The grumpy old man

The other day I talked about a book written by Gladstone and owned by his friend Viscount Bryce. This is not the only book I have which has been owned by a peer of the realm. I have a copy of the Dyskolos of Menander which was sent by the editor E.W.Handley to Lord Reith after Handley had written dedication in Latin for him in 1966. Lord Reith obviously didn’t read it and there is a note to send it to Harvard a few days later. I don’t think it reached there otherwise it wouldn’t have ended up on the second hand shelf of an Oxford bookshop.

The Dyskolos is an enjoyable play. Like any comedy it would be much funnier on the stage than reading it in your head. Here the grumpy old man Knemon makes his first appearance showing how he hates his fellow man. The possession which turns people to stone is of course Medusa’s head.

Ἐἶτ᾿ οὐ μακάριος ἦν ὁ Περσεὺς κατὰ δύο
τρόπους ἐκεῖνος, ὅτι πετηνὸς ἐγένετο
κοὐδενὶ συνήντα τῶν βαδιζόντων χαμαί,
εἶθ᾿ ὅτι τοιοῦτο κτῆμ᾿ ἐκέκτηθ᾿, ᾧ λίθους
ἅπαντας ἐπόει τοὺς ἐνοχλοῦντας; Ὅπερ ἐμοὶ
νυνὶ γένοιτ᾿· οὐδὲν γὰρ ἀφθονώτερον
λιθίνων γένοιτ᾿ ἂν ἀνδριάντων πανταχοῦ.
Νῦν δ᾿ οὐ βιωτόν ἐστι, μὰ τὸν ᾿Ασκληπιόν.
Λαλοῦσ᾿ ἐπεμβαίνοντες εἰς τὸ χωρίον
ἤδη· παρ᾿ αὐτὴν τὴν ὁδὸν γάρ, νὴ Δία,
εἴωθα διατρίβειν, ὃς οὐδ᾿ ἐργάζομαι
τοῦτο τὸ μέρος τοῦ χωρίου, πέφευγα δὲ
διὰ τοὺς παριόντας. Ἀλλ᾿ ἐπὶ τοὺς λόφους ἄνω
ἤδη διώκουσ᾿. Ὢ πολυπληθείας ὄχλου.
Οἴμοι, πάλιν τις οὑτοσὶ πρὸς ταῖς θύραις
ἕστηκεν ἡμῶν.

Wasn’t Perseus blessed on two counts both because he was winged so didn’t have to meet anybody who walks on the ground and because he had a possession with which he made anyone who annoyed him turn to stone. I wish I had it; there wouldn’t be any shortage of stone statues anywhere. But now the situation is unendurable, by Asclepius. They are now coming on to my land chatting away. Am I going to spend my time right by the road, by God, when I don’t even farm this bit of land but have abandoned it because of passers-by. But they are now following me right up to the hills. Oh the size of the crowd! Oh no! Here is this man again standing at our door.

Menander Dyskolos 153

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