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Enter CALIDORUS and PSEUDOLUS from SIMO'S house.
If, master, by your being silent, I could be in-formed what miseries are afflicting you so sadly, I would willingly have spared the trouble of two persons--of myself in asking you, and of yourself in answering me. Since, however, that cannot be, necessity compels me to enquire of you. Answer me: What's the reason that, out of spirits for these many days past, you've been carrying a letter about with you, washing it with your tears, and making no person the sharer of your purpose? Speak out, that what I am ignorant of, I may know together with yourself. CALIDORUS
I am wretchedly miserable, Pseudolus. PSEUDOLUS
May Jupiter forbid it! CALIDORUS
This belongs not at all to the arbitration of Jupiter; under the sway of Venus1 am I harassed, not under that of Jove. PSEUDOLUS
Is it allowable for me to know what it is? For hitherto you have had me as chief confidant in your plans. CALIDORUS
The same is now my intention. PSEUDOLUS
Let me know then what's the matter with you. I'll aid you either with resources, or with my efforts, or with good counsel. CALIDORUS
Do you take this letter: do you thence inform yourself what misery and what care are wasting me away. PSEUDOLUS
taking the letter . Compliance shall be given you. But, prithee, how's this? CALIDORUS
What's the matter? PSEUDOLUS
As I think, these letters are very loving; they are climbing on each other's backs. CALIDORUS
Are you making sport of me with your foolery? PSEUDOLUS
I' faith, I really do believe that unless the Sibyl2 can read them, nobody else can possibly interpret them. CALIDORUS
Why speak you unkindly of those sweet letters-- sweet tablets too, written upon by a hand as sweet. PSEUDOLUS
Troth now, have hens, prithee, such hands? For certainly a hen has written these letters. CALIDORUS
You are annoying me. Either read it or return the letter. PSEUDOLUS
Very well then, I'll read it through. Give me your attention. CALIDORUS
That's not here. PSEUDOLUS
Do you summon it then. CALIDORUS
Well, I'll be silent; do you summon it from that wax there3; for there my attention is at present, not in my breast. PSEUDOLUS
I see your mistress, Calidorus. CALIDORUS
Where is she, prithee? PSEUDOLUS
See, here she is at full length in the letter; she's lying upon the wax. CALIDORUS
Now, may the Gods and Goddesses, inasmuch----4 PSEUDOLUS
Preserve me from harm, to wit. CALIDORUS
For a short season have I been like a summer plant5; suddenly have I sprung up, suddenly have I withered. PSEUDOLUS
Be silent, while I read the letter through. CALIDORUS
Why don't you read it then? PSEUDOLUS
reading . " Phœnicium to her lover, Calidorus, by means of wax and string and letters, her exponents, sends health, and safety does she beg6 of you, weeping, and with palpitating feelings, heart, and breast." CALIDORUS
I'm undone; I nowhere find, Pseudolus, this safety for me to send her back. PSEUDOLUS
What safety? CALIDORUS
A silver one. PSEUDOLUS
And do you wish to send her back a silver safety for one on wood7? Consider what you're about. CALIDORUS
Read on now; I'll soon cause you to know from the letter how suddenly there's need for me for one of silver to be found. PSEUDOLUS
reading on . "The procurer has sold me, my love, for twenty minæ, to a Macedonian officer from abroad. Before he departed hence, the Captain paid him fifteen minœ; only five minæ now are remaining unpaid. On that account the Captain left here a token--his own likeness impressed on wax by his ring--that he who should bring hither a token like to that, together with him the procurer might send me. The next day hence, on the Festival of Bacchus8, is the one fixed for this matter." CALIDORUS
Well, that's to-morrow; my ruin is near at hand, unless I have some help in you. PSEUDOLUS
Let me read it through. CALIDORUS
I permit you; for I seem to myself to be talking to her. Read on; the sweet and the hitter are you now mingling together for me. PSEUDOLUS
reading on . "Now our loves, our tenderness, our intimacy, our mirth, our dalliance, our talking, our sweet kisses, the close embrace of us lovers equally fond, the soft, dear kisses impressed on our tender lips, the delicious pressing of the swelling bosom; of all these delights, I say, for me and for you as well, the severance, the destruction, and the downfal is at hand, unless there is some rescue for me in you or for you in me. I have taken care that you should know all these things that I have written; now shall I make trial how far you love me, and how far you pretend to do so." CALIDORUS
'Tis written, Pseudolus, in wretchedness. PSEUDOLUS
Alas! very wretchedly9. CALIDORUS
Why don't you weep, then? PSEUDOLUS
I've eyes of pumice stone10; I can't prevail upon them to squeeze out one tear even. CALIDORUS
Why so? PSEUDOLUS
My family was always a dryeyed one. CALIDORUS
Won't you attempt to assist me at all? PSEUDOLUS
What shall I do for you? CALIDORUS
Alas! do you say? Well, don't be sparing of them, i' faith; I'll give you plenty. CALIDORUS
I'm distracted. I nowhere can find any money to borrow. PSEUDOLUS
Nor is there a single coin in the house. PSEUDOLUS
He's going to carry the damsel away to-morrow. PSEUDOLUS
Is it in that fashion that you help me? PSEUDOLUS
I give you that which I have; for I've a perpetual supply of those treasures11 in my house. CALIDORUS
It's all over with me this very day. But can you now lend me one drachma, which I'll pay you back to-morrow PSEUDOLUS
I' faith, I hardly think I could, even though I should pawn myself for it. But what do you want to do with this drachma? CALIDORUS
I want to purchase a halter for myself. PSEUDOLUS
For what reason? CALIDORUS
With which to hang myself. I'm determined, ere 'tis dark, to take12 a leap in the dark. PSEUDOLUS
Who then shall pay me back my drachma * * * * ? Do you wish purposely to hang yourself for the very reason, that you may cheat mo out of my drachma if I lend it you? CALIDORUS
