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Enter PALAESTRIO from the house of PERIPLECOMENUS.
on entering he calls to PLEUSICLES and PERIPLECOMENUS, who are in the house of the latter . Keep yourselves within1 doors, yet a moment, Pleusicles. Let me first look out, that there may be no ambush anywhere, against that council which we intend to hold. For now we have need of a safe place from which no enemy can win the spoils of our counsels. For a well-devised plan is very often filched away, if the place for deliberating has not been chosen with care or with caution; and what is well-advised is ill-advised if it proves of use to the enemy; and if it proves of use to the enemy, it cannot otherwise than prove a detriment to yourself. For if the enemy learn your plans, by your own self-same plans they tie your tongue and bind your hands; and they do the very same to you that you intended to do to them. But I'll spy about, lest any one, either in this direction on the left or on the right, should come like a huntsman on our counsels with his ears like toils2. Looks about. Quite vacant is the prospect hence right to the bottom of the street. I'll call them out. Hallo! Periplecomenus and Pleusicles, come out! Enter PERIPLECOMENUS and PLEUSICLES from the house of the former. PERIPLECOMENUS
Behold us here obedient to your call. PALAESTRIO
The sway is easy over the good. But I wish to know, if we are to carry out the matter on the same plan that we formed within? PERIPLECOMENUS
Why, in fact there's nothing can be more conducive to our purpose. Well, what say you, Pleusicles? PLEUSICLES
Can that displease me which pleases yourselves? What person is there more my friend than your own self? PERIPLECOMENUS
You speak kindly and obligingly. PALAESTRIO
Faith, and so he ought to do. PLEUSICLES
But this affair shockingly distresses me, and torments my very heart and body. PERIPLECOMENUS
What is it that torments you? Tell me. PLEUSICLES
That I should cause childish actions in a person of your years, and that I should require of you deeds that neither become yourself nor your virtues; and that, with all your might, for my sake you are striving to aid me in my passion, and are doing actions of such a kind, as, when done, these years of yours are wont rather to avoid than follow. I am ashamed that I cause you this trouble in your old age. PERIPLECOMENUS
You are a person in love after a new fashion. If, in fact, you are ashamed of anything you do, you are nothing of a lover. You are rather the shadow of those who are in love, than a true lover, Pleusicles. PLEUSICLES
Ought I to employ these years of yours in seconding my love? PERIPLECOMENUS
How say you? Do I seem to you so very much a subject for Acheron3? So much a bier's-man4? Do I seem to you to have had so very long a life? Why, really, I am not more than four-and-fifty years old; I see clearly with my eyes, I'm ready with my hands, I'm active with my feet. PALAESTRIO
If he is seen by you to have white hair, he is by no means an old man in mind; in him the natural strength of his mind is unimpaired. PLEUSICLES
By my troth, for my part, I have found it to be so as you say, Palaestrio; for, in fact, his kindness is quite that of a young man. PERIPLECOMENUS
Yes, my guest, the more you make trial of it, the more you will know my courtesy towards you in your love. PLEUSICLES
What need to know what's known already? PERIPLECOMENUS
I'll show you more amiability on my part than I'll make mention of * * * * * * * that you may have instances for proving it at home, and not have to seek it out of doors. For unless one has loved himself, with difficulty he sees into the feelings of one in love. But I have some little love and moisture in my body still, and not yet am I dried up for the pursuits of merriment and pleasure. Either the merry banterer likewise, or the agreable boon-companion will I be; no interrupter of another am I at a feast. I bear in mind how properly to keep myself from proving disagreable to my fellow-guests; and how to take a due share with my conversation, and to be silent as well in my turn, when the discourse belongs to another. Far from being a spitter or hawker am I, far from being a dirty-nosed old fellow, too. And never do I take liberties with any person's mistress when out in company; I don't snatch up the dainty bits before another, nor take the cup before my turn; nor, through wine, do dissensions ever arise on my account at the convivial board. If there is any one there that is disagreable, I go off home; I cut the parley short. Stretched at my ease, I devote myself to pleasure, love, and mirth. In fine, at Ephesus was I born, not among the Apulians, not at Animula5. PLEUSICLES
O what a most delightful old man, if he possesses the qualities he mentions! Why, troth, surely now, he was brought up in the very rearing of Venus. PALAESTRIO
Why, in fact, you will not find another person who is of his years, more accomplished in every respect, or who is more a friend to his friend. PLEUSICLES
By my troth, your whole manners really do show marks of first-rate breeding. Find me three men of such manners against a like weight in double-distilled gold6. PERIPLECOMENUS
