Publius Terentius Afer (Terence)
Translated by Christopher Kelk
Scene from a play by Terence
Bernard Picart (French, 1673 - 1733) - The Rijksmuseum
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Hecyra is the title of this play:
When it was first presented, on that day
There came about a new calamity
Whereby the audience could not thoroughly
Witness or judge it – they were mesmerized
With some rope-dancing. Now it’s been revised
Entirely. The playwright would not show
The play upon the stage once more and so
Will sell it possibly. Each other play
You’ve seen before: now look at this, I pray. 10
I’ll speak this prologue: grant, accordingly,
Good fortune that the same immunity
I had when I was young I may possess
Today. In those days I would bring success
To new plays that had once been spurned: thereby
The writings of the poet would not die
Once he was dead. Caecilius’ comedies
I learnt when they were new along with these:
Sometimes I failed, sometimes I held my own
With difficulty. It was clearly known 20
To me that fortune on the stage can be
Fickle, and therefore when uncertainty
Arose, I laboured hard, and so, when I
Began to act in them, I would thereby
Learn new ones from the poet zealously
And not divert him from his specialty,
And they got staged, well-liked when they were seen.
I thus restored the poet who had been,
Through the malevolence of his enemies,
Almost removed from his activities 30
In playwriting. But if I were to slight
Him at that time, discouraging him to write
So that he would have lived in lethargy,
I might have disadvised him equally
From writing other plays. And therefore pay
Attention to what I have got to say,
And be impartial. Hecyra once more
I bring, a play I never was before
Allowed to act in silence, for the play
Was cursed. Your intellect, though, will allay 40
The curse, if it will aid my toil. When I
Began to act, I was so baffled by
The vaunts of boxers and the expectation
Of rope-dancers and the congregation,
The noise, the women’s shrieks, that I would leave
Before the end. I’ve now tried to retrieve
An earlier play of mine, for I set out
Afresh and once more brought the play about.
The first act pleased, but in the meantime there
Came news that some gladiatorial fare 50
Was in the offing, and this rumour brought
The audience in flocks – they yelled, they fought
For seats, they rioted in disarray;
I could not keep my place there. But today
There is no riot, just serenity
And ease, and I’ve the opportunity
To act again, and you may now array
The scenic festival. And yet, I pray,
Do not permit dramatic art to be
Left to a few: let your authority 60
Be linked with mine. If I through avarice
Have never thought to set a price on this
Talent of mine but think the greatest gain
That I can hope for is to entertain
And please you, let me be assured that he
Who gave himself to your integrity
And toils in the protection I provide
May not be ridiculed on every side.
Thus for my sake listen attentively
That he may write more plays while, as for me, 70
I’ll be allowed to learn more plays: thus I
May be allowed to buy them by and by.
Philotis Few lovers to their mistresses, you’ll see,
Are constant: for example, constantly
Pamphilus with a solemn vow averred
To Bacchis – so that anyone who heard
Would think it true – that he’d not wed while she
Yet lived. But now he’s wed!
I earnestly implore you and advise
That you should pity none and vandalize 80
And plunder every man you meet.
Philotis What, all?
Syra That’s right, for none of them will ever call
On you without preparing first to play
Upon your feelings, thus to have his way
With you at slight expense. So why don’t you
Conspire against them?
Philotis But it’s wrong to do
Damage to all.
Syra You say it’s wrong to make
Reprisal on your enemies or take
Them in the way they take you? Why should you
And I not share our looks and points of view? 90
Parmeno [to Scirtus, within]
If the old man should come and ask for me,
Say I’ve gone to the port to try to see
If Pamphilus has come. What have I said,
Scirtus? If he asks for me, go ahead
And say that; if he doesn’t, do not say
A word, that at some other time I may
Use that excuse again. But do I see
My dear Philotis? How’s it come to be
That she’s here? [to Philotis] Philotis, a warm good-day
Philotis My greetings, Parmeno.
Syra I say! 100
Parmeno Good-day. [to Philotis] Now tell me, where have you
Been making merry all this time?
Philotis Not true.
I’ve not been having fun in any way:
I left for Corinth where I had to stay
With a foul captain, and for two years there
Parmeno Well, I fancy that your care
For Athens held you often and you thought
But poorly of an enterprise that caught
You in its trap.
Philotis Indeed I cannot say
How eager I have been to get away 110
From him and come back here that I might see
You once again, enjoying tranquilly,
As once I did, the parties that we’d hold.
Unless at certain moments, I was told,
Or if he chose the subject I should say
Not one word.
Parmeno Hardly gallant, then, to stay
Philotis But tell me what I heard in there [pointing to the house]
From Bacchis. It could never be, I’d swear,
That while she was alive he would not wed.
Philotis But is it truly as she said? 120
Parmeno Yes, but I doubt the marriage will endure.
Philotis May all the gods and goddesses ensure
It won’t, for Bacchis’ sake.
Parmeno To dissipate
The news is pointless – don’t interrogate
Me anymore about it.
Philotis Lest it be
Known widely, I suppose. Believe you me,
I do not ask you so that I may spread
The news abroad but so that in my head
I may rejoice.
Parmeno Whatever you may say
I’ll never trust you.
Philotis Oh, don’t speak that way, 130
As though you were more eager, Parmeno,
To tell this to me than I am to know
What I’m asking about.
Parmeno [to himself]
Indeed that’s true,
And that’s my greatest failing. [to Philotis] Now, if you
Give me your word that you will never say
A word of it, I’ll tell you right away.
Philotis That’s more your style. I give my word. So speak!
Philotis I will.
Parmeno Their love was at its peak,
When Pamphilus’ father urged his son to wed,
And, as it is with fathers, he then said 140
That he was aged now and Pamphilus
His only son, and so he hoped that thus
He’d have support in his old age. First he
Refused, but when his father urgently
Pressed him, he wavered back and forth – should he
Yield to his love or filial piety?
By hammering away, the old man gained
The upper hand and finally attained
For Pamphilus the child of our next-door
Neighbour. This did not seem unpleasant for 150
His son until close to the wedding-day
When he saw all prepared and no delay
Was possible: he was in such a mess
That even Bacchis, I would surely guess,
Would then have pitied him had she been there.
Whenever I was granted time to spare
And speak with him, he’d utter, “Parmeno,
What have I done to merit all this woe?
