Menippus. Aeacus. Various Shades
Me. In Pluto's name, Aeacus, show me all the sights of Hades.
Aea. That would be rather an undertaking, Menippus. However, you shall see the principal things. Cerberus here you know already, and the ferryman who brought you over. And you saw the Styx on your way, and Pyriphlegethon.
Me. Yes, and you are the gate-keeper; I know all that; and I have seen the King and the Furies. But show me the men of ancient days, especially the celebrities.
Aea. This is Agamemnon; this is Achilles; near him, Idomeneus; next comes Odysseus; then Ajax, Diomede, and all the great Greeks.
Me. Why, Homer, Homer, what is this? All your great
heroes flung down upon the earth, shapeless, undistinguishable; mere meaningless dust; 'strengthless heads,' and no mistake.--Who is this one, Aeacus?
Aea. That is Cyrus; and here is Croesus; beyond him Sardanapalus, and beyond him again Midas. And yonder is Xerxes.
Me. Ha! and it was before this creature that Greece trembled? this is our yoker of Hellesponts, our designer of Athos-canals?--Croesus too! a sad spectacle! As to Sardanapalus, I will lend him a box on the ear, with your permission.
Aea. And crack his skull, poor dear! Certainly not.
Me. Then I must content myself with spitting in his ladyship's face.
Aea. Would you like to see the philosophers?
Me. I should like it of all things.
Aea. First comes Pythagoras.
Me. Good-day, Euphorbus, alias Apollo, alias what you will.
Py. Good-day, Menippus.
Me. What, no golden thigh nowadays?
Py. Why, no. I wonder if there is anything to eat in that wallet of yours?
Me. Beans, friend; you don't like beans.
Py. Try me. My principles have changed with my quarters. I find that down here our parents' heads are in no way connected with beans.
Aea. Here is Solon, the son of Execestides, and there is Thales. By them are Pittacus, and the rest of the sages, seven in all, as you see. Me. The only resigned and cheerful countenances yet. Who is the one covered with ashes, like a loaf baked in the embers? He is all over blisters.
Aea. That is Empedocles. He was half-roasted when he got here from Etna.
Me. Tell me, my brazen-slippered friend, what induced you to jump into the crater?
Em. I did it in a fit of melancholy.
Me. Not you. Vanity, pride, folly; these were what burnt you up, slippers and all; and serve you right. All that ingenuity was thrown away, too: your death was detected.--Aeacus, where is Socrates?
Aea. He is generally talking nonsense with Nestor and Palamedes.
Me. But I should like to see him, if he is anywhere about.
Aea. You see the bald one?
Me. They are all bald; that is a distinction without a difference.
Aea. The snub-nosed one.
Me. There again: they are all snub-nosed.
Soc. Do you want me, Menippus?
Me. The very man I am looking for.
Soc. How goes it in Athens?
Me. There are a great many young men there professing philosophy; and to judge from their dress and their walk, they should be perfect in it.
Soc. I have seen many such.
Me. For that matter, I suppose you saw Aristippus arrive, reeking with scent; and Plato, the polished flatterer from Sicilian courts?
Soc. And what do they think about me in Athens?
Me. Ah, you are fortunate in that respect. You pass for a most remarkable man, omniscient in fact. And all the time--if the truth must out--you know absolutely nothing.
Soc. I told them that myself: but they would have it that that was my irony.
Me. And who are your friends?
Soc. Charmides; Phaedrus; the son of Clinias.
Me. Ha, ha! still at your old trade; still an admirer of beauty.
Soc. How could I be better occupied? Will you join us?
Me. No, thank you; I am off, to take up my quarters by Croesus and Sardanapalus. I expect huge entertainment from their outcries.
Aea. I must be off, too; or some one may escape. You shall see the rest another day, Menippus.
Me. I need not detain you. I have seen enough.