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as he enters . I wish our household God1 to be graced with a chaplet. Wife2 addressing her within , pay him due respect, that this dwelling may turn out for us prosperous, lucky, happy, and fortunate; and in a lower voice that, as soon as I possibly may, I may see you dead and gone. MEGARONIDES
This is he who in his old age has become a child3--who has been guilty of a fault that deserves correction. I will accost the man. CALLICLES
looking around . Whose voice is it that sounds near me? MEGARONIDES
Of one who wishes you well, if you are as I desire you to be; but, if you are otherwise, of one who is your enemy, and is angry with you. CALLICLES
Health to you, O my friend and years'-mate! How are you, Megaronides? MEGARONIDES
And, i' faith4 health to you, Callicles! Are you well? Have you been well? CALLICLES
I am well, and I have been still better. MEGARONIDES
And how does your wife do? How is she? CALLICLES
Better than I wish. MEGARONIDES
'Tis well, i' faith, for you, that she is alive and well CALLICLES
Troth, I believe that you are glad if I have any misfortune. MEGARONIDES
That which I have, I wish for all my friends as well. CALLICLES
Harkye, how does your wife do? MEGARONIDES
She is immortal; she lives, and is likely to live. CALLICLES
I' faith, you tell me good news; and I pray the Gods that, surviving you, she may last out your life. MEGARONIDES
By my troth! if indeed she were only married to yourself, I could wish it sincerely. CALLICLES
Do you wish that we should exchange?--that I should take yours, and you mine? I'd be making you not to get a bit the better of the bargain of me. MEGARONIDES
Indeed, I fancy5 you would not be surprising me unawares. CALLICLES
Aye, faith, I should cause you not to be knowing6 the thing you were about. MEGARONIDES
Keep what you've got; the evil that we know is the best. But if I were now to take one that I know not, I should not know what to do. CALLICLES
In good sooth, just as one lives7 a long life, one lives a happy life. MEGARONIDES
But give your attention to this, and have done with your joking, for I am come hither to you for a given purpose. CALLICLES
Why have you come? MEGARONIDES
That I may rebuke you soundly with many harsh words. CALLICLES
Me, do you say? MEGARONIDES
Is there any one else here besides you and me? CALLICLES
looking about . There is no one. MEGARONIDES
Why, then, do you ask if 'tis you I mean to rebuke? Unless, indeed, you think that I am about to reprove my own self. For if your former principles now flag in you, or if the manners of the age are working a change in your disposition, and if you preserve not those of the olden time, but are catching up these new ones, you will strike all your friends with a malady so direful, that they will turn sick at seeing and hearing you. CALLICLES
How comes it into your mind to utter these expressions? MEGARONIDES
Because it becomes all good men and all good women to have a care to keep suspicion and guilt away from themselves. CALLICLES
Both cannot be done. MEGARONIDES
Why so? CALLICLES
Do you ask? I am the keeper of my own heart so as not to admit guilt there; suspicion is centred in the heart of another. For if now I should suspect that you had stolen the crown from the head of Jupiter in the Capitol8, the statue which stands on the highest summit of the temple; if you had not done so, and still it should please me to suspect you, how could you prevent me from suspecting you? But I am anxious to know what this matter is. MEGARONIDES
Have you any friend or intimate acquaintance whose judgment is correct? CALLICLES
Troth, I'll tell you without reserve. There are some whom I know to be friends; there are some whom I suspect to be so, but whose dispositions and feelings I am unable to discover, whether they incline to the side of a friend or an enemy; but of my assured friends, you are the most assured. If you know that I have done anything unwittingly or wrongfully, and if you do not accuse me of it, then you yourself will be to blame. MEGARONIDES
I know it; and if I had come hither to you for any other purpose, you request what is right. CALLICLES
If you have anything to say, I am waiting for it. MEGARONIDES
Then, first of all, you are badly spoken of in general conversation by the public. Your fellow-citizens are calling you greedy of grovelling gain9; and then, again, there are others who nickname you a vulture10, and say that you care but little whether you devour enemies or fellow-citizens. Since I have heard these things said against you, I have, to my misery, been sadly agitated. CALLICLES