I’ve had it.”
Philotis Laches, for this dreadful act
Parmeno In short, he wed her. No contact 160
He made with her upon the marriage-bed
That first night, nor the next.
Philotis What’s that you said?
A young man, full of wine, lay with a lass –
A virgin! – and made not a single pass
At her? Nonsense! I don’t believe it’s true.
Parmeno I think you don’t, but no-one comes to you
Reluctant to make love to you, but he
Had taken her to wife unwillingly.
Philotis Then what?
Parmeno He very soon took me aside,
Out of the house, and said he’d still denied 170
To touch her, but that he, before they wed,
Had hoped to tolerate the match. He said,
“As I am set to part with her, it’s base
To make a fool of her, and a disgrace
To her as well, and so I must restore
Her to her kin just as she was before
Philotis What you tell me of Pamphilus
Shows him to be upright and virtuous.
Parmeno “It burdens me to say this, but if we
Should send her home without some calumny 180
Being mentioned, that is most provocative.
I hope, though, when she sees that she can’t live
With me, she’ll go back anyway.
Philotis Did he
Meanwhile still visit Bacchis?
But once she saw that he was wed and thus
Hands-off, she grew more acrimonious,
As you’d expect.
Parmeno That’s mainly why
They parted; he began to identify
The traits of both his mistress and the one
He’d wed, and his, and made comparison. 190
The wife, in keeping with a decorous,
Free-born, respectable and virtuous
Lady, bore all his slights and every slur,
Hiding her feelings. He so felt for her,
Constrained, too, by the sheer effrontery
Of Bacchis, that he withdrew gradually
From her and then transferred his love to her
He’d wed, and thus a genial character
They formed together. Meanwhile on Imbros
An old relative of theirs had died: their loss 200
Led to their gaining all his property.
The love-sick Pamphilus unwillingly
Was dragged there by his dad, who left the wife
With his mother, for the old man spends his life
Upcountry, rarely leaving.
Philotis What is there
To bar this marriage?.
Parmeno Well, there was a fair
Compact between them first for several days.
But meanwhile in a number of strange ways
She started to hate Sostrata, although
They still had never quarrelled.
Philotis Yes? And so…? 210
She spurned their conversations, instantly
Walking away from her; thus, finally,
When she could not withstand her anymore,
Pretending that her mother asked her for
Assistance at a sacrifice, she went
Away. A few days later, Sostrata sent
For her with some excuse or other. She
Gave like commands, but no apology
Was sent back to her. Once this had occurred
Quite frequently, “The woman’s sick”, they heard. 220
My mistress went to see her instantly,
But no-one let her in. When finally
The old man heard of it, he yesterday
Came back to town and waited straightaway
For Philumena. I do not yet know
What passed between those two, but still I grow
Anxious. I must be going.
Philotis And I, too,
To meet a stranger.
Parmeno May the gods bless you
In all of your endeavours.
Philotis And I say
Farewell to you.
Parmeno And I to you. Good-day. 230
Laches O what a race, what a conspiracy!
All women love and spurn things equally.
Not one of them will differ from the rest,
You’ll find – all mothers-in-law will detest
Their daughters-in-law; with like stolidity
All wives oppose their husbands: they must be,
It seems, trained in the same academy where they
Learn obstinacy. Thus I have to say
That Sostrata must be the teacher there.
Sostrata Of what I’m guilty of I’m not aware. 240
Laches You’re not?
Sostrata Laches, may Heaven prosper me,
And may we live our lives in unity!
Sostrata You soon will be aware,
I’m certain, that your charges are unfair.
Laches Unfair? Can there be anything that you
Deserve for those misdeeds of yours? You, who
Have brought disgrace upon your family.
Yourself and me, preparing misery
To rack your son? It’s you, besides, who brought
Our friends to enmity because they thought 250
They could entrust their children to him. You
Alone have brought about this hullabaloo.
Lachess You, I tell you, woman, who believe
I’m made of stone. Because I rarely leave
The country, do you think that I don’t know
What goes on in the city? That’s not so:
Of what folk do right here I know much more
Than of the country where I live. Wherefore?
Well, as you are at home, folk speak of me
Abroad. Some time ago I certainly 260
Learned Philumena hates you – well, that’s no
Surprise: indeed if she had not done so,
It would be more surprising yet, although
I did not think that she would ever go
So far as hating the whole family.
If I’d known that, then preferentially
She should have stayed here and you should have gone.
The blame for all these evils lies upon
Your head. I went upcountry to comply
With your request and manage all of my 270
Affairs in order that I might maintain
Your easy lifestyle. I with might and main
Toil beyond measure with what years allow
To me. Since you don’t care at all, then how
Can I not be upset?
Sostrata I’m totally
Laches No, you’re to blame especially.
Because you were the only person who
Was here, all blame, Sostrata, falls on you.
You should have taken care of matters here,
For I’d freed you from every other fear. 280
A crone hating a girl is a disgrace:
“It’s not my fault,” you’ll tell me to my face.
Sostrata I won’t, dear Laches.
Laches Well, that pleases me
For my son’s sake, but I am certainly
Convinced that no misdeed of yours can show
You in a worse light.
Sostrata But how do you know,
Husband, she doesn’t feign to dislike me
In order that she may more frequently
Be with her mother?
Laches Look, there’s ample proof,
For no-one would let you beneath their roof 290
Sostrata They told me she was ill,
And that was why I was excluded.
Your traits, I fancy, cause her malady
Beyond all else, and understandably,
For every one of you would wish her son
To marry, and the match you want’s the one
That must be made. You have them wed, and then
You see to it that they’re sent off again.
Phidippus [to Philumena within]
Though, daughter, I may claim the liberty
To rule you, yet my sensitivity 300
As a father sways me now to yield to you
And not oppose what you desire to do.
Laches I see Phidippus. Timely met! I’ll know
Directly from the man just how things go.
Phidippus, I indulge my family
And won’t corrupt them. If you equally
Are of my mind, you’ll find it will be more
In both our interests. Now I see that you’re
In thralldom to those girls.
I went to you for what I had to say 310
About your daughter. You showed me the door
And I left you no wiser than before.
It does not fit you, if this federation
You wish to last, to hide your aggravation.
