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These are things
We never speak of but amongst ourselves.


Speak boldly then to me, for I am come
To be amongst you, and partake the secrets
Of your profound academy.


I will impart, but set it down in thought
Amongst our mysteries — This is the question.
As it was put but now to Chaerephon,
By our great master, Socrates, to answer.
How many of his own lengths at one spring
A flea can leap — for we did see one vault
From Chaerephon 's black eyebrow to the head
Of the philosopher.


And how did t'other
Contrive to measure this?


Most accurately:
He dipt the insect's feet in melted wax.
Which, hardening into sandals as it cooled,
Gave him the space by rule infallible.

i8o Ideals in Greek Literature

Imperial Jove! what subtlety of thought!

Why talk we then of Thales?^ Open to me,
Open the school and let me see your master:
I am on fire to enter — Come, unbar!

{The door oj the school is unbarred. The Socratic scholars
are seen in various grotesque situations and positions.
Strepsiades, with signs of astonishment draws back
a step or two, then exclaims)

Oh Hercules, defend me, who are these?
What kind of cattle have we here in view?


Where is the wonder? What do they resemble?
Methinks they're like our Spartan prisoners.
Captured at Pylos. What are they in search of?
Why are their eyes so riveted to the earth?

There their researches centre.


Tis for onions
They are in quest — Come, lads, give o*er your search;
I'll show you what you want, a noble plat.
All round and sound — But, soft! what mean those

Who dip their heads so low?


Marry, because.
Their studies lead that way: they are now diving
To the dark realms of Tartarus and Night.

1 a famous earlier philosopher.

Aristophanes* Clouds i8i

But why are all their cruppers mounted up?

To practise them in star-gazing, and teach them
The proper elevations ; but no more :
In, fellow-students, in: if chance the master come
And find us here —

(Addressing himself to some of his jellow-students,
who were crowding about the new-comer.)

Nay, prythee, let them stay,
And be of counsel with me in my business.

Impossible; they cannot give the time.

Now for the love of Heav'n what have we here?
Explain their uses to me.

This machine {observing the apparatus.)
Is for astronomy


And this?


For geometry.

As how?

For measuring the earth.

1 82 Ideals in Greek Literature


What, by the lot?

Nay, faith, sir, by the lump;
Ev*n the whole globe at once.
Look now, this Hne marks the circumference
Of the whole earth, d'ye see — This spot is Athens —

Athens! go to, I see no courts are sitting;
Therefore I can't believe you.


Nay, in truth,
This very tract is Attica.


Where's Lacedaemon?

Here, close to Athens.


Ah! how much too close —
Prythee, good friends, take that bad neighbor from us.

That's not for us to do.


The worse luck yours!
But look! {casting up his eyes.)

Who's this suspended in a basket?

(Socrates is discovered.)
Disciple (With solemnity.)

Aristophanes* Clouds 183


The HE? What HE?


Why, Socrates.

Hah ! Socrates ! — {to the scholar) Make up to him and roar,
Bid him come down I roar lustily!


Not I:
Do it yourself; Tve other things to mind. (Exit.)

•Hoa! Socrates — What hoa! my little Socrates!

Mortal, how now! Thou insect of a day.
What wouldst thou?

I would know what thou art doing.

I tread in air, contemplating tne sun.

Ah! then I see you're basketed so high,
That you look down upon the gods — Good hope.
You'll lower a peg on earth.


Subhme in air.
Sublime in thought, I carry my mind with me.
Its cogitations all assimilated
To the pure atmosphere in which I float.
Lower me to earth, and my mind's subtle powers.

184 Ideals in Greek Literature

Seized by contagious dulness, lose their spirit;
For the dry earth drinks up the generous sap,
The vegetating vigor of philosophy,
And leaves it a mere husk.


What do you say?
Philosophy has sapt your vigor? Fie upon it.
But come, my precious fellow, come down quickly,
And teach me those fine things I'm here in quest of.

And what fine things are they?


A new receipt
For sending off my creditors, and foihng them
By the art logical; for you shall know
By debts, pawns, pledges, usuries, executions,
I am rackt and rent in tatters.


Why permit it?
What strange infatuation seized your senses?

The horse-consumption, a devouring plague;
But so you'll enter me amongst your scholars.
And tutor me like them to bilk my creditors,
Name your own price, and by the gods I swear
I'll pay you to the last drachm.


