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Enter CALLICLES and STASIMUS.
To what effect were you speaking about this, Stasimus? STASIMUS
That Lesbonicus, the son of my master, has betrothed his sister; in those terms. CALLICLES
To what person has he betrothed her? STASIMUS
To Lysiteles, the son of Philto; without a portion, too. CALLICLES
Without a portion, will he marry her into a family so rich1? You are telling me a thing not to be credited. STASIMUS
Why, faith, you would be for never believing. If you don't believe this, at all events I shall be believing---- CALLICLES
That I don't care a fig for your belief. CALLICLES
How long since, or where, was this matter agreed to? STASIMUS
On this very spot--here, before his door pointing to PHILTO'S house . This moment-like2, as the man of Præneste says. CALLICLES
And has Lesbonicus, amid his ruined fortunes, become so much more frugal than in his prosperous circumstances? STASIMUS
Why, in fact, Philto himself came of his own accord to make the offer for his son. CALLICLES
aside. By my troth, it really will be a disgrace, if a portion is not given to the maiden. In fine, I think, i' faith, that that matter concerns myself. I will go to my corrector, and will ask advice of him. (Exit.) STASIMUS
I pretty nearly guess, and I have a strong suspicion, why he makes such speed on this: namely, that he may turn Lesbonicus out of his bit of land, after he has turned him out of his house. O Charmides, my master! since your property here is being torn to pieces in your absence, I wish I could see you return safe, that you might both take vengeance on your enemies, and give the reward to me according as I have behaved, and do behave towards you. 'Tis an extremely difficult thing for a friend to be found really such as the name imports, to whom, when you have entrusted your interests, you may sleep without any care. But lo! I perceive our son-in-law3 coming, together with his neighbour. Something--what, I know not--is wrong between them. They are walking, each with a hasty step; the one is catching the other that is before him by the cloak. They have come to a stop in no very courteous fashion. I'll step aside here a little distance. I have a wish to hear the conversation of these two that are to be connected by marriage. He retires to a distance.
Enter LYSITELES and LESBONICUS.
Stay, this moment; don't turn away, and don't hide yourself from me. He catches hold of his cloak. LESBONICUS
(shaking him off) Can't you allow me to go whither I was proceeding? LYSITELES
If, Lesbonicus, it seems to be to your interest, either for your glory or for your honour, I will let you go. LESBONICUS
You are doing a thing that it is very easy to do. LYSITELES
What is that? LESBONICUS
An injury to a friend. LYSITELES
It is no way of mine, and I have not learned so to do. LESBONICUS
Untaught as you are, how cleverly you do it. What would you have done, if any one had taught you to be thus annoying to me? You, who, when you pretend to be acting kindly to me, use me ill, and are intending evil. LYSITELES
How do I use you ill? LESBONICUS
Inasmuch as you do that which I do not wish. LYSITELES
I wish to consult your advantage. LESBONICUS
Are you kinder to me than I am to myself? I have sense enough; I see sufficiently well those things that are for my own advantage. LYSITELES
And is it having sense enough to refuse a kindness from a well-wisher? LESBONICUS
I reckon it to be no kindness, when it does not please him on whom you are conferring it. I know, and I understand myself what I am doing, and my mind forsakes not its duty; nor will I be driven by your speeches from paying due regard to my own character. LYSITELES
What do you say? For now I cannot be restrained from saying to you the things which you deserve. Have your forefathers, I pray, so handed down this reputation to you, that you, by your excesses, might lose what before was gained by their merit, and that you might become a bar to the honour of your own posterity? Your father and your grandfather made an easy and a level path for you to attain to honour; whereas you have made it to become a difficult one, by your extreme recklessness and sloth, and your besotted ways. You have made your election, to prefer your passions to virtue. Now, do you suppose that you can cover over your faults by these means? Alas! 'tis impossible. Welcome virtue to your mind, if you please, and expel slothfulness from your heart. Give your attention to your he-friends in the Courts of justice4, and not to the couch of your she-friend, as you are wont to do. And earnestly do I now wish this piece of land to be left to you for this reason, that you may have wherewithal to reform yourself; so that those citizens, whom you have for enemies, may not be able altogether to throw your poverty in your teeth. LESBONICUS
All these things which you have been saying, I know--could even set my seal5 to them: how I have spoiled my patrimonial estate and the fair fame of my forefathers. I knew how it became me to live; to my misfortune I was not able to act accordingly. Thus, overpowered by the force of passion, inclined to ease, I fell into the snare; and now to you, quite as you deserve, I do return most hearty thanks. LYSITELES
