sweet odour of honesty is emitted by your discourse!
Happy were those men of other days who lived when you were honoured! And
you, seductive talker, come, find some fresh arguments, for your rival
has done wonders. Bring out against him all the battery of your wit, if
you desire to beat him and not to be laughed out of court.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. At last! I was choking with impatience, I was burning
to upset all his arguments! If I am called the Weaker Reasoning in the
schools, 'tis precisely because I was the first before all others to
discover the means to confute the laws and the decrees of justice. To
invoke solely the weaker arguments and yet triumph is a talent worth more
than a hundred thousand drachmae. But see how I shall batter down the
sort of education of which he is so proud. Firstly, he forbids you to
bathe in hot water. What grounds have you for condemning hot baths?
JUST DISCOURSE. Because they are baneful and enervate men.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Enough said! Oh! you poor wrestler! From the very
outset I have seized you and hold you round the middle; you cannot escape
me. Tell me, of all the sons of Zeus, who had the stoutest heart, who
performed the most doughty deeds?
JUST DISCOURSE. None, in my opinion, surpassed Heracles.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Where have you ever seen cold baths called 'Baths of
Heracles'? And yet who was braver than he?
JUST DISCOURSE. 'Tis because of such quibbles, that the baths are seen
crowded with young folk, who chatter there the livelong day while the
gymnasia remain empty.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Next you condemn the habit of frequenting the
market-place, while I approve this. If it were wrong Homer would never
have made Nestor speak in public as well as all his wise heroes. As
for the art of speaking, he tells you, young men should not practise it;
I hold the contrary. Furthermore he preaches chastity to them. Both
precepts are equally harmful. Have you ever seen chastity of any use to
anyone? Answer and try to confute me.
JUST DISCOURSE. To many; for instance, Peleus won a sword thereby.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. A sword! Ah! what a fine present to make him! Poor
wretch! Hyperbolus, the lamp-seller, thanks to his villainy, has gained
more than ... I do not know how many talents, but certainly no sword.
JUST DISCOURSE. Peleus owed it to his chastity that he became the husband
UNJUST DISCOURSE. ... who left him in the lurch, for he was not the most
ardent; in those nocturnal sports between two sheets, which so please
women, he possessed but little merit. Get you gone, you are but an old
fool. But you, young man, just consider a little what this temperance
means and the delights of which it deprives you--young fellows, women,
play, dainty dishes, wine, boisterous laughter. And what is life worth
without these? Then, if you happen to commit one of these faults inherent
in human weakness, some seduction or adultery, and you are caught in the
act, you are lost, if you cannot speak. But follow my teaching and you
will be able to satisfy your passions, to dance, to laugh, to blush at
nothing. Are you surprised in adultery? Then up and tell the husband you
are not guilty, and recall to him the example of Zeus, who allowed
himself to be conquered by love and by women. Being but a mortal, can you
be stronger than a god?
JUST DISCOURSE. And if your pupil gets impaled, his hairs plucked out,
and he is seared with a hot ember, how are you going to prove to him
that he is not a filthy debauchee?
UNJUST DISCOURSE. And wherein lies the harm of being so?
JUST DISCOURSE. Is there anything worse than to have such a character?
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Now what will you say, if I beat you even on this
JUST DISCOURSE. I should certainly have to be silent then.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Well then, reply! Our advocates, what are they?
JUST DISCOURSE. Low scum.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Nothing is more true. And our tragic poets?
JUST DISCOURSE. Low scum.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Well said again. And our demagogues?
JUST DISCOURSE. Low scum.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. You admit that you have spoken nonsense. And the
spectators, what are they for the most part? Look at them.
JUST DISCOURSE. I am looking at them.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. Well! What do you see?
JUST DISCOURSE. By the gods, they are nearly all low scum. See, this one
I know to be such and that one and that other with the long hair.
UNJUST DISCOURSE. What have you to say, then?
