Tim. O Zeus, thou arbiter of friendship, protector of the guest, preserver of fellowship, lord of the hearth, launcher of the lightning, avenger of oaths, compeller of clouds, utterer of thunder (and pray add any other epithets; those cracked poets have plenty ready, especially when they are in difficulties with their scansion; then it is that a string of your names saves the situation and fills up the metrical gaps), O Zeus, where is now your resplendent lightning, where your deep-toned thunder, where the glowing, white-hot, direful bolt? we know now ’tis all fudge and poetic moonshine — barring what value may attach to the rattle of the names. That renowned projectile of yours, which ranged so far and was so ready to your hand, has gone dead and cold, it seems; never a spark left in it to scorch iniquity.
If men are meditating perjury, a smouldering lamp-wick is as likely to frighten them off it as the omnipotent’s levin-bolt; the brand you hold over them is one from which they see neither flame nor smoke can come; a little soot-grime is the worst that need be apprehended from a touch of it. No wonder if Salmoneus challenged you to a thundering-match; he was reasonable enough when he backed his artificial heat against so cool-tempered a Zeus. Of course he was; there are you in your opiate-trance, never hearing the perjurers nor casting a glance at criminals, your glazed eyes dull to all that happens, and your ears as deaf as a dotard’s.
When you were young and keen, and your temper had some life in it, you used to bestir yourself against crime and violence; there were no armistices in those days; the thunderbolt was always hard at it, the aegis quivering, the thunder rattling, the lightning engaged in a perpetual skirmish. Earth was shaken like a sieve, buried in snow, bombarded with hail. It rained cats and dogs (if you will pardon my familiarity), and every shower was a waterspout. Why, in Deucalion’s time, hey presto, everything was swamped, mankind went under, and just one little ark was saved, stranding on the top of Lycoreus and preserving a remnant of human seed for the generation of greater wickedness.
Mankind pays you the natural wages of your laziness; if any one offers you a victim or a garland nowadays, it is only at Olympia as a perfunctory accompaniment of the games; he does it not because he thinks it is any good, but because he may as well keep up an old custom. It will not be long, most glorious of deities, before they serve you as you served Cronus, and depose you. I will not rehearse all the robberies of your temple — those are trifles; but they have laid hands on your person at Olympia, my lord High–Thunderer, and you had not the energy to wake the dogs or call in the neighbours; surely they might have come to the rescue and caught the fellows before they had finished packing up the swag. But there sat the bold Giant-slayer and Titan-conqueror letting them cut his hair, with a fifteen-foot thunderbolt in his hand all the time! My good sir, when is this careless indifference to cease? how long before you will punish such wickedness? Phaethon-falls and Deucalion-deluges — a good many of them will be required to suppress this swelling human insolence.
To leave generalities and illustrate from my own case — I have raised any number of Athenians to high position, I have turned poor men into rich, I have assisted every one that was in want, nay, flung my wealth broadcast in the service of my friends, and now that profusion has brought me to beggary, they do not so much as know me; I cannot get a glance from the men who once cringed and worshipped and hung upon my nod. If I meet one of them in the street, he passes me by as he might pass the tombstone of one long dead; it has fallen face upwards, loosened by time, but he wastes no moment deciphering it. Another will take the next turning when he sees me in the distance; I am a sight of ill omen, to be shunned by the man whose saviour and benefactor I had been not so long ago.
Thus in disgrace with fortune, I have betaken me to this corner of the earth, where I wear the smock-frock and dig for sixpence a day, with solitude and my spade to assist meditation. So much gain I reckon upon here — to be exempt from contemplating unmerited prosperity; no sight that so offends the eye as that. And now, Son of Cronus and Rhea, may I ask you to shake off that deep sound sleep of yours — why, Epimenides’s was a mere nap to it — put the bellows to your thunderbolt or warm it up in Etna, get it into a good blaze, and give a display of spirit, like a manly vigorous Zeus? or are we to believe the Cretans, who show your grave among their sights?
Zeus. Hermes, who is that calling out from Attica? there, on the lower slopes of Hymettus — a grimy squalid fellow in a smock-frock; he is bending over a spade or something; but he has a tongue in his head, and is not afraid to use it. He must be a philosopher, to judge from his fluent blasphemy.
Her. What, father! have you forgotten Timon — son of Echecratides, of Collytus? many is the time he has feasted us on unexceptionable victims; the rich parvenu of the whole hecatombs, you know, who used to do us so well at the Diasia.
