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I do suspect that Famine was my mother; for since I was born I have never been filled with victuals. And no man could better return the favour to his mother, than do I right unwillingly return it to my mother, Famine. For in her womb, for ten months she bore me, whereas I have been carrying her for more than ten years in my stomach. She, too, carried me but a little child, wherefore I judge that she endured the less labour; in my stomach no little Famine do I bear, but of full growth, i' faith, and extremely heavy. The labour-pains arise with me each day, but I'm unable to bring forth my mother, nor know I what to do. I've often heard it so said that the elephant is wont1 to be pregnant ten whole years; for sure this hunger of mine is of its breed. For now for many a year has it been clinging to, my inside. Now, if any person wants a droll fellow, I am on sale, with all my equipage: of a filling-up for these chasms am I in search. When little, my father gave me the name of Gelasimus2, because, even from a tiny child, I was a droll chap. By reason of poverty, in fact, did I acquire this name, because, it was poverty that made me to be a droll; for whenever she reaches a person, she instructs him thoroughly in every art. My father used to say that I was born when provisions were dear; for that reason, I do believe, I am now the more sharply set. But on our family such complacence has been bestowed--I am in the habit of refusing no person, if any one asks me out to eat. One form of expression has most unfortunately died away with people, and one, i' faith, most beseeming and most elegant to my thinking, which formerly they employed: "Come here to dinner--do so--really, do promise--don't make any difficulties--is it convenient?--I wish it to be so, I say; I'll not part with you unless you come." But now, in the present day, they have found a substitute for these expressions--a saying, by my faith, truly right worthless and most vile: "I'd invite you to dinner, were I not dining; out myself." I' faith, I wish the very loins of that phrase broken, that it mayn't repeat its perjury if he does dine at his own house. These phrases reduce me to learn foreign habits3, and to spare the necessity for an auctioneer, and so proclaim the auction, and put myself up for sale. GELASIMUS. CROCOTIUM
aside . This is the Parasite, whom I've been sent to fetch. I'll listen to what he's saying, before I accost him. GELASIMUS
Now there are a good many curious mischief-makers here, who, with extreme zeal, busy themselves with the affairs of other people, and who have themselves no affairs of their own to busy themselves with. They, when they know that any one is about to have an auction, go forthwith and sift out what's the reason; whether a debt compels it, or whether he has purchased a farm; or whether, on a divorce, her marriage-portion is to be repaid to his wife4. All these, although, i' faith, I don't judge them undeserving, in their most wretched state, to go toiling on, I don't care about. I'll proclaim the reason of my auction, that they may rejoice in my mishaps, for there's no person a busybody but what he's ill-natured too. Very great mishaps, alas! have befallen wretched me. So dreadfully afflicted has my property5 rendered me: my many drinking-bouts are dead and gone; how many dinners, too, that I've bewailed, are dead! how many a draught of honeyed wine; how many breakfasts, too, that I have lost within these last three years! In my wretchedness, for very grief and vexation have I quite grown old. I'm almost dead with hunger. CROCOTIUM
aside . There's no one such a droll, as he is when he is hungry. GELASIMUS
Now am I resolved that I'll make a sale: out of doors6 am I obliged to sell whatever I possess. Attend, if you please; the bargains will be for those who are present. I've funny bon mots7 to sell. Come, bid your price. Who bids a dinner? Does any one bid a breakfast? They'll cost vou an Herculean breakfast8 or dinner. Ho, there! to one of the SPECTATORS did you nod to me? No one will offer you better--I won't allow that any Parasite has better quibbles, cajoleries, and parasitical white lies9. I'm selling a rusty flesh-scraper10, too; a rusty-coloured brown bottle11 for the Greek unguents12 at the sweating-baths13; delicate after-dinner powders14; an empty Parasite as well pointing to himself , in whom to lay by your scraps. 'Tis needful that these should be sold at once for as much as they can; that, if I offer the tenth part. to Hercules15, on that account it may be greater * * * * * * CROCOTIUM
aside . An auction of no great value, by my troth. Hunger has taken hold of the very deepest recess of the fellow's stomach. I'll accost the man. Moves towards him. GELASIMUS
Who's this that's coming towards me? Why, surely this is Crocotium, the maid-servant of Epignomus. CROCOTIUM
My respects, Gelasimus. GELASIMUS
That's not my name. CROCOTIUM
I' faith, for sure that used to be your name. GELASIMUS