JUST DISCOURSE. I am beaten. Debauchees! in the name of the gods, receive
my cloak; I pass over to your ranks.
SOCRATES. Well then! do you take away your son or do you wish me to teach
him how to speak?
STREPSIADES. Teach him, chastise him and do not fail to sharpen his
tongue well, on one side for petty law-suits and on the other for
SOCRATES. Make yourself easy, I shall return to you an accomplished
PHIDIPPIDES. Very pale then and thoroughly hang-dog-looking.
STREPSIADES. Take him with you.
PHIDIPPIDES. I do assure you, you will repent it.
CHORUS. Judges, we are all about to tell you what you will gain by
awarding us the crown as equity requires of you. In spring, when you wish
to give your fields the first dressing, we will rain upon you first; the
others shall wait. Then we will watch over your corn and over your
vine-stocks; they will have no excess to fear, neither of heat nor of
wet. But if a mortal dares to insult the goddesses of the Clouds, let him
think of the ills we shall pour upon him. For him neither wine nor any
harvest at all! Our terrible slings will mow down his young olive plants
and his vines. If he is making bricks, it will rain, and our round
hailstones will break the tiles of his roof. If he himself marries or any
of his relations or friends, we shall cause rain to fall the whole night
long. Verily, he would prefer to live in Egypt than to have given
this iniquitous verdict.
STREPSIADES. Another four, three, two days, then the eve, then the day,
the fatal day of payment! I tremble, I quake, I shudder, for 'tis the day
of the old moon and the new. Then all my creditors take the oath,
pay their deposits, swear my downfall and my ruin. As for me, I
beseech them to be reasonable, to be just, "My friend, do not demand this
sum, wait a little for this other and give me time for this third one."
Then they will pretend that at this rate they will never be repaid, will
accuse me of bad faith and will threaten me with the law. Well then, let
them sue me! I care nothing for that, if only Phidippides has learnt to
speak fluently. I go to find out, let me knock at the door of the
school.... Ho! slave, slave!
SOCRATES. Welcome! Strepsiades!
STREPSIADES. Welcome! Socrates! But first take this sack (_offers him a
sack of flour_); it is right to reward the master with some present. And
my son, whom you took off lately, has he learnt this famous reasoning,
SOCRATES. He has learnt it.
STREPSIADES. What a good thing! Oh! thou divine Knavery!
SOCRATES. You will win just as many causes as you choose.
STREPSIADES. Even if I have borrowed before witnesses?
SOCRATES. So much the better, even if there are a thousand of 'em!
STREPSIADES. Then I am going to shout with all my might. "Woe to the
usurers, woe to their capital and their interest and their compound
interest! You shall play me no more bad turns. My son is being taught
there, his tongue is being sharpened into a double-edged weapon; he is my
defender, the saviour of my house, the ruin of my foes! His poor father
was crushed down with misfortune and he delivers him." Go and call him to
me quickly. Oh! my child! my dear little one! run forward to your
SOCRATES. Here he is.
STREPSIADES. Oh, my friend, my dearest friend!
SOCRATES. Take your son, and get you gone.
STREPSIADES. Oh, my son! oh! oh! what a pleasure to see your pallor! You
are ready first to deny and then to contradict; 'tis as clear as noon.
What a child of your country you are! How your lips quiver with the
famous, "What have you to say now?" How well you know, I am certain, to
put on the look of a victim, when it is you who are making both victims
and dupes! and what a truly Attic glance! Come, 'tis for you to save me,
seeing it is you who have ruined me.
PHIDIPPIDES. What is it you fear then?
STREPSIADES. The day of the old and the new.
PHIDIPPIDES. Is there then a day of the old and the new?
STREPSIADES. The day on which they threaten to pay deposit against me.
PHIDIPPIDES. Then so much the worse for those who have deposited! for
'tis not possible for one day to be two.
PHIDIPPIDES. Why, undoubtedly, unless a woman can be both old and young
at the same time.
STREPSIADES. But so runs the law.