By what gods?
Answer that first; for your gods are not mine.

How swear you then! as the Byzantines swear,
By their own base iron coin?

Aristophanes* Clouds 185


Art thou ambitious
To be instructed in celestial matters,
And taught to know them clearly?


Ay, ay, in faith,
So they be to my purpose

Socrates descends, and straightway prays his gods,
the Clouds, to come to aid. As in all Aristophanic plays,
mixt with satire and coarsest buffoonery, we have as sweet
a strain of imaginative nature poetry as any Greek voice
has uttered.

Keep silence, then, and listen to a prayer,
Which fits the gravity of age to hear —
Oh! Air, all-powerful Air, which dost enfold
This pendant globe, thou vault of flaming gold.
Ye sacred Clouds, who bid the thunder roll.
Shine forth, approach, and cheer your suppliant's soul!


Hold, keep 'em off a while, till I am ready.

Ah! luckless me, would I had brought my bonnet.

And so escaped a soaking.

{Chorus of Clouds. The scene is at the remotest part of the
stage. Thunder is heard. A large and shapeless cloud
is seen floating in the air, from which the following
song is heard.)

Ascend, ye watery Clouds, on high.
Daughters of Ocean, climb the sky,
And o'er the mountain's pinecapt brow
Towering, your fleecy mantle throw.
Thence let us scan the wide-stretched scene,

1 86 Ideals in Greek Literature

Groves, lawns, and rilling streams between,
And stormy Neptune's vast expanse,
And grasp all nature at a glance.
Now the dark tempest flits away,
And lo ! the ghttering orb of day
Darts forth his clear ethereal beam.
Come let us snatch the joyous gleam.

(Strepsiades makes a comment too vulgar for trans-


These gross scurrilities, for low buffoons
And mountebanks more fitting. Hush! be still,
List to the chorus of their heavenly voices.
For music is the language they delight in.

Chorus of Clouds (Approaching nearer.)

Ye Clouds replete with fruitful showers.
Here let us seek Minerva's* towers,
The cradle of old Cecrops'^ race.
The world's chief ornament and grace;
Here mystic fanes and rites divine
And lamps in sacred splendor shine;
Here the gods dwell in marble domes,
Feasted with costly hecatombs,
That round their votive statues blaze.
Whilst crowded temples ring with praise;
And pompous sacrifices here
Make holidays throughout the year.
And when gay springtime comes again,
Bromius^ convokes his sportive train,
And pipe and song and choral dance
Hail the soft hours as they advance.

» Pallas Athene, guardian of Athens.
'Founder of Athens.
8 An epithet of Bacchus.

Aristophanes' Clouds 187

Now, in the name of Jove, I pray thee tell me
Who are these ranting dames that talk in stilts?
Of the Amazonian cast no doubt. •


Not so.
No dames, but Clouds celestial, friendly powers
To men of sluggish parts; from these we draw
Sense, apprehension, volubility.
Wit to confute, and cunning to ensnare.

Ay, therefore *twas that my heart leapt within me
For very sympathy when first I heard 'em:
Now I could prattle shrewdly of first causes,
And spin out metaphysic cobwebs finely.
And dogmatize most rarely, and dispute
And paradox it with the best of you.

And didst thou doubt if they were goddesses?

Not I, so help me! only I'd a notion
That they were fog, and dew, and dusky vapor.

For shame! why, man, these are the nursing mothers
Of all our famous sophists, fortune-tellers,
Quacks, medicine-mongers, bards bombastical,
Chorus-projectors, star interpreters.
And wonder-making cheats.

Welcome, ladies !

Imperial ladies, welcome! an' it please
Your highnesses so far to grace a mortal.
Give me a touch of your celestial voices.

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Hail, grandsire ! who at this late hour of life
Wouldst go to school for cunning; and all hail,
Thou prince pontifical of quirks and quibbles,*
Speak thy full mind, make known thy wants and wishes !
Thee and our worthy Prodicus^ excepted.
Not one of all your sophists have our ear;
Him for his wit and learning we esteem.
Thee for thy proud deportment and high looks,
In barefoot beggary strutting up and down.
Content to suffer mockery for our sake,
And carry a grave face whilst others laugh.

Oh ! Mother Earth, was ever voice like this,
So reverend, so portentous, so divine!

