Home  |  Authors  |  Books  |  Stories  |  What's New  |  How to Get Involved 
   T h e   B a l d w i n   P r o j e c t
     Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children                 @mainlesson.com
Search This Site Only
 
 
Stories from the Greek Comedians by  Alfred J. Church

[Illustration] Hundreds of additional titles available for online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics

Learn More
[Illustration]

 

 

THE WASPS

[81] Frequent reference is made in the plays of Aristophanes to the judicial system of Athens. The body of judges or jurymen—the second term is, on the whole, more descriptive of them than the first—consisted of six thousand citizens, chosen by lot out of the whole number. These six thousand were divided into ten bodies of five hundred each, who sat in different courts, dealing with different kinds of cases. The thousand that remained over were called upon to supply vacancies. Sometimes part only of a section would sit; sometimes two or more sections were combined. On very important occasions, it is said, the whole body was assembled. Each juryman received three oboli  or half a drachma, as a fee for his attendance; this sum having been increased, according to some authorities, by Cleon. The poet in this drama directs his satire against the characteristic faults of the courts thus constituted, faults which may be summed up in the phrase, "want of a judicial temper."


The Wasps  was exhibited in the early part of 422 B.C., when Cleon was at the height of his power. A few months later he was killed. (See introduction to the Peace.  )


[Illustration]

CUR AND PINCHER.

[81] THERE was an old gentleman at Athens who was afflicted with a very strange disease. It was a passion, not for the things that some of his contemporaries were devoted to, as drinking or gaming, but for the law courts. He was never happy except he was serving on a jury and trying a case. Such a hold had this passion got upon him that he could not sleep at night for thinking of his favourite [82] employment, and if he ever did doze off for a moment his soul seemed to flutter about the clock by which the advocates' speeches were timed. When he got up in the morning, he always put his thumb and two fingers together exactly as if he were holding a voting pebble in them; and if a lover had written on the walls,

Pretty, pretty Goldilocks,

he would write underneath,

Pretty, pretty Ballotbox.

When a cock happened to crow in the evening he would cry: "That cock has been bribed to be late in waking me by some officials who don't like the idea of giving in their accounts." Supper was hardly over before he clamoured for his shoes; and before dawn he was off to the court, and went to sleep leaning against the pillar on which the notices were posted up. And when he was sitting, he was always for severity. It was always the longest sentence that pleased him most. So afraid was he that [83] he might perchance not have a pebble to vote with that he kept a private beach in his own house.

The old gentleman's name was Philocleon; and he had a son, Bdelycleon, who strongly disliked his father's ways. At first this son did his best to persuade the old man to stop at home. Then he tried baths and purges; they did no good. Then he got him to join the worshippers of Cybele. The old man rushed into court with a timbrel in his hand, and took his place as usual. Then he took him across the straits to ∆gina, and made him sleep inside the temple of ∆sculapius; but the very next morning he was standing at the court-rail. After that the only thing was to keep the old man at home. But he tried to get out through the water-pipes; when these were stopped up with rags, he drove perches into the wall and hopped down them like a jackdaw. Then his son surrounded the house [84] with nets, putting a couple of slaves in charge of them. These two watchmen had been keeping guard all night and had dropped off to sleep, when they heard the voice of the young master crying out, "Run, run at once, one of you! my father has got into the kitchen-flue." Scarcely had he said this when he heard a voice from up above, and called out, "What's that noise in the chimney?"

Philocleon (who was trying to get out that way).   "Only a little smoke escaping."

Bdelycleon.   "Smoke? Of what wood, pray?"

Phil.   "Fig-tree, to be sure."

Bdel.   "The most biting kind there is." (To the slaves)  "Run and clap a stone on the top of the chimney. You must try some other dodge, my dear sir.

Then the old man tried to make his way out by the door; finding that barred by the slaves, he screamed out, "I will gnaw the net."