PHIDIPPIDES. I think the meaning of the law is quite misunderstood.
STREPSIADES. What does it mean?
PHIDIPPIDES. Old Solon loved the people.
STREPSIADES. What has that to do with the old day and the new?
PHIDIPPIDES. He has fixed two days for the summons, the last day of the
old moon and the first day of the new; but the deposits must only be paid
on the first day of the new moon.
STREPSIADES. And why did he also name the last day of the old?
PHIDIPPIDES. So, my dear sir, that the debtors, being there the day
before, might free themselves by mutual agreement, or that else, if not,
the creditor might begin his action on the morning of the new moon.
STREPSIADES. Why then do the magistrates have the deposits paid on the
last of the month and not the next day?
PHIDIPPIDES. I think they do as the gluttons do, who are the first to
pounce upon the dishes. Being eager to carry off these deposits, they
have them paid in a day too soon.
STREPSIADES. Splendid! Ah! poor brutes, who serve for food to us
clever folk! You are only down here to swell the number, true blockheads,
sheep for shearing, heap of empty pots! Hence I will sound the note of
victory for my son and myself. "Oh! happy, Strepsiades! what cleverness
is thine! and what a son thou hast here!" Thus my friends and my
neighbours will say, jealous at seeing me gain all my suits. But come in,
I wish to regale you first.
PASIAS (_to his witness_). A man should never lend a single obolus.
'Twould be better to put on a brazen face at the outset than to get
entangled in such matters. I want to see my money again and I bring you
here to-day to attest the loan. I am going to make a foe of a neighbour;
but, as long as I live, I do not wish my country to have to blush for me.
Come, I am going to summon Strepsiades.
STREPSIADES. Who is this?
PASIAS. ... for the old day and the new.
STREPSIADES. I call you to witness, that he has named two days. What do
you want of me?
PASIAS. I claim of you the twelve minae, which you borrowed from me to
buy the dapple-grey horse.
STREPSIADES. A horse! do you hear him? I, who detest horses, as is well
PASIAS. I call Zeus to witness, that you swore by the gods to return them
STREPSIADES. Because at that time, by Zeus! Phidippides did not yet know
the irrefutable argument.
PASIAS. Would you deny the debt on that account?
STREPSIADES. If not, what use is his science to me?
PASIAS. Will you dare to swear by the gods that you owe me nothing?
STREPSIADES. By which gods?
PASIAS. By Zeus, Hermes and Posidon!
STREPSIADES. Why, I would give three obols for the pleasure of swearing
PASIAS. Woe upon you, impudent knave!
STREPSIADES. Oh! what a fine wine-skin you would make if flayed!
PASIAS. Heaven! he jeers at me!
STREPSIADES. It would hold six gallons easily.
PASIAS. By great Zeus! by all the gods! you shall not scoff at me with
STREPSIADES. Ah! how you amuse me with your gods! how ridiculous it seems
to a sage to hear Zeus invoked.
PASIAS. Your blasphemies will one day meet their reward. But, come, will
you repay me my money, yes or no? Answer me, that I may go.
STREPSIADES. Wait a moment, I am going to give you a distinct answer.
(_Goes indoors and returns immediately with a kneading-trough._)
PASIAS. What do you think he will do?
WITNESS. He will pay the debt.
STREPSIADES. Where is the man who demands money? Tell me, what is this?
PASIAS. Him? Why he is your kneading-trough.
STREPSIADES. And you dare to demand money of me, when you are so
ignorant? I will not return an obolus to anyone who says _him_ instead of
_her_ for a kneading-trough.
PASIAS. You will not repay?
STREPSIADES. Not if I know it. Come, an end to this, pack off as quick as
PASIAS. I go, but, may I die, if it be not to pay my deposit for a
STREPSIADES. Very well! 'Twill be so much more to the bad to add to the
twelve minae. But truly it makes me sad, for I do pity a poor simpleton
who says _him_ for a kneading-trough.
