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Then I sip and I swill, and I riot at will, nor cast eye of discreet observation,
How your eye or your man's watches, guages and spans what my appetite's warmth and duration.
Never yet, by my fay, did I bid that knave lay for supper, or otherwise task him,
But a cloud ever hung on his brow, lest my tongue a cake or dish extra should ask him.
Thus from head, Sir, to feet, I'm in armour complete,-fenced and shelter'd from ev'ry disaster,
And your wine you may spare, while this (draws a case from under his vest) falls to my share, and calls me its lord and its master.
Outward, form'd 'tis an ass-spare your mirth-let that pass :-inward holds he what asks best appliance :
(Drinks and looks at it) Rogue! as keen he surveys your pinch'd beakers he brays, and trooper-toned bids you defiance.'
With Athenians of this class a good dinner seems to have been what the resources of the publican are with the lower orders in our own country, an excellent restorer of harmony and a pledge of concord between contending parties. Male readers, who perused the taunts of the rival choruses in a former Number, must have been well aware, that the feelings, there exhibited, were much too hot to hold. Female readers, skilled in tracing the passions, and who know that nothing is unconquerable but indifference, will hear, without surprise, the conclusion of these sarcasms. A few overtures from the female chorus, a salutation upon the cheek, and a little dexterity shewn in relieving their antagonist's eye of a large gnat, which infested it, gradually overcome the wrath of the rival male chorus. 'Baggages,' exclaims its coryphæus, after a decent resistance, there's no living with them, nor without them; and yet, as the old proverb says-they are but limbs of the old-one after all.'* This satisfactory reconciliation is, of course, to be confirmed by a feast; and when the good feelings of an Athenian were set afloat, they were most comprehensive in their nature.
I quaff to you, laugh to you :-suff'ring or doing,
But charity, amity, peace and good breeding;
In my numbers to hear
εσε θωπικαι φυσει.
Κας' εκείνο τύπος ορθώς, κα κακως, ειρημενον.
ετε συν πανωλεθροισιν, ετ' ανευ πανωλέθρων.
Beautiful as these mystic types appear to the eye, we can assure our female readers, that they express neither more nor less, than what has been ventured as an equivalent in the text.
A reproach or a sneer;
No such thoughts harbour here :
And deeds all of honey,
To feasts invitation,
And offers of money.
That he, whose poor pittance
That peace once returning,
Not to ask restitution.'
We break in upon this long-winded joint stave to observe, that the premises and conclusion of an Athenian's liberality were not always in strict accordance; and the good-humoured poet, whom no trait of popular humour escaped, has not failed to find a niche for this.
'Further notice, Sirs, take,
(To the audience.) Let to-morrow then see
One and all hous'd with me ;
With your boys in a row,
All fresh from the bath,
To his own proper home,
you find the door shut,"Tis a proof you can't enter.'
Among the idle, and we must be pardoned for saying, the ridiculous mistakes respecting the character of Aristophanes, none appears to us more misplaced than the received opinion, that he was a severe caustic satirist. That he could deal heavy blows, when he pleased, is most certain; but if we had to point out the most distinguishing feature in his character, we should refer to that good natured relish he displays for the popular humour, belonging to all free governments, and which shone more particularly in an Attic mob. A benevolent man shares in this feeling, from the milkiness of his nature; a thoughtful man, who observes with what cheerfulness it often conducts the poor through privations, from which the rich and the learned would shrink, sees in it one of those great compensations, by which Providence equalises mankind, and leaves the stations of rich and poor, as little more than varieties of means for gaining happiness. We think it of sufficient importance to cherish popular humour, to induce us to pursue the particular species just pointed out a little farther. A chorus, who could feast a whole audience at so small an expense, had no reason to be less profuse on other points.
Of whatever I'm possest,
Cash and jewels, of silver and gold;
To the public to have and to hold.
And her person array in all bravery?
Stuffs and cuffs, and ruffs and rings,
Take them all, Sirs, nor think it any knavery.
Seal and signet you may break,
Vest and vestment you may take,
Cash and jewels, and diamonds and stone;
Only one thing I premise,
He that finds them has two eyes
Of a much clearer ken than my own.
A treasury like this was not easily exhausted.
We shall give but one instance more: the comic poet acted, it has been before observed, as the gazetteer of the times, and his Foreign Intelligence' certainly furnished an intellectual repast not often found in modern journals. Thus the political fates of Prasiæ, (a town in Laconia lately destroyed by the Athenians,) of Megara, (the support given to which by the Lacedæmonians, was the principal cause of the Peloponnesian war,) and of Leontini in Sicily, (then recently suffering under the oppression of the Syracusans,) become, in the Aristophanic comedy of the Peace, the materials of an Attic myttoton or salad, and are thus served up to the audience.
A great bowl or mortar is seen upon the stage: leeks, garlic, and cheese lie around it.
War. (slowly and solemnly.) Laceration,
Grief and scorning,
I do scan
Cramps and stitches,
Aches and pains,
And fire his veins!
Shield me, great Phœbus, 'tis indeed a mortar
And nine to nine,
I do see
See now, thy doom is seal'd, and ratified thy fate.
(Throws a leek into the bowl.)
A word nearly similar to Prasiæ in Greek signifies a leek.
Look, Sparta, to't-'tis her concern-not our's.
And your sighs be they deep.
(Throws in garlic, and pounds it very small.}
Sigh we for those same folk of Megara!
Large floods of tears-and bitter, save the mark!
Cry aloud, fair and foul,
She must go to the bowl;
(Scrapes cheese, and throws it into the bowl.) Pour we some honey‡ now from Attica Upon our work.—
Among the public entertainments of a people so theatrically disposed as the Athenians, none we may be sure ranked higher than the superb banquet, usually given by the triumphant tribe to the successful chorus. The prize feast (TIVIxia) is the constant encouragement by which Aristophanes stimulates exertion in his orchestral troop, and in his Female Parliament he offers a bill of fare, which is certainly very provocative. The poet, who contrary to the usual practice, was dismissing his company in a dance, gives animation to the lower members of his dancers, by an intimation addressed to their upper organs.
Leader of the
'Come away, come away,'
'Tis no time for delay.
* Garlic was one of the most plentiful productions of Megara.
The reader of Theocritus need not be reminded of the rich milk and cheeses, which
so frequently occur in the most exquisite of all pastoral poets.
It was from the odoriferous herbs on mount Hymettus, that the excellence of the Attic honey was derived.