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Section 3

  • Page ID
    55003
  • MAGISTRATE _retires_, LYSISTRATA _returns within_.

    OLD MEN.

    All men who call your loins your own, awake at last, arise
    And strip to stand in readiness. For as it seems to me
    Some more perilous offensive in their heads they now devise.
    I'm sure a Tyranny
    Like that of Hippias
    In this I detect....
    They mean to put us under
    Themselves I suspect,
    And that Laconians assembling
    At Cleisthenes' house have played
    A trick-of-war and provoked them
    Madly to raid
    The Treasury, in which term I include
    The Pay for my food.

    For is it not preposterous
    They should talk this way to us
    On a subject such as battle!

    And, women as they are, about bronze bucklers dare prattle--
    Make alliance with the Spartans--people I for one
    Like very hungry wolves would always most sincere shun....
    Some dirty game is up their sleeve,
    I believe.
    A Tyranny, no doubt... but they won't catch me, that know.
    Henceforth on my guard I'll go,
    A sword with myrtle-branches wreathed for ever in my hand,
    And under arms in the Public Place I'll take my watchful stand,
    Shoulder to shoulder with Aristogeiton. Now my staff I'll draw
    And start at once by knocking
    that shocking
    Hag upon the jaw.

    WOMEN.

    Your own mother will not know you when you get back to the town.
    But first, my friends and allies, let us lay these garments down,
    And all ye fellow-citizens, hark to me while I tell
    What will aid Athens well.
    Just as is right, for I
    Have been a sharer
    In all the lavish splendour
    Of the proud city.
    I bore the holy vessels
    At seven, then
    I pounded barley
    At the age of ten,
    And clad in yellow robes,
    Soon after this,
    I was Little Bear to
    Brauronian Artemis;
    Then neckletted with figs,
    Grown tall and pretty,
    I was a Basket-bearer,
    And so it's obvious I should
    Give you advice that I think good,
    The very best I can.
    It should not prejudice my voice that I'm not born a man,
    If I say something advantageous to the present situation.
    For I'm taxed too, and as a toll provide men for the nation
    While, miserable greybeards, you,
    It is true,
    Contribute nothing of any importance whatever to our needs;
    But the treasure raised against the Medes
    You've squandered, and do nothing in return, save that you make
    Our lives and persons hazardous by some imbecile mistakes
    What can you answer? Now be careful, don't arouse my spite,
    Or with my slipper I'll take you napping,
    faces slapping
    Left and right.

    MEN.

    What villainies they contrive!
    Come, let vengeance fall,
    You that below the waist are still alive,
    Off with your tunics at my call--
    Naked, all.
    For a man must strip to battle like a man.
    No quaking, brave steps taking, careless what's ahead, white shoed,
    in the nude, onward bold,
    All ye who garrisoned Leipsidrion of old....
    Let each one wag
    As youthfully as he can,
    And if he has the cause at heart
    Rise at least a span.

    We must take a stand and keep to it,
    For if we yield the smallest bit
    To their importunity.
    Then nowhere from their inroads will be left to us immunity.
    But they'll be building ships and soon their navies will attack us,
    As Artemisia did, and seek to fight us and to sack us.
    And if they mount, the Knights they'll rob
    Of a job,
    For everyone knows how talented they all are in the saddle,
    Having long practised how to straddle;
    No matter how they're jogged there up and down, they're never thrown.
    Then think of Myron's painting, and each horse-backed Amazon
    In combat hand-to-hand with men.... Come, on these women fall,
    And in pierced wood-collars let's stick
    quick
    The necks of one and all.

    WOMEN.

    Don't cross me or I'll loose
    The Beast that's kennelled here....
    And soon you will be howling for a truce,
    Howling out with fear.
    But my dear,
    Strip also, that women may battle unhindered....
    But you, you'll be too sore to eat garlic more, or one black bean,
    I really mean, so great's my spleen, to kick you black and blue
    With these my dangerous legs.
    I'll hatch the lot of you,
    If my rage you dash on,
    The way the relentless Beetle
    Hatched the Eagle's eggs.