AMYNIAS. Woe! ah woe is me!
STREPSIADES. Hold! who is this whining fellow? Can it be one of the gods
AMYNIAS. Do you want to know who I am? I am a man of misfortune!
STREPSIADES. Get on your way then.
AMYNIAS. Oh! cruel god! Oh Fate, who hath broken the wheels of my
chariot! Oh, Pallas, thou hast undone me!
STREPSIADES. What ill has Tlepolemus done you?
AMYNIAS. Instead of jeering me, friend, make your son return me the money
he has had of me; I am already unfortunate enough.
STREPSIADES. What money?
AMYNIAS. The money he borrowed of me.
STREPSIADES. You have indeed had misfortune, it seems to me.
AMYNIAS. Yes, by the gods! I have been thrown from a chariot.
STREPSIADES. Why then drivel as if you had fallen from an ass?
AMYNIAS. Am I drivelling because I demand my money?
STREPSIADES. No, no, you cannot be in your right senses.
STREPSIADES. No doubt your poor wits have had a shake.
AMYNIAS. But by Hermes! I will sue you at law, if you do not pay me.
STREPSIADES. Just tell me; do you think it is always fresh water that
Zeus lets fall every time it rains, or is it always the same water that
the sun pumps over the earth?
AMYNIAS. I neither know, nor care.
STREPSIADES. And actually you would claim the right to demand your money,
when you know not a syllable of these celestial phenomena?
AMYNIAS. If you are short, pay me the interest, at any rate.
STREPSIADES. What kind of animal is interest?
AMYNIAS. What? Does not the sum borrowed go on growing, growing every
month, each day as the time slips by?
STREPSIADES. Well put. But do you believe there is more water in the sea
now than there was formerly?
AMYNIAS. No, 'tis just the same quantity. It cannot increase.
STREPSIADES. Thus, poor fool, the sea, that receives the rivers, never
grows, and yet you would have your money grow? Get you gone, away with
you, quick! Ho! bring me the ox-goad!
AMYNIAS. Hither! you witnesses there!
STREPSIADES. Come, what are you waiting for? Will you not budge, old nag!
AMYNIAS. What an insult!
STREPSIADES. Unless you get a-trotting, I shall catch you and prick up
your behind, you sorry packhorse! Ah! you start, do you? I was about to
drive you pretty fast, I tell you--you and your wheels and your chariot!
CHORUS. Whither does the passion of evil lead! here is a perverse old
man, who wants to cheat his creditors; but some mishap, which will
speedily punish this rogue for his shameful schemings, cannot fail to
overtake him from to-day. For a long time he has been burning to have his
son know how to fight against all justice and right and to gain even the
most iniquitous causes against his adversaries every one. I think this
wish is going to be fulfilled. But mayhap, mayhap, he will soon wish his
son were dumb rather!
STREPSIADES. Oh! oh! neighbours, kinsmen, fellow-citizens, help! help! to
the rescue, I am being beaten! Oh! my head! oh! my jaw! Scoundrel! do you
beat your own father!
PHIDIPPIDES. Yes, father, I do.
STREPSIADES. See! he admits he is beating me.
PHIDIPPIDES. Undoubtedly I do.
STREPSIADES. You villain, you parricide, you gallows-bird!
PHIDIPPIDES. Go on, repeat your epithets, call me a thousand other names,
an it please you. The more you curse, the greater my amusement!
STREPSIADES. Oh! you infamous cynic!
PHIDIPPIDES. How fragrant the perfume breathed forth in your words.
STREPSIADES. Do you beat your own father?
PHIDIPPIDES. Aye, by Zeus! and I am going to show you that I do right in
STREPSIADES. Oh, wretch! can it be right to beat a father?
PHIDIPPIDES. I will prove it to you, and you shall own yourself
STREPSIADES. Own myself vanquished on a point like this?
PHIDIPPIDES. 'Tis the easiest thing in the world. Choose whichever of the
two reasonings you like.
