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The young men have given me the name of "the mistress," for this reason, because invocated1 I am wont to attend at the banquet. I know that buffoons2 say that this is absurdly said, but I affirm that it is rightly said. For at the banquet the lover, when he throws the dice, invokes his mistress3. Is she then invocated, or is she not? She is, most clearly. But, i' faith, we Parasites with better reason are so called, whom no person ever either invites or invokes, and who, like mice, are always eating the victuals of another person. When business is laid aside4, when people repair to the country, at that same moment is business laid aside for our teeth. Just as, when it is hot weather, snails lie hidden in secret, and live upon their own juices, if the dew doesn't fall; so, when business is laid aside, do Parasites lie hidden in retirement, and miserably live upon their own juices, while in the country the persons are rusticating whom they sponge upon. When business is laid aside, we Parasites are greyhounds; when business recommences, like mastiffs5, we are annoying-like and very troublesome- like6. And here, indeed, unless, i' faith, any Parasite is able to endure cuffs with the fist, and pots to be broken7 about his head, why he may e'en go with his wallet outside the Trigeminian Gate8. That this may prove my lot, there is some danger. For since my patron9 has fallen into the hands of the enemy--(such warfare are the Ætolians now waging with the Eleans; for this is Ætolia; this Philopolemus has been made captive in Elis, the son of this old man Hegio who lives here pointing to the house --a house which to me is a house of woe, and which so oft as I look upon, I weep). Now, for the sake of his son, has he commenced this dishonorable traffic, very much against his own inclination. He buys up men that have been made captives, if perchance he may be able to find some one for whom to gain his son in exchange. An object which I really do much desire that he may gain. for unless he finds him, there's nowhere for me to find myself. I have no hopes in the young men; they are all too fond of themselves. He, in fine, is a youth with the old-fashioned nanners, whose countenance I never rendered cheerful without a return. His father is worthily matched, as endowed with like manners. Now I'll go to him;--but his door is opening, the door from which full oft I've sallied forth drunk with excess of cheer. He stands aside.
Enter, from his house, HEGIO and a SLAVE.
Now, give attention you, if you please. Those two captives whom I purchased yesterday of the Quæstors out of the spoil, put upon them chains of light weight10; take off those greater ones with which they are bound. Permit them to walk, if they wish, out of doors, or if in-doors, but so that they are watched with the greatest care. A captive at liberty is like a bird that's wild; if opportunity is once given for escaping, 'tis enough; after that, you can never catch him. A SLAVE
Doubtless we all are free men more willingly than we live the life of slaves. HEGIO
You, indeed, don't seem to think so11. A SLAVE
If I have nothing to give, should you like me to give myself to flight12? HEGIO
If you do so give yourself, I shall at once have something to be giving to you. A SLAVE
I'll make myself just like the wild bird you were telling of. HEGIO
'Tis just as you say; for if you do so, I'll be giving you to the cage13. But enough of prating; take you care of what I've ordered, and be off. The SLAVE goes into the house. I'll away to my brother's, to my other captives; I'll go see whether they've been making any disturbance last night. From there I shall forthwith betake myself home again. ERGASILUS
apart . It grieves me that this unhappy old man is following the trade of a slave-dealer, by reason of the misfortune of his son. But, if by any means he can be brought back here, I could even endure for him to become an executioner. HEGIO
overhearing him . Who is it that's speaking? ERGASILUS
'Tis I, who am. pining at your affliction, growing thin, waxing old, and shockingly wasting away. Wretched man that I am, I'm but skin and bone through leanness; nor does anything ever do me good that I eat at home; even that ever so little which I taste out of doors, the same refreshes me. HER.
Ergasilus, save you! ERGASILUS
crying . May the Gods kindly bless you, Hegio! HER.
