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Section 2

  • Page ID
    55002
  • LAMPITO _and some go off; the others go up into the Acropolis._

    Chorus of OLD MEN _enter to attack the captured Acropolis_.

    Make room, Draces, move ahead; why your shoulder's chafed, I see,
    With lugging uphill these lopped branches of the olive-tree.
    How upside-down and wrong-way-round a long life sees things grow.
    Ah, Strymodorus, who'd have thought affairs could tangle so?

    The women whom at home we fed,
    Like witless fools, with fostering bread,
    Have impiously come to this--
    They've stolen the Acropolis,
    With bolts and bars our orders flout
    And shut us out.

    Come, Philurgus, bustle thither; lay our faggots on the ground,
    In neat stacks beleaguering the insurgents all around;
    And the vile conspiratresses, plotters of such mischief dire,
    Pile and burn them all together in one vast and righteous pyre:
    Fling with our own hands Lycon's wife to fry in the thickest fire.
    By Demeter, they'll get no brag while I've a vein to beat!
    Cleomenes himself was hurtled out in sore defeat.
    His stiff-backed Spartan pride was bent.
    Out, stripped of all his arms, he went:
    A pigmy cloak that would not stretch
    To hide his rump (the draggled wretch),
    Six sprouting years of beard, the spilth
    Of six years' filth.

    That was a siege! Our men were ranged in lines of seventeen deep
    Before the gates, and never left their posts there, even to sleep.
    Shall I not smite the rash presumption then of foes like these,
    Detested both of all the gods and of Euripides--
    Else, may the Marathon-plain not boast my trophied victories!

    Ah, now, there's but a little space
    To reach the place!
    A deadly climb it is, a tricky road
    With all this bumping load:
    A pack-ass soon would tire....
    How these logs bruise my shoulders! further still
    Jog up the hill,
    And puff the fire inside,
    Or just as we reach the top we'll find it's died.
    Ough, phew!
    I choke with the smoke.

    Lord Heracles, how acrid-hot
    Out of the pot
    This mad-dog smoke leaps, worrying me
    And biting angrily....
    'Tis Lemnian fire that smokes,
    Or else it would not sting my eyelids thus....
    Haste, all of us;
    Athene invokes our aid.
    Laches, now or never the assault must be made!
    Ough, phew!
    I choke with the smoke. ..

    Thanked be the gods! The fire peeps up and crackles as it should.
    Now why not first slide off our backs these weary loads of wood
    And dip a vine-branch in the brazier till it glows, then straight
    Hurl it at the battering-ram against the stubborn gate?
    If they refuse to draw the bolts in immediate compliance,
    We'll set fire to the wood, and smoke will strangle their defiance.

    Phew, what a spluttering drench of smoke! Come, now from off my back....
    Is there no Samos-general to help me to unpack?
    Ah there, that's over! For the last time now it's galled my shoulder.
    Flare up thine embers, brazier, and dutifully smoulder,
    To kindle a brand, that I the first may strike the citadel.
    Aid me, Lady Victory, that a triumph-trophy may tell
    How we did anciently this insane audacity quell!

    Chorus of WOMEN.

    What's that rising yonder? That ruddy glare, that smoky skurry?
    O is it something in a blaze? Quick, quick, my comrades, hurry!
    Nicodice, helter-skelter!
    Or poor Calyce's in flames
    And Cratylla's stifled in the welter.
    O these dreadful old men
    And their dark laws of hate!
    There, I'm all of a tremble lest I turn out to be too late.
    I could scarcely get near to the spring though I rose before dawn,
    What with tattling of tongues and rattling of pitchers in one jostling din
    With slaves pushing in!....

    Still here at last the water's drawn
    And with it eagerly I run
    To help those of my friends who stand
    In danger of being burned alive.
    For I am told a dribbling band
    Of greybeards hobble to the field,
    Great faggots in each palsied hand,
    As if a hot bath to prepare,
    And threatening that out they'll drive
    These wicked women or soon leave them charring into ashes
    there.
    O Goddess, suffer not, I pray, this harsh deed to be done,
    But show us Greece and Athens with their warlike acts repealed!
    For this alone, in this thy hold,
    Thou Goddess with the helm of gold,
    We laid hands on thy sanctuary,
    Athene.... Then our ally be
    And where they cast their fires of slaughter
    Direct our water!

    STRATYLLIS (_caught_)

    Let me go!

    WOMEN

    You villainous old men, what's this you do?
    No honest man, no pious man, could do such things as you.

    MEN

    Ah ha, here's something most original, I have no doubt:
    A swarm of women sentinels to man the walls without.