STREPSIADES. Of which reasonings?
PHIDIPPIDES. The Stronger and the Weaker.
STREPSIADES. Miserable fellow! Why, 'tis I who had you taught how to
refute what is right, and now you would persuade me it is right a son
should beat his father.
PHIDIPPIDES. I think I shall convince you so thoroughly that, when you
have heard me, you will not have a word to say.
STREPSIADES. Well, I am curious to hear what you have to say.
CHORUS. Consider well, old man, how you can best triumph over him. His
brazenness shows me that he thinks himself sure of his case; he has some
argument which gives him nerve. Note the confidence in his look! But how
did the fight begin? tell the Chorus; you cannot help doing that much.
STREPSIADES. I will tell you what was the start of the quarrel. At the
end of the meal you wot of, I bade him take his lyre and sing me the air
of Simonides, which tells of the fleece of the ram. He replied
bluntly, that it was stupid, while drinking, to play the lyre and sing,
like a woman when she is grinding barley.
PHIDIPPIDES. Why, by rights I ought to have beaten and kicked you the
very moment you told me to sing!
STREPSIADES. That is just how he spoke to me in the house, furthermore he
added, that Simonides was a detestable poet. However, I mastered myself
and for a while said nothing. Then I said to him, 'At least, take a
myrtle branch and recite a passage from Aeschylus to me.'--'For my own
part,' he at once replied, 'I look upon Aeschylus as the first of poets,
for his verses roll superbly; 'tis nothing but incoherence, bombast and
turgidness.' Yet still I smothered my wrath and said, 'Then recite one of
the famous pieces from the modern poets.' Then he commenced a piece in
which Euripides shows, oh! horror! a brother, who violates his own
uterine sister. Then I could no longer restrain myself, and attacked
him with the most injurious abuse; naturally he retorted; hard words were
hurled on both sides, and finally he sprang at me, broke my bones, bore
me to earth, strangled and started killing me!
PHIDIPPIDES. I was right. What! not praise Euripides, the greatest of our
STREPSIADES. He the greatest of our poets! Ah! if I but dared to speak!
but the blows would rain upon me harder than ever.
PHIDIPPIDES. Undoubtedly, and rightly too.
STREPSIADES. 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 would let all go; and you, you scoundrel, had not the
heart to take me outside, so that here, though almost choking, I was
compelled to ease myself.
CHORUS. 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. 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.
PHIDIPPIDES. 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 my
STREPSIADES. Mount your horse! By Zeus! I would rather defray the keep of
a four-in-hand team than be battered with blows.
PHIDIPPIDES. I revert to what I was saying when you interrupted me. And
first, answer me, did you beat me in my childhood?
STREPSIADES. Why, assuredly, for your good and in your own best interest.
PHIDIPPIDES. 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?
PHIDIPPIDES. You will tell me, that according to the law, 'tis 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.
STREPSIADES. But the law nowhere admits that fathers should be treated
PHIDIPPIDES. Was not the legislator who carried this law a man like you
and me? In those days he 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 this 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?
STREPSIADES. 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?
PHIDIPPIDES. That has no bearing on the case, good sir; Socrates would
find no connection, I assure you.
STREPSIADES. Then do not beat at all, for otherwise you have only
yourself to blame afterwards.
PHIDIPPIDES. What for?
STREPSIADES. I have the right to chastise you, and you to chastise your
son, if you have one.
PHIDIPPIDES. And if I have not, I shall have cried in vain, and you will
die laughing in my face.
STREPSIADES. 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, 'tis but just we should be beaten.
PHIDIPPIDES. Again, consider this other point.
STREPSIADES. 'Twill be the death of me.
PHIDIPPIDES. But you will certainly feel no more anger because of the
blows I have given you.
STREPSIADES. Come, show me what profit I shall gain from it.
PHIDIPPIDES. I shall beat my mother just as I have you.