If we’ve done wrong, tell me, and we’ll acquit
Ourselves of any wrong or pardon it.
You be the judge. But if you’re keeping her
Chez vous because she’s ill, I think you err
In rightfulness, Phidippus, if you fear
That she won’t be attended well right here. 320
Though you’re her father, I don’t think that you
Can wish her more good fortune than I do,
And on my son’s account, who thinks no less
Of her than his own self, I must profess.
You know how it will anger him if he
Becomes aware of this: accordingly
I want her here before he’s back again.
Phidippus Laches, I know your carefulness and your
Goodwill, and everything you say is true.
Believe me, I am very keen that you 330
Should have her back if I can possibly
Laches What’s preventing it? Does she
Make any complaints against her husband, then?
Phidippus No, not at all – when I began again
With greater emphasis and forcibly
Tried to make her return, she solemnly
Declared that she could not possibly stay
With you as long as Pamphilus was away.
No doubt each has his feelings; naturally
I am indulgent: my own family 340
I cannot thwart.
Laches [to himself]
Sostrata Oh! Oh!
Laches Is that your final word?
Phidippus I reckon so,
At least just for the moment; is there more
That you’re solicitous to utter? For
There are some things that I’m obliged to do
Down at the Forum.
Laches I will go with you. [exeunt]
Sostrata Our husbands hate us women groundlessly
Due to a few who make us seem to be
Worth being treated badly. What I’m now
Accused of by my husband, I can vow 350
I didn’t do. But to exonerate
Myself is hard, for people strongly rate
All mothers-in-law as harsh, but that’s not me –
I never thought of her differently
Than as my own. I can but speculate
How this has come about. But here I wait,
And I have many reasons certainly
To crave my son’s return impatiently.
Pamphilus No-one’s more crossed in love than I, for thus
My life’s a mess. Was I solicitous 360
To get back home for this? For anywhere
Else in the wide world I would rather care
To be than here where I would find such woe.
All those who suffer count, before they know
Their pain, that time preceding their distress
Parmeno Still, as it is, you’ll find success
In sooner losing that adversity.
If you had not returned, there’d surely be
A wider breach. But both will now revere
Your presence, I am sure. You then will hear 370
The facts and thus you’ll be their friend once more.
What you had thought would hurt you to the core
Are trifles only.
Pamphilus But why comfort me?
Can there be one in all humanity
As woebegone as I? Before I wed,
There had been other women in my bed.
Though I am mum about them, easily
One may see that I’ve suffered wretchedly;
Yet I’d dared not refuse the woman who
Was forced on me by Father. I withdrew 380
From one – though it was tough – and extricated
My heart-felt love, but once I concentrated
Upon another conquest, I was struck
By one more crisis, and this dreadful luck
May tear me from her, too. And I suspect
My mother or my wife may be subject
To blame. If I find out that this is so,
I’ll be more wretched. Duty, Parmeno,
Bids me bear with my mother; furthermore
I’m bound by duty to my wife, who bore 390
So much from me and she has never shown
My wrongs to others. Now something unknown
Must have occurred, though, which has caused somehow
This breach between them that has lasted now
For quite a while.
Parmeno It may be trifling,
However, if you have sound reasoning.
What sometimes are the greatest enmities
Do not lead to the greatest injuries.
At certain times while one man well may be
Quite cool and calm, your greatest enemy 400
Will be another man who’s full of rage.
What enmities tots of a certain age
Experience for trifling injuries
Because they have weak sensitivities
To manage them! Thus in this selfsame way
These women seem like tots, for they display
Capricious feelings: just one word may be
The tinder for their animosity.
Pamphilus Go in and say I’m here now, Parmeno. [a noise is heard at the door]
Parmeno What’s that?
Pamphilus I hear a bustling to and fro. 410
Parmeno Come near the door. Did you hear that?
Pamphilus Oh, knock it off! [listens] Jumping Jehoshaphat,
I heard a shriek!
Parmeno You tell me not to speak
And yet you talk yourself.
Pray, do not shriek,
Pamphilus That’s Philumena’s mother! Oh,
I’m done for!
You’re keeping from me some adversity.
Parmeno They say your wife feels some anxiety
About something of which I’m not aware.
Maybe that’s it.
Pamphilus Why did you not take care 420
To tell me? God!
Parmeno I can’t tell everything
Pamphilus What dreadful thing is happening?
Parmeno I don’t know.
Pamphilus Has a doctor not been sent
Parmeno I don’t know.
Pamphilus Well, it’s time you went
Indoors that I may know immediately
What’s up. How will I see the malady
You have, dear wife? Whatever danger you
Are in, beyond a doubt I’ll perish, too. [enters the house]
Parmeno [to himself]
I need not follow him right now, for they
Think badly of us all. Just yesterday 430
They turned Sostrata back. But if she should
Get worse – a situation which I could
In no way wish to happen – principally
For Pamphilus’s sake – immediately
They’d say Sostrata’s servant had been there
Inside the house, and they would falsely swear
That I had brought upon them much distress,
The illness then acquiring great excess.
My mistress would be blamed, and I would be
Inflicted with a heavy penalty 440
Sostrata For some time now I’ve heard, in grievous fear,
That there is some confusion around here.
I greatly dread Philumena’s malady
Is worsening. I beg you, hear my plea,
Aesculapius and Health, that it’s not so.
I’ll visit her. [enters the house]
Parmeno [coming forward]
Parmeno You must go.
Sostrata Parmeno, what shall I do? Ah, misery!
Will I not be allowed to go to see
Pamphilus’ wife when she lies ill next door?
Parmeno Don’t even send another person for 450
That purpose. Anyone who loves someone
Who dislikes her, in my opinion,
Is doubly wrong – she labours all in vain
While to the other she brings nought but pain.
Parmeno Your son, though, saw her.
Sostrata What is that you say?
Has Pamphilus arrived?
Parmeno He has.
I thank the gods. I feel rejuvenated
And all my worry has evacuated
Parmeno That’s why I’m loath especially
To let you in, for if the malady 460
Abates at all, she will, I’m sure, when they’re
Together, tell him all that they might share
The facts about the discord that began
Between the two of you. But here’s the man.
How sad he looks!
Sostrata My son, my darling boy!
My blessings on you, mother!
Sostrata Oh, what joy
That you’re back safe. How does Philumena fare?