    WOMEN

    So then we scare you, do we? Do we seem a fearful host?
    You only see the smallest fraction mustered at this post.

    MEN

    Ho, Phaedrias, shall we put a stop to all these chattering tricks?
    Suppose that now upon their backs we splintered these our sticks?

    WOMEN

    Let us lay down the pitchers, so our bodies will be free,
    In case these lumping fellows try to cause some injury.

    MEN

    O hit them hard and hit again and hit until they run away,
    And perhaps they'll learn, like Bupalus, not to have too much to say.

    WOMEN

    Come on, then--do it! I won't budge, but like a dog I'll bite
    At every little scrap of meat that dangles in my sight.

    MEN

    Be quiet, or I'll bash you out of any years to come.

    WOMEN

    Now you just touch Stratyllis with the top-joint of your thumb.

    MEN

    What vengeance can you take if with my fists your face I beat?

    WOMEN

    I'll rip you with my teeth and strew your entrails at your feet.

    MEN

    Now I appreciate Euripides' strange subtlety:
    Woman is the most shameless beast of all the beasts that be.

    WOMEN

    Rhodippe, come, and let's pick up our water-jars once more.

    MEN

    Ah cursed drab, what have you brought this water for?

    WOMEN

    What is your fire for then, you smelly corpse? Yourself to burn?

    MEN

    To build a pyre and make your comrades ready for the urn.

    WOMEN

    And I've the water to put out your fire immediately.

    MEN

    What, you put out my fire?

    WOMEN

    Yes, sirrah, as you soon will see.

    MEN

    I don't know why I hesitate to roast you with this flame.

    WOMEN

    If you have any soap you'll go off cleaner than you came.

    MEN

    Cleaner, you dirty slut?

    WOMEN

    A nuptial-bath in which to lie!

    MEN

    Did you hear that insolence?

    WOMEN

    I'm a free woman, I.

    MEN

    I'll make you hold your tongue.

    WOMEN

    Henceforth you'll serve in no more juries.

    MEN

    Burn off her hair for her.

    WOMEN

    Now forward, water, quench their furies!

    MEN

    O dear, O dear!

    WOMEN

    So ... was it hot?

    MEN

    Hot! ... Enough, O hold.

    WOMEN

    Watered, perhaps you'll bloom again--why not?

    MEN

    Brrr, I'm wrinkled up from shivering with cold.

    WOMEN

    Next time you've fire you'll warm yourself and leave us to our lot.

    MAGISTRATE _enters with attendant_ SCYTHIANS.

    MAGISTRATE

    Have the luxurious rites of the women glittered
    Their libertine show, their drumming tapped out crowds,
    The Sabazian Mysteries summoned their mob,
    Adonis been wept to death on the terraces,
    As I could hear the last day in the Assembly?
    For Demostratus--let bad luck befoul him--
    Was roaring, "We must sail for Sicily,"
    While a woman, throwing herself about in a dance
    Lopsided with drink, was shrilling out "Adonis,
    Woe for Adonis." Then Demostratus shouted,
    "We must levy hoplites at Zacynthus,"
    And there the woman, up to the ears in wine,
    Was screaming "Weep for Adonis" on the house-top,
    The scoundrelly politician, that lunatic ox,
    Bellowing bad advice through tipsy shrieks:
    Such are the follies wantoning in them.

    MEN

    O if you knew their full effrontery!
    All of the insults they've done, besides sousing us
    With water from their pots to our public disgrace
    For we stand here wringing our clothes like grown-up infants.

    MAGISTRATE

    By Poseidon, justly done! For in part with us
    The blame must lie for dissolute behaviour
    And for the pampered appetites they learn.
    Thus grows the seedling lust to blossoming:
    We go into a shop and say, "Here, goldsmith,
    You remember the necklace that you wrought my wife;
    Well, the other night in fervour of a dance
    Her clasp broke open. Now I'm off for Salamis;
    If you've the leisure, would you go tonight
    And stick a bolt-pin into her opened clasp."
    Another goes to a cobbler; a soldierly fellow,
    Always standing up erect, and says to him,
    "Cobbler, a sandal-strap of my wife's pinches her,
    Hurts her little toe in a place where she's sensitive.
    Come at noon and see if you can stretch out wider
    This thing that troubles her, loosen its tightness."
    And so you view the result. Observe my case--
    I, a magistrate, come here to draw
    Money to buy oar-blades, and what happens?
    The women slam the door full in my face.
    But standing still's no use. Bring me a crowbar,
    And I'll chastise this their impertinence.
    What do you gape at, wretch, with dazzled eyes?
    Peering for a tavern, I suppose.
    Come, force the gates with crowbars, prise them apart!
    I'll prise away myself too.... (LYSISTRATA _appears._)

    LYSISTRATA

    Stop this banging.
    I'm coming of my own accord.... Why bars?
    It is not bars we need but common sense.