Zeus. Dear, dear, quantum mutatus! is this the admired, the rich, the popular? What has brought him to this pass? There he is in filth and misery, digging for hire, labouring at that ponderous spade.
Her. Why, if you like to put it so, it was kindness and generosity and universal compassion that ruined him; but it would be nearer the truth to call him a fool and a simpleton and a blunderer; he did not realize that his proteges were carrion crows and wolves; vultures were feeding on his unfortunate liver, and he took them for friends and good comrades, showing a fine appetite just to please him. So they gnawed his bones perfectly clean, sucked out with great precision any marrow there might be in them, and went off, leaving him as dry as a tree whose roots have been severed; and now they do not know him or vouchsafe him a nod — no such fools — nor ever think of showing him charity or repaying his gifts. That is how the spade and smock-frock are accounted for; he is ashamed to show his face in town; so he hires himself out to dig, and broods over his wrongs — the rich men he has made passing him contemptuously by, apparently quite unaware that his name is Timon.
Zeus. This is a case we must take up and see to. No wonder he is down on his luck. We should be putting ourselves on the level of his despicable sycophants, if we forgot all the fat ox and goat thighs he has burnt on our altars; the savour of them is yet in my nostrils. But I have been so busy, there is such a din of perjury, assault, and burglary; I am so frightened of the temple-robbers — they swarm now, you cannot keep them out, nor take a nap with any safety; and, with one thing and another, it is an age since I had a look at Attica. I have hardly been there since philosophy and argument came into fashion; indeed, with their shouting-matches going on, prayers are quite inaudible. One must sit with one’s ears plugged, if one does not want the drums of them cracked; such long vociferous rigmaroles about Incorporeal Things, or something they call Virtue! That is how we came to neglect this man — who really deserved better.
However, go to him now without wasting any more time, Hermes, and take Plutus with you. Thesaurus is to accompany Plutus, and they are both to stay with Timon, and not leave him so lightly this time, even though the generous fellow does his best to find other hosts for them. As to those parasites, and the ingratitude they showed him, I will attend to them before long; they shall have their deserts as soon as I have got the thunderbolt in order again. Its two best spikes are broken and blunted; my zeal outran my discretion the other day when I took that shot at Anaxagoras the sophist; the Gods non-existent, indeed! that was what he was telling his disciples. However, I missed him (Pericles had held up his hand to shield him), and the bolt glanced off on to the Anaceum, set it on fire, and was itself nearly pulverized on the rock. But meanwhile it will be quite sufficient punishment for them to see Timon rolling in money.
Her. Nothing like lifting up your voice, making yourself a nuisance, and showing a bold front; it is equally effective whether you are pleading with juries or deities. Here is Timon developing from pauper to millionaire, just because his prayer was loud and free enough to startle Zeus; if he had dug quietly with his face to his work, he might have dug to all eternity, for any notice he would have got.
Pl. Well, Zeus, I am not going to him.
Zeus. Your reason, good Plutus; have I not told you to go?
Pl. Good God! why, he insulted me, threw me about, dismembered me — me, his old family friend — and practically pitchforked me out of the house; he could not have been in a greater hurry to be rid of me if I had been a live coal in his hand. What, go there again, to be transferred to toadies and flatterers and harlots? No, no, Zeus; send me to people who will appreciate the gift, take care of me, value and cherish me. Let these gulls consort with the poverty which they prefer to me; she will find them a smock-frock and a spade, and they can be thankful for a miserable pittance of sixpence a day, these reckless squanderers of 1,000 pound presents.
Zeus. Ah, Timon will not treat you that way again. If his loins are not of cast iron, his spade-work will have taught him a thing or two about your superiority to poverty. You are so particular, you know; now, you are finding fault with Timon for opening the door to you and letting you wander at your own sweet will, instead of keeping you in jealous seclusion. Yesterday it was another story: you were imprisoned by rich men under bolts and locks and seals, and never allowed a glimpse of sunlight. That was the burden of your complaint — you were stifled in deep darkness. We saw you pale and careworn, your fingers hooked with coin-counting, and heard how you would like to run away, if only you could get the chance. It was monstrous, then, that you should be kept in a bronze or iron chamber, like a Danae condemned to virginity, and brought up by those stern unscrupulous tutors, Interest, Debit and Credit.