STREPSIADES. What do you say? what's that you say? Hah! this is far worse
PHIDIPPIDES. And what if I prove to you by our school reasoning, that one
ought to beat one's mother?
STREPSIADES. 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.
CHORUS. No, you alone are the cause, because you have pursued the path of
STREPSIADES. Why did you not say so then, instead of egging on a poor
ignorant old man?
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.
STREPSIADES. Alas! oh Clouds! 'tis hard indeed, but 'tis 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.
PHIDIPPIDES. I shall do nothing against our masters.
STREPSIADES. Oh! show some reverence for ancestral Zeus!
PHIDIPPIDES. Mark him and his ancestral Zeus! What a fool you are! Does
any such being as Zeus exist?
STREPSIADES. Why, assuredly.
PHIDIPPIDES. No, a thousand times no! The ruler of the world is the
Whirlwind, that has unseated Zeus.
STREPSIADES. 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 god.
PHIDIPPIDES. Very well! Keep your stupid nonsense for your own
STREPSIADES. Oh! what madness! I had lost my reason when I threw over the
gods through Socrates' seductive phrases. Oh! good Hermes, do not destroy
me in your wrath. Forgive me; their babbling had driven me crazy. Be my
councillor. 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 school, 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. Oh! oh!
STREPSIADES. Come, torch, do your duty! Burst into full flame!
DISCIPLE. What are you up to?
STREPSIADES. What am I up to? Why, I am entering upon a subtle argument
with the beams of the house.
SECOND DISCIPLE. Hullo! hullo! who is burning down our house?
STREPSIADES. The man whose cloak you have appropriated.
SECOND DISCIPLE. But we are dead men, dead men!
STREPSIADES. That is just exactly what I hope, unless my axe plays me
false, or I fall and break my neck.
SOCRATES. Hi! you fellow on the roof, what are you doing up there?
STREPSIADES. I traverse the air and contemplate the sun.
SOCRATES. Ah! ah! woe is upon me! I am suffocating!
CHAEREPHON. Ah! you insulted the gods! Ah! 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.
CHORUS. So let the Chorus file off the stage. Its part is played.
* * * * *
FINIS OF "THE CLOUDS"
* * * * *
 He is in one bed and his son is in another; slaves are sleeping
near them. It is night-time.
 The punishment most frequently inflicted upon slaves in the towns
was to send them into the country to work in the fields, but at the
period when the 'Clouds' was presented, 424 B.C., the invasions of the
Peloponnesians forbade the pursuit of agriculture. Moreover, there
existed the fear, that if the slaves were punished too harshly, they
might go over to the enemy.
 Among the Greeks, each month was divided into three decades. The
last of the month was called [Greek: en_e kai nea], the day of the old
and the new or the day of the new moon, and on that day interest, which
it was customary to pay monthly, became due.
 Literally, the horse marked with the [Greek: koppa] ([Symbol:
Letter 'koppa']), a letter of the older Greek alphabet, afterwards
disused, which distinguished the thoroughbreds.
 Phidippides dreams that he is driving in a chariot race, and that
an opponent is trying to cut into his track.
 There was a prize specially reserved for war-chariots in the games
of the Athenian hippodrome; being heavier than the chariots generally
used, they doubtless had to cover a lesser number of laps, which explains
 The wife of Alcmaeon, a descendant of Nestor, who, driven from
Messenia by the Heraclidae, came to settle in Athens in the twelfth
century, and was the ancestor of the great family of the Alcmaeonidae,
Pericles and Alcibiades belonged to it.
 The Greek word for horse is [Greek: hippos].
 Derived from [Greek: pheidesthai], to save.
 The name Phidippides contains both words, [Greek: hippos], horse,
and [Greek: pheidesthai], to save, and was therefore a compromise arrived
at between the two parents.
 The heads of the family of the Alcmaeonidae bore the name of
Megacles from generation to generation.
 A mountain in Attica.
 Aristophanes represents everything belonging to Socrates as being
mean, even down to his dwelling.
