MAGISTRATE _retires_, LYSISTRATA _returns within_.
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,
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
Hag upon the jaw.
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
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,
Left and right.
What villainies they contrive!
Come, let vengeance fall,
You that below the waist are still alive,
Off with your tunics at my call--
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
The necks of one and all.
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  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_.
Dear Mistress of our martial enterprise,
Why do you come with sorrow in your eyes?
O 'tis our naughty femininity,
So weak in one spot, that hath saddened me.
What's this? Please speak.
Poor women, O so weak!
What can it be? Surely your friends may know.
Yea, I must speak it though it hurt me so.
Speak; can we help? Don't stand there mute in need.
I'll blurt it out then--our women's army's mutinied.
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?
I must get home. I've some Milesian wool
Packed wasting away, and moths are pushing through it.
Fine moths indeed, I know. Get back within.
By the Goddesses, I'll return instantly.
I only want to stretch it on my bed.
You shall stretch nothing and go nowhere either.
Must I never use my wool then?
If needs be.
How unfortunate I am! O my poor flax!
It's left at home unstript.
So here's another
That wishes to go home and strip her flax.
No, by the Goddess of Light,
I'll be back as soon as I have flayed it properly.
You'll not flay anything. For if you begin
There'll not be one here but has a patch to be flayed.
O holy Eilithyia, stay this birth
Till I have left the precincts of the place!
What nonsense is this?
I'll drop it any minute.
Yesterday you weren't with child.
But I am today.
O let me find a midwife, Lysistrata.
Now what story is this you tell?
What is this hard lump here?
It's a male child.
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.
And so I am.
Then why the helm?
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.
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?
And I can't sleep a wink. My nerve is gone
Since I saw that snake-sentinel of the shrine.
And all those dreadful owls with their weird hooting!
Though I'm wearied out, I can't close an eye.
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?
Yes, yes, what is it?
Silence then, you chatterboxes.
_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._
Will the men then always be kept under us?
_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._
It's obvious what it means.
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._
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.
Grann'am, do you much mind men?
Onions you won't need, to cry.
From my foot you shan't escape.
What thick forests I espy.
So much Myronides' fierce beard
And thundering black back were feared,
That the foe fled when they were shown--
Brave he as Phormion.
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.
O your jaw I'd like to break.
That I fear do you suppose?
Learn what kicks my legs can make.
Raise them up, and you'll expose--
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.
Hollo there, hasten hither to me
Skip fast along.
What is this? Why the noise?
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.
Where is he, whoever he is?
By the Temple of Chloe.
Yes, now I see him, but who can he be?
Look at him. Does anyone recognise his face?
I do. He is my husband, Cinesias.
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.
You can rely on me.
I'll stay here to help
In working up his ardor to its height
Of vain magnificence.... The rest to their quarters.