They were perfectly ridiculous, you know, loving you to distraction, but not daring to enjoy you when they might; you were in their power, yet they could not give the reins to their passion; they kept awake watching you with their eyes glued to bolt and seal; the enjoyment that satisfied them was not to enjoy you themselves, but to prevent others’ enjoying you — true dogs in the manger. Yes, and then how absurd it was that they should scrape and hoard, and end by being jealous of their own selves! Ah, if they could but see that rascally slave — steward — trainer — sneaking in bent on carouse! little enough he troubles his head about the luckless unamiable owner at his nightly accounts by a dim little half-fed lamp. How, pray, do you reconcile your old strictures of this sort with your contrary denunciation of Timon?
Pl. Oh, if you consider the thing candidly, you will find both attitudes reasonable. It is clear enough that Timon’s utter negligence comes from slackness, and not from any consideration for me. As for the other sort, who keep me shut up in the obscurity of strong-boxes, intent on making me heavy and fat and unwieldy, never touching me themselves, and never letting me see the light, lest some one else should catch sight of me, I always thought of them as fools and tyrants; what harm had I done that they should let me rot in close confinement? and did not they know that in a little while they would pass away and have to resign me to some other lucky man?
No, give me neither these nor the off-hand gentry; my beau ideal is the man who steers a middle course, as far from complete abstention as from utter profusion. Consider, Zeus, by your own great name; suppose a man were to take a fair young wife, and then absolutely decline all jealous precautions, to the point of letting her wander where she would by day or night, keeping company with any one who had a mind to her — or put it a little stronger, and let him be procurer, janitor, pander, and advertiser of her charms in his own person — well, what sort of love is his? come, Zeus, you have a good deal of experience, you know what love is.
On the other hand, let a man make a suitable match for the express purpose of raising heirs, and then let him neither himself have anything to do with her ripe, yet modest, beauty, nor allow any other to set eyes on it, but shut her up in barren, fruitless virginity; let him say all the while that he is in love with her, and let his pallid hue, his wasting flesh and his sunken eyes confirm the statement; — is he a madman, or is he not? he should be raising a family and enjoying matrimony; but he lets this fair-faced lovely girl wither away; he might as well be bringing up a perpetual priestess of Demeter. And now you understand my feelings when one set of people kick me about or waste me by the bucketful, and the others clap irons on me like a runaway convict.
Zeus. However, indignation is superfluous; both sets have just what they deserve — one as hungry and thirsty and dry-mouthed as Tantalus, getting no further than gaping at the gold; and the other finding its food swept away from its very gullet, as the Harpies served Phineus. Come, be off with you; you will find Timon has much more sense nowadays.
Pl. Oh, of course! he will not do his best to let me run out of a leaky vessel before I have done running in! oh no, he will not be consumed with apprehensions of the inflow’s gaining on the waste and flooding him! I shall be supplying a cask of the Danaids; no matter how fast I pour in, the thing will not hold water; every gallon will be out almost before it is in; the bore of the waste-pipe is so large, and never a plug.
Zeus. Well, if he does not stop the hole — if the leak is more than temporary — you will run out in no time, and he can find his smock-frock and spade again in the dregs of the cask. Now go along, both of you, and make the man rich. And, Hermes, on your way back, remember to bring the Cyclopes with you from Etna; my thunderbolt wants the grindstone; and I have work for it as soon as it is sharp.
Her. Come along, Plutus. Hullo! limping? My good man, I did not know you were lame as well as blind.
Pl. No, it is intermittent. As sure as Zeus sends me to any one, a sort of lethargy comes over me, my legs are like lead, and I can hardly get to my journey’s end; my destined host is sometimes an old man before I reach him. As a parting guest, on the other hand, you may see me wing my way swifter than any dream. ‘Are you ready?’ and almost before ‘Go’ has sounded, up goes my name as winner; I have flashed round the course absolutely unseen sometimes.
Her. You are not quite keeping to the truth; I could name you plenty of people who yesterday had not the price of a halter to hang themselves with, and today have developed into lavish men of fortune; they drive their pair of high-steppers, whereas a donkey would have been beyond their means before. They go about in purple raiment with jewelled fingers, hardly convinced yet that their wealth is not all a dream.
Pl. Ah, those are special cases, Hermes. I do not go on my own feet on those occasions, and it is not Zeus who sends me, but Pluto, who has his own ways of conferring wealth and making presents; Pluto and Plutus are not unconnected, you see. When I am to flit from one house to another, they lay me on parchment, seal me up carefully, make a parcel of me and take me round. The dead man lies in some dark corner, shrouded from the knees upward in an old sheet, with the cats fighting for possession of him, while those who have expectations wait for me in the public place, gaping as wide as young swallows that scream for their mother’s return.
