Works, by Lucian

Lexiphanes

Lycinus. Lexiphanes. Sopolis

Ly. What, our exquisite with his essay?

Lex. Ah, Lycinus, ’tis but a fledgeling of mine; ’tis all incondite.

Ly. O ho, conduits — that is your subject, is it?

Lex. You mistake me; I said nothing of conduits; you are behind the times; incondite —’tis the word we use now when a thing lacks the finishing touches. But you are the deaf adder that stoppeth her ears.

Ly. I beg your pardon, my dear fellow; but conduit, incondite, you know. Well now, what is the idea of your piece?

Lex. A symposium, a modest challenge to the son of Ariston.

Ly. There are a good many sons of Aristons; but, from the symposium, I presume you mean Plato.

Lex. You take me; what I said could fit no other.

Ly. Well, come, read me a little of it; do not send me away thirsty; I see there is nectar in store.

Lex. Ironist, avaunt! And now open your ears to my charming; adder me no adders.

Ly. Go ahead; I am no Adam, nor Eve either.

Lex. Have an eye to my conduct of the discourse, whether it be fair in commencement, fair in speech, fair in diction, fair in nomenclature.

Ly. Oh, we know what to expect from Lexiphanes. But come, begin.

Lex. ’Then to dinner,’ quoth Callicles, ‘then to our post-prandial deambulation in the Lyceum; but now ’tis time for our parasolar unction, ere we bask and bathe and take our nuncheon; go we our way. Now, boy, strigil and mat, towels and soap; transport me them bathwards, and see to the bath-penny; you will find it a-ground by the chest. And thou, Lexiphanes, comest thou, or tarriest here?’ ‘Its a thousand years,’ quoth I, ‘till I bathe; for I am in no comfort, with sore posteriors from my mule-saddle. Trod the mule-man as on eggs, yet kept his beast a-moving. And when I got to the farm, still no peace for the wicked. I found the hinds shrilling the harvest-song, and there were persons burying my father, I think it was. I just gave them a hand with the grave and things, and then I left them; it was so cold, and I had prickly heat; one does, you know, in a hard frost. So I went round the plough-lands; and there I found garlic growing, delved radishes, culled chervil and all herbs, bought parched barley, and (for not yet had the meadows reached the redolency that tempts the ten toes)-so to mule-back again; whence this tenderness behind. And now I walk with pain, and the sweat runs down; my bones languish, and yearn for the longest of water-swims; ’tis ever my joy to wash me after toil.

I will speed back to my boy; ’tis like he waits for me at the pease-puddingry, or the curiosity shop; yet stay; his instructions were to meet me at the frippery. Ah, hither comes he in the nick of time: ay, and has purchased a beesting-pudding and girdle-cakes and leeks, sausages and steak, dewlap and tripe and collops. — Good, Atticion, you have made most of my journey no thoroughfare.’ ‘Why, sir, I have been looking round the corner for you till I squint. Where dined you yesterday? with Onomacritus?’ ‘God bless me, no. I was off to the country; hey presto! and there we were. You know how I dote on the country. I suppose you all thought I was making the glasses ring. Now go in, and spice all these things, and scour the kneading-trough, ready to shred the lettuces. I shall be of for a dry rub.’

‘We are with you,’ cried Philinus, ‘Onomarchus, Hellanicus, and I; the dial’s mid point is in shadow; beware, or we shall bathe in the Carimants’ water, huddled and pushed by the vulgar herd.’ Then said Hellanicus: ‘Ah, and my eyes are disordered; my pupils are turbid, I wink and blink, the tears come unbidden, my eyes crave the ophthalmic leech’s healing drug, mortar-brayed and infused, that they may blush and blear no more, nor moistly peer.’

In such wise conversing, all our company departed. Arrived at the gymnasium, we stripped; the finger-wrench, the garotte, the standing-grip, each had its votaries; one oiled and suppled his joints; another punched the bladder; a third heaved and swung the dumb-bells. Then, when we had rubbed ourselves, and ridden pick-a-back, and had our sport of the gymnasium, we took our plunge, Philinus and I, in the warm basin, and departed. But the rest dipped frigid heads, soused in, and swam subaqueous, a wonder to behold. Then back we came, and one here, one there, did this and that. Shod, with toothed comb I combed me. For I had had a short crop, not to convict-measure, but saucer-wise, deflation having set in on crown and chin-tip. One chewed lupines, another cleared his fasting throat, a third took fish soup on radish-wafer sippets; this ate olives, that supped down barley.