    MAGISTRATE

    Indeed, you slut! Where is the archer now?
    Arrest this woman, tie her hands behind.

    LYSISTRATA

    If he brushes me with a finger, by Artemis,
    The public menial, he'll be sorry for it.

    MAGISTRATE

    Are you afraid? Grab her about the middle.
    Two of you then, lay hands on her and end it.

    CALONICE

    By Pandrosos I if your hand touches her
    I'll spread you out and trample on your guts.

    MAGISTRATE

    My guts! Where is the other archer gone?
    Bind that minx there who talks so prettily.

    MYRRHINE

    By Phosphor, if your hand moves out her way
    You'd better have a surgeon somewhere handy.

    MAGISTRATE

    You too! Where is that archer? Take that woman.
    I'll put a stop to these surprise-parties.

    STRATYLLIS

    By the Tauric Artemis, one inch nearer
    My fingers, and it's a bald man that'll be yelling.

    MAGISTRATE

    Tut tut, what's here? Deserted by my archers....
    But surely women never can defeat us;
    Close up your ranks, my Scythians. Forward at them.

    LYSISTRATA

    By the Goddesses, you'll find that here await you
    Four companies of most pugnacious women
    Armed cap-a-pie from the topmost louring curl
    To the lowest angry dimple.

    MAGISTRATE

    On, Scythians, bind them.

    LYSISTRATA

    On, gallant allies of our high design,
    Vendors of grain-eggs-pulse-and-vegetables,
    Ye garlic-tavern-keepers of bakeries,
    Strike, batter, knock, hit, slap, and scratch our foes,
    Be finely imprudent, say what you think of them....
    Enough! retire and do not rob the dead.

    MAGISTRATE

    How basely did my archer-force come off.

    LYSISTRATA

    Ah, ha, you thought it was a herd of slaves
    You had to tackle, and you didn't guess
    The thirst for glory ardent in our blood.

    MAGISTRATE

    By Apollo, I know well the thirst that heats you--
    Especially when a wine-skin's close.

    MEN

    You waste your breath, dear magistrate, I fear, in answering back.
    What's the good of argument with such a rampageous pack?
    Remember how they washed us down (these very clothes I wore)
    With water that looked nasty and that smelt so even more.

    WOMEN

    What else to do, since you advanced too dangerously nigh.
    If you should do the same again, I'll punch you in the eye.
    Though I'm a stay-at-home and most a quiet life enjoy,
    Polite to all and every (for I'm naturally coy),
    Still if you wake a wasps' nest then of wasps you must beware.

    MEN

    How may this ferocity be tamed? It grows too great to bear.
    Let us question them and find if they'll perchance declare
    The reason why they strangely dare
    To seize on Cranaos' citadel,
    This eyrie inaccessible,
    This shrine above the precipice,
    The Acropolis.
    Probe them and find what they mean with this idle talk; listen,
    but watch they don't try to deceive.
    You'd be neglecting your duty most certainly if now this mystery
    unplumbed you leave.

    MAGISTRATE

    Women there! Tell what I ask you, directly....
    Come, without rambling, I wish you to state
    What's your rebellious intention in barring up thus on our noses
    our own temple-gate.

    LYSISTRATA

    To take first the treasury out of your management, and so stop the war
    through the absence of gold.

    MAGISTRATE

    Is gold then the cause of the war?

    LYSISTRATA

    Yes, gold caused it and miseries more, too many to be told.
    'Twas for money, and money alone, that Pisander with all of the army of
    mob-agitators.
    Raised up revolutions. But, as for the future, it won't be worth while
    to set up to be traitors.
    Not an obol they'll get as their loot, not an obol! while we have the
    treasure-chest in our command.

    MAGISTRATE

    What then is that you propose?

    LYSISTRATA

    Just this--merely to take the exchequer henceforth in hand.

    MAGISTRATE

    The exchequer!

    LYSISTRATA

    Yes, why not? Of our capabilities you have had various clear evidences.
    Firstly remember we have always administered soundly the budget of all
    home-expenses.

    MAGISTRATE

    But this matter's different.

    LYSISTRATA

    How is it different?

    MAGISTRATE

    Why, it deals chiefly with war-time supplies.

    LYSISTRATA

    But we abolish war straight by our policy.

    MAGISTRATE

    What will you do if emergencies arise?

    LYSISTRATA

    Face them our own way.

    MAGISTRATE

    What _you_ will?

    LYSISTRATA

    Yes _we_ will!

