This text is part of:
Enter CHREMES, and MENEDEMUS with a spade in his hand, who falls to digging.
Although this acquaintanceship between us is of very recent date, from the time in fact of your purchasing an estate here in the neighborhood, yet either your good qualities, or our being neighbors (which I take to be a sort of friendship), induces me to inform you, frankly and familiarly, that you appear to me to labor beyond your years, and beyond what your affairs require. For, in the name of Gods and men, what would you have? What can be your aim? You are, as I conjecture, sixty years of age, or more. No man in these parts has a better or a more valuable estate, no one more servants; and yet you discharge their duties just as diligently as if there were none at all. However early in the morning I go out, and however late in the evening I return home, I see you either digging, or plowing, or doing something, in fact, in the fields. You take respite not an instant, and are quite regardless of yourself. I am very sure that this is not done for your amusement. But really I am vexed how little work is done here.1 If you were to employ the time you spend in laboring yourself, in keeping your servants at work, you would profit much more. MENEDEMUS
Have you so much leisure, Chremes, from your own affairs, that you can attend to those of others-those which don't concern you? CHREMES
I am a man,2 and nothing that concerns a man do I deem a matter of indifference to me. Suppose that I wish either to advise you in this matter, or to be informed myself: if what you do is right, that I may do the same; if it is not, then that I may dissuade you. MENEDEMUS
It's requisite for me to do so; do you as it is necessary for you to do. CHREMES
Is it requisite for any person to torment himself? MENEDEMUS
It is for me. CHREMES
If you have any affliction, I could wish it otherwise. But prithee, what sorrow is this of yours? How have you deserved so ill of yourself? MENEDEMUS
Alas! alas! He begins to weep. CHREMES
Do not weep, but make me acquainted with it, whatever it is. Do not be reserved; fear nothing; trust me, I tell you. Either by consolation, or by counsel, or by any means, I will aid you. MENEDEMUS
Do you wish to know this matter? CHREMES
Yes, and for the reason I mentioned to you. MENEDEMUS
I will tell you. CHREMES
But still, in the mean time, lay down that rake; don't fatigue yourself. MENEDEMUS
By no means. CHREMES
What can be your object? Tries to take the rake from him. MENEDEMUS
Do leave me alone, that I may give myself no respite from my labor. CHREMES
I will not allow it, I tell you. Taking the rake from him. MENEDEMUS
Ah! that's not fair. CHREMES
poising the rake. Whew! such a heavy one as this, pray! MENEDEMUS
Such are my deserts. CHREMES
Now speak. Laying down the rake. MENEDEMUS
I have an only son,--a young man,--alas! why did I say--" I have?"--rather I should say, "I had" one, Chremes:--whether I have him now, or not, is uncertain. CHREMES
Why so? MENEDEMUS
You shall know:--There is a poor old woman here, a stranger from Corinth:--her daughter, a young woman, he fell in love with, insomuch that he almost regarded her as his wife; all this took place unknown to me. When I discovered the matter, I began to reprove him, not with gentleness, nor in the way suited to the love-sick mind of a youth, but with violence, and after the usual method of fathers. I was daily reproaching him,--"Look you, do you expect to be allowed any longer to act thus, myself, your father, being alive; to be keeping a mistress pretty much as though your wife? You are mistaken, Clinia, and you don't know me, if you fancy that. I am willing that you should be called my son, just as long as you do what becomes you; but if you do not do so, I shall find out how it becomes me to act toward you. This arises from nothing, in fact, but too much idleness. At your time of life, I did not devote my time to dalliance, but, in consequence of my poverty, departed. hence for Asia, and there acquired in arms both riches and military glory." At length the matter came to this,--the youth, from hearing the same things so often, and with such severity, was overcome. He supposed that I, through age and affection, had more judgment and foresight for him than him-self. He went off to Asia, Chremes, to serve under the king. CHREMES
What is it you say? MENEDEMUS
He departed without my knowledge--and lias been gone these three months. CHREMES
Both are to be blamed--although I still think this step shows an ingenuous and enterprising disposition. MENEDEMUS