When it was dinner-time, we took it reclining, both chairs and couches standing ready. A joint-stock meal it was, and the contributions many and various. Pigs’ pettitoes, ribs of beef, paunch and pregnant womb of sow, fried liver lobe, garlic paste, sauce piquante, mayonnaise, and so on; pastry, ramequins, and honey-cakes. In the aquatic line, much of the cartilaginous, of the testaceous much; many a salt slice, basket-hawked, eels of Copae, fowls of the barn-door, a cock past crowing-days, and fish to keep him company; add to these a sheep roast whole, and ox’s rump of toothless eld. The loaves were firsts, no common stuff, and therewithal remainders from the new moon; vegetables both radical and excrescent. For the wine, ’twas of no standing, but came from the skin; its sweetness was gone, but its roughness remained.

On the dolphin-foot table stood divers store of cups; the eye-shutter, the ladle, slender-handled, genuine Mentor; crane-neck and gurgling bombyl; and many an earth-born child of Thericlean furnace, the wide-mouthed, the kindly-lipped; Phocaean, Cnidian work, but all light as air, and thin as eggshell; bowls and pannikins and posied cups; oh, ’twas a well-stocked sideboard.

But the kettle boiled over, and sent the ashes flying about our heads. It was bumpers and no heeltaps, and we were full to the throat. Then to the nard; and enter to us guitar and light fantastic toe. Thereafter, one shinned up the ladder, on post-prandial japery intent, another beat the devil’s tattoo, a third writhed cachinnatory.

At this moment broke in upon us from the bath, all uninvited, Megalonymus the attorney, Chaereas the goldsmith, striped back and all, and the bruiser Eudemus. I asked them what they were about to come so late. Quoth Chaereas; ‘I was working a locket and ear-rings and bangles for my daughter; that is why I come after the fair.’ ‘I was otherwise engaged,’ said Megalonymus; ‘know you not that it was a lawless day and a dumb? So, as it was linguistice, there was truce to my calendarial clockings and plea-mensurations. But hearing the governor was giving a warm reception, I took my shiniest clothes, fresh from the tailor, and my unmatched shoes, and showed myself out.

‘The first I met were a torch-bearer, a hierophant, and others of the initiated, haling Dinias before the judge, and protesting that he had called them by their names, though he well knew that, from the time of their sanctification, they were nameless, and no more to be named but by hallowed names; so then he appealed to me.’ ‘Dinias?’ I put in; ‘Who is Dinias?’ ‘Oh, he’s a dance-for-your-supper carry-your-luggage rattle-your-patter gaming-house sort of man; eschews the barber, and takes care of his poor chest and toes.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘paid he the penalty in some wise, or showed a clean pair of heels?’ ‘Our delicate goer is now fast bound. The governor, regardless of his retiring disposition, slipped him on a pair of bracelets and a necklace, and brought him acquainted with stocks and boot. The poor worm quaked for fear, and could not contain himself, and offered money, if so he might save his soul alive.’

‘As for me,’ said Eudemus, ‘I was sent for in the gloaming by Damasias, the athlete many-victoried of yore, now pithless from age; you know him in bronze in the market. He was busy with roast and boiled. He was this day to exdomesticate his daughter, and was decking her out for her husband, when a baleful incident occurred, which cleft the feast in twain. For Dion his son, on grievance unknown, if it were not rather the hostility of Heaven, hanged himself; and be sure he was a dead man, had I not been there, and dislocated and loosed him from his implication. Long time I squatted a-knee, pricking and rocking, and sounding him, to see whether his throat was still whole. What profited most was compressure of the extremities with both my hands.’

