Me. What are you crying out about, Tantalus? standing at the edge and whining like that!
Tan. Ah, Menippus, I thirst, I perish!
Me. What, not enterprise enough to bend down to it, or scoop up some in your palm?
Tan. It is no use bending down; the water shrinks away as soon as it sees me coming. And if I do scoop it up and get it to my mouth, the outside of my lips is hardly moist before it has managed to run through my fingers, and my hand is as dry as ever.
Me. A very odd experience, that. But by the way, why do you want to drink? you have no body--the part of you that was liable to hunger and thirst is buried in Lydia somewhere; how can you, the spirit, hunger or thirst any more?
Tan. Therein lies my punishment--soul thirsts as if it were body.
Me. Well, let that pass, as you say thirst is your punishment. But why do you mind it? are you afraid of dying, for want of drink? I do not know of any second Hades; can you die to this one, and go further?
Tan. No, that is quite true. But you see this is part of the sentence: I must long for drink, though I have no need of it.
Me. There is no meaning in that. There is a draught you need, though; some neat hellebore is what you want; you are suffering from a converse hydrophobia; you are not afraid of water, but you are of thirst.
Tan. I would as life drink hellebore as anything, if I could but drink.
Me. Never fear, Tantalus; neither you nor any other ghost will ever do that; it is impossible, you see; just as well we have not all got a penal thirst like you, with the water running away from us.