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2.5: Section 5

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    MEN

    There is no beast, no rush of fire, like woman so untamed.
    She calmly goes her way where even panthers would be shamed.

    WOMEN

    And yet you are fool enough, it seems, to dare to war with me,
    When for your faithful ally you might win me easily.

    MEN

    Never could the hate I feel for womankind grow less.

    WOMEN

    Then have your will. But I'll take pity on your nakedness.
    For I can see just how ridiculous you look, and so
    Will help you with your tunic if close up I now may go.

    MEN

    Well, that, by Zeus, is no scoundrel-deed, I frankly will admit.
    I only took them off myself in a scoundrel raging-fit.

    WOMEN

    Now you look sensible, and that you're men no one could doubt.
    If you were but good friends again, I'd take the insect out
    That hurts your eye.

    MEN

    Is that what's wrong? That nasty bitie thing.
    Please squeeze it out, and show me what it is that makes this sting.
    It's been paining me a long while now.

    WOMEN

    Well I'll agree to that,
    Although you're most unmannerly. O what a giant gnat.
    Here, look! It comes from marshy Tricorysus, I can tell.

    MEN

    O thank you. It was digging out a veritable well.
    Now that it's gone, I can't hold back my tears. See how they fall.

    WOMEN

    I'll wipe them off, bad as you are, and kiss you after all.

    MEN

    I won't be kissed.

    WOMEN

    O yes, you will. Your wishes do not matter.

    MEN

    O botheration take you all! How you cajole and flatter.
    A hell it is to live with you; to live without, a hell:
    How truly was that said. But come, these enmities let's quell.
    You stop from giving orders and I'll stop from doing wrong.
    So let's join ranks and seal our bargain with a choric song.

    CHORUS.

    Athenians, it's not our intention
    To sow political dissension
    By giving any scandal mention;
    But on the contrary to promote good feeling in the state
    By word and deed. We've had enough calamities of late.
    So let a man or woman but divulge
    They need a trifle, say,
    Two minas, three or four, [1]
    I've purses here that bulge.
    There's only one condition made
    (Indulge my whim in this I pray)--
    When peace is signed once more,
    On no account am I to be repaid. [2]

    And I'm making preparation
    For a gay select collation
    With some youths of reputation. [3]
    I've managed to produce some soup and they're slaughtering for me
    A sucking-pig: its flesh should taste as tender as could be.
    I shall expect you at my house today.
    To the baths make an early visit,
    And bring your children along;
    Don't dawdle on the way.
    Ask no one; enter as if the place
    Was all your own--yours henceforth is it.
    If nothing chances wrong,
    The door will then be shut bang in your face.

    _The_ SPARTAN AMBASSADORS _approach_.

    CHORUS

    Here come the Spartan envoys with long, worried beards.
    Hail, Spartans how do you fare?
    Did anything new arise?

    SPARTANS

    No need for a clutter of words. Do you see our condition?

    CHORUS

    The situation swells to greater tension.
    Something will explode soon.

    SPARTANS

    It's awful truly.
    But come, let us with the best speed we may
    Scribble a peace.

    CHORUS

    I notice that our men
    Like wrestlers poised for contest, hold their clothes
    Out from their bellies. An athlete's malady!
    Since exercise alone can bring relief.

    ATHENIANS

    Can anyone tell us where Lysistrata is?
    There is no need to describe our men's condition,
    It shows up plainly enough.

    CHORUS

    It's the same disease.
    Do you feel a jerking throbbing in the morning?

    ATHENIANS

    By Zeus, yes! In these straits, I'm racked all through.
    Unless peace is soon declared, we shall be driven
    In the void of women to try Cleisthenes. [4]

    CHORUS

    Be wise and cover those things with your tunics.
    Who knows what kind of person may perceive you? [5]

    ATHENIANS

    By Zeus, you're right.

    SPARTANS

    By the two goddesses, [6]
    Indeed you are. Let's put our tunics on.

    ATHENIANS

    Hail O my fellow-sufferers, hail Spartans.

    SPARTANS

    O honey darling, what a woeful thing!
    If they had seen us with our lunging woodies!

    ATHENIANS

    Tell us then, Spartans, what has brought you here?