"But you haven't any teeth, father," replied the son. Then he tried craft. It was market day, and he wanted to sell the donkey, and he was sure he would make a better bargain than his son. The son would not listen. He would take the donkey to market himself, and accordingly had the beast driven out. The creature seemed very loath to move, and Bdelycleon addressed it:—

"Why so sad, my ass? Because you are to be sold to-day? Move a little quicker. Why grunt and groan, unless you are carrying a new Ulysses?"

[85] Slave.   "And, by Zeus! there is a fellow hanging on underneath."

Bdel.   "What? Where?"

Slave.   "Here, to be sure."

Bdel.   "Who in the world are you?"

Phil.   "No man."

Bdel.   "No man, are you? Where do you come from?"

Phil.   "From Ithaca, the son of Runaway."

Bdel.   "Well, however you'll not get off in this way." (To the slaves)&nbps; "Drag him out."

The old man accordingly was dragged off, and pushed inside, and the door was bolted, barred, and still further fortified by stones and other things piled up against it. While the slaves were busy about this, one of them was startled by a clod of earth falling on his head. Philocleon had mounted on to the roof, and seemed to be intending to fly off. "Throw the net over him," cried his son. This done, the slaves ventured to suggest that a sleep would be welcome. Of this, however, their young master would not hear.

"Sleep!" he cried, "why, his fellow-juryman will [86] be here very soon to call for him, and we shall have to deal with them."

"But, sir," said the slave, "it is only just twilight."—"Ah!" replied Bdelycleon, "then they are very late to-day; soon after midnight is their usual time for coming."

Slave.   "Well, if they do come, we can easily pelt them with stones."

Bdel.   "Pelt them, indeed! You might as well stir up a wasps' nest as anger these old men. Every one of them wears a terrible sting, and they'd leap on you like live coals out of the fire."

Slave.   "Don't be afraid. Give me some stones, and I'll scatter their wasps' nest, be it ever so big."

Sure enough, before many minutes had passed, the host of jurymen appeared, a set of poorly dressed, hungry looking fellows. They came slowly on, picking their way, while their young sons carried lanterns by their side. They were greatly astonished, on arriving at Philocleon's house, to see no trace of their colleague, and sang a stave, in the hope of bringing him out:—

"Why doesn't he greet us in front of his hall?

Why doesn't he hear and reply to our call?

Perhaps he has had the misfortune to lose

The only one pair that was left him of shoes;

Or perhaps it may be he has injured his toe

[87]

With groping about in the dark; such a blow,

When a man is in years, very painful may grow.

He was ever the sharpest and keenest of all;

In vain on his ear all entreaties would fall;

If you sued for his grace, with an obstinate stoop

Of his head, he would mutter, 'Boil stones into soup.'

Can it be that, attempting in vain to forget

The fellow who yesterday slipped through our net,

Having cheated us all with detestable lies

About plots he had spied out among our allies,

He has sickened with fever? That's just like our friend.

But up with you now, for it's foolish to spend

Your time in these fruitless reproaches. We've got

From Thrace a fat traitor to pop in our pot."

Philocleon replied in corresponding strains:—

"Friends, long have I wasted away with my woe,

As I heard through the chimney your voices below;

I am helpless; these will not allow me to go

With you as my spirit desires, for I burn

To do some one or other a mischievous turn,

If I only could get to the balloting urn.

O Lord of the thunder, I pray that the stroke

Of thy lightning may speedily change me to smoke

Or to stone, if I only the table were made

To which for the counting the votes are conveyed."

[88] Colleague.   "But who is it keeps you shut up, my friend?"

Phil.   "My own son. But hush! he is asleep. Speak softly."

Coll.   "But why? What reason does he give?"

Phil.   "He wants to keep me from sitting on juries, and in fact from doing any mischief. He makes me comfortable enough, but I won't give in."

Coll.   "Ah! I see; he's mixed up in some conspiracy, and afraid of what you might find out. But isn't there some way of giving him the slip?"

Phil.   "How I wish there were! Can you think of anything?"

Coll.   "You might dress yourself up in a beggar's rags, as Ulysses did, and creep out somehow."

