The Self-Tormentor, by Terence

Act the First.

Scene I.

Chremes, Menedemus .

Chrem. Though our acquaintance is as yet but young,
Since you have bought this farm that neighbors mine,
And little other commerce is betwixt us;
Yet or your virtue, or good neighborhood,
(Which is in my opinion kin to friendship,)
Urge me to tell you, fairly, openly,
That you appear to me to labor more
Than your age warrants, or affairs require.
For in the name of heav’n and earth, what would you?
What do you drive at? Threescore years of age,
Or older, as I guess; with an estate,
Better than which, more profitable, none
In these parts hold; master of many slaves;
As if you had not one at your command,
You labor in their offices yourself.
I ne’er go out so soon, return so late,
Morning or evening, but I see you still
At labour on your acres, digging, plowing,
Or carrying some burden: in a word,
You ne’er remit your toil, nor spare yourself.
This, I am certain, is not done for pleasure.
— You’ll say, perhaps, it vexes you to see
Your work go on so slowly; — do but give
The time you spend in laboring yourself
To set your slaves to work, ’twill profit more.

Mene. Have you such leisure from your own affairs
To think of those, that don’t concern you, Chremes?

Chrem. I am a man, and feel for all mankind.
Think, I advise, or ask for information:
If right, that I may do the same; if wrong,
To turn you from it.

Mene. I have need to do thus.
Do you as you think fit.

Chrem. Need any man
Torment himself?

Mene. I need.

Chrem. If you’re unhappy,
I’m sorry for it. But what evil’s this?
What is th’ offense so grievous to your nature,
That asks such cruel vengeance on yourself?

Mene. Alas! alas! (In tears.)

Chrem. Nay, weep not; but inform me.
Be not reserv’d; fear nothing: prithee, trust me:
By consolation, counsel, or assistance,
I possibly may serve you.

Mene. Would you know it?

Chrem. Aye, for the very reason I have mention’d.

Mene. I will inform you.

Chrem. But meanwhile lay down
Those rakes: don’t tire yourself.

Mene. It must not be.

Chrem. What mean you?

Mene. Give me leave: that I may take
No respite from my toil.

Chrem. I’ll not allow it. (Taking away the rakes.)

Mene. Ah, you do wrong.

Chrem. What, and so heavy too! (Weighing them in his hand.)

Mene. Such my desert.

Chrem. Now speak. (Laying down the rakes.)

Mene. One only son
I have. — Have, did I say? — Had I mean, Chremes.
Have I or no, is now uncertain.

Chrem. Wherefore?

Mene. That you shall know. An old Corinthian woman
Now sojourns here, a stranger in these parts,
And very poor. It happen’d, of her daughter
My son became distractedly enamor’d; —
E’en to the brink of marriage; and all this
Unknown to me: which I no sooner learn’d
Than I began to deal severely with him,
Not as a young and love-sick mind requir’d,
But in the rough and usual way of fathers.
Daily I chid him; crying, “How now, Sir!
Think you that you shall hold these courses long,
And I your father living? — Keep a mistress,
As if she were your wife! — You are deceiv’d,
If you think that, and do not know me, Clinia.
While you act worthily, you’re mine; if not,
I shall act toward you worthy of myself.
All this arises from mere idleness.
I, at your age, ne’er thought of love; but went
To seek my fortune in the wars in Asia,
And there acquir’d in arms both wealth and glory.”
— In short, things came to such a pass, the youth,
O’ercome with hearing still the self-same thing,
And wearied out with my reproaches; thinking,
Age and experience had enabled me
To judge his interest better than himself,
Went off to serve the king in Asia, Chremes.

Chrem. How say you?

Mene. Stole away three months ago,
Without my knowledge.

Chrem. Both have been to blame:
And yet this enterprise bespeaks a mind,
Modest and manly.

Mene. Having heard of this
From some of his familiars, home I came
Mournful, half-mad, and almost wild with grief.
I sit me down; my servants run to me;
Some draw my sandals off; while others haste
To spread the couches, and prepare the supper:
Each in his way, I mark, does all he can
To mitigate my sorrow. Noting this,
“How,” said I to myself, “so many then
Anxious for me alone? to pleasure me?
So many slaves to dress me? All this cost
For me alone? — Meanwhile, my only son,
For whom all these were fit, as well as me,
Nay rather more, since he is of an age
More proper for their use; him, him, poor boy,
Has my unkindness driven forth to sorrow.
Oh I were worthy of the heaviest curse,
Could I brook that! — No; long as he shall lead
A life of penury abroad, an exile
Through my unjust severity, so long
Will I revenge his wrongs upon myself,
Laboring, scraping, sparing, slaving for him.”
— In short, I did so; in the house I left
Nor clothes, nor movables: I scrap’d up all.
My slaves, both male and female, except those
Who more than earn’d their bread in country-work,
I sold: Then set my house to sale: In all
I got together about fifteen talents;
Purchas’d this farm; and here fatigue myself;
Thinking I do my son less injury,
While I’m in misery too; nor is it just
For me, I think, to taste of pleasure here,
Till he return in safety to partake on’t.

Chrem. You I believe a tender parent, him
A duteous son, if govern’d prudently.
But you was unacquainted with his nature,
And he with yours: sad life, where things are so!
You ne’er betray’d your tenderness to him;
Nor durst he place that confidence in you,
Which well becomes the bosom of a father.
Had that been done, this had not happen’d to you.