    SPARTANS

    We come to treat of peace.

    ATHENIANS

    Well spoken there!
    And we the same. Let us call out Lysistrata
    Since she alone can settle the peace terms.

    SPARTANS

    Call out Lysistratus [7] too if you don't mind.

    CHORUS

    No indeed. She hears your voices and she comes.

    (Enter LYSISTRATA).

    Hail, wonder of all women! Now you must be in turn
    Hard, shifting, clear, deceitful, noble, crafty, sweet, and stern.
    The foremost men of Hellas, smitten by your fascination,
    Have brought their tangled quarrels here for your sole arbitration.

    LYSISTRATA

    An easy task if the love's raging home-sickness
    Doesn't start trying out how well each other
    Will serve instead of us. But I'll know at once
    If they do. O where's that girl, Reconciliation? [8]
    Bring first before me the Spartan delegates,
    And see you lift no rude or violent hands--
    None of the churlish ways our husbands used.
    But lead them courteously, as women should.
    And if they grudge fingers, guide them by other methods,
    And introduce them with ready tact. The Athenians
    Draw by whatever offers you a grip.
    Now, Spartans, stay here facing me. Here you,
    Athenians. Both hearken to my words.
    I am a woman, but I'm not a fool.
    And what of natural intelligence I own
    Has been filled out with the remembered precepts
    My father and the city-elders taught me.
    First I reproach you both sides equally
    That when at Pylae and Olympia,
    At Pytho and the many other shrines
    That I could name, you sprinkle from one cup
    The altars common to all Hellenes, yet [9]
    You wrack Hellenic cities, bloody Hellas
    With deaths of her own sons, while yonder clangs
    The gathering menace of barbarians. [10]

    ATHENIANS

    We cannot hold it in much longer now.

    LYSISTRATA

    Now unto you, O Spartans, do I speak.
    Do you forget how your own countryman,
    Pericleidas, once came hither suppliant
    Before our altars, pale in his purple robes,
    Praying for an army when in Messenia
    Danger growled, and the Sea-god [11] made earth quaver.
    Then with four thousand hoplites Cimon marched
    And saved all Sparta. [12] Yet base ingrates now,
    You are ravaging the soil of your preservers.

    ATHENIANS

    By Zeus, they do great wrong, Lysistrata.

    SPARTANS

    Great wrong, indeed. O! What a luscious wench!

    LYSISTRATA

    And now I turn to the Athenians.
    Have you forgotten too how once the Spartans
    In days when you wore slavish tunics, came
    And with their spears broke a Thessalian host
    And all the partisans of Hippias? [13]
    They alone stood by your shoulder on that day.
    They freed you, so that for the slave's short skirt
    You should wear the trailing cloak of liberty.

    SPARTANS

    I've never seen a nobler woman anywhere.

    ATHENIANS

    Nor I one with such prettily jointing hips.

    LYSISTRATA

    Now, brethren twined with mutual benefactions,
    Can you still war, can you suffer such disgrace?
    Why not be friends? What is there to prevent you?

    SPARTANS

    We're agreed, as long as we get this tempting hole.

    LYSISTRATA

    Which one?

    SPARTANS

    That one we've wanted to get into,
    O for so long.... Pylos, of course. [14]

    ATHENIANS

    By Poseidon,
    Never!

    LYSISTRATA

    Give it up.

    ATHENIANS

    Then what will we do?
    We need that ticklish place united to us--

    LYSISTRATA

    Ask for some other lurking-hole in return.

    ATHENIANS

    Then, ah, we'll choose this snug thing here, Echinus,
    Shall we call the nestling spot? And this backside haven,
    These desirable twin promontories, the Maliac,
    And then of course these Megarean Legs. [15]

    SPARTANS

    Not that, O surely not that, never that.

    LYSISTRATA

    Agree! Now what are two legs more or less?

    ATHENIANS

    I want to strip at once and plough my land.

    SPARTANS

    And mine I want to fertilize at once.

    LYSISTRATA

    And so you can, when peace is once declared.
    If you mean it, get your allies' heads together
    And come to some decision.

    ATHENIANS

    What allies?
    There's no distinction in our politics:
    We've risen as one man to this conclusion;
    Every ally is jumping-mad to drive it home.