Phil.   "There is not a cranny that a gnat could get through. No, you must think of something better than that."

Coll.   "Don't you remember how you stole the roast meat and let yourself down by the wall, when we were besieging Naxos?"

Phil.   "Ah! but I was a young man then and could go where I pleased; but now I am old, and, besides, they watch me too closely."

Coll.   "Well, think of something; for the day is beginning to break, and time presses."

Finally Philocleon gnawed through one of the [89] nets with which all the outlets to the house were secured, and, tying round his body a rope, the other end of which he secured to a bar of the window, began to let himself down into the street, imploring his colleagues that if anything should happen to him—the rope breaking, for instance—they would pay him due honours, and bury him under the railings round the judges' seat. His friends encouraged him; and the thing was nearly done, when something chanced to rouse the slumbering Bdelycleon. The old man dropped, indeed, to the ground, but only to find himself in the hands of his keepers. In vain he appealed to his son's sense of filial duty, pathetically reminding him of how, long ago, catching him stealing grapes, he had tied him to an olive-tree and thrashed him, to the admiration of all beholders. In vain the old man's colleagues charged in the hope of rescuing him, using their stings freely. Bdelycleon and his slaves, first with sticks and then by means of smoke (always a thing which wasps detest), contrived to repel the attack. "Tyranny! Tyranny!" cried the assailants, as they found themselves beaten back. Bdelycleon suggested compromise; they would have none of it. "Tyranny! He's plotting to set up a tyranny!" they repeated.

"Ah!" said the young man, "that is what is always on your tongues now,—Tyranny! Conspiracy! You think of nothing else. For instance, I [90] go into the fish-market and buy a bass, and don't buy pilchards. Immediately the fellow who is selling pilchards grumbles, 'A man who buys fish in this way must be thinking of being a tyrant.' Or, again, I want a leek as sauce to my anchovies. What does the girl that sells pot-herbs do but say, 'Ah! you buy pot-leeks. You would be a tyrant, I see.' Now this is the sort of thing that I want to get my father away from; and as soon as I try, then immediately I am an aristocrat, a tyrant."

Phil.   "And quite right, too! Do you think that I would change those beloved courts for anything that you could give me? No, not for all the pigeon's milk in the world. Skates indeed, and eels! No; give me a nice little plea dished up with pettifogger's sauce."

Bdel.   "Yes; that's the thing you have been so fond of all your life. Still, I think I can convince you that you have been wrong, if you will only sit still and listen."

Phil.   "Wrong, do you say? I wrong to like sitting on juries?"

Bdel.   "Yes; and scorned and mocked and cheated by the men you worship,—a slave without knowing it."

Phil.   "You call me a slave? Why, I am lord of all."

Bdel.   "Not you; you think that you are, but you are really a servant. Tell me now, father, what good you get out of your lordship."

[91] Phil.   "That I will gladly. We will argue the matter out, and let there be umpires to decide between us."

Bdel.   "Very good." (To the slaves)  "Let him go."

Phil.   "And give me a sword; if I am worsted in this encounter I will fall upon it, and put an end to my troubles."