 Crates ascribes the same doctrine in one of his plays to the
Pythagorean Hippo, of Samos.
 This is pure calumny. Socrates accepted no payment.
 Here the poet confounds Socrates' disciples with the Stoics.
Contrary to the text, Socrates held that a man should care for his bodily
 One of Socrates' pupils.
 Female footwear. They were a sort of light slipper and white in
 He calls off their attention by pretending to show them a
geometrical problem and seizes the opportunity to steal something for
supper. The young men who gathered together in the palaestra, or
gymnastic school, were wont there to offer sacrifices to the gods before
beginning the exercises. The offerings consisted of smaller victims, such
as lambs, fowl, geese, etc., and the flesh afterwards was used for their
meal (_vide_ Plato in the 'Lysias'). It is known that Socrates taught
wherever he might happen to be, in the palaestra as well as elsewhere.
 The first of the seven sages, born at Miletus.
 Because of their wretched appearance. The Laconians, blockaded in
Sphacteria, had suffered sorely from famine.
 In fact, this was one of the chief accusations brought against
Socrates by Miletus and Anytus; he was reproached for probing into the
mysteries of nature.
 When the Athenians captured a town, they divided its lands by lot
among the poorer Athenian citizens.
 An allusion to the Athenian love of law-suits and litigation.
 When originally conquered by Pericles, the island of Euboea, off
the coasts of Boeotia and Attica, had been treated with extreme
 Is about to add, "you believe in them at all," but checks himself.
 This was the doctrine of Anaximenes.
 The scholiast explains that water-cress robs all plants that grow
in its vicinity of their moisture and that they consequently soon wither
 In the other Greek towns, the smaller coins were of copper.
 Athamas, King of Thebes. An allusion to a tragedy by Sophocles, in
which Athamas is dragged before the altar of Zeus with his head circled
with a chaplet, to be there sacrificed; he is, however, saved by
 No doubt Socrates sprinkled flour over the head of Strepsiades in
the same manner as was done with the sacrificial victims.
 The mysteries of Eleusis celebrated in the Temple of Demeter.
 A mountain of Attica, north of Athens.
 Sybaris, a town of Magna Graecia (Lucania), destroyed by the
Crotoniates in 709 B.C., was rebuilt by the Athenians under the name of
Thurium in 444 B.C. Ten diviners had been sent with the Athenian
 A parody of the dithyrambic style.
 Hieronymus, a dithyrambic poet and reputed an infamous pederast.
 When guests at the nuptials of Pirithous, King of the Lapithae, and
Hippodamia, they wanted to carry off and violate the bride. That,
according to legend, was the origin of their war against the Lapithae.
Hieronymus is likened to the Centaurs on account of his bestial passion.
 A general, incessantly scoffed at by Aristophanes because of his
 Aristophanes frequently mentions him as an effeminate and debauched
 A celebrated sophist, born at Ceos, and a disciple of Protagoras.
When sent on an embassy by his compatriots to Athens, he there publicly
preached on eloquence, and had for his disciples Euripides, Isocrates and
even Socrates. His "fifty drachmae lecture" has been much spoken of; that
sum had to be paid to hear it.
 These three men have already been referred to.
 A promontory of Attica (the modern Cape Colonna) about fifty miles
from the Piraeus. Here stood a magnificent Temple, dedicated to Athené.
 The opening portion of the parabasis belongs to a second edition of
the 'Clouds.' Aristophanes had been defeated by Cratinus and Amipsias,
whose pieces, called the 'Bottle' and 'Connus,' had been crowned in
preference to the 'Clouds,' which, it is said, was not received any
better at its second representation.
 Two characters introduced into the 'Daedalians' by Aristophanes in
strong contrast to each other. Some fragments only of this piece remain
 It was only at the age of thirty, according to some, of forty,
according to others, that a man could present a piece in his own name.
The 'Daedalians' had appeared under the auspices of Cleonides and
Chalistrates, whom we find again later as actors in Aristophanes' pieces.