It is, and it is not, in my power, Megaronides: as to their saying this, that is not in my power; as to their saying this deservedly, that is in my power. MEGARONIDES
Was this Charmides a friend of yours? He points to the house of CHARMIDES. CALLICLES
He both is and he was. That you may believe it to be so, I will tell you a circumstance as a proof. For after this son of his had squandered away his fortune, and he saw himself being reduced to poverty, and that his daughter was grown up a young woman, and that she who was both her mother and his own wife was dead; as he himself was about to go hence to Seleueia11 he committed to my charge the maiden his daughter, and all his property, and that profligate son. These, I think, he would not have entrusted to me if he had been unfriendly to me. MEGARONIDES
What say you as to the young man, who you see to be thus profligate, and who has been entrusted to your care and confidence? Why do you not reform him? Why do you not train him to frugal habits? It would have been somewhat more just for you to give attention to that matter, if you could have somehow made him a better man, and not for you yourself to be a party to the same disreputable conduct, and share your dishonour with his disgrace? CALLICLES
What have I done? MEGARONIDES
That which a bad man would do. CALLICLES
That is no name of mine. MEGARONIDES
Have you not bought this house from that young man? A pause. Why are you silent? This, where you yourself are now living. He points to the house of CHARMIDES. CALLICLES
I did buy it, and I gave the money for it,--forty minæ12, to the young man himself, into his own hand. MEGARONIDES
You gave the money, do you say? CALLICLES
'Twas done; and I am not sorry 'twas done. MEGARONIDES
I' faith--a young man committed to untrusty keeping. Have you not by these means given him a sword with which to slay himself? For, prithee, what else is it, your giving ready money to a young man who loves women, and weak in intellect, with which to complete his edifice of folly which he had already commenced? CALLICLES
Ought I not to have paid him the money? MEGARONIDES
You ought not to have paid him; nor ought you either to have bought anything of or sold anything to him; nor should you have provided him with the means of becoming worse. Have you not taken in the person who was entrusted to you? Have you not driven out of his house the man who entrusted him to you? By my faith, a pretty trust, and a faithful guardianship! Leave him to take care of himself; he would manage his own affairs much better. CALLICLES
You overpower me, Megaronides, with your accusations, in a manner so strange, that what was privately entrusted to my secrecy, fidelity, and constancy, for me to tell it to no one, nor make it public, the same I am now compelled to entrust to you. MEGARONIDES
Whatever you shall entrust to me, you shall take up the same where you have laid it down. CALLICLES
Look round you, then, that no overlooker may be near us MEGARONIDES looks on every side ; and look around every now and then, I beg of you. MEGARONIDES
I am listening if you have aught to say. CALLICLES
If you will be silent, I will speak. At the time when Charmides set out hence for foreign parts, he showed me a treasure in this house, here in a certain closet---- He starts as if he hears a noise. But do look around. MEGARONIDES
There is no one. CALLICLES
Of Philippean pieces13 to the number of three thousand. Alone with myself, in tears, he entreated me, by our friendship and by my honour, not to entrust this to his son, nor yet to any one, from whom that might come to his knowledge. Now, if he comes back hither safe, I will restore to him his own. But if anything should happen to him, at all events I have a stock from which to give a marriage-portion to his daughter, who has been entrusted to me, that I may settle her in a condition of life that befits her. MEGARONIDES
O ye immortal gods! how soon, in a few words, you have made another man of me; I came to you quite a different person. But, as you have begun, proceed further to inform me. CALLICLES
What shall I tell you? How that this worthless fellow had almost utterly ruined his caution and my own trustiness and all the secret. MEGARONIDES
How so? CALLICLES
Because, while I was in the country for only six days, in my absence and without my knowledge, without consulting me, he advertised with bills14 this house for sale. MEGARONIDES
The wolf hungered the more, and opened his mouth the wider; he watched till15 the dog went to sleep; and intended to carry off the whole entire flock. CALLICLES