    MAGISTRATE

    Then there's no help for it; we're all destroyed.

    LYSISTRATA

    No, willy-nilly you must be safeguarded.

    MAGISTRATE

    What madness is this?

    LYSISTRATA

    Why, it seems you're annoyed.
    It must be done, that's all.

    MAGISTRATE

    Such awful oppression never,
    O never in the past yet I bore.

    LYSISTRATA

    You must be saved, sirrah--that's all there is to it.

    MAGISTRATE

    If we don't want to be saved?

    LYSISTRATA

    All the more.

    MAGISTRATE

    Why do you women come prying and meddling in matters of state touching
    war-time and peace?

    LYSISTRATA

    That I will tell you.

    MAGISTRATE

    O tell me or quickly I'll--

    LYSISTRATA

    Hearken awhile and from threatening cease.

    MAGISTRATE

    I cannot, I cannot; it's growing too insolent.

    WOMEN

    Come on; you've far more than we have to dread.

    MAGISTRATE

    Stop from your croaking, old carrion-crow there....
    Continue.

    LYSISTRATA

    Be calm then and I'll go ahead.
    All the long years when the hopeless war dragged along we, unassuming,
    forgotten in quiet,
    Endured without question, endured in our loneliness all your incessant
    child's antics and riot.
    Our lips we kept tied, though aching with silence, though well all the
    while in our silence we knew
    How wretchedly everything still was progressing by listening dumbly the
    day long to you.
    For always at home you continued discussing the war and its politics
    loudly, and we
    Sometimes would ask you, our hearts deep with sorrowing though we spoke
    lightly, though happy to see,
    "What's to be inscribed on the side of the Treaty-stone
    What, dear, was said in the Assembly today?"
    "Mind your own business," he'd answer me growlingly
    "hold your tongue, woman, or else go away."
    And so I would hold it.

    WOMEN

    I'd not be silent for any man living on earth, no, not I!

    MAGISTRATE

    Not for a staff?

    LYSISTRATA

    Well, so I did nothing but sit in the house, feeling dreary, and sigh,
    While ever arrived some fresh tale of decisions more foolish by far and
    presaging disaster.
    Then I would say to him, "O my dear husband, why still do they rush on
    destruction the faster?"
    At which he would look at me sideways, exclaiming, "Keep for your web
    and your shuttle your care,
    Or for some hours hence your cheeks will be sore and hot; leave this
    alone, war is Man's sole affair!"

    MAGISTRATE

    By Zeus, but a man of fine sense, he.

    LYSISTRATA

    How sensible?
    You dotard, because he at no time had lent
    His intractable ears to absorb from our counsel one temperate word of
    advice, kindly meant?
    But when at the last in the streets we heard shouted (everywhere ringing
    the ominous cry)
    "Is there no one to help us, no saviour in Athens?" and, "No, there is
    no one," come back in reply.
    At once a convention of all wives through Hellas here for a serious
    purpose was held,
    To determine how husbands might yet back to wisdom despite their
    reluctance in time be compelled.
    Why then delay any longer? It's settled. For the future you'll take
    up our old occupation.
    Now in turn you're to hold tongue, as we did, and listen while we show
    the way to recover the nation.

    MAGISTRATE

    _You_ talk to _us!_ Why, you're mad. I'll not stand it.

    LYSISTRATA

    Cease babbling, you fool; till I end, hold your tongue.

    MAGISTRATE

    If I should take orders from one who wears veils, may my
    neck straightaway be deservedly wrung.

    LYSISTRATA

    O if that keeps pestering you,
    I've a veil here for your hair,
    I'll fit you out in everything
    As is only fair.

    CALONICE

    Here's a spindle that will do.

    MYRRHINE

    I'll add a wool-basket too.

    LYSISTRATA

    Girdled now sit humbly at home,
    Munching beans, while you card wool and comb. For war from now on
    is the Women's affair.

    WOMEN.

    Come then, down pitchers, all,
    And on, courageous of heart,
    In our comradely venture
    Each taking her due part.

    I could dance, dance, dance, and be fresher after,
    I could dance away numberless suns,
    To no weariness let my knees bend.
    Earth I could brave with laughter,
    Having such wonderful girls here to friend.
    O the daring, the gracious, the beautiful ones!
    Their courage unswerving and witty
    Will rescue our city.

    O sprung from the seed of most valiant-wombed grand-mothers,
    scions of savage and dangerous nettles!
    Prepare for the battle, all. Gird up your angers. Our way
    the wind of sweet victory settles.