Philocleon, urged by his colleagues to do his best, lest their common employment should fall into disrepute, now proceeded to expound his view of the advantages of the juryman's profession. "Our kingdom," so ran his speech, "is inferior to none in the world. There is not a creature more blest, more petted, more feared, than the juryman. When I come trudging from my bed in the morning there are big fellows waiting for me at the bar. As soon as I come in, a delicate hand, that knows its way, I warrant you, into the public purse, is thrust into mine. How they bow, and scrape, and beg, and pray, lowering their voices to a whine, with a 'Pity me, sire, I beseech you, if you have ever made a little purse for yourself out of an office or a contract.' So they plead; fellows who would never have known that I existed, if they had not been acquitted before. So I take my seat, in excellent humour, as every one thinks; but I never think of keeping any of the promises that I have made. I listen to all that they say to persuade me to acquit them—and what will they not say? Some make a [92] moan over their poverty,—yes, actually try to make themselves out as badly off as I am; and some tell me fables, or quote something funny out of ∆sop; and some banter and jest to make me laugh, to put me into a good temper. And if this doesn't move me, then the man brings his children, boys and girls. They huddle together, and bleat like so many lambs, while their father beseeches me to pass his accounts and let him go free. And I just let my wrath down by a peg or two. Then if a player gets into trouble, he has to give me one of his very best speeches; and if a piper wins a suit, he plays us out of court with a quick march. If a father leaves his daughter and his fortune to a friend, what do we care for the will with its big seal? Nothing at all; we do just what we please with the girl and her money, and there is nobody to call us to account. Then the government takes care that we are not overworked. One suit a day, they say, and then we may go home. Why, we are the only people whom Cleon does not nibble at [93] and vex, but sits and keeps guard over us and brushes off the flies. What do you say to all this, you who would have it that I was a mere slave and dupe? And then, what is the most delightful thing of all, and yet I had almost forgotten it, when I get home with my day's pay in my pocket. How glad they all are to see me! First comes my daughter, and washes my feet, and anoints them, and kisses me. 'Dear papa,' she says, fishing out the money with her tongue ever so cleverly, pretty little creature! Then my wife is so kind, bringing me a little pudding she has made, and sitting by me and pressing me to eat, with a 'Do take a little more,' and 'Just another helping.' Oh! it is pleasant.

"As fine as the empire of Zeus is our sway;

And indeed we are greatly alike; for they say,

Great Zeus! what a terrible thunder they make,

When we shout in our wrath, and they tremble and shake,

Though mighty and rich, when the wrath in our eye

Flashes forth as the lightning that gleams through the sky."

Bdelycleon now addressed himself to the task of proving his point, and began by addressing the old man as "Son of Chronos, my father."

Phil.   "Don't try to get round me with 'father, father.' Prove that I am a slave, or you die."

[94] Bdel.   "Very well, dear papa; and don't look so stern. Just begin by reckoning—not exactly, of course, but roughly and in round numbers—the revenue that comes in from the subject states. Add to this the taxes, and the percentages, and the fees, and the fines, and the silver from the mines, and the market and harbour dues, and the sales. You will find the total not far off two thousand talents. And now put down the jurymen's pay, reckoning how much the six thousand get in a year. Why, it will not come to much more than a hundred and fifty talents! And what is that among all the six thousand?"

Phil.   "Then our pay is not a tenth part of the whole revenue?"

Bdel.   "Certainly not."

Phil.   "Pray tell me, then, where the rest of the money goes to."

Bdel.   "Why, it goes to the gentlemen who 'will never betray the rabble of Athens,' who 'will always [95] fight for the people.' And, O father, 'tis all your fault. It is you who make these men your masters, cheated by their fine words. And then they get presents, fifty talents at a time, from the allies, by means of threats of this kind, 'Hand over the tribute, or there will be an end of your city!' And you are content to gnaw away at the offal, while they eat the meat. Do you suppose that the allies are not clever enough to see all this? Of course they do. When they find you growing lanky and lean, and your masters round and fat, it is to them that they bring their presents,—their wine, their cheeses, their jars of pickle, their pots of honey, their caps, their mantles, their necklaces, and all that a man wants to be healthy and wealthy. And you, from all the empire that you have won by toils on land and toils on sea, you don't get a head of garlic to flavour your boiled sprats with."

Phil.   "Quite true; I had to send to the green-grocer's yesterday for three heads. But you take a long time in proving that I am a slave."

Bdel.   "Isn't it slavery when the men in power—yes, and their toadies, too—get at the money, and you are content with your miserable sixpence,—money that you have earned yourselves on ship-board, in battles, and in sieges? Doesn't some young fop come and bid you attend at the court betimes? Don't you lose your sixpence if you are late, while he comes whenever he may choose and [96] pockets his shilling? And then if there's a bite going, do you get it? Not you; it goes to him and his partner. They work it between them, like two men at a saw, one pulling and one giving way."

Phil.   "Is that what they do? This is terrible hearing."