I'll make you confess that I really am a youngster in my manners; so abounding in kindnesses will I prove myself to you in every respect. Should you have need of an advocate, severe or fierce? I am he. Have you need of one that is gentle? You shall say that I am more gentle than the sea is when hush'd, and something more balmy will I prove than is the Zephyr breeze7. In this same person will I display to you either the most jovial boon-companion, or the first-rate trencher-man8, and the best of caterers. Then, as for dancing, there is no ballet-master that is so supple as I. PALAESTRIO
to PLEUSICLES . What could you wish added to these accomplishments, if the option were given you? PLEUSICLES
That thanks could be returned by me to him in degree equal to his deserts, and to yourself, to both of whom I feel that I am now the cause of extreme anxiety. But it is grievous to me to be the cause of so great expense to you. PERIPLECOMENUS
You are a simpleton. For, if you lay anything out on a bad wife and upon an enemy, that is an expense; that which is laid out on a deserving guest and a friend is gain; as that, which is expended upon sacred rites, is a profit to the wise man. By the blessing of the Gods, I have enough, with which to receive you with hospitality in my house. Eat, drink, indulge your tastes with me, and surfeit yourself with enjoyments; my house is at your service, myself likewise do I wish to be at your service. For, through the blessing of the Gods, I may say that, by reason of my wealth, I could have married a dowered wife of the best family; but I don't choose to introduce an everlasting female barker at me into my house. PLEUSICLES
Why don't you choose? For 'tis a delightful thing to be the father of children [liberos]. PERIPLECOMENUS
Troth, 'tis very much sweeter by far to be free9 [liberum] yourself. For a good wife, if it is possible for her to be married anywhere on earth, where can I find her? But am I to take one home who is never to say this to me, "Buy me some wool, my dear, with which a soft and warm cloak may be made, and good winter under-clothes10, that you mayn't catch cold this winter-weather;" such an expression as this you can never hear from a wife, but, before the cocks crow, she awakes me from my sleep, and says, "Give me some money, my dear, with which to make my mother a present on the Calends11, give me some money to make preserves; give me something to give on the Quinquatrus12 to the sorceress13, to the woman who interprets the dreams, to the prophetess, and to the female diviner; besides, 'tis impossible for me, in civility, not to fee the expiating woman; for long has14 the mattress-maker15 been grumbling, because she has received nothing; besides, the midwife found fault with me, that too little had been sent for her. What! arn't you going to send something to the nurse that brings up the young slaves16? It's a shame if nothing's sent her; with what a brow17 she does look at me." These and many other expenses of the women like to these frighten me from a wife, to be uttering speeches to me like to this. PALAESTRIO
In good sooth, the Gods are propitious to you; for so soon as you lose this liberty, you will not easily reinstate yourself in the same condition. PLEUSICLES
You are a person who are able to counsel wisely both for another and for yourself. But 'tis some merit for a man of noble family and of ample wealth to rear children--a memorial of his race and of himself. PERIPLECOMENUS
Since I have many relations, what need have I of children? Now I live well and happily, and as I like, and as contents my feelings. For I shall bequeath my property to my relations, and divide it among them. These, like children, pay attentions to me; they come to see how I do, or what I want; before it is daybreak they are with me; they make inquiry how I have enjoyed my sleep in the night. Them will I have for children who are ever sending presents to me. Are they sacrificing--they give a greater part of it to me than to themselves; they take me home with them to share the entrails18; they invite me to their houses to breakfast and to dinner. He thinks himself most unfortunate, who has sent but very little to me. They vie with one another with their presents; I say in a low voice to myself: "They are gaping after my property; while, in their emulation, they are nourishing me and loading me with presents." PALAESTRIO
Upon right good grounds and right well do you fully understand yourself and your own interests, and if you are happy, sons twofold and threefold have you. PERIPLECOMENUS
Troth, if I had had them, enough anxiety should I have had from my children. * * * * * * I should have been everlastingly tormented in mind; but if perchance one had had a fever, I think I should have died. Or if one, in liquor, had tumbled anywhere from his horse, I should have been afraid that he had broken his legs or neck on that occasion. PALAESTRIO
'Tis right that riches should come, and that long life should be granted to this man, who both husbands his property and yet enjoys himself and has kind wishes for his friends. PLEUSICLES
