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The Wasps   


me what are the advantages you enjoy, you, who pretend to rule over
Greece?
PHILOCLEON
We are entrusted with the inspection of the young men, and thus we
have a right to examine their tools. If Oeagrus is accused, he is
not acquitted before he has recited a passage from 'Niobe' and he
chooses the finest. If a flute-player gains his case, he adjusts his
mouth-strap in return and plays us the final air while we are leaving.
A father on his death-bed names some husband for his daughter, who
is his sole heir; but we care little for his will or for the shell
so solemnly placed over the seal; we give the young maiden to him
who has best known how to secure our wavour. Name me another duty that
is so important and so irresponsible.
BDELYCLEON
Aye, it's a fine privilege, and the only one on which I can
congratulate you; but surely to violate the will is to act badly
towards the heiress.
PHILOCLEON
And if the Senate and the people have trouble in deciding some
important case, it is decreed to send the culprits before the
Heliasts; then Euathlus and the illustrious Colaconymus, who cast away
his shield, swear not to betray us and to fight for the people. Did
ever an orator carry the day with his opinion if he had not first
declared that the jury should be dismissed for the day as soon as they
had given their first verdict? We are the only ones whom Cleon, the
great bawler, does not badger. On the contrary, he protects and
caresses us; he keeps off the flies, which is what you have never done
for your father. Theorus, who is a man not less illustrious than
Euphemius, takes the sponge out of the pot and blacks our shoes. See
then what good things you deprive and despoil me of. Pray, is this
obeying or being a slave, as you pretended to be able to prove?
BDELYCLEON
Talk away to your heart's content; you must come to a stop at last
and then you shall see that this grand power only resembles an anus;
no matter how much you wash it, you can never get it clean.
PHILOCLEON
But I am forgetting the most pleasing thing of all. When I
return home with my pay, everyone runs to greet me because of my
money. First my daughter bathes me, anoints my feet, stoops to kiss me
and, while she is calling me "her dearest father," fishes out my
triobolus with her tongue; then my little wife comes to wheedle me and
brings a nice light cake; she sits beside me and entreats me in a
thousand ways, "Do take this now; do have some more." All this
delights me hugely, and I have no need to turn towards you or the
steward to know when it shall please him to serve my dinner, all the
while cursing and grumbling. But if he does not quickly knead my cake,
I have something which is my defence, my shield against all ills. If
you do not pour me out drink, I have brought this long-eared jar
full of wine. How it brays, when I bend back and bury its neck in my
mouth! It farts like a whole army, and how I laugh at your wine-skins.
(With increasing excitement) As to power, am I not equal to the king
of the gods? If our assembly is noisy, all say as they pass, "Great
gods! the tribunal is rolling out its thunder!" If I let loose the
lightning, the richest, aye, the noblest are half dead with terror and
crap for fright. You yourself are afraid of me, yea, by Demeter! you
are afraid. But may I die if you frighten me.
CHORUS (singing)
Never have I heard speech so elegant or so sensible.
PHILOCLEON
Ah! he thought he had only to turn me round his finger; he should,
however have known the vigour of my eloquence.
CHORUS (singing)
He has said everything without omission. I felt myself grow taller
while I listened to him. Methought myself meting out justice in the

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