    LYSISTRATA

    O tender Eros and Lady of Cyprus, some flush of beauty I
    pray you devise
    To flash on our bosoms and, O Aphrodite, rosily gleam on
    our valorous thighs!
    Joy will raise up its head through the legions warring and
    all of the far-serried ranks of mad-love
    Bristle the earth to the pillared horizon, pointing in vain to
    the heavens above.
    I think that perhaps then they'll give us our title--
    Peace-makers.

    MAGISTRATE

    What do you mean? Please explain.

    LYSISTRATA

    First, we'll not see you now flourishing arms about into the
    Marketing-place clang again.

    WOMEN
    No, by the Paphian.

    LYSISTRATA

    Still I can conjure them as past were the herbs stand or crockery's sold
    Like Corybants jingling (poor sots) fully armoured, they noisily round
    on their promenade strolled.

    MAGISTRATE

    And rightly; that's discipline, they--

    LYSISTRATA

    But what's sillier than to go on an errand of buying a fish
    Carrying along an immense. Gorgon-buckler instead the usual platter
    or dish?
    A phylarch I lately saw, mounted on horse-back, dressed for the part
    with long ringlets and all,
    Stow in his helmet the omelet bought steaming from an old woman who
    kept a food-stall.
    Nearby a soldier, a Thracian, was shaking wildly his spear like Tereus
    in the play,
    To frighten a fig-girl while unseen the ruffian filched from her
    fruit-trays the ripest away.

    MAGISTRATE

    How, may I ask, will your rule re-establish order and justice in lands
    so tormented?

    LYSISTRATA

    Nothing is easier.

    MAGISTRATE

    Out with it speedily--what is this plan that you boast you've invented?

    LYSISTRATA

    If, when yarn we are winding, It chances to tangle, then, as perchance you
    may know, through the skein
    This way and that still the spool we keep passing till it is finally clear
    all again:
    So to untangle the War and its errors, ambassadors out on all sides we will
    send
    This way and that, here, there and round about--soon you will find that the
    War has an end.

    MAGISTRATE

    So with these trivial tricks of the household, domestic analogies of
    threads, skeins and spools,
    You think that you'll solve such a bitter complexity, unwind such political
    problems, you fools!

    LYSISTRATA

    Well, first as we wash dirty wool so's to cleanse it, so with a pitiless
    zeal we will scrub
    Through the whole city for all greasy fellows; burrs too, the parasites,
    off we will rub.
    That verminous plague of insensate place-seekers soon between thumb and
    forefinger we'll crack.
    All who inside Athens' walls have their dwelling into one great common
    basket we'll pack.
    Disenfranchised or citizens, allies or aliens, pell-mell the lot of them
    in we will squeeze.
    Till they discover humanity's meaning.... As for disjointed and far
    colonies,
    Them you must never from this time imagine as scattered about just like
    lost hanks of wool.
    Each portion we'll take and wind in to this centre, inward to Athens
    each loyalty pull,
    Till from the vast heap where all's piled together at last can be woven
    a strong Cloak of State.

    MAGISTRATE

    How terrible is it to stand here and watch them carding and winding at
    will with our fate,
    Witless in war as they are.

    LYSISTRATA

    What of us then, who ever in vain for our children must weep
    Borne but to perish afar and in vain?

    MAGISTRATE

    Not that, O let that one memory sleep!

    LYSISTRATA

    Then while we should be companioned still merrily, happy as brides may,
    the livelong night,
    Kissing youth by, we are forced to lie single.... But leave for a moment
    our pitiful plight,
    It hurts even more to behold the poor maidens helpless wrinkling in
    staler virginity.

    MAGISTRATE

    Does not a man age?

    LYSISTRATA

    Not in the same way. Not as a woman grows withered, grows he.
    He, when returned from the war, though grey-headed, yet
    if he wishes can choose out a wife.
    But she has no solace save peering for omens, wretched and
    lonely the rest of her life.

    MAGISTRATE

    But the old man will often select--

    LYSISTRATA

    O why not finish and die?
    A bier is easy to buy,
    A honey-cake I'll knead you with joy,
    This garland will see you are decked.

    CALONICE

    I've a wreath for you too.

    MYRRHINE

    I also will fillet you.

    LYSISTRATA

    What more is lacking? Step aboard the boat.
    See, Charon shouts ahoy.
    You're keeping him, he wants to shove afloat.

    MAGISTRATE

    Outrageous insults! Thus my place to flout!
    Now to my fellow-magistrates I'll go
    And what you've perpetrated on me show.

    LYSISTRATA

    Why are you blaming us for laying you out?
    Assure yourself we'll not forget to make
    The third day offering early for your sake.

    MAGISTRATE _retires_, LYSISTRATA _returns within_.

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