5 Lysistrata – Part I

LYSISTRATA

Translated from the Greek of

 

ARISTOPHANES

 

Illustrations by Norman Lindsay

 

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The Persons of the Drama

Lysistrata

Calonice

Myrrhine

Lampito

Stratyllis, etc.

Chorus of Women

Magistrate

Cinesias

Spartan Herald

Envoys

Athenians

Porter, Market Idlers, etc.

Chorus of Old Men

 

 

LYSISTRATA stands alone with the Propylaea at her back.

 

LYSISTRATA

If they were trysting for a Bacchanal,
A feast of Pan or Colias or Genetyllis,
The tambourines would block the rowdy streets,
But now there’s not a woman to be seen
Except–ah, yes–this neighbour of mine yonder.

Enter CALONICE.

Good day Calonice.

 

CALONICE

Good day Lysistrata.
But what has vexed you so? Tell me, child.
What are these black looks for? It doesn’t suit you
To knit your eyebrows up glumly like that.

 

LYSISTRATA

Calonice, it’s more than I can bear,
I am hot all over with blushes for our sex.
Men say we’re slippery rogues–

 

CALONICE

And aren’t they right?

 

LYSISTRATA

Yet summoned on the most tremendous business
For deliberation, still they snuggle in bed.

 

CALONICE

My dear, they’ll come. It’s hard for women, you know,
To get away. There’s so much to do;
Husbands to be patted and put in good tempers:
Servants to be poked out: children washed
Or soothed with lullays or fed with mouthfuls of pap.

 

LYSISTRATA

But I tell you, here’s a far more weighty object.

 

CALONICE

What is it all about, dear Lysistrata,
That you’ve called the women hither in a troop?
What kind of an object is it?

 

LYSISTRATA

A tremendous thing!

 

CALONICE

And long?

 

LYSISTRATA

Indeed, it may be very lengthy.

 

CALONICE

Then why aren’t they here?

 

LYSISTRATA

No man’s connected with it;
If that was the case, they’d soon come fluttering along.
No, no. It concerns an object I’ve felt over
And turned this way and that for sleepless nights.

 

CALONICE

It must be fine to stand such long attention.

 

LYSISTRATA

So fine it comes to this–Greece saved by Woman!

 

CALONICE

By Woman? Wretched thing, I’m sorry for it.

 

LYSISTRATA

Our country’s fate is henceforth in our hands:
To destroy the Peloponnesians root and branch–

 

CALONICE

What could be nobler!

 

LYSISTRATA

Wipe out the Boeotians–

 

CALONICE

Not utterly. Have mercy on the eels!
[Footnote: The Boeotian eels were highly esteemed delicacies in Athens.]

 

LYSISTRATA

But with regard to Athens, note I’m careful
Not to say any of these nasty things;
Still, thought is free…. But if the women join us
From Peloponnesus and Boeotia, then
Hand in hand we’ll rescue Greece.

 

CALONICE

How could we do
Such a big wise deed? We women who dwell
Quietly adorning ourselves in a back-room
With gowns of lucid gold and gawdy toilets
Of stately silk and dainty little slippers….

 

LYSISTRATA

These are the very armaments of the rescue.
These crocus-gowns, this outlay of the best myrrh,
Slippers, cosmetics dusting beauty, and robes
With rippling creases of light.

 

CALONICE

Yes, but how?

 

LYSISTRATA

No man will lift a lance against another–

 

CALONICE

I’ll run to have my tunic dyed crocus.

 

LYSISTRATA

Or take a shield–

 

CALONICE

I’ll get a stately gown.

 

LYSISTRATA

Or unscabbard a sword–

 

CALONICE

Let me buy a pair of slipper.

 

LYSISTRATA

Now, tell me, are the women right to lag?

 

CALONICE

They should have turned birds, they should have grown
wings and flown.

