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Charon. Hermes. Various Shades

Ch. I'll tell you how things stand. Our craft, as you see, is small, and leaky, and three-parts rotten; a single lurch, and she will capsize without more ado. And here are all you passengers, each with his luggage. If you come on board like that, I am afraid you may have cause to repent it; especially those who have not learnt to swim.

Her. Then how are we to make a trip of it?

Ch. I'll tell you. They must leave all this nonsense behind them on shore, and come aboard in their skins. As it is, there will be no room to spare. And in future, Hermes, mind you admit no one till he has cleared himself of encumbrances, as I say. Stand by the gangway, and keep an eye on them, and make them strip before you let them pass.

Her. Very good. Well, Number One, who are you?

Men. Menippus. Here are my wallet and staff; overboard with them. I had the sense not to bring my cloak.

Her. Pass on, Menippus; you're a good fellow; you shall have the seat of honour, up by the pilot, where you can see every one.--Here is a handsome person; who is he?

Char. Charmoleos of Megara; the irresistible, whose kiss was worth a thousand pounds.

Her. That beauty must come off,--lips, kisses, and all; the flowing locks, the blushing cheeks, the skin entire. That's right. Now we're in better trim;--you may pass on.--And who is the stunning gentleman in the purple and the diadem?

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Lam. I am Lampichus, tyrant of Gela.

Her. And what is all this splendour doing here, Lampichus?

Lam. How! would you have a tyrant come hither stripped?

Her. A tyrant! That would be too much to expect. But with a shade we must insist. Off with these things.

Lam. There, then: away goes my wealth.

Her. Pomp must go too, and pride; we shall be overfreighted else.

Lam. At least let me keep my diadem and robes.

Her. No, no; off they come!

Lam. Well? That is all, as you see for yourself.

Her. There is something more yet: cruelty, folly, insolence, hatred.

Lam. There then: I am bare.

Her. Pass on.--And who may you be, my bulky friend?

Dam. Damasias the athlete.

Her. To be sure; many is the time I have seen you in the gymnasium.

Dam. You have. Well, I have peeled; let me pass.

Her. Peeled! my dear sir, what, with all this fleshy encumbrance? Come, off with it; we should go to the bottom if you put one foot aboard. And those crowns, those victories, remove them.

Dam. There; no mistake about it this time; I am as light as any shade among them.

Her. That's more the kind of thing. On with you.--Crato, you can take off that wealth and luxury and effeminacy; and we can't have that funeral pomp here, nor those ancestral glories either; down with your rank and reputation, and any votes of thanks or inscriptions you have about you; and you need not tell us what size your tomb was; remarks of that kind come heavy.

Cra. Well, if I must, I must; there's no help for it.

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Her. Hullo! in full armour? What does this mean? and why this trophy?

A General. I am a great conqueror; a valiant warrior; my country's pride.

Her. The trophy may stop behind; we are at peace; there is no demand for arms.--Whom have we here? whose is this knitted brow, this flowing beard? ’Tis some reverend sage, if outside goes for anything; he mutters; he is wrapped in meditation.

Men. That's a philosopher, Hermes; and an impudent quack not the bargain. Have him out of that cloak; you will find something to amuse you underneath it.

Her. Off with your clothes first; and then we will see to the rest. My goodness, what a bundle: quackery, ignorance, quarrelsomeness, vainglory; idle questionings, prickly arguments, intricate conceptions; humbug and gammon and wishy-washy hair-splittings without end; and hullo! why here's avarice, and self-indulgence, and impudence! luxury, effeminacy and peevishness!--Yes, I see them all; you need not try to hide them. Away with falsehood and swagger and superciliousness; why, the three-decker is not built that would hold you with all this luggage.

A Philosopher. I resign them all, since such is your bidding.

Men. Have his beard off too, Hermes; only look what a ponderous bush of a thing! There's a good five pounds' weight there.

Her. Yes; the beard must go.

Phil. And who shall shave me?

Her. Menippus here shall take it off with the carpenter's axe; the gangway will serve for a block.

Men. Oh, can't I have a saw, Hermes? It would be much better fun.

Her. The axe must serve.--Shrewdly chopped!--Why, you look more like a man and less like a goat already.

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Men. A little off the eyebrows?

Her. Why, certainly; he has trained them up all over his forehead, for reasons best known to himself.--Worm! what, snivelling? afraid of death? Oh, get on board with you.

Men. He has still got the biggest thumper of all under his arm.

Her. What's that?

Men. Flattery; many is the good turn that has done him.

Phil. Oh, all right, Menippus; suppose you leave your independence behind you, and your plain--speaking, and your indifference, and your high spirit, and your jests!--No one else here has a jest about him.

Her. Don't you, Menippus! you stick to them; useful commodities, these, on shipboard; light and handy.--You rhetorician there, with your verbosities and your barbarisms, your antitheses and balances and periods, off with the whole pack of them.

Rhet. Away they go.

Her. All's ready. Loose the cable, and pull in the gangway; haul up the anchor; spread all sail; and, pilot, look to your helm. Good luck to our voyage!--What are you all whining about, you fools? You philosopher, late of the beard,--you're as bad as any of them.

Phil. Ah, Hermes: I had thought that the soul was immortal.

Men. He lies: that is not the cause of his distress.

Her. What is it, then?

Men. He knows that he will never have a good dinner again; never sneak about at night with his cloak over his head, going the round of the brothels; never spend his mornings in fooling boys out of their money, under the pretext of teaching them wisdom.

Phil. And pray are you content to be dead?

Men. It may be presumed so, as I sought death of my own

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accord.--By the way, I surely heard a noise, as if people were shouting on the earth?

Her. You did; and from more than one quarter.--There are people running in a body to the Town-hall, exulting over the death of Lampichus; the women have got hold of his wife; his infant children fare no better,--the boys are giving them handsome pelting. Then again you hear the applause that greets the orator Diophantus, as he pronounces the funeral oration of our friend Crato. Ah yes, and that's Damasias's mother, with her women, striking up a dirge. No one has tear for you, Menippus; your remains are left in peace. Privileged person!

Men. Wait a bit: before long you will hear the mournful howl of dogs, and the beating of crows' wings, as they gather to perform my funeral rites.

Her. I like your spirit.--However, here we are in port. Away with you all to the judgement-seat; it is straight ahead. The ferryman and I must go back for a fresh load.

Men. Good voyage to you, Hermes.--Let us be getting on; what are you all waiting for? We have got to face the judge, sooner or later; and by all accounts his sentences are no joke; wheels, rocks, vultures are mentioned. Every detail of our lives will now come to light!


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