MENEDEMUS seen at work in his garden.
CHREMES calling to him over the hedge.
GOOD morning, sir! good morning!
(Aside.) He does not hear me.—Sir!
(Aside.) No: he goes on digging away for his life—
Ho! Menedemus! Ho!
Who is it calls?
Men. Chremes! why, what’s the matter?
Chr.I only said good morning.4
I wish you the compliments of the day. ’Tis the feast of Bacchus.
Men. I thank you. The same to you.
Chr.I had something to say besides,
If you are at leisure.
Men.You see I am busy:
But if ’tis a matter of any importance—
Men. Pray step to the gate: I’ll open it for you.
Chr.You are very good.
(Aside.) How fagged he looks!
Men.Come in. You will not think me rude,
If I ask you to tell your errand while I dig.
My good friend; and your spade, pray you, awhile put down.
You must stop working.
Men.No: I cannot rest a minute.
(Taking the spade.)
Chr. I can’t allow it indeed.
Men.Now, sir, you wrong me.
My word! what a weight it is!
Men.It’s not too heavy for me.5
Chr. Come! what’s all this? well take it again, but don’t refuse me
A moment’s attention.
Chr.’Tis a matter concerns you nearly:
So leave your work, and come outside, and sit on the bench,
Where we may talk.
Men.Whatever you have to say, Chremes,
May be said here.
Chr.No doubt; but better as I propose:
I will not detain you long.
Men. You have something to say.
Men. (sitting). Well, as you will.
And now in as few words as may be . . . I am at your service.—
Chr. Menedemus, although our acquaintance has been but short,
And only dates from the day you bought this piece of land.
And came to live close by me: for little or nought but that6
Occasioned it, as you know: yet my respect for you,
Or else your being a neighbour, for that itself, I take it,
Counts in some sort as friendship, makes me bold and free 30
To give you a piece of advice: the fact is, you seem to me
To be working here in a manner, which both to your time of life
And station, is most unsuitable. What, in Heaven’s name,
Can be your object? what do you drive at? To guess your age
You are sixty years at least. There’s no one hereabouts
Can shew a better farm, nor more servants upon it:
And yet you do the work yourself, as tho’ you had none.
Never do I go out, however early in the morning,
Never come home again, however late at night,
But here I see you digging, hoeing, or at all events 40
Toiling at something or other. You are never a moment idle,
Nor shew regard for yourself. Now all this can’t be done
For pleasure, that I am sure of, and as for any profit,
Why, if you only applied half the energy
To stirring up your servants, both you and your farm7
Would do much better.
Men. Have you so much spare time then, Chremes,
Left from your own affairs to meddle with other people’s?
The which moreover do not concern you.
Chr.I am a man.
Nought which concerns mankind concerns not me, I think. 49
Ere I advise, I’d first enquire what ’tis you do;
If well, to learn by example; if ill, then to dissuade.
Men. My duty is this: do you as best may suit yourself.
Chr. What man can say ’tis right for him to torment himself?
Chr.If it is any sorrow or trouble that has driven you to this,
I am very sorry. But . . . what is it? Tell me, I pray.
Whatever can you have done, that calls for such a penance?
Chr. Come! don’t give way: confide to me this affair.
Trust me: keep nothing back, I entreat you: have no fear.
Surely I may either help, or advise, or at least console you.8
Men. You really wish to know?
Chr.Yes, for the reason I gave.
Men.I have an only son, Chremes—
Alas what say I? have? had I should rather say; 62
For whether now I have or not, I cannot tell.
Men.You shall hear: attend. There came to live in the city
A poor old widow woman from Corinth. She had a daughter,
With whom my son, who is just of age, fell madly in love,
Was even at the point to marry: and all without my knowledge.
However it came to my ears; and then I began to treat him
Unkindly, and not in the way to deal with a love-sick lad; 69
But after the usual dictatorial manner of fathers.
I never left him in peace. Don’t think, my fine fellow,
I’d say, that you’ll be allowed to continue behaving thus,
While I am alive to prevent it; running after a girl
And talking of marrying too: you are very much mistaken,
Clinia, if you think that. You don’t know me. I am glad9
To have you called my son, while you respect your honour;
But if you once forget it, I shall find a means,
And one you will not like, of asserting my own. All this
I see very plainly, I said, has come from idle habits.
You have not enough to do. When I was your age 80
I did not fritter away my time in making love;
But finding my pockets empty, set out for Asia,
And won myself distinction and fortune in foreign service.
At last, Chremes, it came to this: the poor young fellow,
Continually hearing the same thing put so strongly to him,
Gave in: he thought my age and due regard for his welfare
Were likely to shew him a wiser and more prudent course
Than his own feelings;—he left the country, and went to fight
Under the king of Persia.
Men.He started off
One day without a word. He has now been gone six months.
Chr. Both were to blame; however I think the step that he took
Was the act of a modest and not unmanly disposition.10
Men. I enquired of some of his friends, and when I learnt the truth,
I returned home to my house miserable, my mind
Unhinged—distracted with grief. I sat me down; my servants
Came running to know my pleasure; some drew off my shoes,
Others were hastening to and fro to prepare my dinner,
Each anxious by doing his best to lessen the pain
Of my great misfortune: in vain: the sight of them made me think,
‘What! is it then for me alone that all these persons 100
So busily are engaged? all for my comfort?
For me is it that so many