Plutus - Aristophanes - ebook

Chremylus, a poor but just man, accompanied by his servant Cario consults the Delphic Oracle concerning his son, whether he ought not to be instructed in injustice and knavery and the other arts whereby worldly men acquire riches. By way of answer the god only tells him that he is to follow whomsoever he first meets upon leaving the temple, who proves to be a blind and ragged old man. But this turns out to be no other than Plutus himself, the god of riches, whom Zeus has robbed of his eyesight, so that he may be unable henceforth to distinguish between the just and the unjust.

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Liczba stron: 72






New Edition

Published by Sovereign Classic

This Edition

First published in 2016

Copyright © 2016 Sovereign Classic

ISBN: 9781911535904







CARIO, Servant of Chremylus.

PLUTUS, God of Riches.

BLEPSIDEMUS, friend of Chremylus.




AN INFORMER, or Sycophant.






SCENE: In front of a farmhouse—a road leading up to it.


CARIO. What an unhappy fate, great gods, to be the slave of a fool! A servant may give the best of advice, but if his master does not follow it, the poor slave must inevitably have his share in the disaster; for fortune does not allow him to dispose of his own body, it belongs to his master who has bought it. Alas! ‘tis the way of the world. But the god, Apollo, whose oracles the Pythian priestess on her golden tripod makes known to us, deserves my censure, for ‘tis assured he is a physician and a cunning diviner; and yet my master is leaving his temple infected with mere madness and insists on following a blind man. Is this not opposed to all good sense? ‘Tis for us, who see clearly, to guide those who don’t; whereas he clings to the trail of a blind fellow and compels me to do the same without answering my questions with ever a word. (To Chremylus.) Aye, master, unless you tell me why we are following this unknown fellow, I will not be silent, but I will worry and torment you, for you cannot beat me because of my sacred chaplet of laurel.

CHREMYLUS. No, but if you worry me I will take off your chaplet, and then you will only get a sounder thrashing.

CARIO. That’s an old song! I am going to leave you no peace till you have told me who this man is; and if I ask it, ‘tis entirely because of my interest in you.

CHREMYLUS. Well, be it so. I will reveal it to you as being the most faithful and the most rascally of all my servants.[736] I honoured the gods and did what was right, and yet I was none the less poor and unfortunate.

CARIO. I know it but too well.

CHREMYLUS. Other amassed wealth—the sacrilegious, the demagogues, the informers,[737] indeed every sort of rascal.

CARIO. I believe you.

CHREMYLUS. Therefore I came to consult the oracle of the god, not on my own account, for my unfortunate life is nearing its end, but for my only son; I wanted to ask Apollo, if it was necessary for him to become a thorough knave and renounce his virtuous principles, since that seemed to me to be the only way to succeed in life.

CARIO. And with what responding tones did the sacred tripod resound?[738]

CHREMYLUS. You shall know. The god ordered me in plain terms to follow the first man I should meet upon leaving the temple and to persuade him to accompany me home.

CARIO. And who was the first one you met?

CHREMYLUS. This blind man.

CARIO. And you are stupid enough not to understand the meaning of such an answer? Why, the god was advising you thereby, and that in the clearest possible way, to bring up your son according to the fashion of your country.

CHREMYLUS. What makes you think that?

CARIO. Is it not evident to the blind, that nowadays to do nothing that is right is the best way to get on?

CHREMYLUS. No, that is not the meaning of the oracle; there must be another, that is nobler. If this blind man would tell us who he is and why and with what object he has led us here, we should no doubt understand what our oracle really does mean.

CARIO (to Plutus). Come, tell us at once who you are, or I give effect to my threat. (He menaces him.) And quick too, be quick, I say.

PLUTUS. I’ll thrash you.

CARIO (to Chremylus). Ha! is it thus he tells us his name?

CHREMYLUS. ‘Tis to you and not to me that he replies thus; your mode of questioning him was ill-advised. (To Plutus.) Come, friend, if you care to oblige an honest man, answer me.

PLUTUS. I’ll knock you down.

