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The Clouds   


virgin, my Muse had not attained the age for maternity; she had to
expose her first-born for another to adopt, and it has since grown
up under your generous patronage. Ever since you have as good as sworn
me your faithful alliance. Thus, like the Electra of the poets, my
comedy has come to seek you to-day, hoping again to encounter such
enlightened spectators. As far away as she can discern her Orestes,
she will be able to recognize him by his curly head. And note her
modest demeanour! She has not sewn on a piece of hanging leather,
thick and reddened at the end, to cause laughter among the children;
she does not rail at the bald, neither does she dance the cordax; no
old man is seen, who, while uttering his lines, batters his questioner
with a stick to make his poor jests pass muster. She does not rush
upon the scene carrying a torch and screaming, 'Iou! Iou!' No, she
relies upon herself and her verses....My value is so well known,
that I take no further pride in it. I do not seek to deceive you, by
reproducing the same subjects two or three times; I always invent
fresh themes to present before you, themes that have no relation to
each other and that are all clever. I attacked Cleon to his face and
when he was all-powerful; but he has fallen, and now I have no
desire to kick him when he is down. My rivals, on the contrary, now
that this wretched Hyperbolus has given them the cue, have never
ceased setting upon both him and his mother. First Eupolis presented
his 'Maricas'; this was simply my 'Knights,' whom this plagiarist
had clumsily furbished up again by adding to the piece an old
drunken woman, so that she might dance the cordax. It was an old idea,
taken from Phrynichus, who caused his old hag to be devoured by a
monster of the deep. Then Hermippus fell foul of Hyperbolus and now
all the others fall upon him and repeat my comparison of the eels. May
those who find amusement in their pieces not be pleased with mine, but
as for you, who love and applaud my inventions, why, posterity will
praise your good taste.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Oh, ruler of Olympus, all-powerful king of the gods, great Zeus,
it is thou whom I first invoke; protect this chorus; and thou too,
Posidon, whose dread trident upheaves at the will of thy anger both
the bowels of the earth and the salty waves of the ocean. I invoke
my illustrious father, the divine Aether, the universal sustainer of
life, and Phoebus, who, from the summit of his chariot, sets the world
aflame with his dazzling rays, Phoebus, a mighty deity amongst the
gods and adored amongst mortals.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
Most wise spectators, lend us all your attention. Give heed to our
just reproaches. There exist no gods to whom this city owes more
than it does to us, whom alone you forget. Not a sacrifice, not a
libation is there for those who protect you! Have you decreed some mad
expedition? Well! we thunder or we fall down in rain. When you chose
that enemy of heaven, the Paphlagonian tanner, for a general, we
knitted our brow, we caused our wrath to break out; the lightning shot
forth, the thunder pealed, the moon deserted her course and the sun at
once veiled his beam threatening, no longer to give you light, if
Cleon became general. Nevertheless you elected him; it is said, Athens
never resolves upon some fatal step but the gods turn these errors
into her greatest gain. Do you wish that his election should even
now be a success for you? It is a very simple thing to do; condemn
this rapacious gull named Cleon for bribery and extortion, fit a
wooden collar tight round his neck, and your error will be rectified
and the commonweal will at once regain its old prosperity.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Aid me also, Phoebus, god of Delos, who reignest on the cragged
peaks of Cynthia; and thou, happy virgin, to whom the Lydian damsels
offer pompous sacrifice in a temple; of gold; and thou, goddess of our
country, Athene, armed with the aegis, the protectress of Athens;
and thou, who, surrounded by the bacchants of Delphi; roamest over the
rocks of Parnassus shaking the flame of thy resinous torch, thou,

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