O what a delightful person! So may the Gods and Goddesses prosper me, 'twere right the Deities should so ordain that all should not live after one rule as to the duration of life. Just as he who is a trusty market-officer19 sets their prices on the wares; as that which is good or valuable is sold according to its excellence, and that which is worthless, according to the faultiness of the commodity, deprives its owner of its price; so were it right that the Gods should. portion out the life of man, so as to give to him who is kindly disposed a long life, and speedily to deprive of existence those who are reprobate and wicked. If they had provided this, bad men would both have been fewer, and with less hardihood would they do their wicked deeds; and then, those who were good men, of them there would have been a more plenteous harvest. PERIPLECOMENUS
He who would blame the ordinances of the Gods must be foolish and ignorant. * * * At present we must at once have an end of these matters; for new I want to go to market, that, my guest, according to your own deserts and mine, I may entertain you hospitably at my house, heartily and with right hearty cheer. PLEUSICLES
I am content with20 the expense that I have been to you already. For no guest can be thus hospitably entertained by a friend, but that when he has been there three days running, he must now become a bore; but when he is prolonging his stay for ten successive days, he is a nuisance to the household. Although the master willingly allows it, the servants grumble. PERIPLECOMENUS
I have trained up the servants that are in my service, my guest, not to rule over me, or for me to be obedient to them. If that is disagreable to them which is agreable to me, I steer my own course21; that which they don't like must still be done at their peril, and whether they like it or no. Now, as I intended, I shall go to market. PLEUSICLES
If you are resolved, do cater somewhat within bounds, at no great expense; anything is enough for me22. PERIPLECOMENUS
Won't you now23 have done with that old-fashioned and antiquated talk? Now surely, guest, you are using the cant of the vulgar24. For they are in the habit of saying, when they have taken their places, when dinner is put on table: "What necessity was there for you to go to this great expense on out account? Surely you were mad, for this same dinner was enough for ten persons." What has been provided on their account they find fault with; they eat it up, however. PALAESTRIO
Troth, in that self-same fashion 'tis generally done. How clever and shrewd is his discernment. PERIPLECOMENUS
But these same persons never say, although such an abundance has been provided, "Do order that to be taken off; do take away this dish; remove this gammon of bacon, I'll have none of it; put aside that piece of pork; this conger's good25 when cold; remove it, take and put it aside." You hear none of them saying this in earnest, but they stretch themselves out, while with half their bodies26 on the table, they are indulging their appetite. PALAESTRIO
How cleverly the good soul has described their bad manners. PERIPLECOMENUS
I have not said a hundredth part of what I could have enlarged upon had there been leisure for the matter. PALAESTRIO
The business, then, that we are about--to that we ought first to turn our thoughts. Do you both, now, give me your attention. I have need, Periplecomenus, of your assistance; for I have hit upon a pleasant trick, how this Captain with his long locks may be fleeced quite close27, and how we may effect a means for Philocomasium, and this her lover, that he may carry her off hence, and have her as his own. PERIPLECOMENUS
I wish this plan to be imparted to me. PALAESTRIO
And I, wish that ring of yours to be imparted to me. PERIPLECOMENUS
For what purpose is it to be used? PALAESTRIO
When I have got it, I will impart the plan of my devices. PERIPLECOMENUS
Take and use it. (Gives him the ring.) PALAESTRIO
Take from me in return the plan of my contrivance that I have hit upon. PERIPLECOMENUS
We are listening to you with most attentive ear. PALAESTRIO
My master is such a shocking rake among the women, that I think no one ever was his equal, nor ever will be. PERIPLECOMENUS
I believe the same as well. PALAESTRIO
He boasts, too, that his beauty exceeds that of Alexander28; and, therefore, he says that all the women29 in Ephesus of their own accord are courting him. PERIPLECOMENUS
Aye, faith, many there are who could wish30 that you were now telling an untruth about him. But I am convinced full well that it is as you say. For that reason, Palaestrio, do compress your words in as short a compass as ever you possibly can. PALAESTRIO
Can you, then, find any woman of agreable person, whose mind and body are full of merriment and subtlety? PERIPLECOMENUS
Free by birth, or bondwoman made free? PALAESTRIO
I consider that a matter of indifference, so that you find one who is greedy for gain, who supports her body by her charms, who has, too, her senses all awake; as for her heart, that cannot be so, as none of them have one. PERIPLECOMENUS
Do you want one that has31 taken her degrees, or one as yet a novice in the art? PALAESTRIO
One sober but plump32, a juicy bit; as taking a one as ever you can find, and one very young. PERIPLECOMENUS
Why, I have one, a dependant of mine, a courtesan, a very young woman. But what is the occasion for her? PALAESTRIO
For you to bring her home at once to your house as your wife, and, for that reason, to bring her there dressed out, so that she may wear her locks with her hair arranged, and fillets after the fashion of matrons33, and may pretend that she is your wife; so you must instruct her. PERIPLECOMENUS