Still, I cannot suffer my labour to be thus lost, and yourself to despise these words; at the same time, it grieves me that you have so little shame. And, in fine, unless you listen to me, and do this that I mention, you yourself will easily lie concealed behind your own self, so that honour cannot find you; when you will wish yourself to be especially distinguished, you will be lying in obscurity. I know right well, for my part, Lesbonicus, your highly ingenuous disposition; I know that of your own accord you have not done wrong, but that it is Love that has blinded your heart; and I myself comprehend all the ways of Love. As the charge of the balista6 is hurled, so is Love; nothing is there so swift, or that so swiftly flies; he, too, makes the manners of men both foolish and froward7. That which is the most commended pleases him the least8; that from which he is dissuaded pleases him. When there is a scarcity, then you long for a thing; when there is an abundance of it, then you don't care for it. The person that warns him off from a thing, the same invites him; he that persuades him to it interdicts him. 'Tis a misfortune of insanity for you to fly to Cupid for refuge. But I advise you again and again to think of this, how you should seek to act. If you attempt to do according as you are now showing signs9, you will cause the conflagration of your family; and then, in consequence, you will have a desire for water with which to quench this conflagration of your family. And if you should obtain it, just as lovers are subtle in their devices, you will not leave even one spark with which your family may brighten up. LESBONICUS
'Tis easy to be found: fire is granted, even though you should ask it of a foe. But you, by your reproof, are urging me from my faults to a viler course. You are persuading me to give you my sister without a portion. But it does not become me, who have misused so great a patrimony, to be still in affluent circumstances, and to be possessing land, but her to be in want, so as with good reason to detest me. Never will he be respected by others who makes himself despised by his own relatives. As I said, I will do; I do not wish you to be in doubt any longer. LYSITELES
And is it so much preferable that for your sister's sake you should incur poverty, and that I should possess that piece of land rather than yourself, who ought to be upholding your own walls? LESBONICUS
I do not wish you so much to have regard to myself, in order that you may relieve my poverty, as that in my neediness I may not become disgraced: that people may not spread about this report of me, that I gave my own sister without a portion to you, rather in concubinage10 than in marriage. Who would be said to be more dishonorable than I? The spreading of this report might do credit to you, but it would defile me, if you were to marry her without a portion. For you it would be a gain of reputation, for me it would be something for people to throw in my teeth. LYSITELES
Why so? Do you suppose11 that you will become Dictator if I accept the land of you? LESBONICUS
I neither wish, nor require, nor do I think so; but still, to be mindful of his duty, is true honour to an upright man. LYSITELES
For my part, I know you, how you are disposed in mind; I see it, I discover it, I apprehend. You are doing this, that when you have formed an alliance between us, and when you have given up this piece of land, and have nothing here with which to support life, in beggary you may fly from the city, in exile you may desert your country, your kindred, your connexions, your friends,--the nuptials once over. People would suppose that you were frightened hence by my means, and through my cupidity. Do not fancy in your mind that I will act so as to allow that to happen. STASIMUS
advanccing . Well, I cannot but exclaim, "Well done, well done, Lysiteles, encore12." Easily do you win the victory; the other is conquered: your performance is superior. This one pointing to LYSITELES acts better in character, and composes better lines13. By reason of your folly do you still dispute it? Stand in awe of the fine. LESBONICUS
What means this interruption of yours, or your intrusion here upon our conversation? STASIMUS
The same way that I came here I'll get me gone. LESBONICUS
Step this way home with me, Lysiteles; there we will talk at length about these matters. LYSITELES
I am not in the habit of doing anything in secret. Just as my feelings are I will speak out. If your sister, as I think it right, is thus given to me in marriage without a portion, and if you are not about to go away hence, that which shall be mine, the same shall be yours. But if you are minded otherwise, may that which you do turn out for you for the best. I will never be your friend on any other terms; such is my determination. (Exit LESBONICUS, followed by LYSITELES.) STASIMUS
Faith, he's off. D'ye hear--Lysiteles? I want you. He's off as well. Stasimus, you remain alone. What am I now to do, but to buckle up my baggage and sling my buckler on my back14, and order soles to be fastened15 beneath my shoes? There is no staying now. I see that no long time hence I shall be a soldier's drudge. And when my master has thrown himself into the pay16 of some potentate, I guess that among the greatest warriors he will prove a brave17--hand at running away, and that there he will capture the spoil, who-shall come to attack my master. I myself, the moment that I shall have assumed my bow and quiver and arrows, and the helmet on my head, shall-go to sleep very quietly in my tent. I'll be off to the Forum; I'll ask that talent18 back of the person to whom I lent it six days since, that I may have some provision for the journey to carry with me. (Exit.)
