Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Prologues of Euripides
By Aristophanes (c. 448–c. 388 B.C.)
From ‘The Frogs
  [The point of the following selection lies in the monotony of both narrative style and metre in Euripides’s prologues, and especially his regular cæsura after the fifth syllable of a line. The burlesque tag used by Aristophanes to demonstrate this effect could not be applied in the same way to any of the fourteen extant plays of Sophocles and Æschylus.]

Æschylus—And by Jove, I’ll not stop to cut up your verses word by word, but if the gods are propitious I’ll spoil all your prologues with a little flask of smelling-salts.
  Euripides—With a flask of smelling-salts?
  Æsch.—With a single one. For you build your verses so that anything will fit into the metre,—a leathern sack, or eider-down, or smelling-salts. I’ll show you.
  Eur.—So, you’ll show me, will you?
  Æsch.—I will that.        5
  Eur. [declaiming]—
          Ægyptus, as broad-bruited fame reports,
          With fifty children voyaging the main
          To Argos came, and
  Æsch.—                        —lost his smelling-salts.
  Dion.—What the mischief have the smelling-salts got to do with it? Recite another prologue to him and let me see.        10
          Dionysus, thyrsus-armed and faun-skin-clad,
          Amid the torchlights on Parnassus’s slope
          Dancing and prancing
  Æsch.—                        —lost his smelling-salts.
  Dion.—Caught out again by the smelling-salts.
  Eur.—No matter. Here’s a prologue that he can’t fit ’em to.        15
          No lot of mortal man is wholly blest:
          The high-born youth hath lacked the means of life,
          The lowly lout hath
  Æsch.—                        —lost his smelling-salts.
  Eur.—            Well, what?
  Dion.—                        Best take in sail.
      These smelling-salts, methinks, will blow a gale.        20
  Eur.—What do I care? I’ll fix him next time.
  Dion.—Well, recite another, and steer clear of the smelling-salts.
          Cadmus departing from the town of Tyre,
          Son of Agenor
  Æsch.—                    —lost his smelling-salts.
  Dion.—My dear fellow, buy those smelling-salts, or there won’t be a rag left of all your prologues.        25
  Eur.—What? I buy ’em of him?
  Dion.—If you’ll be advised by me.
  Eur.—Not a bit of it. I’ve lots of prologues where he can’t work ’em in.
            Pelops the Tantalid to Pisa coming
            With speedy coursers
  Æsch.—                        —lost his smelling-salts.
  Dion.—There they are again, you see. Do let him have ’em, my good Æschylus. You can replace ’em for a nickel.
  Eur.—Never. I’ve not run out yet.
                Œneus from broad fields
  Æsch.—                            —lost his smelling-salts.
  Eur.—Let me say the whole verse, won’t you?
          Œneus from broad fields reaped a mighty crop
          And offering first-fruits
  Æsch.—                    —lost his smelling-salts.
  Dion.—While sacrificing? Who filched them?
  Eur.—Oh, never mind him. Let him try it on this verse:—
            Zeus, as the word of sooth declared of old—
  Dion.—It’s no use, he’ll say Zeus lost his smelling-salts. For those smelling-salts fit your prologues like a kid glove. But go on and turn your attention to his lyrics.

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