These are your only deities, all else
I flout at.

Hold! Olympian Jupiter —
Is he no god?

What Jupiter? What god?
Prythee no more — away with him at once!

Sayst thou? who gives us rain? answer me that.

These give us rain; as I will straight demonstrate:
Come on now — When did you e'er see it rain
Without a cloud? If Jupiter gives rain.
Let him rain down his favors in the sunshine,
Nor ask the clouds to help him.

iThis, of course, to Socrates.
2 A famous Sophist.

Aristophanes* Clouds 189

You have hit it.
*Tis so; heaven help me:
But hear ye me, who thunders, tell me that;
For then it is I tremble.


These then thunder.
When they are tumbled.


How, blasphemer how.?

When they are charged with vapors full to the bursting.
And bandied to and fro against each other.
Then with the shock they burst and crack amain.

And who is he that jowls them thus together
But Jove himself?

Jove ! 'tis not Jove that does it,
But the setherial Vortex.


What is he?
I never heard of him; is he not Jove?
Or is Jove put aside, and Vortex crowned
King of Olympus in his state and place?


*Tis well, so you will ratify your faith
In these our deities— CHAOS, and CLOUDS
And SPEECH— to these and only these adhere.

190 Ideals in Greek Literature

If from this hour henceforth I ever waste
A single thought on any other gods,
Or give them sacrifice, Ubation, incense.
Nay, even common courtesy, renounce me.

Speak your wish boldly then, so shall you prosper
As you obey and worship us, and study
The wholesome art of thriving.

Gracious ladies,

I ask no mighty favor, simply this —
Let me but distance every tongue in Greece,
And run 'em out of sight a hundred lengths.

Is that all? There we are your friends to serve you;
We will endow thee with such powers of speech,
As henceforth not a demagogue in Athens
Shall spout such popular harangues as thou shalt.

A fig for powers of spouting! give me powers
Of nonsuiting my creditors.


A trifle —
Granted as soon as asked; only be bold,
And show yourself obedient to your teachers.

With your help so I will, being undone,
Stript of my pelf by these high-blooded cattle,
And a fine dame, the torment of my life.
Now let them work their wicked will upon me;
They're welcome to my carcass; let 'em claw it.
Starve it with thirst and hunger, fry it, freeze it,

Aristophanes* Clouds 191

Nay, flay the very skin off; 'tis their own;

So that I may but rob my creditors,

Let the world talk; I care not though it call me

A bold-faced, loud-tongued, over-bearing bully;

A shameless, vile, prevaricating cheat;

A tricking, quibbling, double-dealing knave;

A prating, pettifogging limb o' the law;

A sly old fox, a perjurer, a hang-dog.

This fellow hath a prompt and daring spirit.

Despite this brave beginning, Strepsiades turns out to
be a hopeless dunce, even at the arts of cheating. The
Clouds advise him, if he has an apt and docile son, to
send him instead to the Socratic school. So Pheidippides
reluctantly permits himself to be dragged to the door.

In a long scene. Just and Unjust Argument, or as we
say, the Worse and Better Reason, appear as opponents.
With unusual seriousness, the good old ways of Athens
are eulogized.

DicoLOGOS. (Better Reason.)
.... That good time.
Which I have seen, when discipline prevailed,
And modesty was sanctioned by the laws!
No babbling then was suffered in our schools, —
The scholar's test was silence. The whole group
In orderly procession sallied forth
Right onwards, without straggling, to attend
Their teacher in harmonics; though the snow
Fell on them thick as meal, the hardy brood
Breasted the storm uncloaked; their harps were strung
Not to ignoble strains, for they were taught
A loftier key, whether to chant the name
Of Pallas, terrible amidst the blaze
Of cities overthrown, or wide and far

t^l Ideals in Greek Literature

To spread, as custom was, the echoing peal.
There let no low buffoon intrude his tricks.
Woe to his back that so was found offending,
Hard stripes and heavy would reform his taste.
Decent and chaste their postures in the school
Of their gymnastic exercises.
Hot herbs, the old man's diet, were prescribed;
No radish, anise, parsley, decked their board ;
No rioting, no reveling was there
At feast or frolic.

Adicologos (Worser Reason.)

Why these are maxims obsolete and stale;
Worm-eaten rules.


Yet so were trained the heroes that imbrued
The field of Marathon with hostile blood;
This discipline it was that braced their nerves
And fitted them for conquest.

