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VULPINUS Have I ever anywhere laid eyes on anyone as foolish as that pedagogue or Pegasus? Finally, at a creeping pace, we came to his hovel. He knocked on the door, bawling at the Muses, Minerva and Apollo that they should open it. He called Mercury stupid, sleepy and slow-footed, heaping him with all manner of insults, as if he were doing a doorkeeper’s job for his wage. But after a while nobody, by Hercules nobody, responded to his shouts, and so, shaking a key out of his sack, he himself opened it. We went in. Good gods, what a want of all things! What sordid poverty! Everything was stuffed full of emptiness and cobwebs. I don’t know whether Apollo and Minerva are linked to him by a family relation, as he boasts, but this I know for certain, that Bacchus and Ceres are most unlinked. And for this reason, if I weren’t going to fill my stomach with poets’ fragments, I would have had to come close to death by starvation. When I had a presentiment of this, as befits a shrewd fellow, I stealthily betook myself here. Let him look for other men with whom he can stuff his centos, I shall look for other men upon whom to batten. What’s this. My mind foresees an unfortunate battening. Behold an owl of the morning. (Strombilus enters, loudly yawning.)
STROMBILUS Oooh, the sun has not yet arisen from his sleep, yet I’ve arisen. Oooh, oh my rustic and uncouth manners, I’ve gotten up before the sun, oooh! Wouldn’t it be better to go back to bed, lest someone accuse me of rudeness? Oooh.
VULPINUS (He yawns too.) Oooh, the rascally goat-milker, how he’s got me yawning!
STROMBILUS But now I see the sun, my eyes were clouded over, it’s bright enough. Hey Grillus, come out, you beast. Why are you wasting time indoors?
GRILLUS (Answers from inside.) Who are you, knocking on the door so impudently, you most villainous buffoon?
STROMBILUS I’m the man awaiting you outdoors. Today’s the country fair.
VULPINUS Be kindly you to me, you rural gods. My fate is rusticating me.
STROMBILUS My neighbour Grillus has probity enough, but little wit, unless I’m present to give him plenty of help. But I’ll restrain myself. (Enter Grillus.)
GRILLUS What need for words? Where are you, Strombilus?
STROMBILUS Are you blind?
STROMBILUS Go hang.
GRILLUS Strombilus. What need for words? See, I’m outside. (He rushes at Strombilus, sneezing.)
STROMBILUS And you’re outside of your mind.
GRILLUS. What do you want of me?
STROMBILUS That you always blow your nose before leaving your house.
VULPINUS I’ll approach and catch two boars in a single net.
GRILLUS Why have you called me?
STROMBILUS If you’ve finished blowing your nose, I want us to visit the Robigus fair. GRILLUS Let’s go.
VULPINUS Greetings, good sirs. (Both flee and hide themselves.) What is it that frightens you so badly? Heavens, I’m afraid lest these cowherds have better eyesight than the soldier or the pedagogue, and suspect I’m Mercury. But there’s nothing to betray me. (They both come out.). You should return, Vulpinus.
STROMBILUS Beyond doubt, Grillus, this is some son of the forest-dwelling Nymphs.
GRILLUS It could be. I don’t see any beard. He’s coming towards us. (They flee again.).
VULPINUS Don’t panic, my dearest friends. I beg you by Pan, by Robigus, by the rustic gods, gather your wits. (They both creep out.)
STROMBILUS I’m Strombilus, a poor shepherd, but a man who never stole anything from anybody in my whole life. And this man is my neighbor Grillus, a farmer, a simple, upright fellow.
GRILLUS Saving your reverence, I’m Grillus. What need for words?
VULPINUS And I’m the unluckiest of youths. When the Fates orphaned me of my parents they also drove me out into the wide world to seek my living.
STROMBILUS So aren’t you born of a family of courtiers, being so brightly and colorfully dressed?
VULPINUS I’ve always preferred the countryside to Court.
GRILLUS And you’re not born of the Nymphs’ stock?
VULPINUS I don’t know the nymphs.
GRILLUS And you’re not a specter?
VULPINUS Not a specter.
GRILLUS Nor a ghost?
VULPINUS Nor a ghost.
GRILLUS Nor a corporeal spirit?
VULPINUS Gods forbid!
GRILLUS Nor an ignis fatuus?
VULPINUS Nor an ignis fatuus.
GRILLUS Let’s embrace. (They embrace.)
STROMBILUS May Pan love me, I wonderfully like this young man’s character.
GRILLUS Take this young man in your arms, Strombilus. Nothing’s wrong.
STROMBILUS I’ll do so willingly. (They embrace.) If my Grillus and I can be of any service to you, you should not fail to mention it.
GRILLUS Speak boldly, for what need for words?
VULPINUS From my earliest years I’ve always adored rural simplicity, and now the gods have brought me to you, where I can greatly help myself. I greatly wish to be your servant, with you taking the place of my parents.
STROMBILUS Tell us your name.
VULPINUS My name is Vulpinus, thus it pleased my father.
GRILLUS. And it greatly pleases me, a comfortable, domestic name.
STROMBILUS Vulpinus, please move three paces away from us, while we consult about this matter. For, as the old proverb goes, who acts without counsel acts badly, even when he is acting well.
VULPINUS I shall willingly comply.
