Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE KNIGHTS: THE POET AND HIS RIVALS, by ARISTOPHANES



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THE KNIGHTS: THE POET AND HIS RIVALS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: If one of the comedy-makers of old had attempted to order the knights
Last Line: And a gleaming expanse on his forehead.


IF one of the comedy-makers of old had attempted to order the Knights
To come forward and speak to the House in his name, we'd have said he exceeded
his rights,
But this man really merits our help. He has hated the things we hate,
Defended the Right, and fronted the Storm, stood fast in the roaring Spate.
Now he tells us that dozens of people have come, and asked him, in some
surprise,
Why he hasn't produced his plays himself, long ago, without any disguise.
Well, he wants us to say he has waited so long not for nothing, but -- so he
insists --
Because the production of Comedy is the most ticklish thing that exists.
Our fair Comic Muse is courted, he says, by hundreds, but smiles upon few.
Besides he has read your natures of old; you were annual plants, he knew,
You had never kept faith with the poets you loved; just used them and thrown
them away.
He thought of what Magnes suffered, as soon as his temples began to be grey,
Though there never had been such a chorus as his, such a winner of prize upon
prize,
Though he uttered all manner of varying sounds with his Lutes and his
Wings and his Flies,
Though he talked like a Lydian, turned green like a Frog. Not enough!
In the valley of years,
Though never in youth, he was hissed off the stage. 'There was not enough life
in his jeers!'
Of Cratinus he thought, at the height of his power, like a flood that burst
through the level,
Till oaks, planes, enemies, up by the roots went flying, and off to the Devil;
When never a song at a banquet was heard but Slipper of Silvery Tips,
Or Songful Grafters of Glutinous Palms; 'twas a glory that none could
eclipse.
And now, when you see him doddering past, for shame! have you nothing to say,
When he walks in a maze, like Connas of old, his lyre far gone in decay,
With the pegs dropping out, and the strings out of tune, and the joints of the
framework burst,
The flowers of his garland of victory dead, and the old boy dying of thirst?
Why, if men had their rights, he should drink at his ease at the Hearth of
Athena, and sit
Beside Dionysus here, clad in his best, in return for those glories of wit.
Then Crates, too, what tempers of yours and buffetings he underwent!
Light lunches he gave you, at little expense, and dismissed you amused and
content;
He made you the neatest confections of wit, well-phrased by the driest of lips;
He did -- he only -- hold out to the end, and stood -- with occasional slips . .
.
Their fate made him nervous and willing to wait; and besides he felt perfectly
clear
That a sailor must first learn to manage his oar before he professes to steer;
And, next after that, take his stand at the prow and study the winds and the
weather;
And then, last of all, rule the vessel himself. For all these reasons together,
And because he was modest, and didn't rush in and brawl with incompetence
horrid,
Come, a shout like the sea, a salute with all oars!
A Lenean salute till the theatre roars!
And so let your poet in triumph depart
With a smile in his heart
And a gleaming expanse on his forehead.





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