Mene. True, I confess; but I was most in fault.

Chrem. All, Menedemus, will, I hope, be well,
And trust, your son will soon return in safety.

Mene. Grant it, good Gods!

Chrem. They will. Now, therefore, since
The Dionysia are held here to-day,
If ’tis convenient, come, and feast with me.

Mene. Impossible.

Chrem. Why so? — Nay, prithee now,
Indulge yourself a while: your absent son,
I’m sure, would have it so.

Mene. It is not meet,
That I, who drove him forth to misery,
Should fly it now myself.

Chrem. You are resolv’d?

Mene. Most constantly.

Chrem. Farewell then!

Mene. Fare you well!


Scene II.

Chremes alone.

He draws tears from me. — How I pity him!
— But ’tis high time, as the day goes, to warn
My neighbor Phania to come forth to supper.
I’ll go, and see if he’s at home.

Goes to Phania’s door, and returns.

There was,
It seems, no need of warning: for, they tell me,
He went to his appointment some time since.
’Tis I myself that keep my guests in waiting.
I’ll in immediately. — But what’s the meaning
That my door opens? — (Clitipho appears.) Who’s this? — I’ll retire. (Retires.)

Scene III.

Enter Clitipho, speaking to Clinia within.

As yet, my Clinia, you’ve no cause to fear:
They are not long: and she, I’m confident,
Will be here shortly with the messenger.
Prithee, away then with these idle cares,
Which thus torment you!

Chrem. (behind.) Whom does my son speak to?

Clit. My father as I wish’d — Good Sir, well met.

Chrem. What now?

Clit. D’ye know our neighbor Menedemus?

Chrem. Aye, very well.

Clit. D’ye know he has a son?

Chrem. I’ve heard he is in Asia.

Clit. No such thing.
He’s at our house, Sir.

Chrem. How!

Clit. But just arriv’d:
Ev’n at his landing I fell in with him,
And brought him here to supper: for, from boys,
We have been friends and intimates.

Chrem. Good news:
Now do I wish the more that Menedemus,
Whom I invited, were my guest to-day,
That I, and under my own roof, might be
The first to have surpris’d him with this joy!
And I may yet. (Going.)

Clit. Take heed! it were not good.

Chrem. How so?

Clit. Because the youth is yet in doubt:
Newly arriv’d; in fear of ev’ry thing;
He dreads his father’s anger, and suspects
The disposition of his mistress tow’rds him;
Her, whom he dotes upon; on whose account,
This diff’rence and departure came about.

Chrem. I know it.

Clit. He has just dispatch’d his boy
Into the city to her, and our Syrus
I sent along with him.

Chrem. What says the son?

Clit. Says? that he’s miserable.

Chrem. Miserable!
Who needs be less so? for what earthly good
Can man possess which he may not enjoy?
Parents, a prosp’rous country, friends, birth, riches.
Yet these all take their value from the mind
Of the possessor: he that knows their use,
To him they’re blessings; he that knows it not,
To him misuse converts them into curses.

Clit. Nay, but he ever was a cross old man:
And now there’s nothing that I dread so much,
As lest he be transported in his rage
To some gross outrages against his son.

Chrem. He! — He! — But I’ll contain myself. ’Tis good
For Menedemus that his son should fear. (Aside.)

Clit. What say you, Sir, within yourself! (Overhearing.)

Chrem. I say,
Be’t as it might, the son should have remain’d.
Grant that the father bore too strict a hand
Upon his loose desires; he should have borne it.
Whom would he bear withal, if not a parent?
Was’t fitting that the father should conform
To the son’s humor, or the son to his?
And for the rigor that he murmurs at,
’Tis nothing: the severities of fathers,
Unless perchance a hard one here and there,
Are much the same: they reprimand their sons
For riotous excesses, wenching, drinking;
And starve their pleasures by a scant allowance.
Yet this all tends to good: but when the mind
Is once enslav’d to vicious appetites,
It needs must follow vicious measures too.
Remember then this maxim, Clitipho,
A wise one ’tis to draw from others’ faults
A profitable lesson for yourself.

Clit. I do believe it.

Chrem. Well, I’ll in, and see
What is provided for our supper: you,
As the day wears, see that you’re not far hence.


Scene IV.

Clitipho alone.

What partial judges of all sons are fathers!
Who ask gray wisdom from our greener years,
And think our minds should bear no touch of youth;
Governing by their passions, now kill’d in them,
And not by those that formerly rebell’d.
If ever I’ve a son, I promise him
He shall find me an easy father; fit
To know, and apt to pardon his offenses!
Not such as mine, who, speaking of another,
Shows how he’d act in such a case himself:
Yet when he takes a cup or two too much,
Oh, what mad pranks he tells me of his own:
But warns me now “to draw from others’ faults
A profitable lesson for myself.”
Cunning old gentleman! he little knows,
He pours his proverbs in a deaf man’s ear.
The words of Bacchis, Give me, Bring me, now
Have greater weight with me: to whose commands,
Alas! I’ve nothing to reply withal;
Nor is there man more wretched than myself.
For Clinia here (though he, I must confess,
Has cares enough) has got a mistress, modest,
Well-bred, and stranger to all harlot arts:
Mine is a self-will’d, wanton, haughty madam,
Gay, and extravagant; and let her ask
Whate’er she will, she must not be denied;
Since poverty I durst not make my plea.
This is a plague I have but newly found,
Nor is my father yet appris’d of it.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01