    Scornfully aside I set
    Every silly old-man threat
    While Lampito's with me.
    Or dear Ismenia, the noble Theban girl. Then let decree
    Be hotly piled upon decree; in vain will be your labours,
    You futile rogue abominated by your suffering neighbour
    To Hecate's feast I yesterday went--
    Off I sent
    To our neighbours in Boeotia, asking as a gift to me
    For them to pack immediately
    That darling dainty thing ... a good fat eel [1] I meant of course;

    [Footnote 1:_Vide supra_, p. 23.]

    But they refused because some idiotic old decree's in force.
    O this strange passion for decrees nothing on earth can check,
    Till someone puts a foot out tripping you,
    and slipping you
    Break your neck.

    LYSISTRATA _enters in dismay_.

    WOMEN

    Dear Mistress of our martial enterprise,
    Why do you come with sorrow in your eyes?

    LYSISTRATA

    O 'tis our naughty femininity,
    So weak in one spot, that hath saddened me.

    WOMEN

    What's this? Please speak.

    LYSISTRATA

    Poor women, O so weak!

    WOMEN

    What can it be? Surely your friends may know.

    LYSISTRATA

    Yea, I must speak it though it hurt me so.

    WOMEN

    Speak; can we help? Don't stand there mute in need.

    LYSISTRATA

    I'll blurt it out then--our women's army's mutinied.

    WOMEN

    O Zeus!

    LYSISTRATA

    What use is Zeus to our anatomy?
    Here is the gaping calamity I meant:
    I cannot shut their ravenous appetites
    A moment more now. They are all deserting.
    The first I caught was sidling through the postern
    Close by the Cave of Pan: the next hoisting herself
    With rope and pulley down: a third on the point
    Of slipping past: while a fourth malcontent, seated
    For instant flight to visit Orsilochus
    On bird-back, I dragged off by the hair in time....
    They are all snatching excuses to sneak home.
    Look, there goes one.... Hey, what's the hurry?

    1ST WOMAN

    I must get home. I've some Milesian wool
    Packed wasting away, and moths are pushing through it.

    LYSISTRATA

    Fine moths indeed, I know. Get back within.

    1ST WOMAN

    By the Goddesses, I'll return instantly.
    I only want to stretch it on my bed.

    LYSISTRATA

    You shall stretch nothing and go nowhere either.

    1ST WOMAN

    Must I never use my wool then?

    LYSISTRATA

    If needs be.

    2ND WOMAN

    How unfortunate I am! O my poor flax!
    It's left at home unstript.

    LYSISTRATA

    So here's another
    That wishes to go home and strip her flax.
    Inside again!

    2ND WOMAN

    No, by the Goddess of Light,
    I'll be back as soon as I have flayed it properly.

    LYSISTRATA

    You'll not flay anything. For if you begin
    There'll not be one here but has a patch to be flayed.

    3RD WOMAN

    O holy Eilithyia, stay this birth
    Till I have left the precincts of the place!

    LYSISTRATA

    What nonsense is this?

    3RD WOMAN

    I'll drop it any minute.

    LYSISTRATA

    Yesterday you weren't with child.

    3RD WOMAN

    But I am today.
    O let me find a midwife, Lysistrata.
    O quickly!

    LYSISTRATA

    Now what story is this you tell?
    What is this hard lump here?

    3RD WOMAN

    It's a male child.

    LYSISTRATA

    By Aphrodite, it isn't. Your belly's hollow,
    And it has the feel of metal.... Well, I soon can see.
    You hussy, it's Athene's sacred helm,
    And you said you were with child.

    3RD WOMAN

    And so I am.

    LYSISTRATA

    Then why the helm?

    3RD WOMAN

    So if the throes should take me
    Still in these grounds I could use it like a dove
    As a laying-nest in which to drop the child.

    LYSISTRATA

    More pretexts! You can't hide your clear intent,
    And anyway why not wait till the tenth day
    Meditating a brazen name for your brass brat?

    WOMAN

    And I can't sleep a wink. My nerve is gone
    Since I saw that snake-sentinel of the shrine.