Then the seal is taken off, the string cut, the parchment opened, and my new owner’s name made known. It is a relation, or a parasite, or perhaps a domestic minion, whose value lay in his vices and his smooth cheeks; he has continued to supply his master with all sorts of unnatural pleasures beyond the years which might excuse such service, and now the fine fellow is richly rewarded. But whoever it is, he snatches me up, parchment included, and is off with me in a flash; he used to be called Pyrrhias or Dromo or Tibius, but now he is Megacles, Megabyzus, or Protarchus; off he goes, leaving the disappointed ones staring at each other in very genuine mourning-over the fine fish which has jumped out of the landing-net after swallowing their good bait.
The fellow who has pounced on me has neither taste nor feeling; the sight of fetters still gives him a start; crack a whip in his neighbourhood, and his ears tingle; the treadmill is an abode of awe to him. He is now insufferable — insults his new equals, and whips his old fellows to see what that side of the transaction feels like. He ends by finding a mistress, or taking to the turf, or being cajoled by parasites; these have only to swear he is handsomer than Nireus, nobler than Cecrops or Codrus, wiser than Odysseus, richer than a dozen Croesuses rolled into one; and so the poor wretch disperses in a moment what cost so many perjuries, robberies, and swindles to amass.
Her. A very fair picture. But when you go on your own feet, how can a blind man like you find the way? Zeus sends you to people who he thinks deserve riches; but how do you distinguish them?
Pl. Do you suppose I do find them? not much. I should scarcely have passed Aristides by, and gone to Hipponicus, Callias, and any number of other Athenians whose merits could have been valued in copper.
Her. Well, but what do you do when he sends you?
Pl. I just wander up and down till I come across some one; the first comer takes me off home with him, and thanks — whom but the God of windfalls, yourself?
Her. So Zeus is in error, and you do not enrich deserving persons according to his pleasure?
Pl. My dear fellow, how can he expect it? He knows I am blind, and he sends me groping about for a thing so hard to detect, and so nearly extinct this long time, that a Lynceus would have his work cut out spying for its dubious remains. So you see, as the good are few, and cities are crowded with multitudes of the bad, I am much more likely to come upon the latter in my rambles, and they keep me in their nets.
Her. But when you are leaving them, how do you find escape so easy? you do not know the way.
Pl. Ah, there is just one occasion which brings me quickness of eye and foot; and that is flight.
Her. Yet another question. You are not only blind (excuse my frankness), but pallid and decrepit; how comes it, then, that you have so many lovers? All men’s looks are for you; if they get possession of you, they count themselves happy men; if they miss you, life is not worth living. Why, I have known not a few so sick for love of you that they have scaled some sky-pointing crag, and thence hurled themselves to unplumbed ocean depths 7, when they thought they were scorned by you, because you would not acknowledge their first salute. I am sure you know yourself well enough to confess that they must be lunatics, to rave about such charms as yours.
Pl. Why, you do not suppose they see me in my true shape, lame, blind, and so forth?
Her. How else, unless they are all as blind themselves?
Pl. They are not blind, my dear boy; but the ignorant misconceptions now so prevalent obscure their vision. And then I contribute; not to be an absolute fright when they see me, I put on a charming mask, all gilt and jewels, and dress myself up. They take the mask for my face, fall in love with its beauty, and are dying to possess it. If any one were to strip and show me to them naked, they would doubtless reproach themselves for their blindness in being captivated by such an ugly misshapen creature,
Her. How about fruition, then? When they are rich, and have put the mask on themselves, they are still deluded; if any one tries to take it off, they would sooner part with their heads than with it; and it is not likely they do not know by that time that the beauty is adventitious, now that they have an inside view. Pl. There too I have powerful allies.
Her. Namely —?
Pl. When a man makes my acquaintance, and opens the door to let me in, there enter unseen by my side Arrogance, Folly, Vainglory, Effeminacy, Insolence, Deceit, and a goodly company more. These possess his soul; he begins to admire mean things, pursues what he should abhor, reveres me amid my bodyguard of the insinuating vices which I have begotten, and would consent to anything sooner than part with me.
Her. What a smooth, slippery, unstable, evasive fellow you are, Plutus! there is no getting a firm hold of you; you wriggle through one’s fingers somehow, like an eel or a snake. Poverty is so different — sticky, clinging, all over hooks; any one who comes near her is caught directly, and finds it no simple matter to get clear. But all this gossip has put business out of our heads.