Enter MEGARONIDES and CALLICLES.
According as you relate the matter to me, Callicles, it really can by no means be but that a portion must be given to the girl. CALLICLES
Why, troth, it would hardly be honestly done on my part, if I were to allow her to contract a marriage without a portion, when I have her property in my possession at home. * * * * * MEGARONIDES
* * * * A portion is ready at your house; unless you like to wait until her brother has disposed of her in marriage without a portion. After that, you might go to Philto yourself, and might say that you present her with a portion, and that you do it on account of your intimacy with her father. But I dread this, lest that offer might bring you into crimination and disgrace with the public. They would say that you were so kind to the girl not without some good reason; that the dowry which you presented her was given you by her father; they would think that you were portioning her out of that, and that you had not kept it safe for her just as it was given, and that you had withheld some part. Now, if you wish to await the return of Charmides, the time is very long; meanwhile, the inclination to marry her may leave this Lysiteles; this proposal, too, is quite a first-rate one for her. CALLICLES
All these very same things suggest themselves to my mind. MEGARONIDES
Consider if you think this more feasible and more to the purpose: go to the young man himself, and tell him how the matter really stands. CALLICLES
Should I now discover the treasure to a young man, ill-regulated, and brimful of passion and of wantonness? No, faith, most assuredly, by no means. For I know, beyond a doubt, that he would devour even all that spot where it is buried. I fear to dig for it, lest he should hear the noise; lest, too, he might trace out the matter itself, if I should say I will give her a portion. MEGARONIDES
By what method, then, can the portion be secretly taken out? CALLICLES
Until an opportunity can be found for that business, I would, in the meanwhile, ask for a loan of the money from some friend or other. MEGARONIDES
Can it be obtained from some friend or other? CALLICLES
It can. MEGARONIDES
Nonsense; you'll certainly meet with this answer at once: "O, upon my faith, I really have not anything that I can lend you." CALLICLES
Troth, I would rather they would tell me the truth than lend me the money with a bad grace. MEGARONIDES
But consider this plan, if it pleases you. CALLICLES
What is the plan? MEGARONIDES
I have found out a clever plan, as I think. CALLICLES
What is it? MEGARONIDES
Let some person, now, be hired, of an appearance as much unknown as possible, such as has not been often seen. Let this person be dressed up to the life after a foreign fashion, just as though he were a foreigner. CALLICLES
What is he to understand that he must do after that? MEGARONIDES
It is necessary for him to be some lying, deceiving, impudent fellow--a lounger from the Forum. CALLICLES
And what then, after that? MEGARONIDES
Let him come to the young man as though from Seleucia, from his father; let him pronounce his salutation to him in the words of his father, say that he is prospering in business, and is alive and well, and that he will be shortly coming back again. Let him bring two letters; let us seal these, as though they are from his father. Let him give the one to him, and let him say that he wishes to give the other to yourself. CALLICLES
Go on, and tell me still further. MEGARONIDES
Let him say that he is bringing some gold as a marriage-portion from her father for the girl, and that his father has requested him to deliver it to you. Do you understand me now? CALLICLES
Pretty nearly; and I listen with great satisfaction. MEGARONIDES
Then, in consequence, you will finally give the gold to the young man when the girl shall be given in marriage. CALLICLES
Troth, 'tis very cleverly contrived. MEGARONIDES
By this means, when you have dug up the treasure, you will have removed all cause for suspicion from the young man. He will think that the gold has been brought to you from his father; whereas, you will be taking it from the treasure. CALLICLES
Very cleverly and fairly contrived; although I am ashamed, at this time of life, for me to be playing a double part. But when he shall bring the letters sealed, don't you suppose that the young man will then recollect the impression of his father's signet19? MEGARONIDES