Don't weep. ERGASILUS
Must I not weep for him? Must I not weep for such a young man? HEGIO
I've always known you to be a friend to my son, and I have understood him to be so to you. ERGASILUS
Then at last do we men know our blessings, when we have lost those things which we once had in our power. I, since your son fell into the power of the enemy, knowing by experience of what value he was, now feel his loss. HEGIO
Since you, who are no relation, bear his misfortune so much amiss, what is it likely that I, a father, should do, whose only son he is? ERGASILUS
I, no relation to him? He, no relation to me? Oh, Hegio! never do say that, nor come to such a belief. To you he is an only child, but to me he is even more only than an only one. HEGIO
I commend you, in that you consider the affliction of your friend your own affliction. Now be of good heart. ERGASILUS
crying . O dear! HEG. half-aside . 'Tis this afflicts him, that the army for guttling is now disbanded. Meanwhile, have you found no one to command for you the army that you mentioned as disbanded? ERGASILUS
What do you think? All to whom it used to fall are in the habit of declining that province since your son Philopolemus was taken prisoner. HEGIO
I' faith, 'tisn't to be wondered at, that they are in the habit of declining that province. You have necessity for numerous troops, and those of numerous kinds. Well, first you have need of the Bakerians14. Of these Bakerians there are several kinds, You have need of Roll-makerians, you have need too of Confectionerians, you have need of Poultererians, you have need of Beccaficorians; besides, all the maritime forces are necessary for you. ERGASILUS
How the greatest geniuses do frequently lie concealed! How great a general now is this private individual! HEGIO
Only have good courage; for I trust that in a few days I shall bring him back home. For see now; there's a captive here, a young man of Elis, born of a very high family, and of very great wealth; I trust that it will come to pass that I shall get my son in exchange for him. ERGASILUS
May the Gods and Goddesses grant it so! HEGIO
But are you invited out anywhere to dinner? ERGASILUS
Nowhere that I know of. But, pray, why do you ask me? HEGIO
Because this is my birthday; for that reason I'd like you to be invited to dinner at my house. ERGASILUS
'Tis kindly said. HEGIO
But if you can be content to eat a very little---- ERGASILUS
Aye, even ever so little; for on such fare as that do I enjoy myself every day at home. HEGIO
Come, then, please, set yourself up for sale. ERGASILUS
I'll put myself up for purchase, just like a landed estate, unless any one shall privately make a better offer that pleases myself and my friends more, and to my own conditions will I bind myself. HEGIO
You are surely selling me a bottomless pit15, and not a landed estate. But if you are coming, do so in time. ERGASILUS
Why, for that matter, I'm at leisure even now. HEGIO
Go then, and hunt for a hare; at present, in me you have but a ferret16, for my fare is in the way of frequenting a rugged road. ERGASILUS
You'll never repulse me by that, Hegio, so don't attempt it. I'll come, in spite of it, with teeth well shod. HEGIO
Really, my viands are but of a rough sort17. ERGASILUS
Are you in the habit of eating brambles? HEGIO
Mine is an earthy dinner. ERGASILUS
A pig is an earthy animal. HEGIO
Earthy from its plenty of vegetables. ERGASILUS
Treat your sick peoples18 at home with that fare? Do you wish anything else? HEGIO
Come in good time. ERGASILUS
You are putting in mind one who remembers quite well. (Exit.) HEGIO
I'll go in-doors, and in the house I'll make the calculation how little money I have at my banker's; afterwards I'll go to my brother's, whither I was saying I would go. Goes into his house.
1 Because invocated: "Invocatus." The following Note is extracted from Thornton's Translation of this Play:--"The reader's indulgence for the coinage of a new term (and perhaps not quite so much out of character from the mouth of a Parasite) is here requested in the use of the word 'invocated' in a sense, which it is owned, there is no authority for, but without it no way occurs to explain the poet's meaning--which, such as it is, and involved in such a pun, is all that can be aimed at. The word 'invocatus' means both 'called upon' and 'not called upon.' Ergasilus here quibbles upon it; for, though at entertainments he attends, as it is the common character of Parasites to do, without invitation, that is 'not called upon;' and as mistresses are 'called upon' that their names so invoked may make their lovers throw the dice with success; still, according to the double sense of the word, they may be compared to each other, as they are both, according to the Latin idiom, 'invocati.'"
2 That buffoons: "Derisores," "buffoons." By this word he means, that particular class of Parasites who earned their dinners by their repartees and bon-mots.
3 Invokes his mistress: It was the Grecian custom, when they threw dice at an entertainment, for the thrower to call his mistress by name, which invocation was considered to bring good luck.
4 When business is laid aside: " Ubi res prolatæ sunt." Meaning thereby "in vacation-time." In the heat of summer the courts of justice were closed, and the more wealthy portion of the Romans retired into the country. or to the seaside. Cicero mentions this vacation as "rerum prolatio." The allusion in the previous line is probably derived from a saying of the Cynic Diogenes: when he saw mice creeping under the table, he used to say, "See the Parasites of Diogenes."