Pamphilus She’s getting better. [weeps]
Sostrata Would that heaven will care
To grant it so! Why weep, then? Why so blue?
Pamphilus Mother, all’s well.
Sostrata But what was that to-do? 470
Say if her illness started suddenly.
Pamphilus Indeed it did.
Sostrata What is her malady?
Pamphilus A fever.
Pamphilus So they say.
Go in, please, mother. I will not delay
Pamphilus Run now, Parmeno,
And help the servants with the baggage. Go!
Parmeno Why? Are they not cognizant of the way
Into the house themselves?
Pamphilus Off! No delay!
Pamphilus I cannot find a point from which to tell
Of all my sudden troubles that befell: 480
I saw some, some I heard; accordingly
I ran away most agitatedly.
When I rushed back in extreme agitation
Into the house, full of the expectation
My wife would have a different malady
Than I had first imagined it to be,
The maids saw I’d arrived and with a cry
Of joy yelled out that I had come. But I
Soon saw their countenances change again
At this unhappy chance. One of them then 490
Ran off to tell this news. I came behind,
Anxious to see my wife, only to find,
Alas, the nature of her malady.
For there had been no opportunity
To hide it. She could barely breathe a sigh.
“Disgraceful conduct,” I exclaimed when I
Saw this. At once I wept: eager to go,
I rushed away, distressed at all this woe.
Her mother followed. At the threshold she
Fell to her knees and wept. Such sympathy 500
I had for her! As matters may occur,
We’re sad or happy. Thus I heard from her:
“Dear Pamphilus, you may now see wherefore
She left your house – she was abused before,
When she served as a maid, by someone who
Was foreign to us, and then, that from you
And others she might hide her labour, she
Came here where she could find her sanctuary.”
When I recall her pleas, I can’t impede
My tears. She said, “Whatever chance may lead 510
You here today, we both, should it be fair
And right, entreat you never to declare
Her woes to anyone. You know that she
Has been disposed to you most tenderly:
She asks you, therefore, not to hesitate
But with a willing heart reciprocate
With this kind favour. But as far as you
Reflect on reinstating her, then do
Whatever you will – just you know her condition:
The child created of this parturition 520
Is none of yours because two months, they say,
Passed by before the two of you first lay
Together, and it’s seven months since she
Came to you – all this you may clearly see.
Now my especial wish is to endeavour
To make sure that her lying-in is never
Known by her father or, in fact, by all.
But if the plan I have in mind should fall
Apart and they find out, I’ll say that she
Miscarried: for I know undoubtedly 530
That people will think what seems to be true
And so they will believe the father’s you.
So it will be exposed immediately,
Thus freeing you of all anxiety.
And in this way you will be burying
The rape inflicted on the girl, poor thing.”
This is the promise that I made and do
Have every aim to keep that promise, too.
Taking her back, though, isn’t, I maintain,
Worthy. I will not, although I retain 540
A constant love for her. I’m soon in tears
When thinking of her life and future years
Of woe. Inconstant fortune! But my past
Involvements now have tutored me at last.
I’ll use the means I used some time ago
To rid me of this, too. Here’s Parmeno
With all the servants. It is far from fit
That he should be here at this time, for it
Was only him I trusted when I told
The secret I’d determined to withhold 550
Myself from her when we were wed. I fear
In case he frequently could get to hear
Her cries and know she’s giving birth. For he
Must be sent off till the delivery.
Parmeno Your voyage was unpleasant, did you say?
Sosia Oh, Parmeno, I can’t in any way
Say how unpleasant.
Sosia You are blessed
That you don’t know how you’d have been distressed
If you had been a traveller on the sea.
Ignoring others, mark this misery 560
Alone: I sailed for thirty days or more
And every moment felt in my heart’s core
The fear of death, the weather caused such woe.
Sosia Yes indeed: rather than go
Back there I’d run away.
Parmeno Once, Sosia, you
Had but slight reasons causing you to do
What you are threatening now to do. I see
Pamphilus at the door. I’ll see if he
Wants anything. Go in the house. [to Pamphilus] I say,
Are you still here, sir? I bid you good-day. 570
Pamphilus I am – waiting for you.
Parmeno What’s up, sir?
Yu have to hurry to the citadel.
Parmeno Why to the citadel?
Pamphilus To see
The man who sailed across the sea with me.
Greet him – his name is Callimenides,
My host in Myconos.
Aplenty! I would say he made a vow
That if he came home safety he would now
Maim me with walking.
Pamphilus Why do you delay?
Parmeno What is it you would like for me to say? 580
Or should I merely greet him?
Pamphilus No indeed.
Say I can’t meet him now, as was agreed,
In case he should wait for me pointlessly.
Parmeno But I do not know what he
Pamphilus He’s ruddy, huge, with curly hair,
Fat, grey-eyed, ghastly.
Parmeno This is hardly fair.
What if he doesn’t come? Am I to stay
Right there till evening?
Pamphilus Yes, you are. Away!
Parmeno I can’t – I’m tired. [exit]
Pamphilus What shall I do now
In such a pickle? I just don’t know how 590
I can conceal the girl’s delivery,
Just as Myrrhina has entreated me.
I pity her. What I can do, though, I
Shall do, but only if I can stand by
My duty. For it’s proper to agree
To serve a parent, not my love. But see –
Phidippus and my father coming here.
I don’t know what to say to them. Oh dear! [stands apart]
Laches Did I not hear you say to me that she
Expects my son’s return?
Phidippus You did.
Laches Well, he 600
Is here, they say. Let her cone back.
Pamphilus [to himself]
I just don’t know how I can justify
My not taking her back.
Laches What’s that I hear?
Pamphilus [to himself]
I am determined, then, to persevere
In what I plan.
The very person who
It was whom I was speaking of to you!
Pamphilus Father, good health to you!
Laches My son, the same
Phidippus Pamphilus, I am glad you came
Back home again, the more especially so
That you are safe and well.
Pamphilus I’m sure I know 610
Laches You’ve just arrived?
Laches What are we
Bequeathed by Cousin Phania? Tell it me.
Pamphilus He was a pleasure-lover: those who live
For pleasure do not have much left to give
Their heirs but for themselves this commendation
They leave: “He lived well.”