Distinctly it was so, but I've lost it by use. Now I'm called Miccotrogus16 from what is fact. CROCOTIUM
O dear! I've laughed a good deal at you to-day. GELASIMUS
When? or in what place? CROCOTIUM
Here, when you were carrying on a most worthless auction. GELASIMUS
How now; did you really hear it? CROCOTIUM
Aye, and one really right worthy of yourself. GELASIMUS
Where are you bound for now? CROCOTIUM
For yourself. GELASIMUS
Why have you come? CROCOTIUM
Philumena bade me ask you by all means to come to visit her at her house this instant, together with me. GELASIMUS
I' faith, but I'll surely come there as fast as I can. Are the entrails cooked17 by this? With how many lambs has she been sacrificing? CROCOTIUM
Indeed, she hasn't been sacrificing at all. GELASIMUS
How? What does she want with me, then? CROCOTIUM
I think that she's going to ask you for ten measures of wheat. GELASIMUS
Or me rather ask it of her? CROCOTIUM
No; that you yourself should lend them to us. GELASIMUS
Tell her that I've nothing to give myself, or that she could wish to borrow, nor anything whatever, except this cloak that I have on. Even my very tongue that so freely used to offer itself18 I've sold as well. CROCOTIUM
How? Have you got no tongue? GELASIMUS
Why, the former one, that used to say "here, take me19," I've lost: see, here's one now that says "give me." Puts out his tongue. CROCOTIUM
A curse may the Gods give you * * * * GELASIMUS
Aye, if a curse you want, this same tongue will give you that. CROCOTIUM
Well now, are you coming or not? GELASIMUS
Well, be off home; tell her I'll be there this moment; make haste and be off. CROCOTIUM goes into the house. I wonder why she has requested me to be fetched to her, who has never, before this day, requested that I should be fetched to her, ever since her husband left. I wonder what it can be; except it is for some experiment to be made upon me; I'll go see what she wants. But see, here's her boy, Pinacium. Look at that now; how very facetiously and just like a picture20 does he stand? Full many a time, for sure, in good troth, has he poured out for me the wine, almost unmixed, right cleverly into a very tiny cup21 indeed. Stands aside.
1 The elephant is wont: Pliny the Elder informs us that this was the vulgar notion with regard to the elephant. He also says that Aristotle tells us that two years is the duration of its pregnancy.
3 Foreign habits: By "barbaros mores," he probably alludes to the Roman custom. of selling by auction, which was one of the duties of the "præco," or "herald," here rendered "auctioneer." Plautus frequently speaks at one moment as though addressing a Greek. and at the next, a Roman, audience.
4 To be repaid to his wife: If the divorce took place by mutual consent, then the "dos," or "marriage-portion," of the wife was returned. Such a circumstance occurring on a sudden, might very easily cause a necessity for recourse to the services of the auctioneer.
5 Has my property: "Mancupium," or "mancipium," was any species of property possessed by right of purchase. He here considers the dinners and the drinking-bouts, which he so misses, in the light of property to himself; the more especially as they had been purchased at the price of his "logi," his "puns," or "bon mots."
6 Out of doors: "Foras;" "abroad," "out of doors.' The sales by auction took place in the open street.
7 Funny bon mots: "Logos." This word is the Greek λογὸς, signifying "a word," or "a witty saying," in a Latin clothing. It exactly corresponds with the expression "bon mots," which we have similarly borrowed from the French.
8 An Herculean breakfast: It is hard to say what he means by "Herculeum prandium:" but, as Hercules was supposed to send good luck to those who gave him the tenths of their property, whether that property consisted of a house or a meal, his meaning probably is, "Whoever invites me to a meal, that meal shall be as lucky to him as though he had sent the tenth part of it as an offering to Hercules."
9 Parasitical white lies: "Perjeratiunculas parasiticas." Literally, "parasitical little perjuries." This is probably meant in reference to the adjurations so common among the ancients on the most trivial occasions, and of which the Parasite promises to be lavish in speaking in praise of his entertainer. The diminutive "uncula" suits the measure, and also shows the air of self- satisfaction with which he mentions that which he takes to be of the same harmless nature which some easy casuists among ourselves attribute to what they choose to call white lies. Indeed, the ancients esteemed perjury very much according to the subject on which it was employed. Ovid mentions Mercury as laughing at the perjuries of cheating tradesmen, and Jupiter as smiling at those of lovers; surely, then, "a little bit of a perjury" (the true meaning of "perjeratiuncula") could not be amiss on an occasion so trivial, and yet, to the Parasite, so all-important, as the acquisition of a good dinner.