When I learned this from those who were in the secret, I returned home sad, and with feelings almost over-whelmed and distracted through grief. I sit down; my servants run to me; they take off my shoes:3 then some make all haste to spread the couches,4 and to prepare a repast; each according to his ability did zealously what he could, in order to alleviate my sorrow. When I observed this, I began to reflect thus:--"What! are so many persons anxious for my sake alone, to pleasure myself only? Are so many female servants to provide me with dress?5 Shall I alone keep up such an expensive establishment, while my only son, who ought equally, or even more so, to enjoy these things-inasmuch as his age is better suited for the enjoyment of them--him, poor youth, have I driven away from home by my severity! Were I to do this, really I should deem myself deserving of any calamity. But so long as he leads this life of penury, banished from his country through my severity, I will revenge his wrongs upon myself, toiling, making money, saving, and laying up for him." At once I set about it; I left nothing in the house, neither movables6 nor clothing; every thing I scraped together. Slaves, male and female, except those who could easily pay for their keep by working in the country, all of them I set up to auction and sold. I at once put up a bill to sell my house.7 I collected somewhere about fifteen talents, and purchased this farm; here I fatigue myself: I have come to this conclusion, Chremes, that I do my son a less injury, while I am unhappy; and that it is not right for me to enjoy any pleasure here, until such time as he returns home safe to share it with me. CHREMES
I believe you to be of an affectionate disposition toward your children,8 and him to be an obedient son, if one were to manage him rightly or prudently. But neither did you understand him sufficiently well, nor he you-a thing that happens where persons don't live on terms of frankness together. You never showed him how highly you valued him, nor did he ever dare put that confidence in you which is due to a father. Had this been done, these troubles would never have befallen you. MENEDEMUS
Such is the fact, I confess; the greatest fault is on my side. CHREMES
But still, Menedemus, I hope for the best, and I trust that he'll be here safe before long. MENEDEMUS
Oh that the Gods would grant it! CHREMES
They will do so. Now, if it is convenient to you--the festival of Bacchus9 is being kept here to-day--I wish you to give me your company. MENEDEMUS
I can not. CHREMES
Why not? Do, pray, spare yourself a little while. Your absent son would wish you do so. MENEDEMUS
It is not right that I, who have driven him hence to endure hardships, should now shun them myself. CHREMES
Is such your determination? MENEDEMUS
It is. CHREMES
Then kindly fare you wall. MENEDEMUS
And you the same. Goes into his house. CHREMES
to himself. He has forced tears from me, and I do pity him. But as the day is far gone, I must remind Phania, this neighbor of mine, to come to dinner. I'll go see whether he is at home. Goes to PHANIA'S door, makes the inquiry, and returns. There was no occasion for me to remind him: they tell me he has been some time already at my house; it's I myself am making my guests wait. I'll go in-doors immediately. But what means the noise at the door of my house? I wonder who's coming out! I'll step aside here. He stands aside.
1 How little work is done here: Vollbehr thinks that his meaning is, that he is quite vexed to see so little progress made, in spite of his neighbor's continual vexation and turmoil, and that, as he says in the next line, he is of opinion that if he were to cease working himself, and were to overlook his servants, he would get far more done. It is more generally thought to be an objection which Chremes suggests that Menedemus may possibly make.
2 I am a man: "Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto." St. Augustine says, that at the delivery of this sentiment, the Theatre resounded with applause; and deservedly, indeed, for it is replete with the very essence of benevolence and:disregard of self. Cicero quotes the passage in his work De Officiis, B. i., c. 9. The remarks of Sir Richard Steele upon this passage, in the Spectator, No. 502, are worthy to be transcribed at length. "The Play was the Self-Tormentor. It is from the beginning to the end a perfect picture of human life, but I did not observe in the whole one passage that could raise a laugh. How well-disposed must that people be, who could be entertained with satisfaction by so sober and polite mirth! In the first Scene of the Comedy, when one of the old men accuses the other of impertinence for interposing in his affairs, he answers, 'I am a man, and can not help feeling any sorrow that can arrive at man.' It is said this sentence was received with an universal applause. There can not be a greater argument of the general good understanding of a people, than their sudden consent to give their approbation of a sentiment which has no emotion in it. If it were spoken with ever so great skill in the actor, the manner of uttering that sentence could have nothing in it which could strike any but people of the greatest humanity--nay, people elegant and skillful in observation upon it. It is possible that he may have laid his hand on his heart, and with a winning insinuation in his countenance, expressed to his neighbor that he was a man who made his case his own; yet I will engage, a player in Covent Garden might hit such an attitude a thousand times before he would have been regarded."