 Allusion to the recognition of Orestes by Electra at her brother's
tomb. (_See_ the 'Choëphorae' of Aeschylus.)
 An image of the penis, drooping in this case, instead of standing,
carried as a phallic emblem in the Dionysiac processions.
 A licentious dance.
 This coarse way of exciting laughter, says the scholiast, had been
used by Eupolis, the comic writer, a rival of Aristophanes.
 In the 'Knights.'
 Presented in 421 B.C. The 'Clouds' having been played a second time
in 419 B.C., one may conclude that this piece had appeared a third time
on the Athenian stage.
 Doubtless a parody of the legend of Andromeda.
 A poet of the older comedy, who had written forty plays. It is said
that he dared to accuse Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles, of impiety and
the practice of prostitution.
 This part of the parabasis belongs to the first edition of the
'Clouds,' since Aristophanes here speaks of Cleon as alive.
 A mountain in Delos, dedicated to Apollo and Diana.
 An allusion to the reform, which the astronomer Meton had wanted to
introduce into the calendar. Cleostratus of Tenedos, at the beginning of
the fifth century, had devised the _octaeteris_, or cycle of eight years,
and this had been generally adopted. This is how this system arrived at
an agreement between the solar and the lunar periods: 8 solar years
containing 2922 days, while 8 lunar years only contain 2832 days, there
was a difference of 90 days, for which Cleostratus compensated by
intercalating 3 months of 30 days each, which were placed after the
third, fifth and eighth year of the cycle. Hence these years had an extra
month each. But in this system, the lunar months had been reckoned as 354
days, whereas they are really 354 days, 8 hours, 48 minutes. To rectify
this minor error Meton invented a cycle of 19 years, which bears his
name. This new system which he tried to introduce naturally caused some
disturbance in the order of the festivals, and for this or some other
reason his system was not adopted. The octaeteris continued to be used
for all public purposes, the only correction being, that three extra days
were added to every second octaeteris.
 Both sons of Zeus.
 Hyperbolus had supported Meton in his desire for reform. Having
been sent as the Athenian deputy to the council of the Amphictyons, he
should, like his colleagues, have returned to Athens with his head
wreathed with laurel. It is said the wind took this from him; the Clouds
boast of the achievement.
 These are poetical measures; Strepsiades thinks measures of
capacity are meant.
 Containing four _choenixes_.
 So called from its stirring, warlike character; it was composed of
two dactyls and a spondee, followed again by two dactyls and a spondee.
 Composed of dactyls and anapaests.
 [Greek: Daktylos] means, of course, both _dactyl_, name of a
metrical foot, and finger. Strepsiades presents his middle finger, with
the other fingers and thumb bent under in an indecent gesture meant to
suggest the penis and testicles. The Romans for this reason called the
middle finger 'digitus infamis,' the _unseemly finger_. The Emperor Nero
is said to have offered his hand to courtiers to kiss sometimes in this
 Meaning he was too poor, Aristophanes represents him as a glutton
and a parasite.
 A woman's name.
 He is classed as a woman because of his cowardice and effeminacy.
 In Greek, the vocative of Amynias is Amynia; thus it has a feminine
 The Corinthians, the allies of Sparta, ravaged Attica. [Greek:
Kor], the first portion of the Greek word, is the root of the word which
means a bug in the same language.
 Mirrors, or burning glasses, are meant, such as those used by
Archimedes two centuries later at the siege of Syracuse, when he set the
Roman fleet on fire from the walls of the city.
 That is, the family of the Alcmaeonidae; Coesyra was wife of
 Socrates was an Athenian; but the atheist Diagoras, known as 'the
enemy of the gods' hailed from the island of Melos. Strepsiades,
crediting Socrates with the same incredulity, assigns him the same
 i.e. the enemies of the gods. An allusion to the giants, the sons
of Earth, who had endeavoured to scale heaven.
 Pericles had squandered all the wealth accumulated in the Acropolis