CARIO. Ah! what a pleasant fellow and what a delightful prophecy the god has given you!

CHREMYLUS. By Demeter, you’ll have no reason to laugh presently.

CARIO. If you don’t speak, you wretch, I will surely do you an ill turn.

PLUTUS. Friends, take yourselves off and leave me.

CHREMYLUS. That we very certainly shan’t.

CARIO. This, master, is the best thing to do. I’ll undertake to secure him the most frightful death; I will lead him to the verge of a precipice and then leave him there, so that he’ll break his neck when he pitches over.

CHREMYLUS. Well then, I leave him to you, and do the thing quickly.

PLUTUS. Oh, no! Have mercy!

CHREMYLUS. Will you speak then?

PLUTUS. But if you learn who I am, I know well that you will ill-use me and will not let me go again.

CHREMYLUS. I call the gods to witness that you have naught to fear if you will only speak.

PLUTUS. Well then, first unhand me.

CHREMYLUS. There! we set you free.

PLUTUS. Listen then, since I must reveal what I had intended to keep a secret. I am Plutus.[739]

CHREMYLUS. Oh! you wretched rascal! You Plutus all the while, and you never said so!

CARIO. You, Plutus, and in this piteous guise!

CHREMYLUS. Oh, Phoebus Apollo! oh, ye gods of heaven and hell! Oh, Zeus! is it really and truly as you say?


CHREMYLUS. Plutus’ very own self?

PLUTUS. His own very self and none other.

CHREMYLUS. But tell me, whence come you to be so squalid?

PLUTUS. I have just left Patrocles’ house, who has not had a bath since his birth.[740]

CHREMYLUS. But your infirmity; how did that happen? Tell me.

PLUTUS. Zeus inflicted it on me, because of his jealousy of mankind. When I was young, I threatened him that I would only go to the just, the wise, the men of ordered life; to prevent my distinguishing these, he struck me with blindness! so much does he envy the good!

CHREMYLUS. And yet, ‘tis only the upright and just who honour him.

PLUTUS. Quite true.

CHREMYLUS. Therefore, if ever you recovered your sight, you would shun the wicked?

PLUTUS. Undoubtedly.

CHREMYLUS. You would visit the good?

PLUTUS. Assuredly. It is a very long time since I saw them.

CHREMYLUS. That’s not astonishing. I, who see clearly, don’t see a single one.

PLUTUS. Now let me leave you, for I have told you everything.

CHREMYLUS. No, certainly not! we shall fasten ourselves on to you faster than ever.

PLUTUS. Did I not tell you, you were going to plague me?

CHREMYLUS. Oh! I adjure you, believe what I say and don’t leave me; for you will seek in vain for a more honest man than myself.

CARIO. There is only one man more worthy; and that is I.

PLUTUS. All talk like this, but as soon as they secure my favours and grow rich, their wickedness knows no bounds.

CHREMYLUS. And yet all men are not wicked.

PLUTUS. All. There’s no exception.

CARIO. You shall pay for that opinion.

CHREMYLUS. Listen to what happiness there is in store for you, if you but stay with us. I have hope; aye, I have good hope with the god’s help to deliver you from that blindness, in fact to restore your sight.

PLUTUS. Oh! do nothing of the kind, for I don’t wish to recover it.

CHREMYLUS. What’s that you say?

CARIO. This fellow hugs his own misery.

PLUTUS. If you were mad enough to cure me, and Zeus heard of it, he would overwhelm me with his anger.

CHREMYLUS. And is he not doing this now by leaving you to grope your wandering way?

PLUTUS. I don’t know; but I’m horribly afraid of him.

CHREMYLUS. Indeed? Ah! you are the biggest poltroon of all the gods! Why, Zeus with his throne and his lightnings would not be worth an obolus if you recovered your sight, were it but for a few instants.

PLUTUS. Impious man, don’t talk like that.

CHREMYLUS. Fear nothing! I will prove to you that you are far more powerful and mightier than he.

PLUTUS. I mightier than he?

CHREMYLUS. Aye, by heaven! For instance, what is the origin of the power that Zeus wields over the other gods?[741]