Pl. Business? What business?
Her. We have forgotten to bring Thesaurus, and we cannot do without him.
Pl. Oh, never mind him. When I come up to see you, I leave him on earth, with strict orders to stay indoors, and open to no one unless he hears my voice.
Her. Then we may make our way into Attica; hold on to my cloak till I find Timon’s retreat.
Pl. It is just as well to keep touch; if you let me drop behind, I am as likely as not to be snapped up by Hyperbolus or Cleon. But what is that noise? it sounds like iron on stone.
Her. Ah, here is Timon close to us; what a steep stony little plot he has got to dig! Good gracious, I see Poverty and Toil in attendance, Endurance, Wisdom, Courage, and Hunger’s whole company in full force — much more efficient than your guards, Plutus.
Pl. Oh dear, let us make the best of our way home, Hermes. We shall never produce any impression on a man surrounded by such troops.
Her. Zeus thought otherwise; so no cowardice.
Pov. Slayer of Argus, whither away, you two hand in hand?
Her. Zeus has sent us to Timon here.
Pov. Now? What has Plutus to do with Timon now? I found him suffering under Luxury’s treatment, put him in the charge of Wisdom and Toil (whom you see here), and made a good worthy man of him. Do you take me for such a contemptible helpless creature that you can rob me of my little all? have I perfected him in virtue, only to see Plutus take him, trust him to Insolence and Arrogance, make him as soft and limp and silly as before, and return him to me a worn-out rag again?
Her. It is Zeus’s will.
Pov. I am off, then. Toil, Wisdom, and the rest of you, quick march! Well, he will realize his loss before long; he had a good help meet in me, and a true teacher; with me he was healthy in body and vigorous in spirit; he lived the life of a man, and could be independent, and see the thousand and one needless refinements in all their absurdity.
Her. There they go, Plutus; let us come to him.
Tim. Who are you, villains? What do you want here, interrupting a hired labourer? You shall have something to take with you, confound you all! These clods and stones shall provide you with a broken head or two.
Her. Stop, Timon, don’t throw. We are not men; I am Hermes, and this is Plutus; Zeus has sent us in answer to your prayers. So knock off work, take your fortune, and much good may it do you!
Tim. I dare say you are Gods; that shall not save you. I hate every one, man or God; and as for this blind fellow, whoever he may be, I am going to give him one over the head with my spade.
Pl. For God’s sake, Hermes, let us get out of this! the man is melancholy-mad, I believe; he will do me a mischief before I get off.
Her. Now don’t be foolish, Timon; cease overdoing the ill-tempered boor, hold out your hands, take your luck, and be a rich man again. Have Athens at your feet, and from your solitary eminence you can forget ingratitude.
Tim. I have no use for you; leave me in peace; my spade is riches enough for me; for the rest, I am perfectly happy if people will let me alone.
Her. My dear sir — so unsociable?
So stiff and stubborn a reply to Zeus?
A misanthrope you may well be, after the way men have treated you; but with the Gods so thoughtful for you, you need not be a misotheist.
Tim. Very well, Hermes; I am extremely obliged to you and Zeus for your thoughtfulness — there; but I will not have Plutus.
Her. Why, pray?
Tim. He brought me countless troubles long ago — put me in the power of flatterers, set designing persons on me, stirred up ill-feeling, corrupted me with indulgence, exposed me to envy, and wound up with treacherously deserting me at a moment’s notice. Then the excellent Poverty gave me a drilling in manly labour, conversed with me in all frankness and sincerity, rewarded my exertions with a sufficiency, and taught me to despise superfluities; all hopes of a livelihood were to depend on myself, and I was to know my true wealth, unassailable by parasites’ flattery or informers’ threats, hasty legislatures or decree-mongering legislators, and which even the tyrant’s machinations cannot touch.
So, toil-hardened, working with a will at this bit of ground, my eyes rid of city offences, I get bread enough and to spare out of my spade. Go your ways, then, Hermes, and take Plutus back to Zeus. I am quite content to let every man of them go hang.
Her. Oh, that would be a pity; they are not all hanging-ripe. Don’t make a passionate child of yourself, but admit Plutus. Zeus’s gifts are too good to be thrown away.
Pl. Will you condescend to argue with me, Timon? or does my voice provoke you?
Tim. Oh, talk away; but be brief; no rascally lawyer’s ‘opening the case.’ I can put up with a few words from you, for Hermes’ sake.