‘What, Dion the effeminate, the libertine, the debauchee, the mastich-chewer, the too susceptible to amorous sights?’ ‘Yes; the lecher and whore-master. Well, Damasias fell down and worshipped the Goddess (they have an Artemis by Scopas in the middle of the court), he and his old white-headed wife, and implored her compassion. The Goddess straightway nodded assent, and he was well; and now he is their Theodorus, or indeed their manifest Artemidorus. So they made offerings to her, among them darts and bows and arrows; for these are acceptable in her sight; bow-woman she, far-dartress, telepolemic’

‘Let us drink, then’ said Megalonymus; ‘here have I brought you a flagon of antiquated wine, with cream cheese and windfall olives — I keep them under seal, and the seals are worm-eaten — and others brine-steeped, and these fictile cups, thin-edged, firm-based, that we might drink therefrom, and a pasty of tripe rolled like a top-knot. — Now, you sir, pour me in some more water; if my head begins to ache, I shall be sending for your master to talk to you. — You know, gentlemen, what megrims I get, and what a numskull mine is. After drinking, we will chirp a little as is our wont; ’tis not amiss to prate in one’s cups’

‘So be it,’ quoth I; ‘we are the very pink and perfection of the true Attic’ ‘Done with you!’ says Callicles, ‘frequent quizzings are a whetstone of conversation’ ‘For my part,’ cries Eudemus, ‘— it grows chill — I like my liquor stronger, and more of it; I am deathly cold; if I could get some warmth into me, I had rather listen to these light-fingered gentry of flute and lyre.’ ‘What is this you say, Eudemus?’ says I; ‘You would exact mutation from us? are we so hard-mouthed, so untongued? For my tongue, ’tis garriturient. I was just getting under way, and making ready to hail you with a fine old Attic shower. ’Tis as if a three-master were sailing before the breeze, with stay-sails wind-bellied, scudding along wave-skimming, and you should throw out two — tongued anchorage and iron stoppers and ship-fetters, and block her foaming course, in envy of her fair-windedness.’ ‘Why then, if you will, splash and dash and crash through the waves; and I upsoaring, and drinking the while, will watch like Homer’s Zeus from some bald-crowned hill or from Heaven-top, while you and your ship are swept along with the wind behind you.‘

Ly. Thanks, Lexiphanes; enough of drink and reading. I assure you I am full beyond my capacity as it is; if I do not succeed in quickly unloading my stomach of what you have put into it, there is not a doubt I shall go raving mad under the intoxication of your exuberant verbosity. At first I was inclined to be amused; but there is such a lot of it, and all just alike; I pity you now, poor misguided one, trapped in your endless maze, sick unto death, a prey to melancholia.

Where in the world can you have raked up all this rubbish from? How long has it taken you? Or what sort of a hive could ever keep together such a swarm of lop-sided monstrosities? Of some you are the proud creator, the rest you have dug up from dark lurking-places, till ’tis

Curse on you, piling woe on mortal woe!

How have you gathered all the minor sewers into one cloaca maxima, and discharged the whole upon my innocent head! Have you never a friend or relation or well-wisher? Did you never meet a plain-dealer to give you a dose of candour? That would have cured you. You are dropsical, man; you are like to burst with it; and you take it for muscular healthy stoutness; you are congratulated only by the fools who do not see what is the matter; the instructed cannot help being sorry for you.

But here in good time comes Sopolis; we will put you in the good doctor’s hands, tell him all about it, and see if anything can be done for you. He is a clever man; he has taken many a helpless semi-lunatic like you in hand and dosed him into sanity. — Good day, Sopolis. Lexiphanes here is a friend of mine, you know. Now I want you to undertake his case; he is afflicted with a delirious affection of the vocal organs, and I fear a complete breakdown. Pray take measures to cure him.

Lex. Heal him, not me, Sopolis; he is manifestly moon-struck; persons duly pia-matered he accounts beside their five wits; he might come from Samos and call Mnesarchus father; for he enjoins silence and linguinanity. But by the unabashed Athene, by Heracles the beast-killer, no jot or tittle of notice shall he have from me. ’Tis my foreboding that I fall not in with him again. For his censures, I void my rheum upon them.

Sop. What is the matter with him, Lycinus?