Bdel.   "Think how rich you might be, if it wasn't for these demagogues,—you, the master of I know not how many cities from the Black Sea to Sardinia,—and they dole you out this miserable pittance, just as if they were dropping oil from wool. The fact is, that they want you to be poor, and I'll tell you why. You must know your feeder's hand; and then if he sets you on any one that he wants to bring down, you fly at the wretch like a wild beast. Now listen to me. There are a thousand cities that are subject to us and pay us tribute. Allot twenty Athenian citizens to each to feed. Then you have twenty thousand citizens living like princes on hare and cream and all good things, with garlands on their heads, just as the men deserve to live who won the great fight at Marathon."

Coll.   "Well, that was a wise man who said, 'Don't decide till you have heard both sides.' Bdelycleon, you have gained the day.

"And you, my old friend, you had better give in,

And be stubborn no more. If my own kith and kin

Would befriend me like this, oh, how thankful I'd be

Some god, it is plain, sends this fortune to thee."

[97]

Bdel. "I'll give him, I'll solemnly vow and engage,

        Whatever is good for a man of his age;

        His pitcher shall ever of porridge be full,

        And I'll wrap round his limbs a warm mantle of wool.

        Why stands he so silent?"


Coll. "He is thinking how long,

        Though you counselled him right, he has stuck to the wrong.

        He'll be wiser hereafter."


Phil. "Woe is me! woe is me!"


Bdel. "Why, what is the matter?"


Phil. "It is easy to see

        All the things you have promised I scorn and despise.

        It is there I would be, where the court-usher cries,

        'If any one still has to vote, let him rise.'"

Bdelycleon besought his father to yield. The old man would comply in everything but one. Death would be better than not sitting as a juryman.

Bdel.   "Well, if you are so bent on this, why not stop here and judge your own household?"

Phil.   "Judge my own household? What nonsense!"

Bdel.   "Not at all. The porteress, for instance, opens the door on the sly. You fine her a shilling. Just what you did there. If the day is fine, you will hold your court in the sun; if it snows, you will sit by the fire. And the best of it will be that if you choose to sleep till noon, no one will shut the door in your face."

Phil.   "An excellent idea."

Bdel.   "Then again, however long-winded counsel [98] may be, you need not sit hungry, worrying yourself and the prisoner as well."

Phil.   "But do you think that I shall really be able to judge and digest at the same time?"

Bdel.   "Why not? You will do your judging all the better. Don't they say when there is a good deal of hard swearing in a case that the judge could scarcely digest it?"

Phil.   "I can't resist you. But tell me true; who will give me my pay?"

Bdel.   "I will."

Phil.   "Good! then I shall always get my fee. That joker played me a pretty trick the other day. We had a drachma between us. He changed it in the fish-market, and put down three fish scales for my share. I popped them in my mouth, thinking they were coins. Oh, the vile smell as I spat them out!"

Bdel.   "You see, then, how much better you will fare in this way."

Phil.   "Yes, yes; something considerable. But make haste and do it."

Bdel.   "Wait a bit. I will go and get the things."

Phil.   "See how the oracle comes true. It ran thus, I remember:—

"Behold! the days shall come, when every son

Of Athens, sitting in his house, shall judge

Causes of men, and at his door shall build

A little court of justice for himself."

[99] The son now returned, bringing with him a number of judicial properties, such as red boxes to hold the votes and the like, and he set a basin of gruel by the fire, for the old man to refresh himself with. Everything being ready, Philocleon said, "Call the first case; I have been waiting a long time." This demand puzzled the son not a little. Who was to be tried? Who in the household had committed a fault? Well, the Thracian maid had burnt the pitcher. While he was meditating whether he should not begin with her, Philocleon discovered to his horror that the judges were not railed off from the rest of the court. To go on without the rails was impossible; he would go and find some for himself. Bdelycleon was meditating on the force of habit, when one of the slaves cried out, "Confound the dog! Why do they keep such a brute as that?"

Bdel.   "Why, what has happened?"