Laches Just one observation
You’ve brought back? Nothing else?
Pamphilus Well, all that he
Has left brings gain to us.
It brings a loss; if I could work my will
I’d have him in good health and living still. 620
Phidippus Then wish away, for nothing will revive
The man; given the choice “dead or alive”
I know your preference.
Laches Just yesterday
He [pointing to Phidippus] wanted Philumena home. [to Phidippus] Now say
Phidippus [aside to Laches]
Don’t punch! [to Pamphilus] I did.
Laches However, he will now
Send her back home.
Phidippus Of course.
Pamphilus But I know how
It happened. For just now I heard it all
When I arrived.
Laches May Heaven’s curses fall
On those mean folk who with such readiness
Declare this news.
Pamphilus [to Phidippus]
I’m sure that no distress 630
Will be delivered by your family
With fitting cause; if I could truthfully
Mention how faithful, intimate and kind
I’ve been to her I could; but I’m inclined
That you hear it from her, for then you’d be
Apter to place your confidence in me
When she who uses me now as a foe
Speaks well of me. I call the gods to show
That I am not accountable for our split.
However, since she does not think it fit 640
To yield to Mother, while I’m eager, though,
To yield to her, since friendship cannot grow
Between us otherwise, then I must be
Split from my mother or, alternatively,
From Philumena. But my own affection
Leads me to seek my mother’s predilection.
Laches Good news, my friend! Your mother you esteem
Before all else. Yet do not be extreme,
Moved by resentment.
Pamphilus But how could I be
Hostile to one who’s never injured me 650
In any way? Her due she’s always earned.
I love and worship her, for I have learned
That she is of a gentle temperament
With me. Would that she truly lives content
With someone who’s more fortunate than me
Until she dies, because necessity
Tears her from me.
Phidippus You may yourself prevent
Laches Be wise and have her sent
Pamphilus It’s not my plan, for I must pay
Attention to my mother’s interests. [starts to leave]
Laches Stay! 660
Where are you going?
Phidippus What obstinacy!
Laches Phidippus, did I not tell you that he
Would take this thing amiss? And that is why
I said to send your daughter back.
Phidippus Well, I
Did not believe that he would be so grim.
Did he think I would come and plead with him?
If he should take his wife, back, well, okay –
Let him! But if he doesn’t, let him pay
The dowry back and leave.
Laches Just look at you –
So obstinate and huffish.
Phidippus Well, you too 670
Have come back very obstinate.
He’s reason to be mad, his wrath will go
Phidippus A stroke of luck has come to you
And made you put on airs.
Laches So with me, too,
You’ll fall out?
Phidippus Let him think, and come today
And say if he’s decided if she may
Be someone else’s wife. [leaves]
Laches Hold on while I
Say a few words – He’s vanished. Why,
What’s that to me? Well, let them, finally,
Sort it all out themselves. For neither he 680
Nor my own son show me appreciation.
They don’t care what I say. This altercation
I’ll carry to my wife, for it was she
Who caused all these events that trouble me.
Against her I will vent all my vexation,
Revealing thus to her my indignation.
Myrrhina I’ve had it! What am I to do? Which way
To turn? In my distress what can I say
To Phidippus, my husband? I surmise
That he has heard a new-born baby’s cries, 690
So suddenly did he rush silently
In to my daughter. What if he should be
Informed that she has given birth? For I
Can’t think of one pretext to tell him why
I kept it hidden. What’s that noise I hear?
There’s someone coming out to me. Oh dear! [enter Phidippus]
Phidippus [to himself]
My wife observed me when I went inside
To see my daughter, and then off she hied.
But there I see her. [addressing her] So, what have you got
To say? Listen, I’m speaking to you.
Myrrhina What, 700
To me, my husband?
Phidippus Husband? If I ever
Seemed that, or even a man, I would have never
Been jeered at through your deeds.
Myrrhina What deeds are they?
Phidippus You ask that? Can’t you bring yourself to say
Your daughter bore a child? Are you quite mute?
Myrrhina Questions like that one don’t suit
A father. Such a shocking thing you’ve said!
Who else but he to whom she has been wed?
Phidippus That’s what I think as well: a father should
Not think it otherwise. And yet why would 710
You wish to hide the truth, especially
Since she has been delivered properly
And at the right time? Are you so awry
That you would rather wish the child would die
To gain our friendship rather than contend
Your feelings so his wife goes on to spend
Her life with him? I thought the fault to be
Upon their heads, but in reality
It’s on your own.
Myrrhina I’m lost!
Phidippus Would that were true,
But now I realize when I and you 720
Took him as son-in-law, you said to me
You’d not endure our progeny to be
Wed to one attached to a courtesan,
Who spent his nights away.
Myrrhina Myrrhina [aside]
Well, rather than
The actual reason that was in my mind
I’d have him fancy any other kind
Phidippus I myself already knew
He kept a mistress – earlier than you.
But this is natural – it’s not a crime
In youths, I think. Indeed there’ll come a time 730
When he will hate himself for it. You, too,
No longer show yourself the same as you
Once were. That you might take the girl away
From him and that my deed will not hold sway,
How far you’d like it done one indication
Myrrhina Can you have such imagination
That I could be thus to a child of mine
If this affiliation should incline
To our advantage?
Phidippus How could you foresee
It could be so? You heard it possibly 740
From someone who told you that he’d caught sight
Of him going to his mistress. Well, alright –
If it had been done with diplomacy
And rarely, are we not more kind if we
Ignore it rather than work hard to know
About it, which would make him hate us so?
If he could all at once have gone away
From one with whom he’d been for many a day
I’d not think him a man or qualified
To stay forever by our daughter’s side. 750
Myrrhina Enough about the young man: what you say
I have been guilty of. Then, go away.
Meet him alone and ask him if he would
Marry the girl or not, and if he should
Say yes, then send him back. If he denies
To wed, I have a plan to organize
The best course for my daughter.
Phidippus But if he
Says no and you suspect some villainy
In him, I was at hand, by whose advice
These matters could be settled in a trice. 760
I’m most upset that without my consent
You acted thus. Therefore I will prevent
Your carrying the infant anywhere
Outside. I’d be an idiot though, to dare
Think you’d obey me. So I’ll go inside
And tell the servants not to go outside
With it. [enters the house]
Myrrhina I am the saddest anywhere
Of any woman. But how he would bear
The truth of it is not unknown to me.