Pl. A speech of some length might seem to be needed, considering the number of your charges; however, just examine your imputations of injustice. It was I that gave you those great objects of desire — consideration, precedence, honours, and every delight; all eyes and tongues and attentions were yours — my gifts; and if flatterers abused you, I am not responsible for that. It is I who should rather complain; you prostituted me vilely to scoundrels, whose laudations and cajolery of you were only samples of their designs upon me. As to your saying that I wound up by betraying you, you have things topsy-turvy again; I may complain; you took every method to estrange me, and finally kicked me out neck and crop. That is why your revered Dame Poverty has supplied you with a smock-frock to replace your soft raiment. Why, I begged and prayed Zeus (and Hermes heard me) that I might be excused from revisiting a person who had been so unfriendly to me as you.
Her. But you see how he is changed, Plutus; you need not be afraid to live with him now. Just go on digging, Timon; and you, Plutus, put Thesaurus in position; he will come at your call.
Tim. I must obey, and be a rich man again, Hermes; what can one do, when Gods insist? But reflect what troubles you are bringing on my luckless head; I have had a blissful life of late, and now for no fault of my own I am to have my hands full of gold and care again.
Her. Hard, intolerable fate! yet endure for my sake, if only that the flatterers may burst themselves with envy. And now for heaven, via Etna.
Pl. He is off, I suppose, from the beating of his wings. Now, you stay where you are, while I go and fetch Thesaurus to you; or rather, dig hard. Here, Gold! Thesaurus I say! answer Timon’s summons and let him unearth you. Now, Timon, with a will; a deep stroke or two. I will leave you together.
Tim. Come, spade, show your mettle; stick to it; invite Thesaurus to step up from his retreat. . . . O God of Wonders! O mystic priests! O lucky Hermes! whence this flood of gold? Sure, ’tis all a dream; methinks ’twill be ashes when I wake. And yet — coined gold, ruddy and heavy, a feast of delight!
O gold, the fairest gift to mortal eyes! be it night, or be it day, Thou dost outshine all else like living fire.
Come to me, my own, my beloved. I doubt the tale no longer; well might Zeus take the shape of gold; where is the maid that would not open her bosom to receive so fair a lover gliding through the roof?
Talk of Midas, Croesus, Delphic treasures! they were all nothing to Timon and his wealth; why, the Persian King could not match it. My spade, my dearest smock-frock, you must hang, a votive offering to Pan. And now I will buy up this desert corner, and build a tiny castle for my treasure, big enough for me to live in all alone, and, when I am dead, to lie in. And be the rule and law of my remaining days to shun all men, be blind to all men, scorn all men. Friendship, hospitality, society, compassion — vain words all. To be moved by another’s tears, to assist another’s need — be such things illegal and immoral. Let me live apart like a wolf; be Timon’s one friend — Timon.
All others are my foes and ill-wishers; to hold communion with them is pollution; to set eyes upon one of them marks the day unholy; let them be to me even as images of bronze or stone. I will receive no herald from them, keep with them no truce; the bounds of my desert are the line they may not cross. Cousin and kinsman, neighbour and countryman — these are dead useless names, wherein fools may find a meaning. Let Timon keep his wealth to himself, scorn all men, and live in solitary luxury, quit of flattery and vulgar praise; let him sacrifice and feast alone, his own associate and neighbour, far from 8 the world. Yea, when his last day comes, let there be none to close his eyes and lay him out, but himself alone.
Be the name he loves Misanthropus, and the marks whereby he may be known peevishness and spleen, wrath and rudeness and abhorrence. If ever one burning to death should call for help against the flames, let me help — with pitch and oil. If another be swept past me by a winter torrent, and stretch out his hands for aid, then let mine press him down head under, that he never rise again. So shall they receive as they have given. Mover of this resolution — Timon, son of Echecratides of Collytus. Presiding officer — the same Timon. The ayes have it. Let it be law, and duly observed.
All the same, I would give a good deal to have the fact of my enormous wealth generally known; they would all be fit to hang themselves over it. . . . Why, what is this? Well, that is quick work. Here they come running from every point of the compass, all dusty and panting; they have smelt out the gold somehow or other. Now, shall I get on top of this knoll, keep up a galling fire of stones from my point of vantage, and get rid of them that way? Or shall I make an exception to my law by parleying with them for once? contempt might hit harder than stones. Yes, I think that is better; I will stay where I am, and receive them. Let us see, who is this in front? Ah, Gnathonides the flatterer; when I asked an alms of him the other day, he offered me a halter; many a cask of my wine has he made a beast of himself over. I congratulate him on his speed; first come, first served.