Slave.   "Pincher has got to the safe and stolen a rich Sicilian cheese."

Bdel.   "Has he? Then that shall be the first case for my father to try. You shall be prosecutor."

Slave.   "Not I, thank you. The other cur says he will prosecute with pleasure."

At this point the old man returned with some railings from the pigsty, two bowls for voting-urns, and everything at last was complete. So important a business, however, could not be inaugurated without sacrifice and prayer. Philocleon called for frankincense, [100] a pan of coals on which to burn it, and some sprigs of myrtle.

The colleagues sang:—

"O Phoebus, who dwell'st in the Delphian shrine,

We beseech thee to favour this righteous design."

Bdelycleon took up the chant:—

"Great master, who dwellest in front of my gate,

His sternness of temper now somewhat abate.

Let him not be so prompt with accusers to side,

But inclined more to pity the wretch that is tried."

Phil.   "Who is the accused in this case?" (Aside)  "He'll not get off very easily."

Bdel.   "Listen to the indictment: Cur, of the town of Cydathon, accuses Pincher of ∆none of having embezzled a Sicilian cheese and eaten it all himself. Proposed sentence, a dog-collar of fig-wood."

Phil.   "A collar indeed! To be hanged like a dog, if he is found guilty."

Bdel.   "The prisoner Pincher is here, and pleads not guilty."

Phil.   "A manifest villain! What a thievish look he has! And how he grins! thinking, I suppose, to take me in. Where is the accuser, Cur of Cydathon?"

[101] Cur.   "Bow, wow!"

Bdel.   "Silence in the court! Cur, go up into the box and state the charge."

Slave (as representing Cur, the prosecutor).   "Gentlemen of this honourable court, you have heard the charge that I bring against the accused. I say that he played a most scandalous trick on me and my fellows. He ran off into a corner by himself, and gorged himself with the cheese."

Phil.   "He is manifestly guilty. The rascal smells of cheese most vilely."

Slave.   "Yes; he devoured it, and would not give a morsel to me when I asked him. Mark this, he gave nothing to me, your favourite, Tear 'em."

Phil.   "What! nothing to you? and nothing to me, either!"

Bdel.   "My dear father, for heaven's sake don't decide the case before you have heard both sides!"

Phil.   "Why not, my boy? The thing is quite plain. It speaks for itself."

Slave.   "Don't let him off. There never was such a keeping-all-to-himself dog. And, as you know, one bush is not big enough for two thieves."

[102] Phil.   "Here is a string of charges. The creature is clearly a regular thief."

Bdel. (to Pincher).   "Now, up with you, and make your defence! What! can't you speak?"

Phil.   "Because he has got nothing to say for himself."

Bdel.   "No, no, sir; I have seen it happen before in court." (To the dog)  "Get down, and I'll plead your cause myself." (To the court)  "It is not easy, gentlemen, to defend a dog that has got a bad name. Still, I will do my best. He is a good dog, and drives away wolves."

Phil.   "A good dog indeed! I call him a thief and a traitor."

Bdel.   "He is the best dog that we have got about the place. He is fit to take charge of any number of sheep."

Phil.   "What is the good of that, if he steals cheeses and eats them?"

Bdel.   "What good? He fights for you, he watches at your door; altogether, he is an excellent creature. And if he did steal a bit, well, you see that he has not been properly educated. But I have a witness."

The advocate now called a cheese-grater, which was directed to get into the box, and on examination testified that it had grated cheese for the accused, and that others had received a share. This disposed of the charge of having devoured the stolen property [103] in solitude. He then proceeded to say that Pincher was a hard-working animal, that lived on odds and ends, bones, gristle, anything, in short, that he could get, while Cur was a mere stay-at-home, always asking for a share of what was brought in, and biting if he did not get it. The next thing, following the regular course of proceeding, was to excite the compassion of the court. With this object, a litter of puppies was brought in, and made to whimper for mercy for their father.

Phil.   "You can step down; I am satisfied."

Bdel.   "Step down I will; though I don't quite trust you. I have known many men taken in before this. Well, father, will he get off?"

