TIMON THE MISANTHROPE (LUCIAN) | Part B’

TIMON THE MISANTHROPE (LUCIAN) | Part B’

PLUTUS
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.
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.
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.
HERMES
Come along, Plutus. Hullo! limping? My good man, I did not know you were lame as well as blind.
PLUTUS
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.
HERMES
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.
PLUTUS
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.
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, 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 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.
HERMES
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?
PLUTUS
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.
HERMES
Well, but what do you do when he sends you?
PLUTUS
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?
HERMES
So Zeus is in error, and you do not enrich deserving persons according to his pleasure?
PLUTUS
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.
HERMES
But when you are leaving them, how do you find escape so easy? you do not know the way.
PLUTUS
Ah, there is just one occasion which brings me quickness of eye and foot; and that is flight.
HERMES
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.
I am sure you know yourself well enough to confess that they must be lunatics, to rave about such charms as yours.

 

 

Part A’: https://www.lecturesbureau.gr/1/timon-the-misanthrope-part-a-1452/?lang=en

 

 

The Works of Lucian of Samosata
Translated by Fowler, H W and F G.



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