May 26, 2013

The voice of Misunderstanding (a comic prologue)

[In a wood of Corinth there lay exposed
a baby boy and girl, 'til an old woman
passing by came to their rescue.
Unable to care for both, she took the girl's
raising upon herself] most willingly,
and gave the boy to the mistress of this house,
who was a wealthy dame devoid of children.
That's how it all began. Then, some years later,
with ills of war and Corinth's troubles
mounting, the old woman fell destitute.
Her girl, nearly grown (just now you saw her),
had attracted an impassionate suitor.
To the care of this young man, of a family
of Corinth, she committed the girl,
as though she were the mother. Already advanced
in wasting away, and looking to life's katastrophē
as a nearby thing, she disconcealed unto the girl
her fortune: to have been a foundling, found
swaddled in this cloth - and at that, produced it
to her - and identified her unsuspected brother,
reasoning that in case of need
for mortal assistance, her only natural bond
was to him, and fearing lest some mishap
befall the two through me, [the goddess Agnoia, viz.]
Misunderstanding. A rich party-boy is
how she saw the brother, and none too steady
the army officer who was the pretty young thing's suitor.
With that, she died, and [sure enough,] the officer's
just bought the house next door. Neighbor now
to her brother, the girl's revealed nothing, hating
to mar his bright outlook on what Fortune
gave him to enjoy. But chance observation
soon showed her his impetuous nature,
as well as a habit of wandering round her house
with an intent. One night at dusk she was
sending her maid out for something, when he
happened to spy her at the gates, and hastened
up to her with hugs and kisses. Knowing him
for her brother she did not flee - but the snoop who came
upon them saw, and told of how he went off saying
he wanted to see her at greater leisure, and of her tears,
standing there wailing that she wasn't free
to act that way. The upshot's blazed up to
the present moment, stoking his rage
to such a height - 'twas I who stoked it
past his nature, in order that secrets start to
open up in what follows, and everyone's true family
be revealed. So if anybody find this in bad taste
or a source of scandal, save it.
Through a god do evils turn out good.
To you who favor us with spectatorship
I bid farewell. Let what follows not be lost on you.

Menander, The Girl With Close-Cropped Hair 117-171

May 24, 2013

Al-Zahiriyya Library, Damascus (undated)