He’ll stand the news, though it’s nugatory, 770
And he’ll be angry. And I do not know
How he can yet be changed. Of all this woe
This one I lacked – that he should pressure me
To rear an infant whose paternity
Is still unknown. For it was very dark
When Philumena was raped – she could not mark
The rapist’s features, and she did not take
Anything from him for recognition’s sake.
However, he took off and snatched away
A ring she wore. Now I am in dismay 780
If Pamphilus himself cannot suppress
What I cannot upon him now impress,
When he learns that the child of an unknown
Person is being brought up as his own.
Sostrata It’s not unknown to me, my son, that I
Am thought by you to be the reason why
Your wife has left, although you carefully
Conceal what I have done. Heaven prosper me,
For knowingly I’ve never merited
The hate she has for me; while I have said 790
That you indeed loved me, you’ve verified
What I have said, because just now inside
The house your father told me you preferred
Me to your passion. Now I give my word
That I’ll return the favour – thus you’ll see
The gift of your affection lies with me.
I think, then, that this has an application
To you yourselves and my own reputation.
With Laches I’ve resolved to go away
Into the country that my presence may 800
Not be a curb and no cause will remain
To keep your wife from coming back again.
Pamphilus What plan is this? Has her stupidity
Driven you from the city here to be
A country-dweller? No, I can’t permit
Anyone who censures us to say that it
Was done because of my perversity
And not your preference. Additionally,
I do not wish that I may be the one
To have you shun your friends and kin and fun 810
On festive days.
Sostrata They give me no delight.
When I was young, I relished them alright,
But now they weary me, while presently
My chief concern is that I may not be
Through age a plague to anyone who may
Be anxious for my death. Here I can say
That I’m disliked, though undeservedly:
I should retire – so it’s the best for me
To cut the grounds of the unhappiness
Between us all and be from wariness 820
Unfettered, thereby pleasing everyone.
I beg of you that you will let me shun
Pamphilus Pamphilus [aside]
How happy I would be
In every way but for the fact that she
Should be my mother, while the other one
Should be my wife!
Sostrata Can you not bear, my son,
Just this one inconvenience you’ll find
In every woman? For if in your mind
All’s good, then take her back.
Pamphilus Ah, woe is me!
Sostrata And me! This causes me like misery. 830
Laches I heard you chatting with that young man, wife.
Controlling one’s emotions in one’s life
Is wise when it is needed. And maybe
It’s shrewd to do something that finally
You’ll have to do.
Sostrata I wish that project well.
Laches Leave, therefore, for the country, there to dwell.
We’ll put up with each other there.
I hope so.
Laches Then go in! Take what you need!
Sostrata I will. [enters the house]
Laches What is it, son?
Pamphilus Oh no,
She must not go away.
Laches Why have it so? 840
Pamphilus Because I do not know what I’m to do
About my wife.
Laches What do you mean? Don’t you
Intend to bring her home?
Pamphilus Indeed I do
With all my heart, although I will pursue
My plan, for it’s the best one could devise.
For they’ll be better settled, I surmise,
If I should take her back.
Laches Once she’s away,
It will not matter to you anyway.
The young don’t like the old: it’s right for us
To leave the world behind, dear Pamphilus. 850
Two people in a story-book are we,
“Old man and aged woman”, finally.
But coming out I notice Pamphilus.
I’ll greet him – this is most felicitous.
I’m angry with you – yes, extremely so –
For you have acted shoddily, although
You have a reason (though there’s only one) –
Your mother forced you, but for her there’s none.
Laches Happily met, Phidippus.
Phidippus Tell me why
You’re here to talk with me.
Ah, what reply 860
Am I to give to him, or in what way
Am I to hide it?
Laches I want you to say
To your daughter Sostrata is leaving here
To live upcountry, so she need not fear
To come back home.
Phidippus Your wife attracts no blame
In this affair – no, all the mischief came
From my Myrrhina.
There appears to be
A change of sides.
Phidippus Laches, it’s really she
Who bears the guilt.
Pamphilus So long as I don’t take
Her back, all the disturbance she can make 870
Is fine by me.
Phidippus I really wish that we
Could have between us timeless unity.
If you think otherwise, though, nonetheless
Accept the child.
Oh, what a dreadful mess!
I fear he’s learned of the delivery.
Phidippus MY daughter, in a state of pregnancy,
Was taken off. We have a grandson now,
Although before today, to you I vow,
I did not know that she was carrying
Laches Oh Heaven bless us all, you bring 880
Good news. I’m glad of it and happy, too,
She’s safe. What sort of woman, though, have you
Wed that for such a long time you’d withhold
This information from us? I can’t scold
This conduct with sufficient gravity.
This conduct irritates me equally.
I doubt no longer that another’s son
Will go with her.
Laches Now nothing can be done
About it all.
I’ve had it!
Laches [to Pamphilus]
We longed to see the day when you would be 890
Addressed as Father: now at last that day
Has come. I thank the gods.
Pamphilus I’ve had it!
Take home your wife.
Pamphilus If she had wanted me
To be the father of her progeny
And wished to be, as she has been, my wife,
She would not have concealed – I’d bet my life
On this – what she concealed. Now, since I find
She spurns me, no contract of any kind
Laches She has done
Her mother’s will in fact. Would anyone 900
Wonder at that? Is any woman free
Of fault, you think? Or can iniquity
Be levelled at us men?
Phidippus Alright, you two,
Pamphilus, Laches, what then, should you do?
Leave her or take her back? I have no say
In what your wife may do, and anyway
You’ll have no snag with me. But what must we
Do with the child?
Laches Ah, such absurdity!
Whatever happens, send it back. We’ll rear
The baby as our own.
Pamphilus What’s this I hear? 910
Rear an abandoned child?
Laches What’s that you said?
Are we, then, to expose the child instead?
Madness! I can’t be silent anymore.
For you compel me now to say before
This man [pointing to Phidippus] something that I would rather not.
Do you suppose I’m not aware of what
Has caused your tears and your anxiety?
