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The Clouds   


you have not yet told me what makes the roll of the thunder?
SOCRATES
Have you not understood me then? I tell you, that the Clouds, when
full of rain, bump against one another, and that, being inordinately
swollen out, they burst with a great noise.
STREPSIADES
How can you make me credit that?
SOCRATES
Take yourself as an example. When you have heartily gorged on stew
at the Panathenaea, you get throes of stomach-ache and then suddenly
your belly resounds with prolonged rumbling.
STREPSIADES
Yes, yes, by Apollo I suffer, I get colic, then the stew sets to
rumbling like thunder and finally bursts forth with a terrific
noise. At first, it's but a little gurgling pappax, pappax! then it
increases, papapappax! and when I take my crap, why, it's thunder
indeed, papapappax! pappax!! papapappax!!! just like the clouds.
SOCRATES
Well then, reflect what a noise is produced by your belly, which
is but small. Shall not the air, which is boundless, produce these
mighty claps of thunder?
STREPSIADES
And this is why the names are so much alike: crap and clap. But
tell me this. Whence comes the lightning, the dazzling flame, which at
times consumes the man it strikes, at others hardly singes him. Is
it not plain, that Zeus is hurling it at the perjurers?
SOCRATES
Out upon the fool! the driveller! he still savours of the golden
age! If Zeus strikes at the perjurers, why has he not blasted Simon,
Cleonymus and Theorus? Of a surety, greater perjurers cannot exist.
No, he strikes his own temple, and Sunium, the promontory of Athens,
and the towering oaks. Now, why should he do that? An oak is no
perjurer.
STREPSIADES
I cannot tell, but it seems to me well argued. What is the
lightning then?
SOCRATES
When a dry wind ascends to the Clouds and gets shut into them,
it blows them out like a bladder; finally, being too confined, it
bursts them, escapes with fierce violence and a roar to flash into
flame by reason of its own impetuosity.
STREPSIADES
Ah, that's just what happened to me one day. It was at the feast
of Zeus! I was cooking a sow's belly for my family and I had forgotten
to slit it open. It swelled out and, suddenly bursting, discharged
itself right into my eyes and burnt my face.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Oh, mortal, you who desire to instruct yourself in our great
wisdom, the Athenians, the Greeks will envy you your good fortune.
Only you must have the memory and ardour for study, you must know
how to stand the tests, hold your own, go forward without feeling
fatigue, caring but little for food, abstaining from wine, gymnastic
exercises and other similar follies, in fact, you must believe as
every man of intellect should, that the greatest of all blessings is
to live and think more clearly than the vulgar herd, to shine in the
contests of words.
STREPSIADES
If it be a question of hardiness for labour, of spending whole
nights at work, of living sparingly, of fighting my stomach and only
eating chickpease, rest assured, I am as hard as an anvil.
SOCRATES
Henceforward, following our example, you will recognize no other
gods but Chaos, the Clouds and the Tongue, these three alone.
STREPSIADES

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