Even the Chorus sings:


Oh! sage instructor, how sublime
These maxims of the former time!
How sweet this unpolluted stream
Of eloquence, how pure the theme!
Thrice happy they whose lot was cast
Among the generation past
When virtuous morals were displayed
And these grave institutes obeyed.

Yet the Devil's Advocate proves triumphantly that
these are all hopelessly antiquated notions.

What would you say if here I can confute you?

Aristophanes' Clouds 193


Nothing — my silence shall confess your triumph.

Come on then — answer me to what I ask.
Our advocates — what are they?


Vulgar debauchees.

Our tragic poets — what are they?


The same.

Good, very good! — our demagogues —


No better.

See there ! discern you not that you are foiled?
Cast your eyes round this company.^


I do.

And what do you discover?


Numerous birds
Of the same filthy feather, so Heaven help me!
This man I mark; and this, and this fine fop
With his curled locks — To all these I can swear.

What say you then?

iThe audience.

194 Ideals in Greek Literature


I say I am confuted —
Here, wagtails, catch my cloak — I'll be amongst you.

Socrates {To Strepsiades.)
Now, friend, what say you? who shall school your son?

School him and scourge him! take him to yourself.
And mind you whet him to an edge on both sides.
This for slight skirmish, that for stronger work.

- Socrates
Doubt not, we'll finish him to your content
A perfect sophist.

Perfect skin and bone —
That I can well believe.


No more — Away!

(Strepsiades retires.)

{To his father, as he follows Socrates into the house.)
Trust me, you've made a rod for your own back.

Pheidippides on his return fulfills this parting prophecy.

Hoa there! What hoa! For pity's sake some help!
Friends, kinsmen, countrymen, turn out and help!
Oh! my poor head, my cheeks are bruised to jelly —
Help, by all means! — Why, thou ungracious cub
Thy father wouldst thou beat?



Aristophanes' Clouds 195

There ! he owns that he would beat his father.

I own it, good my father.

Parricide! Impious assassin! sacrilegious wretch!

All, all, and more — You cannot please me better;
I glory in these attributes. Go on!

Monster of turpitude !

Crown me with roses!

Wretch, will you strike your parent.?


And will maintain the right by which I do it.

O shameless villain! can there be a right
Against all nature so to treat a father?

That I shall soon make clear to your conviction.

You, you convince me?


With the greatest ease:
And I can work the proof two several ways;
Therefore make choice between them.

196 Ideals in Greek Literature

What do you mean?


I mean to say we argue up or down-
Take which you hke, it comes to the same end.


Ay, and a precious end you've brought it to.
If all my care of you must end in this,
That I have put you in the way to beat me,
(Which is a thing unnatural and profane)
And after justify it.


That I'll do
By process clear and categorical.
That you shall fairly own yourself a convert
To a most wholesome cudgeling.


Come on!
Give me your arguments — but spare your blows.
What reason, graceless cub, will bear you out
For beating me, who in your baby age
Caressed you, dandled you upon my knee.
Watched every motion, humored all your wants?


Now then, I ask you, gathering up my thread
Where it was broken off, if you, my father,
When I was but a stripling, spared my back?


No, for I studied all things for your good,
And therefore I corrected you.

Aristophanes* Clouds 197


I also am like studious of your good,
And therefore I most lovingly correct you;
If beating be a proof of love, you have it
Plenteous in measure, for by what exemption
Is your most sacred carcass freed from stripes
And mine made subject to them? Am not I
Free-born as you? Say, if the son's in tears,
Should not the father weep?


By what one rule
Of equity?


What equity were that
If none but children were to be chastised?
And grant they were, the proverb's in your teeth
Which says old age is but a second childhood.
Again, if tears are seen to follow blows,
Ought not old men to expiate faults with tears
Rather than children, who have more to plead
In favor of their failings?


Where's the law
That warrants such proceeding? There's none such.


And what was your law-maker but a man.
Mortal as you and I are? And tho' time
Has sanctified his statutes, may not I
Take up the cause of youth, as he of age,
And publish a new ordinance for leave
By the right-filial to correct our fathers?

198 Ideals in Greek Literature

Cease then from beating me;
Else you preclude yourself.


As how preclude?

Because the right I have of beating you
Will be your right in time over your son
When you shall have one.