I' faith, he would have done it, if the dogs had not perceived this in time. But now, in my turn, I wish to ask you this: let me know what it was my duty for me to do. Whether was it right for me to discover the treasure to him, against which very thing his father had cautioned me, or should I have permitted another person to become the owner of this house? Ought that money to have belonged to him who bought the house? In preference, I myself bought the house; I gave the money for the sake of the treasure, that I might deliver it safe to my friend. I have not, then, bought this house either for myself or for my own use; for Charmides have I bought it back again; from my own store have I paid the money. This, whether it has been done rightfully or wrongfully, I own, Megaronides, that I have done. Here, then, are my misdeeds; here, then, is my avarice. Is it for these things that they spread false reports against me? MEGARONIDES
Stay--you have overcome your corrector. You have tied my tongue; there is nothing for me to say in answer. CALLICLES
Now I entreat you to aid me with your assistance and counsel, and to share this duty of mine in common with me. MEGARONIDES
I promise you my assistance. CALLICLES
Where, then, will you be a short time hence? MEGARONIDES
At home. CALLICLES
Do you wish anything else? MEGARONIDES
Attend to the trust reposed in you. CALLICLES
That is being carefully done. MEGARONIDES
But how say you----? CALLICLES
What do you want? MEGARONIDES
Where is the young man living now? CALLICLES
This back part16 of the building he retained when he sold the house. MEGARONIDES
That I wanted to know. Now, then, go at once. But what say you, where is the damsel now? She is at your house, I suppose? CALLICLES
She is so; I take care of her almost as much as of my own daughter. MEGARONIDES
You act properly. CALLICLES
Before I go away, are you going to ask me anything else? MEGARONIDES
Farewell. Exit CALLICLES. Really, there is nothing more foolish or more stupid, nothing more lying or indeed more tattling, more self-conceited or more forsworn, than those men of this city everlastingly gossiping about, whom they call Busybodies17. And thus have I enlisted myself in their ranks together with them; who have been the swallower of the false tales of those who pretend that they know everything, and yet know nothing. They know, forsooth, what each person either has in his mind, or is likely to have; they know what the king whispered in the ear of the queen; they know what Juno talked about in conversation with Jupiter; that which neither is nor is likely to be, do these fellows know. Whether they praise or dispraise any one they please, falsely or truly, they care not a straw, so they know that which they choose to know. All people were in the habit of saying that this Callicles was unworthy of this state, and, himself, to exist, who had despoiled this young man of his property. From the reports of these tale-bearers, in my ignorance I rushed forward to rebuke my guiltless friend. But if the authority was always required from the foundation, upon which they speak of anything they have heard, unless that clearly appeared, the matter ought to be to the peril and loss of the tale-bearer. If this were so, it would be for the public benefit. I would cause those to be but few, who now that which they do not know18, and I would make them have their silly chattering more restricted. (Exit.)
1 Household God: Literally, "Lar." The Lares were the household Gods, or tutelary Deities of each family. The figures of them were kept, among the Romans, near the hearth, in the "Lararium" which was a recess formed for that purpose, and in which prayers were offered up on rising in the morning. There were both public and private Lares. The latter were by some thought to have been identical with the "Manes," or "shades," of the ancestors of the family occupying the house. The public Lares were the "Urbani," presiding over the cities; "Rustici," over the country; "Compitales," over crossroads; and "Marini," over the sea. Varro tells us that there were 265 stations for the statues of the Lares at the corner of the streets of Rome. "Lar" was an Etrurian word, signifying "noble," or "lord." The Greeks adorned their household Gods with the leaves of the plane-tree, the Romans with ears of corn. This was especially done on entering a new house, on which the wish was expressed that it might turn out prosperous, lucky, happy, and fortunate to the new occupants. "Quod bonum, faustum, felix, fortunatumque sit." Callicles here expresses this wish on taking possession of the house which he has just bought of Lesbonicus.
2 Wife: Being at the door of his house, before shutting it, he calls to his wife within. His kind wish as to the duration of her life he expresses just as he shuts the door.