Ly. Why, this is the matter; don’t you hear? He leaves us his contemporaries, and goes a thousand years off to talk to us, which he does by aid of these tongue-gymnastics and extraordinary compounds — prides himself upon it, too, as if it were a great thing to disguise yourself, and mutilate the conversational currency.

Sop. Well, to be sure, this is a serious case; we must do all we can for him. Providentially, here is an emetic I had just mixed for a bilious patient; here, Lexiphanes, drink it off; the other man can wait; let us purge you of this vocal derangement, and get you a clean bill of health. Come along, down with it; you will feel much easier.

Lex. I know not what you would be at, you and Lycinus, with your drenches; I fear me you are more like to end than mend my speech.

Ly. Drink, quick; it will make a man of you in thought and word.

Lex. Well, if I must. Lord, what is this? How it rumbles! I must have swallowed a ventriloquist.

Sop. Now, let it come. Look, look! Here comes in sooth, anon follows, close upon them quoth he, withal, sirrah, I trow, and a general sprinkling of sundry. But try again; tickle your throat; that will help. Hard, by has not come up yet, nor a-weary, nor rehearse, nor quandary. Oh, there are lots of them lurking yet, a whole stomachful. It would be well to get rid of some of them by purging; there should be an impressive explosion when orotundity makes its windy exit. However, he is pretty well cleaned out, except for what may be left in the lower bowels. Lycinus, I shall now leave him in your charge; teach him better ways, and tell him what are the right words to use.

Ly. I will, Sopolis; and thank you for clearing the way. Now, Lexiphanes, listen to me. If you want sincere commendations upon your style, and success with popular audiences, give a wide berth to that sort of stuff. Make a beginning with the great poets, read them with some one to help you, then go on to the orators, and when you have assimilated their vocabulary, proceed in due time to Thucydides and Plato, not forgetting a thorough course also of pleasant Comedy and grave Tragedy. When you have culled the best that all these can show, you may reckon that you have a style. You have not realized it, but at present you are like the toymen’s dolls, all gaudy colouring outside, and inside, fragile clay.

If you will take this advice, put up for a little while with being called uneducated, and not be ashamed to mend your ways, you may face an audience without a tremor; you will not then be a laughing-stock any more; the cultivated will no longer exercise their irony upon you and nickname you the Hellene and the Attic just because you are less intelligible than many barbarians. But above all things, do bear in mind not to ape the worst tricks of the last generation’s professors; you are always nibbling at their wares; put your foot upon them once for all, and take the ancients for your model. And no dallying with unsubstantial flowers of speech; accustom yourself, like the athletes, to solid food. And let your devotions be paid to the Graces and to Lucidity, whom you have so neglected.

Further, put a stopper on bombast and grandiloquence and mannerism; be neither supercilious nor overbearing; cease to carp at other people’s performances and to count their loss your gain. And then, perhaps the greatest of all your errors is this: instead of arranging your matter first, and then elaborating the diction, you find some out-of-the-way word, or are captivated by one of your own invention, and try to build up your meaning round it; if you cannot get it in somehow or other, though it may have nothing to do with the matter, you are inconsolable; do you remember the mobled queen you let off the other day? It was quite off the point, and you did not know what it meant yourself; however, its oddness tickled the ears of the ignorant many; as for the cultivated, they were equally amused at you and at your admirers.

Again, could anything be more ludicrous than for one who claims to be a purist, drawing from the undefiled fountain of antiquity, to mix in (though indeed that reverses the proportion) expressions that would be impossible to the merest schoolboy? I felt as if I should like the earth to swallow me up, when I heard you talk of a man’s chemise, and use valet of a woman; who does not know that a man wears a shirt, and that a valet is male? But you abound in far more flagrant blunders than these: I have chidden, not chode you; we do not write a friend, we write to him; we say ’onest, not honest; these usages of yours cannot claim even alien rights among us. Moreover, we do not like even poetry to read like the dictionary. But the sort of poetry to which your prose corresponds would be Dosiadas’s Altar, Lycophron’s Alexandra, or any more pestilent pedantry that may happen to exist. If you take the pains to unlearn all this, you will have done the best you can for yourself. If you let yourself be seduced by your sweet baits again, I have at least put in my word of warning, and you will have only yourself to blame when you find yourself on the downward path.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:49