 

LYSISTRATA

My friend, you’ll see that they are true Athenians:
Always too late. Why, there’s not a woman
From the shoreward demes arrived, not one from Salamis.

 

CALONICE

I know for certain they awoke at dawn,
And got their husbands up if not their boat sails.

 

LYSISTRATA

And I’d have staked my life the Acharnian dames
Would be here first, yet they haven’t come either!

 

CALONICE

Well anyhow there is Theagenes’ wife
We can expect–she consulted Hecate.
But look, here are some at last, and more behind them.
See … where are they from?

 

CALONICE

From Anagyra they come.

 

LYSISTRATA

Yes, they generally manage to come first.

Enter MYRRHINE.

 

MYRRHINE

Are we late, Lysistrata? … What is that?
Nothing to say?

 

LYSISTRATA

I’ve not much to say for you,
Myrrhine, dawdling on so vast an affair.

 

MYRRHINE

I couldn’t find my girdle in the dark.
But if the affair’s so wonderful, tell us, what is it?

 

LYSISTRATA

No, let us stay a little longer till
The Peloponnesian girls and the girls of Bocotia
Are here to listen.

 

MYRRHINE

That’s the best advice.
Ah, there comes Lampito.

Enter LAMPITO.

 

LYSISTRATA

Welcome Lampito!
Dear Spartan girl with a delightful face,
Washed with the rosy spring, how fresh you look
In the easy stride of your sleek slenderness,
Why you could strangle a bull!

 

LAMPITO

I think I could.
It’s frae exercise and kicking high behint.

[Footnote: The translator has put the speech of the Spartan characters
in Scotch dialect which is related to English about as was the Spartan
dialect to the speech of Athens. The Spartans, in their character,
anticipated the shrewd, canny, uncouth Scotch highlander of modern
times.]

 

LYSISTRATA

What lovely breasts to own!

 

LAMPITO

Oo … your fingers
Assess them, ye tickler, wi’ such tender chucks
I feel as if I were an altar-victim.

 

LYSISTRATA

Who is this youngster?

 

LAMPITO

A Boeotian lady.

 

LYSISTRATA

There never was much undergrowth in Boeotia,
Such a smooth place, and this girl takes after it.

 

CALONICE

Yes, I never saw a skin so primly kept.

 

LYSISTRATA

This girl?

 

LAMPITO

A sonsie open-looking jinker!
She’s a Corinthian.

 

LYSISTRATA

Yes, isn’t she
Very open, in some ways particularly.

 

LAMPITO

But who’s garred this Council o’ Women to meet here?

 

LYSISTRATA

I have.

 

LAMPITO

Propound then what you want o’ us.

 

MYRRHINE

What is the amazing news you have to tell?

 

LYSISTRATA

I’ll tell you, but first answer one small question.

 

MYRRHINE

As you like.

 

LYSISTRATA

Are you not sad your children’s fathers
Go endlessly off soldiering afar
In this plodding war? I am willing to wager
There’s not one here whose husband is at home.

 

CALONICE

Mine’s been in Thrace, keeping an eye on Eucrates
For five months past.

 

MYRRHINE

And mine left me for Pylos
Seven months ago at least.

 

LAMPITO

And as for mine
No sooner has he slipped out frae the line
He straps his shield and he’s snickt off again.

 

LYSISTRATA

And not the slightest glitter of a lover!
And since the Milesians betrayed us, I’ve not seen
The image of a single upright man
To be a marble consolation to us.
Now will you help me, if I find a means
To stamp the war out.

 

MYRRHINE

By the two Goddesses, Yes!
I will though I’ve to pawn this very dress
And drink the barter-money the same day.

 

CALONICE

And I too though I’m split up like a turbot
And half is hackt off as the price of peace.

 

LAMPITO

And I too! Why, to get a peep at the shy thing
I’d clamber up to the tip-top o’ Taygetus.

 

LYSISTRATA

Then I’ll expose my mighty mystery.
O women, if we would compel the men
To bow to Peace, we must refrain–

 

MYRRHINE

From what?
O tell us!