At all events, I can in nowise survive if she's removed and carried off from me. PSEUDOLUS
Why do you weep, you cuckoo13? You shall survive. CALIDORUS
Why should I not weep, who have neither a coin of silver in ready money, nor have the hope of a groat14 anywhere in the world? PSEUDOLUS
As I understand the tenor of this letter, unless you weep for her with tears of silver, the affection which you wish yourself by those tears to prove is of no more value than if you were to pour water into a sieve. But have no fear, I'll not forsake you in your love. In troth, I do trust that this day, from some quarter or other, by my good aid I shall find you help in the money line. But whence that is to come,--that whence I know not how to pronounce; except only that so it shall be; my eyebrow twitches15 to that effect. CALIDORUS
As to what you say, I trust that your deeds may be as good as your words. PSEUDOLUS
I' faith, you surely know, if I set my plans a-going16, after what fashion and how great is the bustle that I am in the habit of causing. CALIDORUS
In you are now centred all the hopes of my existence. PSEUDOLUS
Is it enough, if I this day make this damsel to be yours, or if I find you twenty minæ? CALIDORUS
'Tis enough, if so it is to be. PSEUDOLUS
Ask of me twenty minæ, that you may be assured that I'll procure for you that which I have promised. Ask them of me, by my troth, prithee do; I long to make the promise. CALIDORUS
Will you this day find me twenty minæ of silver? PSEUDOLUS
I will find them; be no more troublesome to me then. And this I tell you first, that you mayn't deny that it was told you; if I can no one else, I'll diddle your father out of the money. CALIDORUS
So far as filial affection is concerned, even my mother as well. May the Gods always preserve you for me. But what if you are not able? PSEUDOLUS
Upon that matter do you go to sleep with either eye. CALIDORUS
With the eye or with the ear17? PSEUDOLUS
The latter is too common an expression. Now, that no one may affirm that it wasn't told him, I tell you all to the AUDIENCE , in the presence of the youths in this audience, and of all the people, to all my friends and all my acquaintances I give notice, that for this day they must guard against me, and not trust me. CALIDORUS
Hist! be silent, prithee, by all the powers! PSEUDOLUS
What's the matter? CALIDORUS
There was a noise at the procurer's door. PSEUDOLUS
I could only wish it were his legs in preference. CALIDORUS
Yes, and he himself is coming out from in-doors, the perjured scoundrel. They stand at a distance.
1 Under the sway of Venus: The youth of both sexes, from the tenth to the eighteenth year, were supposed to be under the dominion of Venus, to whom they offered their clothes dolls, and toys, on arriving at puberty.
2 Unless the Sibyl: The Sibyl, being gifted with prophecy, might know the meaning of that which could not be read. The 23rd line has been somewhat modified in the translation.
3 From that wax there: Allusion is here made to the wax with which the surface of the tablet was covered, and on which the writing was traced with the iron "stylus."
4 Inasnmuch: He is going to say, "may the Divinities confound you;' which anathema Pseudolus adroitly turns aside, and refrains from further provoking his master.
5 Like a summer plant: Some Commentators think that Plautus refers to some imaginary plant, which was supposed to grow up and wither on the day of the summer Solstice. It seems, however, more probable that he only refers to the short existence of summer flowers in general.
6 Safety does she beg: The writer plays upon the different meanings of the word "sarus." She sends you "salus," "greeting" or "salutation," and requests you to find her "salus," "safety" or "rescue," in return.
7 For one on wood: Meaning, in return for her "salus," or "salutation," upon the wooden tablet, is it your wish to send her "salus," "safety," procured through the medium of money, by effecting her liberation.
9 Very wretchedly: Pseudolus probably intends to allude to the bad hand in which the letter seems to have been written, while his master refers to the sorrowful tone of the epistle.
10 Of pumice stone: That is, "as dry as purnice stone."
11 Supply of those treasures: Of "Ehen!" "Alas!" or "Oh dear me" This he repeats so frequently, because his master has reproached him for not weeping in sympathy with him for the calamities of Phœnicium,
12 Ere 'tis dark, to take: "Ante tenebras tenebras persequi." Literally rally, "before the shades to reach the shades." A wretched pun is attempted.
13 You cuckoo: "Cuculus." "Cuckoo" seems to have been in all ages a term of reproach. Horace mentions it as being applied by the common people to the vintagers in the autumn. Shakspeare, in the beautiful song in the Fifth Act of Love's Labour Lost, has these lines:
“The cuckoo then on every tree,
Mocks married men, for thus sings he,
Cuckoo! cuckoo! O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!
” Perhaps the reason of this epithet being deemed opprobrious was the simple fact that the cuckoo is the laziest of birds, inasmuch as it is too idle to build its own nest. The subject is further referred to in a future note.
14 Hope of a groat: " Libella" was the smallest silver coin among the Romans, the tenth part of a "denarius."
15 My eyebrow twitches: The itching of the eye, or the twitching of the eyebrows, has been supposed by superstitious persons in all ages to presage some impending event.
16 Set my plans a-going: "Mea si commovi sacra." Literally, "if I move my sacred things." Lambinus thinks that this may refer to the sacred things dedicated to Bacchus, which no one touched without being punished for it; and even if Bacchus himself attempted to do, confusion and disorder was the consequence.
17 Or with the ear: "To sleep on the ear" was a proverbial saying borrowed by the Romans from the Greeks, to denote a sense of complete security Pseudolus say, that the proverb is too vulgar for his refined taste.
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