Will you be silent now? Reasons innumerable may be found for that circumstance. That which he used to have he has lost, and he has since had another new one made. Then, if he should bring them not sealed at all, this might be said,--that they had been unsealed for him by the custom-house officers20, and had been examined. On matters of this kind, however, 'tis mere idleness to spend the day in talk; although a long discussion might be spun out. Go now, at once, privately to the treasure; send to a distance the men-servants and the maids; and--do you hear? CALLICLES
What is it? MEGARONIDES
Take care that you conceal this matter from that same wife of yours as well; for, i' faith, there is never any subject which they can be silent upon. Why are you standing now? Why don't you take yourself off hence, and bestir yourself? Open the treasure, take thence as much gold as is requisite for this purpose; at once close it up again, but secretly, as I have enjoined you; turn all out of the house. CALLICLES
I will do so. MEGARONIDES
But, really, we are continuing too long a discourse; we are wasting the day, whereas there is need now of all expedition. There is nothing for you to fear about the seal; trust me for that. This is a clever excuse to give, as I mentioned, that they have been looked at by the officers. In fine, don't you see the time of day? What do you think of him being of such a nature and disposition? He is drunk already; anything you like may be proved for him. Besides, what is the greatest point of all, this person will say that he brings, and not that he applies for, money. CALLICLES
Now, that's enough. MEGARONIDES
I am now going to hire a sharper21 from the Forum, and then I will seal the two letters; and I'll send him thither pointing to the house of CHARMIDES , well tutored in his part, to this young man. CALLICLES
I am going in-doors then to my duty in consequence. Do you see about this matter. MEGARONIDES
I'll take care it's done in the very cleverest style. (Exeunt.)
1 Into a family so rich: "In tantas divitias," literally, "into so great wealth."
2 This moment-like: "Tammodo," He is joking upon the patois of the people of Præneste, who said "tammodo," instead of "modo," "this instant," or "just now." Festus also alludes to this expression, as used by the Prænestines. In the Truculentus, act iii., sc. 2, l. 23, he again takes them off for catting "Ciconia" down to "Conia." Præeste was a town of Latium, not far from Rome. Its present name is Palestrina.
3 Our son-i-law: He means Lysiteles, the contemplated son-in-law of his master Charmides, whom he has just been apostrophising.
4 In the Courts of justice: It was the custom of the young men of the Patrician class among the Romans to plead gratuitously for their friends and clients, in the Forum or Court of justice.
5 Set my seal: Affixing the seal to an instrument was then, as now the most solemn way of ratifying it.
6 Charge of the balista: The word "balista" here signifies the charge of the military engine known as the "balista." It was used by the ancients for the purpose of discharging stones against the higher part of the walls of besieged places, while the "catapulta" was directed against the lower. The charge of the "balista" varied from two pounds to three hundred-weight.
9 Are now showing signs: The meaning of this passage is extremely obscure. Perhaps, however, it is this, "If you persist in your extravagance, and are resolved to part with this land, the very last of your possessions, you will prove the conflagration and ruin of your family. Then you will be seeking a remedy--water with which to quench it. When you have got this remedy, as you cleverly suppose, in going abroad to fight and earn glory, you will ply it with such zeal, that you will overdo it, and, in getting killed yourself, will thereby quench the last spark on which the very existence of your house depended." Or this Lesbonicus says, though not carrying on the metaphor in the same sense, "I will find means, even amid the enemy, to render my name illustrious, for there the fire may be found which is to keep my family from becoming extinguished."
10 Rather in concubinage: His pride is hurt at the idea of his sister being married without a portion, and thereby losing one of the distinctive marks between a wife and a mistress. It was considered a disgraceful thing for a remain to be given in marriage without a portion, however small.
11 Do you suppose: Lysiteles says, satirically, and rather unkindly, it would seem, "What, do you suppose that, if I accept this piece of land of you, you will attain the Dictatorship as the reward of your high spirit?' The Dictatorshiip was the highest honour in the Roman Republic.