5 Like mastiffs: "Molossici." Literally, "dogs of Molossus," a country of Epirus.
6 Annoying-like and very troublesome-like: "Odiosici-- incommodestici." These are two extravagant forms of the words "odiosi" and "incommodi," coined by the author for the occasion.
7 Pots to be broken: By Meursius we are informed that these practical jokes were played upon the unfortunate Parasites with pots filled with cinders, which were sometimes scattered over their clothes, to the great amusement of their fellow-guests.
8 The Trigeminian Gate: The Ostian Gate was so called because the Horatii left the city by that gate to fight the Curiatii. The brothers being born at one birth were "trigemini," whence the gate received its name. The beggars with their wallets were seated there. See the Trinummus, l. 423, and the Note to the passage.
9 Since my patron: Rex; literally, "king." The Parasites were in the habit of so calling their entertainers.
10 Chtains of light weight: " Singularias." This word may admit of three interpretations, and it is impossible to decide which is the right one. It may mean chains weighing a single "libra," or pound; it may signify chains for the captives singly, in contradistinction to those by which they were fastened to each other; or it may mean single chains, in opposition to double ones. In the Acts of the Apostles, ch. 12, v. 6, we read that St. Peter was bound with two chains; and in ch. 13, v. 33, the chief captain orders St. Paul to be bound with two chains.
11 Don't seem to think so: Hegio means to say that the slave does not seem to think liberty so very desirable, or he would try more to please his master and do his duty, which might probably be the right method for gaining his liberty. As the slave could generally ransom himself out of his "peculium," or "savings," if they were sufficient, the slave here either thinks, or pretends to think, that Hegio is censuring him for not taking those means, and answers, accordingly, that he has nothing to offer.
12 Give myself to flight: "Dem in pedes." Literally, "give myself to my feet," meaning thereby "to run away." He puns upon this meaning of "dare," and its common signification of "to give" or "to offer to give."
13 Giving you to the cage: "In cavearn." He plays on the word "cavea," which meaning "a cage" for a bird might also mean confinement for a prisoner.
14 The Bakerians: This and the following appellations are expressive both of the several trades that contributed to furnishing entertainments, and, in the Latin, also denoted the names of inhabitants of several places in Italy or elsewhere. As this meaning could not be expressed in a literal translation of them, the original words are here subjoined. In the word "Pistorienses," he alludes to the bakers, and the natives of Pistorium, a town of Etruria; in the "Panicei," to the bread or roll bakers, and the natives of Pana, a little town of the Samnites, mentioned by Strabo; in the "Placentini," to the "confectioners" or "cake-makers," and the people of Placentia, a city in the North of Italy; in the "Turdetani," to the "poulterers" or "sellers of thrushes," and the people of Turdetania, a district of Spain; and in the "Ficedulæ," to the "sellers of beccaficos," a delicate bird, and the inhabitants of Ficeaulæ, a town near Rome. Of course, these appellations, as relating to the trades, are only comical words coined for the occasion.
15 A bottomless pit: He plays upon the resemblance in sound of the word "fundum," "landed property," to "profundum," "a deep cavity," to which he compares the Parasite's stomach. "You sell me landed property, indeed; say rather a bottomless pit."
16 Have but aferret: This passage has much puzzled the Commentators; but allowing for some very far-fetched wit, which is not uncommon with Plautus, it may admit of some explanation. He tells the Parasite that he had better look for a nicer dinner, a hare, in fact; for that in dining with him, he will only get the ferret (with which the hare was hunted) for his dinner. Then, inasmuch as the ferret was used for following the hare or rabbit into "scruposæ viæ," "impervious" or "rocky places" where they had burrowed, he adds: "For my dinner, ferret-like, frequents rugged places;" by which he probably means that it is nothing but a meagre repast of vegetables, of which possibly capers formed a part, which grow plentifully in Italy, in old ruins and craggy spots. Some suggest that it was a custom with the huntsmen, if they failed to catch the hare, to kill and eat the ferret.
17 Are but of a rough sort: The word "asper" means either "uncavoury" or "prickly," according to the context. Hegio means to use it in the former sense, but the Parasite, for the sake of repartee, chooses to take it in the latter.
18 Treat your sick people: He means that such a dinner may suit sick people, but will not be to his taste.
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