The Self-Tormentor, by Terence


Lest any of you wonder, why the Bard
To an old actor hath assign’d the part
Sustain’d of old by young performers; that
I’ll first explain: then say what brings
To-day, a whole play, wholly from the Greek,
We mean to represent:— The Self-Tormentor:
Wrought from a single to a double plot.

Now therefore that our comedy is new,
And what it is, I’ve shown: who wrote it too,
And whose in Greek it is, were I not sure
Most of you knew already, would I tell.
But, wherefore I have ta’en this part upon me,
In brief I will deliver: for the Bard
Has sent me here as pleader, not as Prologue;
You he declares his judges, me his counsel:
And yet as counsel nothing can I speak
More than the Author teaches me to say,
Who wrote th’ oration which I now recite.

As to reports, which envious men have spread,
That he has ransack’d many Grecian plays,
While he composes some few Latin ones,
That he denies not, he has done; nor does
Repent he did it; means to do it still;
Safe in the warrant and authority
Of greater bards, who did long since the same.
Then for the charge, that his arch-enemy
Maliciously reproaches him withal,
That he but lately hath applied himself
To music, with the genius of his friends,
Rather than natural talents, fraught; how true,
Your judgment, your opinion, must decide.
I would entreat you, therefore, not to lean
To tales of slander, rather than of candor.
Be favorable; nurse with growing hopes
The bards, who give you pleasing novelties;
Pleasing I say, not such as His I mean,
Who lately introduc’d a breathless slave,
Making the crowd give way — But wherefore trace
A dunce’s faults? which shall be shown at large,
When more he writes, unless he cease to rail.

Attend impartially! and let me once
Without annoyance act an easy part;
Lest your old servant be o’er-labor’d still
With toilsome characters, the running slave,
The eating parasite, enrag’d old man,
The bold-fac’d sharper, covetous procurer;
Parts, that ask pow’rs of voice, and iron sides.
Deign then, for my sake, to accept this plea,
And grant me some remission from my labor.
For they, who now produce new comedies,
Spare not my age! If there is aught laborious,
They run to me; but if of little weight,
Away to others. In our piece to-day
The style is pure: now try my talents then
In either character. If I for gain,
Never o’er-rated my abilities;
If I have held it still my chief reward
To be subservient to your pleasure; fix
In me a fair example, that our youth
May seek to please you, rather than themselves.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04