 

LYSISTRATA

Will you truly do it then?

 

MYRRHINE

We will, we will, if we must die for it.

 

LYSISTRATA

We must refrain from every depth of love….
Why do you turn your backs? Where are you going?
Why do you bite your lips and shake your heads?
Why are your faces blanched? Why do you weep?
Will you or won’t you, or what do you mean?

 

MYRRHINE

No, I won’t do it. Let the war proceed.

 

CALONICE

No, I won’t do it. Let the war proceed.

 

LYSISTRATA

You too, dear turbot, you that said just now
You didn’t mind being split right up in the least?

 

CALONICE

Anything else? O bid me walk in fire
But do not rob us of that darling joy.
What else is like it, dearest Lysistrata?

 

LYSISTRATA

And you?

 

MYRRHINE

O please give me the fire instead.

 

LYSISTRATA

Lewd to the least drop in the tiniest vein,
Our sex is fitly food for Tragic Poets,
Our whole life’s but a pile of kisses and babies.
But, hardy Spartan, if you join with me
All may be righted yet. O help me, help me.

 

LAMPITO

It’s a sair, sair thing to ask of us, by the Twa,
A lass to sleep her lane and never fill
Love’s lack except wi’ makeshifts…. But let it be.
Peace maun be thought of first.

 

LYSISTRATA

My friend, my friend!
The only one amid this herd of weaklings.

 

CALONICE

But if–which heaven forbid–we should refrain
As you would have us, how is Peace induced?

 

LYSISTRATA

By the two Goddesses, now can’t you see
All we have to do is idly sit indoors
With smooth roses powdered on our cheeks,
Our bodies burning naked through the folds
Of shining Amorgos’ silk, and meet the men
With our dear Venus-plats plucked trim and neat.
Their stirring love will rise up furiously,
They’ll beg our arms to open. That’s our time!
We’ll disregard their knocking, beat them off–
And they will soon be rabid for a Peace.
I’m sure of it.

 

LAMPITO

Just as Menelaus, they say,
Seeing the bosom of his naked Helen
Flang down the sword.

 

CALONICE

But we’ll be tearful fools
If our husbands take us at our word and leave us.

 

LYSISTRATA

There’s only left then, in Pherecrates’ phrase,
To flay a skinned dog–flay more our flayed desires.

 

CALONICE

Bah, proverbs will never warm a celibate.
But what avail will your scheme be if the men
Drag us for all our kicking on to the couch?

 

LYSISTRATA

Cling to the doorposts.

 

CALONICE

But if they should force us?

 

LYSISTRATA

Yield then, but with a sluggish, cold indifference.
There is no joy to them in sullen mating.
Besides we have other ways to madden them;
They cannot stand up long, and they’ve no delight
Unless we fit their aim with merry succour.

 

CALONICE

Well if you must have it so, we’ll all agree.

 

LAMPITO

For us I ha’ no doubt. We can persuade
Our men to strike a fair an’ decent Peace,
But how will ye pitch out the battle-frenzy
O’ the Athenian populace?

 

LYSISTRATA

I promise you
We’ll wither up that curse.

 

LAMPITO

I don’t believe it.
Not while they own ane trireme oared an’ rigged,
Or a’ those stacks an’ stacks an’ stacks O’ siller.

 

LYSISTRATA

I’ve thought the whole thing out till there’s no flaw.
We shall surprise the Acropolis today:
That is the duty set the older dames.
While we sit here talking, they are to go
And under pretence of sacrificing, seize it.

 

LAMPITO

Certie, that’s fine; all’s working for the best.

 

LYSISTRATA

Now quickly, Lampito, let us tie ourselves
To this high purpose as tightly as the hemp of words
Can knot together.

 

LAMPITO

Set out the terms in detail
And we’ll a’ swear to them.