Gna. What did I tell them? — Timon was too good a man to be abandoned by Providence. How are you, Timon? as good-looking and good-tempered, as good a fellow, as ever?
Tim. And you, Gnathonides, still teaching vultures rapacity, and men cunning?
Gna. Ah, he always liked his little joke. But where do you dine? I have brought a new song with me, a march out of the last musical thing on.
Tim. It will be a funeral march, then, and a very touching one, with spade obbligato.
Gna. What means this? This is assault, Timon; just let me find a witness! . . . Oh, my God, my God! . . . I’ll have you before the Areopagus for assault and battery.
Tim. You’d better not wait much longer, or you’ll have to make it murder.
Gna. Mercy, mercy! . . . Now, a little gold ointment to heal the wound; it is a first-rate styptic.
Tim. What! you won’t go, won’t you?
Gna. Oh, I am going. But you shall repent this. Alas, so genial once, and now so rude!
Tim. Now who is this with the bald crown? Why, it is Philiades; if there is a loathsome flatterer, it is he. When I sang that song that nobody else would applaud, he lauded me to the skies, and swore no dying swan could be more tuneful; his reward was one of my farms, and a 500 pounds portion for his daughter. And then when he found I was ill, and had come to him for assistance, his generous aid took the form of blows.
Phil. You shameless creatures! yes, yes, now you know Timon’s merits! now Gnathonides would be his friend and boon-companion! well, he has the right reward of ingratitude. Some of us were his familiars and playmates and neighbours; but we hold back a little; we would not seem to thrust ourselves upon him. Greeting, lord Timon; pray let me warn you against these abominable flatterers; they are your humble servants during meal-times, and else about as useful as carrion crows. Perfidy is the order of the day; everywhere ingratitude and vileness. I was just bringing a couple of hundred pounds, for your immediate necessities, and was nearly here before I heard of your splendid fortune. So I just came on to give you this word of caution; though indeed you are wise enough (I would take your advice before Nestor’s myself) to need none of my counsel.
Tim. Quite so, Philiades. But come near, will you not, and receive my — spade!
Phil. Help, help! this thankless brute has broken my head, for giving him good counsel.
Tim. Now for number three. Lawyer Demeas — my cousin, as he calls himself, with a decree in his hand. Between three and four thousand it was that I paid in to the Treasury in ready money for him; he had been fined that amount and imprisoned in default, and I took pity on him. Well, the other day he was distributing-officer of the festival money 9; when I applied for my share, he pretended I was not a citizen.
Dem. Hail, Timon, ornament of our race, pillar of Athens, shield of Hellas! The Assembly and both Councils are met, and expect your appearance. But first hear the decree which I have proposed in your honour. ‘WHEREAS Timon son of Echecratides of Collytus who adds to high position and character a sagacity unmatched in Greece is a consistent and indefatigable promoter of his country’s good and Whereas he has been victorious at Olympia on one day in boxing wrestling and running as well as in the two and the four-horse chariot races —’
Tim. Why, I was never so much as a spectator at Olympia.
Dem. What does that matter? you will be some day. It looks better to have a good deal of that sort in-‘and Whereas he fought with distinction last year at Acharnae cutting two Peloponnesian companies to pieces —’
Tim. Good work that, considering that my name was not on the muster-rolls, because I could not afford a suit of armour.
Dem. Ah, you are modest; but it would be ingratitude in us to forget your services —‘and Whereas by political measures and responsible advice and military action he has conferred great benefits on his country Now for all these reasons it is the pleasure of the Assembly and the Council the ten divisions of the High Court and the Borough Councils individually and collectively THAT a golden statue of the said Timon be placed on the Acropolis alongside of Athene with a thunderbolt in the hand and a seven-rayed aureole on the head Further that golden garlands be conferred on him and proclaimed this day at the New Tragedies 10 the said day being kept in his honour as the Dionysia. Mover of the Decree Demeas the pleader the said Timon’s near relation and disciple the said Timon being as distinguished in pleading as in all else wherein it pleases him to excel.’
So runs the decree. I had designed also to present to you my son, whom I have named Timon after you.
Tim. Why, I thought you were a bachelor, Demeas.
Dem. Ah, but I intend to marry next year; my child — which is to be a boy — I hereby name Timon.
Tim. I doubt whether you will feel like marrying, my man, when I have given you — this!