10 A rusty flesh-scraper: The "strigil" was an instrument used by the Greeks and Romans in the place of the flesh-brush of modern times. It was made of bone, iron, copper, and sometimes of silver. It was used after taking the "sudatorium," or sweating-bath, for the purpose of scraping the perspiration from the body. These instruments were of curved form, and in shape somewhat resembled our tongue-scrapers on a large scale. Rich persons took slaves with them to the baths for the purpose of scraping them. From Hesychius, Athenæus, and Theophrastus, we learn that Parasites were much in the habit of spunging for entertainers at the public baths; and, no doubt, they generally had ready, for an emergency, both a "strigil" and a bottle of perfumed ointment, as a handy medium of introduction to strangers.
11 A rusty-coloured brown bottle: The "ampulla," or "bottle,' was probably a "lorea," or leather one, and had turned of a rusty-brown colour from age.
12 Greek unguents: By mentioning "Greek unguents," Plautus here recollects that he is addressing a Latin audience. The Greek cosmetics and perfumes were much esteemed at Rome. Ovid, in the Art of Love, mentions the Athenian "œsypum," which was much used by the Roman ladies for making the complexion clear. It was made from the sweat and grease of the fleeces of the sheep of Attica.
13 The sweating-baths: The "sudatorium," or "vapour" or "sweating bath," was also called by the Romans "Laconicum;" because it was the habit of the Lacedæmonians to strip and anoint themselves, without using warm water, after the perspiration caused by athletic exercises. Cicero styles it "assa," because it produced perspiration by means of a dry hot atmosphere. After it had been used, and the "strigil" applied to the skin, the bather was dried with towels, and then anointed, when the "unctiones Græcæ" of the Parasite would be in demand. These were used either to close the pores of the skin and to prevent the person from catching cold, or to keep the skin from being rough when dried with the towel. Probably the Parasites were ready to give a hand on an emergency in assisting to rub down and anoint the bather, especially if he was known to keep a good "cuisine."
14 After-dinner powders: " Crapularios."These were probably soft and tasteless (malacos) powders, used, like our dinner-pills, in order to prevent the bad effects of heating the, stomach with rich food and excess of wine. A clover Parasite would, of course, always have these in readiness on an emergency.
15 Tenth part to Hercules: He seems to be about to give a fictitious reason for his anxiety to get a dinner--that, forsooth, like a pious man he may have the greater amount of tithes to present to Hercules. The hiatus precludes as from forming any very determinate opinion on the meaning of the passage.
16 Miccotrogus: This is a Greek compound word, which signifies "crumb-eater;" in it he alludes to his short commons.
17 Are the entrails cooked: It has been already remarked, that after the sacrifice, the Gods having received their portion, the devotee took home the remainder, and invited his friends to come to his house and partake of it. The Parasite was not, perhaps, much in the wrong when he deemed a lamb's fry no bad dish. St. Paul alludes to this custom when he tells the converts to keep themselves from "things offered to idols."--Acts, ch. xv., v. 20; and ch. xxi. v. 25.
18 That so freely used to offer itself: It is very difficult to say exactly what the Parasite means by "lingua dataria." Perhaps he means to tell the girl that he is in a bad humour--that he now "gives" nothing at all, not even his tongue, which has been hitherto "dataria," or "at the service" of everybody. Now, however, he will put it up to sale by auction, and in future, before he says "dabo," "I'll give you my tongue" or, in other words, "my company" he will say, "cedo," "give me," or "tell me what is your offer" or "bidding.
19 Here take me: "Dabo." Literally, "I will give."
20 Just like a picture: "Ex picturâ." Literally, "out of a picture." He means, that he has assumed some attitude at that moment like that of a person in a picture or like a model in statuary, to which the word "pictura" also applies.
21 In a very tiny cup: "Pauxillulo." Most probably this is said in an ironical way. He perhaps refers to some injunction which, in his former and more palmy days, he had given to the boy when waiting at table, to be sure and provide him with a large cup, and not to mix too much water with the wine.
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