3 Take off my? shoes: As to the "socci," or low shoes of the ancients, see the Notes to the Trinummus of Plautus, 1. 720, in Bohn's Translation. It was the especial duty of certain slaves to take off the shoes of their masters.
4 To spread the couches: The "lecti" or "couches" upon which the ancients reclined at meals, have been enlarged upon in the Notes to Plautus, where full reference is also made to the "coena," or dinner," and other meals of the Romans.
5 Provide me with dress: It was the custom for the mistress and female servants in each family to make the clothes of the master. Thus in the Fasti of Ovid, B. ii., 1. 746, Lucretia is found amidst her female servants, making a cloak, or "lacerna," for her husband. Suetonius says that Augustus refused to wear any garments not woven by his female relations. Cooke seems to think that "vestiant" alludes to the very act of putting the clothes upon a person. He says, "The better sort of people had eating-dresses, which are here alluded to. These dresses were light garments, to put on as soon as they had bathed. They commonly bathed before eating, and the chief meal was in the evening." This, however, does not seem to be the meaning of the passage, although Colman has adopted it. We may here remark that the censure here described is not unlike that mentioned in the Prologue to the Mercator of Plautus, as administered by Demaenetus to his son Charinus.
6 Neither movables: "Vas" is here used as a general name for articles of furniture. This line appears to be copied almost literally from one of Menander, which still exists.
7 To sell my house: On the mode of advertising houses to let or be sold among the Romans, see the Trinummus of Plautus, 1. 168, and the Note to the passage in Bohn's Translation.
8 Toward your clildren: The plural " liberos" is here used to signify the one son which Menedemus has. So in the Hecyra, 1.217, the same word is used to signify but one daughter. This was a common mode of expression in the times of the earlier Latin authors.
9 Festival of Bacchus," "Dionysia": It is generally supposed that there were four Festivals called the Dionysia, during the year, at Athens. The first was the Rural, or Lesser Dionysia, κατ̓ αγροὺς, a vintage festival, which was celebrated in the "Demi" or boroughs of Attica, in honor of Bacchus, in the month Poseidon. This was the most ancient of the Festivals, and was held with the greatest merriment and freedom; the slaves then enjoyed the same amount of liberty as they did at the Saturnalia at Rome. The second Festival, which was called the Lenaea, from ληνὸς, a wine-press, was celebrated in the month Gamelion, with Scenic contests in Tragedy and Comedy. The third Dionysian Festival was the Anthesteria, or "Spring feast," being celebrated during three days in the month Anthesterion. The first day was called πιθοίγια, or "the Opening of the casks," as on that day the casks were opened to taste the wine of the precedingyear. The second day was called χοες, from χου~ς, "a cup," and was probably devoted to drinking. The third day was called χυτροὶ, from χυτρὸς, a pot," as on it persons offered pots with flower-seeds or cooked vegetables to Dionysus or Bacchus. The fourth Attic festival of Dionysius was celebrated in the month Elaphebolion, and was called the Dionysia ἐν ἄστει, Αστικὰ, or Μεγαλὰ, the "City" or "great" festival. It was celebrated with great magnificence, processions and dramatic representations forming part of the ceremonial. From Greece, by way of Sicily, the Bacchanalia, or festivals of Bacchus, were introduced into Rome, where they became the scenes of and pretext for every kind of vice and debauchery, until at length they were put down in the year n.c. 187, with a strong hand, by the Consuls Spurius Posthumius Albinus and Q. Marcius Philippus; from which period the words "bacchor" and "bacchator" became synonymous with the practice of every kind of vice and turpitude that could outrage common decency. See a very full account of the Dionysia and the Bacchanalia in Dr. Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.