Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > Greek, Roman & Oriental
The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XV: Greek—Roman—Oriental
The Passage of the Styx
By Aristophanes (c. 448–c. 388 B.C.)
From “The Frogs

Cha.  Hoy! Bear a hand there! Heave ashore!
  Bac.                    What’s this?
  Xan.  The lake it is—the place he told us of.
By Jove! and there’s the boat—and here’s old Charon!
  Bac.  Well, Charon! Welcome, Charon! Welcome kindly!
  Cha.  Who wants the ferryman? Anybody waiting        5
To leave the pangs of life? A passage, anybody?
To Lethe’s wharf? To Cerberus’ reach?
To Tartarus? To Tænarus? To Perdition?
  Bac.  Yes, I.
  Cha.        Get in then.
  Bac.                Tell me, where are you going?
To perdition, really?
  Cha.            Yes, to oblige you, I will—
With all my heart. Step in there.
  Bac.                      Have a care!
Take care, good Charon! Charon, have a care!  (Getting into the boat.)
Come, Xanthias, come!
  Cha.            I take no slaves aboard,
Except they’ve volunteer’d for the naval victory.        15
  Xan.  I could not; I was suffering with sore eyes.
  Cha.  Off with you, round by the end of the lake.
  Xan.  And whereabouts shall I wait?
                    Cha.  At the Stone of Repentance,
By the Slough of Despond, beyond the Tribulations.
You understand me?
  Xan.            Yes, I understand you—
A lucky, promising direction, truly.
  Cha.  (to BACCHUS).  Sit down at the oar. Come, quick, if there are more coming!—
Hullo! what’s that you’re doing?  (BACCHUS is seated in a buffoonish attitude in the side of the boat where the oar was fastened.)
  Bac.                        What you told me.
I’m sitting at the oar.
  Cha.            Sit there, I tell you,
You fatguts; that’s your place.
  Bac.  (changes his place).    Well, so I do.
  Cha.  Now ply your hands and arms.
  Bac.  (makes a silly motion with his arms).    Well, so I do.
  Cha.  You’d best leave off your fooling. Take to the oar,
And pull away.
  Bac.        But how shall I contrive?
I’ve never served on board; I’m only a landsman;
I’m quite unused to it.
  Cha.            We can manage it.
As soon as you begin you shall have some music;
That will teach you to keep time.
  Bac.                  What music’s that?
  Cha.  A chorus of frogs—uncommon musical frogs.
  Bac.            Well, give me the word and the time.
  Cha.  Whooh, up, up! Whooh, up, up!

    Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
    Shall the choral quiristers of the marsh
    Be censured and rejected as hoarse and harsh,
        And their chromatic essays
        Deprived of praise?
    No; let us raise afresh        40
    Our obstreperous brekeke-kesh!
    The customary croak and cry
        Of the creatures
        At the theaters
    In their yearly revelry.        45
    Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
  Bac.  (rowing in great misery).
        How I’m maul’d!
        How I’m gall’d!
    Worn and mangled to a mash—
    There they go! Koash, koash!        50
  Frogs.  Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
  Bac.    Oh, beshrew,
        All your crew!
        You don’t consider how I smart.
  Frogs.  Now for a sample of the art!        55
        Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
  Bac.    I wish you hanged, with all my heart!
        Have you nothing else to say?
        Brekeke-kesh, koash, all day!
  Frogs.      We’ve a right,        60
            We’ve a right,
        And we croak at ye for spite.
            We’ve a right,
            We’ve a right,
            Day and night,        65
            Day and night,
            Night and day,
        Still to creak and croak away.
    Phœbus and every Grace
    Admire and approve of the croaking race;        70
    And the egregious guttural notes
    That are gargled and warbled in their lyrical throats.
            In reproof
            Of your scorn,
            Mighty Pan        75
            Nods his horn;
            Beating time
            To the rime
            With his hoof,
            With his hoof.        80
        Persisting in our plan,
        We proceed as we began.
        Brekeke-kesh, brekeke-kesh,
        Koash, koash!
  Bac.    Oh, the frogs, consume and rot ’em!        85
        I’ve a blister on my bottom!
        Hold your tongues, you noisy creatures!
  Frogs.  Cease with your profane entreaties,
        All in vain forever striving;
        Silence is against our natures;        90
        With the vernal heat reviving,
        Our aquatic crew repair
        From their periodic sleep,
        In the dark and chilly deep,
        To the cheerful upper air.        95
        Then we frolic here and there
        All amid the meadows fair;
        Shady plants of asphodel
        Are the lodges where we dwell;
        Chanting in the leafy bowers        100
        All the livelong summer hours,
        Till the sudden gusty showers
        Send us headlong, helter-skelter,
        To the pool to seek for shelter.
        Meager, eager, leaping, lunging,        105
        From the sedgy wharfage plunging
        To the tranquil depth below,
        There we muster all a-row;
        Where, secure from toil and trouble,
        With a tuneful hubble-bubble,        110
        Our symphonious accents flow.
        Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
  Bac.    I forbid you to proceed.
  Frogs.  That would be severe, indeed,
        Arbitrary, bold, and rash—        115
        Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
  Bac.    I command you to desist—
        Oh, my back, there! Oh, my wrist!
            What a twist!
            What a sprain!        120
  Frogs.  Once again
        We renew the tuneful strain—
        Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
  Bac.    I disdain—hang the pain!—
        All your nonsense, noise, and trash.        125
        Oh, my blister! Oh, my sprain!
  Frogs.  Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
        Friends and frogs, we must display
        All our powers of voice to-day.
        Suffer not this stranger here,        130
        With fastidious, foreign ear,
        To confound us and abash.
        Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
  Bac.    Well, my spirit is not broke;
        If it’s only for the joke,        135
        I’ll outdo you with a croak.
        Here it goes—(very loud)  Koash, koash!”
  Frogs.  Now for a glorious croaking crash,
(still louder)
        Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
  Bac.  (splashing with his oar).
        I’ll disperse you with a splash.
  Frogs.  Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
  Bac.    I’ll subdue
        Your rebellious, noisy crew—
        Have among you there, slap-dash!
(Strikes at them.)
  Frogs.  Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!        145
        We defy your oar, and you.
  Cha.  Hold! We’re ashore. Now shift your oar.
Get out. Now pay your fare.
  Bac.  There—there it is—the twopence.

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