    WOMAN

    And all those dreadful owls with their weird hooting!
    Though I'm wearied out, I can't close an eye.

    LYSISTRATA

    You wicked women, cease from juggling lies.
    You want your men. But what of them as well?
    They toss as sleepless in the lonely night,
    I'm sure of it. Hold out awhile, hold out,
    But persevere a teeny-weeny longer.
    An oracle has promised Victory
    If we don't wrangle. Would you hear the words?

    WOMEN

    Yes, yes, what is it?

    LYSISTRATA

    Silence then, you chatterboxes.
    Here--
    _Whenas the swallows flocking in one place from the hoopoes
    Deny themselves love's gambols any more,
    All woes shall then have ending and great Zeus the Thunderer
    Shall put above what was below before._

    WOMEN

    Will the men then always be kept under us?

    LYSISTRATA
    _But if the swallows squabble among themselves and fly away
    Out of the temple, refusing to agree,
    Then The Most Wanton Birds in all the World
    They shall be named for ever. That's his decree._

    WOMAN

    It's obvious what it means.

    LYSISTRATA

    Now by all the gods
    We must let no agony deter from duty,
    Back to your quarters. For we are base indeed,
    My friends, if we betray the oracle.

    _She goes out._

    OLD MEN.

    I'd like to remind you of a fable they used to employ,
    When I was a little boy:
    How once through fear of the marriage-bed a young man,
    Melanion by name, to the wilderness ran,
    And there on the hills he dwelt.
    For hares he wove a net
    Which with his dog he set--
    Most likely he's there yet.
    For he never came back home, so great was the fear he felt.
    I loathe the sex as much as he,
    And therefore I no less shall be
    As chaste as was Melanion.

    MAN

    Grann'am, do you much mind men?

    WOMAN

    Onions you won't need, to cry.

    MAN

    From my foot you shan't escape.

    WOMAN

    What thick forests I espy.

    MEN

    So much Myronides' fierce beard
    And thundering black back were feared,
    That the foe fled when they were shown--
    Brave he as Phormion.

    WOMEN.

    Well, I'll relate a rival fable just to show to you
    A different point of view:
    There was a rough-hewn fellow, Timon, with a face
    That glowered as through a thorn-bush in a wild, bleak place.
    He too decided on flight,
    This very Furies' son,
    All the world's ways to shun
    And hide from everyone,
    Spitting out curses on all knavish men to left and right.
    But though he reared this hate for men,
    He loved the women even then,
    And never thought them enemies.

    WOMAN

    O your jaw I'd like to break.

    MAN

    That I fear do you suppose?

    WOMAN

    Learn what kicks my legs can make.

    MAN

    Raise them up, and you'll expose--

    WOMAN

    Nay, you'll see there, I engage,
    All is well kept despite my age,
    And tended smooth enough to slip
    From any adversary's grip.

    LYSISTRATA _appears_.

    LYSISTRATA

    Hollo there, hasten hither to me
    Skip fast along.

    WOMAN

    What is this? Why the noise?

    LYSISTRATA

    A man, a man! I spy a frenzied man!
    He carries Love upon him like a staff.
    O Lady of Cyprus, and Cythera, and Paphos,
    I beseech you, keep our minds and hands to the oath.

    WOMAN

    Where is he, whoever he is?

    LYSISTRATA

    By the Temple of Chloe.

    WOMAN

    Yes, now I see him, but who can he be?

    LYSISTRATA

    Look at him. Does anyone recognise his face?

    MYRRHINE

    I do. He is my husband, Cinesias.

    LYSISTRATA

    You know how to work. Play with him, lead him on,
    Seduce him to the cozening-point--kiss him, kiss him,
    Then slip your mouth aside just as he's sure of it,
    Ungirdle every caress his mouth feels at
    Save that the oath upon the bowl has locked.

    MYRRHINE

    You can rely on me.

    LYSISTRATA

    I'll stay here to help
    In working up his ardor to its height
    Of vain magnificence.... The rest to their quarters.

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