In the first place, when you alleged to me
Your mother was the reason why your spouse
Could not be settled with you in your house, 920
She said that she would leave. Since you have found
That this guise you’ve invented has no ground
In truth, because a child was born without
Your knowing of it, you have figured out
Another. You are wrong if you believe
I don’t know how you feel. Don’t you perceive
How long a period I have allowed
You for your mistress and how I have bowed
To bearing the expense to keep her, too.
I remonstrated and entreated you 930
To marry, for the time was right, I said.
Then, through my exhortation, you were wed.
You acted in obedience to me
As fits you. Now your partiality
Turns to another, whom you gratify
While hurting your first love. For plainly I
Perceive that you’ve relapsed.
Pamphilus What, I?
Laches Yes, you,
And thereby you’ve behaved unjustly, too.
You feign grounds for discord so that you may,
The witness of your deeds safely away, 940
Live with her. And your wife has seen it, too:
Why else would she be set on leaving you?
Phidippus [to himself]
He’s clearly right: that must be it.
Pamphilus I vow
None of these is the reason.
Laches Take her now!
Go home with her! Or tell the reason why
Pamphilus Not now – maybe by and by.
Laches Then take the child, who is not obviously
At fault. The mother I will presently
I’m so wretched! I don’t know
What I’m to do, and I am troubled so 950
By Father on all sides. I’ll go away –
What could I do here? Without my O.K.
They can’t bring up my child, especially
Because my mother-in-law will second me. [exit]
Laches What, does he run away with no reply?
[to Phidippus] He must be mad. Leave him alone and I
Will rear the child. Give it me.
Phidippus Yes, I will.
No wonder that my wife would take it ill.
Women resent such things as these. Thus she
Told me herself about it angrily. 960
I’d not say this to you while he was near:
I doubted her at first but now it’s clear –
He is averse to marriage totally.
Laches What should I do, then?
Phidippus Well, primarily
We ought to see his mistress – let us ask
Her quietly and then take her to task,
Then lastly threaten her most seriously
Not to have dealings with him subsequently.
Laches Alright. [to an attendant] Boy, run to Bacchis’ house nearby.
Tell her to come here, in my name. [exit attendant] And I 970
Urge you to aid me.
Phidippus Well, once more I say
I wish this unity between us may
Endure, and I have hopes that such will be
The case. But when you meet, do you want me
To be with you?
Laches Yes, but secure someone
To nurse the child, for that must first be done. [exit Phidippus]
Bacchis Laches would speak with me – well, I can guess
Laches [to himself]
I must not let my peevishness
Hinder my goal or do what I might rue
Later. I’ll speak to her. [to Bacchis] Good-day to you,
Bacchis And, Laches, you. 980
Laches You wonder why
I sent for you, I think.
Bacchis Indeed, and I
Am anxious since I think the occupation
That I am in causes discrimination.
I can defend myself.
Laches Well, if that’s true,
Woman, there is no jeopardy for you.
For I have reached the age where it’s not right
To recognize forgiveness for some slight;
For I am always careful to restrain
From rashness, and therefore should you maintain 990
Your female dignity, then it would be
Wrong of me to inflict an injury
Bacchis I should thank you for that thought,
Because a man who, after he has wrought
A sin would then excuse himself, would be
Of little profit to me. But tell me
Why you are here.
Laches My Pamphilus you let
Into your house, Bacchis.
Laches Hear me yet –
Before he wed, I suffered your affair.
No, stay a while, for you’re still unaware 1000
Of what I mean to tell you. Now he’s wed,
Seek out a more reliable man instead
While you still have the time to think, since he
Won’t always be the same, and you won’t be
Bacchis And who would ever say
Laches Her mother-in-law – she took away
Her daughter so that she might put an end
To the child in secret.
Bacchis If I could defend
Myself by any means but that to swear
A solemn oath to you, I would declare 1010
That I’ve kept at a distance, since he wed,
Laches I’m pleased at what you’ve said,
But do you know what I’d prefer you’d do?
Laches Go indoors and swear the oath that you
Just mentioned and convince the women there
That you are innocent and clear the air.
Bacchis I will. Another lady of the night,
However, would not do so, I am quite
Assured – go to a wife with such an aim!
I would not have your son receive the blame 1020
On a false allegation nor should he
Appear inconstant undeservedly
To you, for he’s deserved the right that I
Should succour him as far as I can try.
Laches Your words have made me well-disposed to you.
Not only did they think so, but I, too.
Now I have seen that you’re the opposite
Of what I had expected, see that it
Is so that you will be a friend to me:
If otherwise – but I’ll make sure to see 1030
That I to you will never be unkind.
One thing, though, I would have you bear in mind –
What I can do through our intimacy,
Not what may happen through our enmity.
Phidippus [to the nurse]
You’ll want for nothing while here you abide:
Your wants will in abundance be supplied.
But once you’ve fed and drunk your fill, take care
The infant has enough. [nurse enters the house]
Laches Bacchis, look there!
Phidippus, my son’s father-in-law, I see.
He’s brought the nurse. [to Phidippus] Bacchis swears solemnly. 1040
Phidippus Is this her?
Phidippus Those women do not fear
The gods, nor do the gods care for them.
I freely give my maidservants to you.
Examine them, and, if you think it’s due,
Torture them, because my business is right now
Compelling Pamphilus’s wife somehow
To come back. If I can, I will not rue
That folk say I’m the only one to do
What other strumpets don’t.
Laches Phidippus, we
Find that our wives have undeservedly 1050
Been doubted. Therefore let us further seek
The truth of it: your wife will lose her pique
If she discovers she thought to be true
A false indictment, but if Pamphilus, too,
Is feeling angry that his wife was brought
To bed without his knowledge, that is nought.
His anger will with speed evaporate:
No couples thus should ever separate.
Phidippus I truly hope so.
Laches Test her, then – she’s here.
I’m sure that she herself will make things clear. 1060
Phidippus Why tell me this? Because you weren’t aware
Of how I felt about this whole affair?
Just satisfy their minds.
Laches I beg of you,
Bacchis, to do what you have vowed to do.
Bacchis You wish me, then, to see to it?
Laches Yes, go
And satisfy their minds.
Bacchis Alright, although
I’m sure that they won’t like it presently
Because a wife’s a mistress’ enemy
When separated from her spouse.
Laches But when
They know the reason why you’re there, why, then 1070
They’ll be your friends.