 

LYSISTRATA

Of course…. Well then
Where is our Scythianess? Why are you staring?
First lay the shield, boss downward, on the floor
And bring the victim’s inwards.

 

CAILONICE

But, Lysistrata,
What is this oath that we’re to swear?

 

LYSISTRATA

What oath!
In Aeschylus they take a slaughtered sheep
And swear upon a buckler. Why not we?

 

CALONICE

O Lysistrata, Peace sworn on a buckler!

 

LYSISTRATA

What oath would suit us then?

 

CALONICE

Something burden bearing
Would be our best insignia…. A white horse!
Let’s swear upon its entrails.

 

LYSISTRATA

A horse indeed!

 

CALONICE

Then what will symbolise us?

 

LYSISTRATA

This, as I tell you–
First set a great dark bowl upon the ground
And disembowel a skin of Thasian wine,
Then swear that we’ll not add a drop of water.

 

LAMPITO
Ah, what aith could clink pleasanter than that!

 

LYSISTRATA
Bring me a bowl then and a skin of wine.

 

CALONICE
My dears, see what a splendid bowl it is;
I’d not say No if asked to sip it off.

 

LYSISTRATA
Put down the bowl. Lay hands, all, on the victim.
Skiey Queen who givest the last word in arguments,
And thee, O Bowl, dear comrade, we beseech:
Accept our oblation and be propitious to us.

 

CALONICE
What healthy blood, la, how it gushes out!

 

LAMPITO
An’ what a leesome fragrance through the air.

 

LYSISTRATA
Now, dears, if you will let me, I’ll speak first.

 

CALONICE
Only if you draw the lot, by Aphrodite!

 

LYSISTRATA
SO, grasp the brim, you, Lampito, and all.
You, Calonice, repeat for the rest
Each word I say. Then you must all take oath
And pledge your arms to the same stern conditions–

 

LYSISTRATA
To husband or lover I’ll not open arms

 

CALONICE

To husband or lover I’ll not open arms

 

LYSISTRATA

Though love and denial may enlarge his charms.

 

CALONICE

Though love and denial may enlarge his charms.
O, O, my knees are failing me, Lysistrata!

 

LYSISTRATA

But still at home, ignoring him, I’ll stay,

 

CALONICE

But still at home, ignoring him, I’ll stay,

 

LYSISTRATA

Beautiful, clad in saffron silks all day.

 

CALONICE

Beautiful, clad in saffron silks all day.

 

LYSISTRATA

If then he seizes me by dint of force,

 

CALONICE

If then he seizes me by dint of force,

 

LYSISTRATA

I’ll give him reason for a long remorse.

 

CALONICE

I’ll give him reason for a long remorse.

 

LYSISTRATA

I’ll never lie and stare up at the ceiling,

 

CALONICE

I’ll never lie and stare up at the ceiling,

 

LYSISTRATA

Nor like a lion on all fours go kneeling.

 

CALONICE

Nor like a lion on all fours go kneeling.

 

LYSISTRATA

If I keep faith, then bounteous cups be mine.

 

CALONICE

If I keep faith, then bounteous cups be mine.

 

LYSISTRATA

If not, to nauseous water change this wine.

 

CALONICE
If not, to nauseous water change this wine.

 

LYSISTRATA

Do you all swear to this?

 

MYRRHINE

We do, we do.

 

LYSISTRATA

Then I shall immolate the victim thus.
She drinks.

 

CALONICE

Here now, share fair, haven’t we made a pact?
Let’s all quaff down that friendship in our turn.

 

LAMPITO

Hark, what caterwauling hubbub’s that?

 

LYSISTRATA

As I told you,
The women have appropriated the citadel.
So, Lampito, dash off to your own land
And raise the rebels there. These will serve as hostages,
While we ourselves take our places in the ranks
And drive the bolts right home.

 

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Development of Theatre 1: Classical - Neoclassical Forms by Teresa Focarile and Monica Brown is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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