3 Has become a child: He means to say that he has become a boy from the fact of his being in need of correction.
4 And i' faith: "Hercle," "by Hercules;" "Ecastor," "by Castor "Edepol," "by Pollux," or "by the temple of Pollux," and "Pol," "by Pollux,' were the every-day oaths in the mouths of the Romans, and were used for the purpose of adding weight to the asseverations of the speaker. A literal translation of them throughout this work would hardly be in accordance with the euphony required by the English ear. They are therefore rendered throughout by such expressions as "i' faith," "troth," "by my troth," &c.
5 Indeed I fancy: "Neque," which implies a negative, seems to be more in accordance with the sense of the passage than the affirmative "nempe," which is the reading of Ritschel; it has therefore been adopted.
6 Not to be knowing: That is, "the risk you would run in taking her or your wife."
7 Just as one lives: The meaning of this passage seems to be somewhat obscure, and many of the Editions give this line to Megaronides. It is probable however, that Callicles intends, as a consolation for them both, to say that life itself is a blessing, and that they ought not by unnecessary anxieties to shorten it, but rather to submit with patience to their domestic grievances.
8 In the Capitol: Plautus does not much care about anachronism or dramatic precision; though the plot of the play is derived from the Greek, and the scene laid at Athens, he makes frequent reference to Roman localities and manners. It is probable that the expression here employed was proverbial at Rome, to signify a deed of daring and unscrupulous character. From ancient writers we learn that there was a statue of Jupiter seated in a chariot, placed on the roof of the Capitoline Temple. Tarquinius Priscus employed Etrurian artists to make a statue of pottery for this purpose; and the original chariot, with its four horses, was made of baked clay. In later and more opulent times, the crown placed on the statue was of great value, so much so as to act as a temptation to one Petilius, who attempted to steal it, and being caught in the fact, was afterwards nicknamed "Capitolinus." Mention is again made of this status in the Menæchmi, act v, sc. b. l. 38.
9 Greedy of grovelling gain: Plautus makes this into one word 'turpilucricupidum." Probably it was used as a nickname for avaricious persons. It is here attempted to be expressed by an alliteration. Thornton renders it "Gripeall."
10 A vulture: Both on account of the sordid and greedy habits of that bird, and because, as is stated in the next line, it cares not which side supplies its maw when it follows the course of contending armies.
12 Forty minæ: Unless he adds the adjective "aurea," "golden," Plautus always means silver "minæ." The "mina" was the sixtieth part of the Attic talent, and contained one hundred "drachmæ," of about ninepence three-farthings each.
14 Advertised with bills: The method among the Romans of letting, or selling houses, was similar to ours. A ball was fixed upon the house, or some conspicuous place near it, inscribed with "Ædes locandæ," "This house to be lot," or "Ædes vendundæ," "This house for sale."
15 He watched till: He alludes to the conduct of Lesbonicus, who watched for the absence of his guardian, Callicles, that he might sell the house. This he would attempt to do, probably, on the plea that his father, not having been heard of for a long time, must be presumed to be dead, and the house has consequently descended to him, as his heir
16 The back part: "Posticulum" probably means detached buildings at the back of the house, and within the garden walls, which adjoin the "posticum" or "posticula," the "back door" or "garden-gate."
17 Call Busybodies: The word "Scurra," which is here rendered "busybody," originally meant "a fellow-townsman," well to do in life, and a pleasant companion. In time, however, the word came to have a bad signification attached to it, and to mean an idle fellow, who did nothing but go about cracking his jokes at the expense of others, gossiping, and mischief-making, and at last to signify "a clown," "buffoon," or "mimic" on the stage. These men are most probably termed here "assidui," "everlasting gossipers," from a habit which many people have of making frequent calls on their neighbours, sitting down, and never thinking of taking their departure till they have exhausted all their stock of evil-speaking, lying, and slandering. Gossiping was notoriously the propensity of the Athenians. Numbers did nothing but saunter about the city, and go from spot to spot, with the question τι καινοῦ, "Any news?" Few will fail to remember the censure of them in the Seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, v. 21: "For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing."
18 They do not know: That is, "who only pretend to know."
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