I am at a loss what road you are taking. PALAESTRIO
Well, you shall know. But what sort of a maid has she? PERIPLECOMENUS
She is a rare clever one. PALAESTRIO
We have need of her as well; so give your instructions to the damsel and her maid, to pretend that she is your wife and is doting upon this Captain; and as though she had given this ring to her maid, then she to me, that I might deliver it to the Captain; and I must be as though it were a go-between in this matter. PERIPLECOMENUS
I hear you; don't stun my ears as if I were deaf. PALAESTRIO
I myself will go straightway to him; I'll say that it has been brought and delivered to me from your wife, in order that I might introduce her to him. He'll be distractedly longing for her at home, a scoundrel that cares for nothing else whatever but intriguing. PERIPLECOMENUS
If you had commissioned the Sun himself to search them out, he couldn't have found, better than myself, two more cleverly suited for this business. Be of good courage about it. PALAESTRIO
Take you every care then. There is need of despatch. (Exit PERIPLECOMENUS.) PALAESTRIO
Now, do you listen, Pleusicles. PLEUSICLES
I am all attention to you. PALAESTRIO
Take care of this. When the Captain comes home, do you remember not to call Philocomasium by her name. PLEUSICLES
What am I to call her? PALAESTRIO
The same, you mean, that was agreed upon a little time since. PALAESTRIO
Hush!--Be off. PLEUSICLES
I'll remember; but still I don't know what use it is to keep it in my mind. PALAESTRIO
But I will tell you, at the time, when occasion shall require. Meanwhile, be quiet; so that, bye and bye, when he too shall be acting his part34, you may, on the instant, be minding your cue. PLEUSICLES
I'll go in then. PALAESTRIO
Go, and do take care steadily to follow my instructions. PLEUSICLES goes into the house of PERIPLECOMENUS.
1 Keep yourselves within: There was but one Scene throughout the representation of each Roman Comedy. In the present instance, the Scene is in front of the houses of Periplecomenus and the Captain. Nothing can more strikingly show the absurdity of such a plan than the present instance: where Palaestrio comes out of the house of Periplecomenus, for the very purpose, right in front of the house of his own master, of holding a conversation and completing his plot with Pleusicles and Periplecomenus, for the purpose of deceiving his master and carrying off his mistress. With machinery so defective, it is only surprising that the writer completed his task so well as he has done.
4 A bier's-man: The bodies of the more respectable people were carried to the grave on a kind of couch, which was called "feretrum," or "capulus;" whence the present term "capularis," "a subject for the 'capulus.'" The bodies of poor citizens and slaves were carried on a kind of bier, called "sandapila." Oudendorp and Becker think, however, that the word "capulus" means "a coffin" of wood or of stone, and not the same as "feretrum," a couch, or bier. The old gentleman is very naturally somewhat offended at the remark of Pleusicles.
5 At Animula: The people of Apulia, in the south of Italy, were noted for their clownish manners. Animula, as we learn from Festus, was a little town in that country; probably its inhabitants were the most remarkable of all for their rusticity. Absurdities and anachronisms not unfrequently occur in our author. There is something absurd in a merry old gentleman of Ephesus going all the way to Animula for a simile.
6 Double distilled gold: "Aurichalco" probably signifies here, as in some other passages, a fabulous metal of more value than even gold. "Orichalcum," however, properly means either one of the ores of copper, or a metallic compound much used by the ancients, which was probably brass, formed by the combination of zinc ore and copper. Supposing gold to be one of its constituents, they corrupted its original name, "orichalcum," into "aurichalcum." The former word is supposed by the author of the article "orichalcum," in Dr. Smith's Dictionary, to have been a compound of ὄρος and χαλκὸς, "mountain bronze," so called from fusing copper with an ore as found in the mountains. "Contra," in this sentence, has the meaning of "to" or "against," in staking for a bet: "three men against their weight in gold;" "a horse to a hen," as the betting men sometimes say.
9 To be free: There is a play on the word "liber," here, which means either "a child," or "a free person." He says that it is much more pleasant to be "liberum" (a free person), than to be the father of a "liberum" (a child). The word "liber," meaning "a child," is very rarely used in the singular number. The remark of Pleusicles is rather modified in the translation.
11 On the Calends: He alludes to the Calends of March, which, as the commencement of the old Roman year, was particularly celebrated by the Roman matrons, who then gave presents to each other, and received them from their husbands. The festival was called "Matronalia," and sacrifices were offered to Juno Lucina, the guardian of pregnant women. See the Fasti of Ovid, B. 3, l. 257.
12 On the Quinquatrus: The first day of the "Quinquatrus," or "five-day feast," was on the 19th of March. Festus says, that it had its name from its beginning on the fifth day after the Ides. See the Fasti of Ovid, B. 3, l. 810. This festival was sacred to Minerva.