12 Encore: Παλὶν. This Greek word was no doubt used by the Romans just as we employ the French word "encore." In a similar manner it was probably used in the theatres, the usage of which is here figuratively referred to.
13 Composes better lines: In the line before, he alludes to the contest of the Comic poets for the prize of Comedy, to be decided according to the merits of their respective plays. As the poets were often the actors of their plays, he addresses them in this line in the latter capacity. Then, in the next line, he refers to the custom of the Romans in early times of training slaves as actors, where, if they did not please the spectators, they were taken off the stage and fined or beaten for their carelessness.
14 On my back: When marching, the "clypeus," or "shield," was slung on the back of the soldier. The "sarcina," or "baggage," probably resembled our knapsack.
15 Soles to be fastened: The "soccus" was a slipper or low shoe, which did not fit closely, and was not fastened by a tie. These were worn both by men and women, and especially by Comic actors. His meaning probably is, that he will be obliged to have high heels and thick soles put to his shoes, so as to turn them into "caligæ," the heavy kind of shoes worn by the Roman soldiers.
16 Into the pay: "In saginam," means "for his food;" as what we technically call "the mess" was provided for the soldier by those who hired him The term "sagina" is found especially applied to the victuals of the gladiators, who were trained up and dieted on all kinds of nourishing food for the purpose of adding to their strength, and thereby heightening interest attendant on their combats.
17 Prove a brave: In this line and the next he is witty upon the sorry figure which he fancies Lesbonicus will make in the field of battle.
18 Ask that talent: Many a truth is said in jest, and perhaps part of this talent is the fruit of the theft which he seems in joke only to admit in l. 414; as some Commentators have remarked, where was Stasimus, a slave, to get so much money as a talent, more than 200 £? As, however, in other respects, he seems to have been a faithful servant, let us in charity suppose that he cams honestly by his talent, and that it was his fairly acquired "peculium"
19 His father's signet: The custom of wearing rings among the Romans was said to have been derived from the Sabines. The stones set in them were generally engraved with some design, and they were universally used by both Greeks and Romans for the purpose of a seal. So common was the practice among the Greeks, that Solon made a very wholesome law which forbade engravers to keep the form of a seal which they had sold. In some rings the seal was cut in the metal itself. The designs engraved on rings were various; sometimes portraits of ancestors or friends, and sometimes subjects connected with the mythology or the worship of the Gods. The onyx was the stone most frequently used in rings. The genuineness of a letter was tested, not by the signature, but by the seal appended to it; hence the anxiety of Callicles on the present occasion.
20 The custom-house officers: The "portitores" were the officers who collected the "portorium," or "import duty," on goods brought from foreign countries. These "portitores," to whom it was frequently farmed, greatly annoyed the merchants by their unfair conduct and arbitrary proceedings. At Rome, all commodities, including slaves, which were imported for the purpose of selling again, were subject to the "portorium." The present instance is an illustration of the license of their proceedings, for we can hardly suppose that they were entitled as of right to break open the seals of letters from foreign countries.
21 A sharper: "Sycophanta." At an early period there was a law at Athens against the exportation of figs. In spite, however, of prohibitions and penalties; the fig-growers persisted in exporting the fruit. To inform the authorities against the practice was deemed mean and vexatious, so the statute came in time to be looked upon as obsolete. Hence, the term δυκοφαντεῖν, "to inform relative to the exportation of figs," came to be applied to all mean and dishonest accusations. In time, the word "sycophant" came to be applied to a man who was a cunning and villanous character, and who, as it has been justly observed, in Dr Smith's Dictionary, was "a happy compound of the common barretor, informer, pettifogger, busybody, rogue, liar, and slanderer." In fact, he was such a person as we mean by the epithet "swindler" or "sharper." Information being encouraged by the policy of Athens, and the informer gaining half the reward, it was upon this honourable calling that the "sycophantæ" in general thrived They were ready, however, for any other job, however dishonorable, and perjury would not be declined by them if they could obtain their price. They would, consequently be much in the neighbourhood of the Courts of justice; and the Forum, as in the present instance, would not be an unlikely place to meet with them.
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