Dem. Oh Lord! what is that for? . . . You are plotting a coup d’etat, you Timon; you assault free men, and you are neither a free man nor a citizen yourself. You shall soon be called to account for your crimes; it was you set fire to the Acropolis, for one thing.
Tim. Why, you scoundrel, the Acropolis has not been set on fire; you are a common blackmailer.
Dem. You got your gold by breaking into the Treasury.
Tim. It has not been broken into, either; you are not even plausible.
Dem. There is time for the burglary yet; meantime, you are in possession of the treasures.
Tim. Well, here is another for you, anyhow.
Dem. Oh! oh! my back!
Tim. Don’t make such a noise, if you don’t want a third. It would be too absurd, you know, if I could cut two companies of Spartans to pieces without my armour, and not be able to give a single little scoundrel his deserts. My Olympic boxing and wrestling victories would be thrown away.
Whom have we now? is this Thrasycles the philosopher? sure enough it is. A halo of beard, eyebrows an inch above their place, superiority in his air, a look that might storm heaven, locks waving to the wind — ’tis a very Boreas or Triton from Zeuxis’ pencil. This hero of the careful get-up, the solemn gait, the plain attire — in the morning he will utter a thousand maxims, expounding Virtue, arraigning self-indulgence, lauding simplicity; and then, when he gets to dinner after his bath, his servant fills him a bumper (he prefers it neat), and draining this Lethe-draught he proceeds to turn his morning maxima inside out; he swoops like a hawk on dainty dishes, elbows his neighbour aside, fouls his beard with trickling sauce, laps like a dog, with his nose in his plate, as if he expected to find Virtue there, and runs his finger all round the bowl, not to lose a drop of the gravy. Let him monopolize pastry or joint, he will still criticize the carving — that is all the satisfaction his ravenous greed brings him —; when the wine is in, singing and dancing are delights not fierce enough; he must brawl and rave. He has plenty to say in his cups — he is then at his best in that kind — upon temperance and decorum; he is full of these when his potations have reduced him to ridiculous stuttering. Next the wine disagrees with him, and at last he is carried out of the room, holding on with all his might to the flute-girl. Take him sober, for that matter, and you will hardly find his match at lying, effrontery or avarice. He is facile princeps of flatterers, perjury sits on his tongue-tip, imposture goes before him, and shamelessness is his good comrade; oh, he is a most ingenious piece of work, finished at all points, a multum in parvo. I am afraid his kind heart will be grieved presently. Why, how is this, Thrasycles? I must say, you have taken your time about coming.
Thr. Ah, Timon, I am not come like the rest of the crowd; they are dazzled by your wealth; they are gathered together with an eye to gold and silver and high living; they will soon be showing their servile tricks before your unsuspicious, generous self. As for me, you know a crust is all the dinner I care for; the relish I like best is a bit of thyme or cress; on festal days I may go as far as a sprinkling of salt. My drink is the crystal spring; and this threadbare cloak is better than your gay robes. Gold — I value it no higher than pebbles on the beach. What brought me was concern for you; I would not have you ruined by this same pestilent wealth, this temptation for plunderers; many is the man it has sunk in helpless misery. Take my advice, and fling it bodily into the sea; a good man, to whom the wealth of philosophy is revealed, has no need of the other. It does not matter about deep water, my good sir; wade in up to your waist when the tide is near flood, and let no one see you but me. Or if that is not satisfactory, here is another plan even better. Get it all out of the house as quick as you can, not reserving a penny for yourself, and distribute it to the poor five shillings to one, five pounds to another, a hundred to a third; philosophy might constitute a claim to a double or triple share. For my part — and I do not ask for myself, only to divide it among my needy friends — I should be quite content with as much as my scrip would hold; it is something short of two standard bushels; if one professes philosophy, one must be moderate and have few needs — none that go beyond the capacity of a scrip.
Tim. Very right, Thrasycles. But instead of a mere scripful, pray take a whole headful of clouts, standard measure by the spade.
Thr. Land of liberty, equality, legality! protect me against this ruffian!
Tim. What is your grievance, my good man? is the measure short? here is a pint or two extra, then, to put it right.
Why, what now? here comes a crowd; friend Blepsias, Laches, Gniphon; their name is legion; they shall howl soon. I had better get up on the rock; my poor tired spade wants a little rest; I will collect all the stones I can lay hands on, and pepper them at long range.
Bl. Don’t throw, Timon; we are going.
Tim. Whether the retreat will be bloodless, however, is another question.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57