Phil.   "'Tis hard to say."

Bdel.   "My dear father, I do beseech you to take the merciful side. Here is the voting pebble. Pray drop it in the 'Not guilty' urn. It is that far one, you know. Shut your eyes while you are passing the other."

Phil.   "No, no, my boy; you see I have not been educated."

Bdel.   "Let me lead you, sir."

[104] Phil.   "Is this the 'Guilty' urn?"

Bdel.   "Yes, sir."

Phil.   "In she goes!"

The fact was, that Bdelycleon, seeing that his father was resolved to condemn, deceived him, and pointed out the "Not guilty" as the "Guilty" urn. "I have taken him in," he said, as the vote was dropped in. "And now, sir," he went on, addressing his father, "I will count the votes."

Bdel.   "How has it gone?"

Phil.   "Pincher is acquitted."

The old man was so overpowered by this unexpected result that he almost fainted, and had to ask for water. "Is he indeed acquitted?" he inquired; and when assured that it was so, he broke out into a doleful strain:—

        "How shall I bear this load upon my conscience?

        A man acquitted! What dread penalty

        Awaits us in the future? O great gods!

        I ask your pardon; for against my will,

        Nor in my own true mood, I did the deed."

Bdel. "Take it not ill. My father, from henceforth

        I'll tend thee well, taking thee everywhere

        To feast, to banquet, to the public show;

        The years to be in pleasure thou shalt spend,

        And no one cheat thee. Let us go."

Phil. "I go; After to-day my occupation's gone."

[105] And now it was proved that it is not always a good thing to change a man's habit of life, even though it may be a bad one; for it is quite possible that he may turn to something worse. Philocleon went to the feast. At first it was not easy to make him enjoy himself. He did not know how to behave himself among gay company; his very attitude was ungainly; he could think of nothing to talk about but old experiences in the law-courts. But he learnt his lesson with amazing rapidity. Before the banquet was half finished he was the noisiest of the company, jumping and frisking about like a donkey that has had a feed of corn, bantering the guests, telling stories that were not in the least to the point, and at last, when the party broke up, beating every one that he met on his way home. The slave Xanthias, who had come in for a sound thrashing, had just time to give warning at home of what had happened when the old man appeared. "Dear me," he said, "it is hard for a young fellow like me to be kept so strict! There's my son, the most cross-grained guardian that could be, always afraid that I shall turn out badly; but then, I am his only father, you see!" While he was speaking, the people whom he had maltreated on his way came flocking in. A girl that sold bread complained that the [106] old man had knocked at least a dozen loaves off her tray with his torch. Philocleon had nothing to say to her except it was to tell some of the pleasant stories which his son had said would suit gay society. "My good girl," he said, "what do you think ∆sop once said to a dog that barked at him as he was going home from dinner?"—"I don't want to know," said the girl.—"Well," he went on, "it was something like this: 'Don't make all that noise, but—buy some more flour.'" "And you insult me, too," she cried. "I'll bring you before the clerk of the market."—"No, but listen," he replied; "I may be able to satisfy you. Simonides and Lasus once had a trial of skill; and Lasus said, 'I don't care.' And that's just what I say." Next came a man complaining of having his head broken. "I'll make it all right with him," said Philocleon. The man was pleased. He did not want, he said, to go to law if he could help it. "Well, then, listen: a girl at Sybaris broke a jug—"—"Oh!" cried the man, "if that's the way you are going to make it right with me, I shall call my witnesses."—"That's just what the jug said," the old man went on; "and the girl told it that it would show more sense if it [107] left off calling witnesses, and bought a rivet to mend itself with."—"Ah! you may laugh," said the aggrieved man; "but it will be a different thing when the magistrate calls on the case." The son now lost all patience, and forcibly carried his father into the house, already probably wishing that he had been content to leave him in the enjoyment of his old occupation.


 Table of Contents  |  Index  | Previous: Peace  |  Next: The Clouds
Copyright (c) 2000-2017 Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.