But if I have none,
All my sad hours are lost, and you die laughing.

There's no denying that. — How say you, sirs?
Methinks there is good matter in this plea;
And as for us old sinners, truth to say,
If we deserve a beating we must get it.

Hear me, — there's more to come —


Then I am lost.
For I can bear no more.


Oh, fear it not.
Rather believe what I have now to tell you
Will cause you to make light of what is past,
'Twill bring such comfort to you.


Let me have it:
Jf it be comfort, give it me.

Aristophanes* Clouds 199


Then know,
Henceforth I am resolved to beat my mother
As I have beaten you.

How say you? How?
Why this were to outdo all you have done.

But what if I have got a proof in petto ^
To show the moral uses of this beating?

Show me a proof that you have hanged yourself,
And with your tutor Socrates beside you
Gone to the devil together in a string.
Nay, nay, but rather dread avenging Jove,
God of our ancestors, and him revere.

You're mad, methinks, to talk to me of Jove —
Is there a god so called?


There is! there is!

There is no Jupiter, I tell you so;
Vortex has whirled him from his throne, and reigns
By right of conquest in the Thunderer's place.

'Tis false, no Vortex reigns but in my brain.

Laugh at your own dull joke, and be a fool! {Exit.)

1 Within one's own breast,

200 Ideals in Greek Literature

Strepsiades (Striking his breast.)
Insufferable blockhead that I was;
What ailed me thus to court this Socrates,
Even to the exclusion of the immortal gods?

Mercury, forgive me; be not angry.
Dear tutelary god, but spare me still,
And cast a pitying eye upon my follies.
For I have been intemperate of tongue.
And dearly rue it — Oh, my better genius,
Inspire me with thy counsel how to act.
Whether by legal process to assail them.

Or by such apter means as thou mayst dictate.

1 have it! Well hast thou inspired the thought;
Hence with the lazy law; thou art not for it.
With fire and faggot I will fall upon them.
And send their school in jumo^ to the Clouds.

Hoa, Xanthias {calling to one oj his slaves) hoa, bring forth

without delay
Your ladder and your mattock, mount the roof.
Break up the rafters, whelm the house upon them.
And bury the whole hive beneath the ruins.

(Xanthias mounts the roof and begins working with his

Haste I if you love me, haste! Oh, for a torch,
A blazing torch, new-lighted, to set fire
To the infernal edifice. — I warrant me
ril soon unhouse the rascals, that now carry
Their heads so high, and roll them in the dust.

{One oj the scholars comes out.)

Woe ! Mischief ! Misery !

Strepsiades. {Mounts the roof and fixes a torch to one of

the joists.)
Torch, play your part :
And we shall muster up a conflagration.

1 In smoke.

Aristophanes* Clouds 201

What are you doing, fellow?


Chopping logic !
Arguing a knotty point with your housebeams.

Undone, and ruined — !


Heartily I wish it —
And mean you should be so if this same mattock
Does not deceive my hope, and I escape
With a whole neck.

(Socrates comes forth.)


Hoa there ! What man is that?
You there, upon the roof — what are you doing?

** Treading on air — contemplating the sun!"

With this merciless repetition of Socrates' first words
to him, Strepsiades must have ** brought down the house.'*
Literally, at any rate, he does so, and the conflagration of
the Thinking-shop makes a spectacular close for the play.

That this drama contributed to the condemnation of
Socrates years later is by no means hard to believe. Cer-
tainly both Plato, in the *' Apology," and Xenophon, in
numerous passages of the ** Recollection of Socrates,"
endeavored to meet and refute prejudices and calumnies
which can have had no other source.

202 Ideals in Greek Literature


The most famous translations from Aristophanes are John
Hookham Frere's versions of the "Acharnians," "Birds,"
"Knights," and "Frogs." They are most ingeniously rhymed,
of course far from literal, and necessarily much expurgated.
Kennedy's "Birds" is also clever. J. B. Rogers has prepared a
complete translation of all the eleven comedies, and is publishing
them successively in sumptuous volumes. The version here used,
in part, appeared among T. Mitchell's selected versions, in a small
volume of the British Poets in 1822, but the "Clouds" was actu-
ally translated by "the late Mr. Cumberland."

The best and frankest discussion of Aristophanes is in
Symonds' "Greek Poets." Professor Shorey has an excellent

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