Phidippus I vow that will be true
Once they have ascertained the reason you
Are there, for, rid of your uncertainty,
You’ll also from their error set them free.
Bacchis I’ve had it now, for I’m ashamed to meet
Philumena. [to the attendants] Follow me in.
Laches Nothing can beat
The wish that I embraced – to see what she
Has undergone. For she has aided me
With no loss to herself – from Pamphilus
She has withdrawn and has acquired thus 1080
Status and praise; to him the favour she
Returns, and now we’ll live in amity.
Parmeno [to himself]
My master thinks my toil of little weight:
He’s sent me off for nothing, so my fate
Has been to sit here all day pointlessly
And linger at the citadel to see
Callimenides, the host from Myconos,
Just like a fool. Each man I came across
I asked: “Are you from Myconos? Tell me, please.”
“I’m not.” “But is your name Callimenides?” 1090
“No.” “Had a former guest of yours the name
Of Pamphilus?” Each answer was the same –
“I think there’s no such person.” At last I
Took off, ashamed. But how is it I spy
Bacchis now coming through our neighbour’s door?
What could it be that she is looking for?
Bacchis You have appeared in good time, Parmeno.
Hurry to Pamphilus!
Parmeno Why should I go
Bacchis I want him here.
Parmeno What, to your house?
Bacchis No – Philumena’s, Parmeno, his spouse. 1100
Parmeno What’s up?
Bacchis Don’t ask – it’s nought to do with you.
Parmeno Should I say anything but that?
Bacchis Yes, do –
Say that Myrrhina’s seen her daughter’s ring,
Which he once gave me.
Parmeno Is that everything?
Bacchis Yes. That’ll bring him here. [pause] Do you delay?
Parmeno Oh no – there’s been no chance for me all day
To do that: not a moment could I spare
With scurrying and walking here and there. [enters Laches’ house]
Bacchis Today I’ve brought great joy to Pamphilus
By coming here. Oh, how felicitous 1110
He is! I freed him from so many woes.
I saved his son, who almost, thanks to those
Women and his own self, had passed away;
A wife, to whom he’d thought he’d have to say
Farewell forevermore, has been by me
Returned to him; from the uncertainty
He suffered from Phidippus and Laches
I’ve cleared him. All of these discoveries
Have through this ring occurred, for I recall
Some ten months past and just before the fall 1120
Of night, he came to my house breathlessly,
Alone, and having drunk excessively.
The ring was in his hand, and I felt fear
At once and I said, “Pamphilus, my dear,
So out-of-breath? Where did you get that ring?”
He feigned at first that he was pondering
Some other question. When I saw that, I
Had my suspicions, though I knew not why
I should suspect. I said, “Enlighten me
About the reason you are here.” Said he, 1130
“I raped a woman in the street, although
I have to say her name I do not know,
And while she squirmed I took from her this ring.”
Myrrhina now has recognized the thing,
Which I was wearing. “Where’s it from?” said she.
I told her all. Hence the discovery
Shows it was Philumena and the child
That’s just been born to her is his. I’m wild
With joy that I’m the cause of his delight,
Though other ladies of my calling might 1140
Think differently, for we are disinclined
To know a customer of ours may find
Delight in marriage. But I’ll never buy
A thing with base deeds. For as long as I
Had got the chance, I found him to be kind
And peaceable and of a generous mind.
The marriage, I confess, turned out to be
Unlucky for me, although, honestly,
I’ve not done anything to justify
Some injury to me. It’s fair that I 1150
Should bear the occasional difficulty
From one who has so often aided me.
Pamphilus Dear Parmeno, give me a true report
And don’t allure me to indulge in short
And fleeing joys.
Pamphilus If that’s so,
I am a god.
Pamphilus Tarry, Parmeno.
I’m frightened that while I believe one thing,
You’re telling something else.
Parmeno I’m tarrying.
Pamphilus You said, I think, Myrrhina has found out
That Bacchis has her ring.
Parmeno Yes, there’s no doubt. 1160
Pamphilus The one I gave to her some time ago.
She said to tell me this?
Parmeno Yes, that is so.
Pamphilus Who is there who’s more bursting with elation
Than !? To pay you for this information
What can I do? I don’t know.
Parmeno But I do.
Parmeno Nothing – there’s no benefit to you
In what I told you or, indeed, in me.
Pamphilus You have delivered me from Purgatory
And could I suffer you to go away
Unrecompensed? Ah, I see what you say – 1170
That I’m ungrateful. Bacchis I can see,
Standing before the door. She waits for me,
I think. I’ll speak to her.
Bacchis Dear friend, hello!
Pamphilus Oh, Bacchis, my preserver! Bacchis, oh!
Bacchis This fortunate thing gives me such great delight.
Pamphilus The way you’ve acted gives me every right
To credit you. Your charming qualities
You still retain – thus you can always please
Wherever you go.
Bacchis And you, dear friend, possess
Your former character and politesse. 1180
Pamphilus You flatter!
Bacchis You had reason, Pamphilus,
Loving your wife so much. Before today
I’d never seen her, but I have to say
She seems so genteel.
Pamphilus That is very true.
Bacchis May the gods bless me!
Pamphilus Tell me, then, have you
Told to my father anything of these
Pamphilus We must keep them from Laches,
Therefore, for there’s no need. I do not yearn
For everybody everywhere to learn 1190
The total plot, as in the comedies.
Here, those who ought to know the plot – well, these
Already do; but those who should not know
Will neither hear nor know of it.
Bacchis And so
I’ll give you proof why it seems easily
Concealed. Myrrhina told Phidippus she
Believed my oath and thus she will excuse
The things that you have done.
Pamphilus This is great news:
I hope all turns out well.
Parmeno Will you not say,
Master, to me what good I’ve done today 1200
Or what you’re talking of?
Pamphilus That may not be.
Parmeno “You have restored my soul from Purgatory”,
You said. But how?
Pamphilus You can’t in any way
Know how well you have aided me today.
Parmeno Oh no, indeed I am aware, although
I had a plan.
Oh, that I surely know.
Bacchis Could Parmeno omit, through laxity,
Something that should be done?
Pamphilus Now follow me.
Parmeno I will. Unwillingly I’ve done more good
Today than ever did I think I could 1210
In all my life before, though then I knew
That I was doing so. [comes forward] Applaud us, do.