    SPARTANS

    And ours the same, for sure.

    ATHENIANS

    The Carystians first! [16]
    I'll bet on that.

    LYSISTRATA

    I agree with all of you.
    Now off, and cleanse yourselves for the Acropolis, [17]
    For we invite you all in to a supper
    From our commissariat baskets. [18] There at table
    You will pledge good behavior and uprightness;
    Then each man's wife is his to hustle home.

    ATHENIANS

    Come, as quickly as possible.

    SPARTANS

    As quick as ye like.
    Lead on.

    ATHENIANS

    O Zeus, quick, quick, lead quickly on.
    (They hurry off).

    CHORUS.

    Broidered stuffs on high I'm heaping,
    Fashionable cloaks and sweeping
    Trains, not even gold gauds keeping.
    Take them all, I pray you, take them all (I do not care)
    And deck your children--your daughter, if the basket she's to bear. [19]
    Come, everyone of you, come in and take
    Of this rich hoard a share.
    Nothing is tied so skillfully
    But you its seal can break
    And plunder all you spy inside.
    I've laid out all that I can spare,
    And therefore you will see
    Nothing unless than I you're sharper-eyed.
    If lacking grain a man should be
    While his slaves clamor hungrily
    And his excessive progeny,
    Then I've a handful of grain at home which is always to be had,
    And to which in fact a more-than-life-size loaf I'd gladly add.
    Then let the poor bring with them bag or sack
    And take this store of food. [20]
    Manes, my man, I'll tell
    To help them all to pack
    Their wallets full. But O take care.
    I had forgotten; don't intrude,
    Or terrified you'll yell.
    My dog is hungry too, and bites--beware!

    Footnotes:

    [1] Each mina was worth quite a lot. We're talking thousands of dollars.

    [2] A joke about the kinds of pork-barreling and kick-back schemes embedded in Athenian politics and the war effort.

    [3] In the text is says Carystians--apparently their name lent itself to sexual punning. They were also important Athenian allies.

    [4] In other words, in the absence of women, to have a tryst with an actual Athenian attacked for being openly homosexual.

    [5] Ruden notes that the chorus here is warning about a group of individuals who mutilated the Hermae (guardian statues with erect penises) which guarded many homes shortly before the disastrously fated Sicilian expedition in 415 BCE (63, n.140).

    [6] Ruden has "twin gods" (Ruden 63). Either Demeter and Kore, or the Spartan Castor and Pollux.

    [7] Lysistratus is the male version of Lysistrata's name. The Spartans assume a male negotiator will take over.

    [8] Reconciliation, although a female personification, would have been played by a male actor, probably in some kind of exaggerated drag or padded suit.

    [9] Lysistrata here refers to the pan-Hellene competitions of the Olympics (Pisa), Pylaea (Thermopylae) and Pythia (Delphi). These games brought Hellenic city-states together in relatively peaceful competition.

    [10] In other words, remember the Persian Wars!

    [11] Poseidon

    [12] An Athenian general. Lysistrata rearranges history to suit her purposes, as the choruses did with well-known myths earlier. Cimon showed up in Sparta with reinforcements after an earthquake (one of Poseidon's specialties) and a mass rebellion by the Messenian helots (serf-like workers bound to the land). The Spartans suspected his motives and sent him home.

    [13] In 510 BCE, the Spartans had allied with exiled Athenians to fight and defeat the tyrant Hippias and his Thessalian mounted warriors.

    [14] This exchange contains all kinds of allusions to the Spartans' alleged preference for anal intercourse. The city of Pylos was of key strategic importance and had been controlled by Athens since about 425 BCE.

    [15] Another series of sexual puns. One can imagine poor Reconciliation serving as a physical prop with various body parts standing for desirable pieces of territory.

    [16] Important allies of Athens whose name apparently led itself to innuendo.

    [17] Ritual bathing was essential for purification purposes before entering sacred spaces.

    [18] Or "boxes". More innuendo.

    [19] See the note above on women and religious rituals in Athens. The highest honor for a young virgin was to be chosen to bear the basket in the Panathenaea festival in Athens.

    [20] Jokes at the expense of Athenian public relief programs. Public assistance is still called "being on the dole" in England.


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