13 To the sorceress: The "praecantrix" was a woman who, by her incantations, was powerful to avert evil. "Conjectrix" was a female who interpreted dreams. "Ariola" was supposed to be an inspired prophetess. "Aruspica" was a female who divined by means of the entrails, lightning, and other phenomena. "Piatrix" was the woman who purified the company and performed the expiations, on the day on which the child received its name.
14 For long has: A critic in the St. James's Magazine for January, 1763, says, on this point, that these various importunities, since they relate to a state of things now entirely passed away, lose all their effect on the reader; "but when such insinuating addresses tend to procure a footboy, or a new year's gift, or something handsome to give to servants, or to the wet-nurse, or the Methodist preacher, there is no married man whatever but would enter directly into the spirit of such requests." This sweeping remark may possibly be somewhat less remote from truth than it is from gallantry to the fair sex.
15 The mattress-maker: "Toraria" seems to be "the bed, or mattress-maker." Other editions have "ceraria," "the woman who supplies wax candles for sacrifice." Others, again, have "gerula," "the nursemaid that carries the children."
17 With what a brow: The reference here may probably be to the evil eye, which, of injurious effect at all times, would be supposed to be particularly so in the case of a nurse.
18 To share the entrails: It was the custom, after their portions had been sacrificed to the Gods, to reserve a part of the entrails for the persons who sacrificed. These invited their dearest and most intimate friends to partake of them, or, if they could not attend, were in the habit of sending their share to them. The old man here flatters himself that he is a general favorite, although, bye and bye, he hints a suspicion that, being a rich old bachelor, the love of his friends is not quite disinterested.
21 Steer my own course: "Meo rem remigio gero;" literally, "I carry on my own business with my own staff of rowers." The rowers were frequently slaves, and of course were kept in strict subordination. He alludes to the regularity of his household, where everything is done in its proper time and place, and the promptness with which he is in the habit of being obeyed. We need hardly remark that most of the "servi," or "servants," were slaves.
22 Is enough for me: "Mihi quidvis sat est" seem to have been an antiquated and hackneyed expression, used by philosophers and old-fashioned people, to imply their habits of self-denial and frugality.
23 Won't you now: He tells him to have done with such stale canting expressions, which are now worn threadbare, and have descended to the tables of the mob. Indeed, he says right, for nothing can be more annoying than pretended refusals, and bowings and scrapings, where they are merely an affectation of a modesty, humility, or self-denial that is not really felt.
24 Cant of the vulgar: The "proletarii" were the poorest class of the free citizens, who, according to Livy, were possessed of less than eleven thousand "asses," and could serve the state, not with money, but with their children (proles).
25 This conger's good: Lampreys and conger eels were very much esteemed by the Romans. Probably the conger was considered best when eaten cold.
26 Half their bodies: This would be the more easily done when we remember that the guests were reclining on the "triclinium," or couch, which was above the level of the table on which the viands were placed.
27 Be fleeced quite close: By his mention of the Captain's long locks, he seems to intend a pun on the word "admutilo," "to bamboozle" or "cajole," which, literally, signifies to "clip," or "shave close."
29 All the women: The Parasite quizzes him upon this weak point in the First Act.
30 Who could wish: The meaning of Periplecomenus seems to be that the Captain has been but too successful in his intrigues, and that many a husband could wish that what Palaestrio says were false.
31 One that has: Some Commentators think that "lautam" here means "one who has borne children," and who has bathed (lautus fuerit), as was the custom immediately after delivery. As, however, Palaestrio has said before that the female required must be a Courtesan, it surely could not matter whether she had had children or not. It probably means either one of elegant manners, and who has made good use of her experience, in contradistinction to a novice, who is a mere raw country wench, or else one in easy circumstances, and not a mere pauper.
32 Sober but plump: His answer is, he wants to find a woman who is "sicca," probably in the sense of "sober;" but, as the same word means "dry," he adds, antithetically, "at succidam," "but juicy," full of the plumpness and briskness of youth. Scaliger absolutely thinks that "sicca" means "one not given to the habit of spitting."!!
33 The fashion of matrons: The "vitta" was a band which encircled the head, and served to confine the tresses of the hair. It was worn by maidens, and by married women also, among the Romans; but that assumed on the day of marriage was of a different form from that used by the virgins. It was not worn by women of light character, or even by the "libertinae," or liberated female slaves; so that it was not only deemed an emblem of chastity, but of freedom also. White and purple are among the colours of the "vitta" which we find mentioned.
34 Acting his part: He alludes to Periplecomenus, who has just left him.
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