STROMBILUS Grillus, what is your impression of this young man? Nature has denied you the mysteries of philosophy, but by a supernatural instinct you can do a good job of deliberating. For, as the proverb has it, a gardener has often spoken to the point.
GRILLUS I admit my dunce-like ignorance of natural science, but who in all this island is better versed in tilling fields then I?
VULPINUS You are both well versed in minor natural matters.
GRILLUS What need for words? Have no doubt about the young man, I’ll make him so supernatural about rural life that he’ll have no need for another teacher after me.
STROMBILUS But let’s climb up to the pinnacle of the thing. I acknowledge our poverty, yet we’re taking in this young man. Come now, what food will feed him?
GRILLUS Oh, you man of no brain! Since he is going to perform service for both of us, we both should feed him. Every day he will have his dinner with you and his supper with me. What need for words?
STROMBILUS Good heavens, Grillus is paying some attention to logic. He speaks mathematically, that’s enough. Hey, Vulpinus.
VULPINUS At your service.
STROMBILUS Grillus and I, ah, ah, I and Grillus have had a frank consultation about you.
VULPINUS Nor have you acted regarding an ingrate, whatever our decision was.
STROMBILUS But ah, ah, Vulpinus, look at us old men. Under an old cloak often wisdom lies hidden. For just as with apples, so is it often found to be with characters. Those that are green and, as it were, young, are discovered to be harsh and bitter, but those which have ripened with age are soft and sweet.
GRILLUS Strombilus, you understand the business about apples just as I do. What need for words?
And shun idleness. For by inactivity men learn to act badly. And since you are going to be a herder, you will succeed me as the lieutenant of my diligence, and at night you will keep watch over the flocks under an open sky. Be wholly watchful so that you may play tricks on the tricks of the wolves, and if you sleep anywhere, always think of yourself as a servant, lest after you have been awakened I do a fine job of mocking your hide.
VULPINUS I shall earnestly devote myself to all these things.
GRILLUS But look at me, Vulpinus. At the same time you have been taken into the service of Grillus, and you will be paying attention to the soil, which never refuses to repay with interest what it has been given, as my venerable ancestor Cato says, what need for words? I am a frugal man, I want you to learn the art of turning the soil, of breaking clods, of yoking oxen, and of properly dunging the fields, which is one-third of all agriculture.
STROMBILUS You have dug down to the very guts of the thing, Grillus.
GRILLUS If you keep these things mind and diligently obey my bidding, since I have no sons, I shall make you my only heir. For, as the proverb goes, I too have received it from my forefathers. What need for words?
VULPINUS May the rustic gods curse me if I basely shirk a son’s duty!
STROMBILUS But there’s one thing that almost escaped my mind. Withdraw yourself again, Vulpinus.
VULPINUS Gladly. No doubt you’re going to manufacture new Tusculan disputations.
STROMBILUS We’ve considered the issue of provender and commissariat intellectually and fundamentally enough, but we haven’t even dreamed about his sleeping. What do you advise to be done concerning this matter, Grillus?
GRILLUS Good god, how your wit is sluggish with age! He is to be shared between us in his sleeping, just as in his eating. He will snore until midnight in my house, they sleep soundly for the remainder of the night in yours.
VULPINUS [Overhearing.] Clever fellow! This division is not to my taste.
STROMBILUS Oh stupid me! I swear by Jove’s stone I’m a stone myself, and in comparison to Grillus have no intelligence at all. How he loves equality!
GRILLUS Nowadays a man who desires to live peaceful must use his brain and cultivate equitable habits. What need for words?
STROMBILUS Thus the times require, Grillus.
GRILLUS But there remains something regarding Vulpinus we’ve not yet touched upon, Strombilus, with reference to his clothing.
STROMBILUS By Hercules, you do well to remind me.
GRILLUS What do you hatch from your brain? Who will provide for this?
STROMBILUS I’ll follow in your footsteps. He must be shared. I leave his head and feet to your industry, I’ll care for his body. And so that he may acquire peaceful and truly sheep-like manners, I’ll dress him in fleeces.
GRILLUS Very appropriate, and so that he will show us proper reverence, I want him always to be hatless, and so that he might be quicker in doing his jobs, to go barefoot.
VULPINUS Whew, I’m magnificently dressed! But let them remember they are dressing Vulpinus.
STROMBILUS You’re wise in your own interest, Grillus.
GRILLUS It can happen that he may weary of the countryside and rescue himself by flight. And in that case, as the proverb has it, let him carry all of his own property, but I do not want anything of mine to be a burden and slow him down.
STROMBILUS Sage counsel indeed.
GRILLUS I confess that I’m unlettered. But if anybody shall have called me a donkey —
STROMBILUS What then, Grillus?
GRILLUS I’ll strenuously deny it.
STROMBILUS Thus befits a wise man and a kinsman of mine.
GRILLUS What need for words?
STROMBILUS Then let’s go home with our servant.
GRILLUS Timely advice.
VULPINUS Here I am.
STROMBILUS Let’s go home.
VULPINUS. I’m following.
GRILLUS Strombilus, I want him to visit my house first.
STROMBILUS I’m taking him to mine first, I tell you.
GRILLUS I’ll show him the cattle and donkeys I want him to tend.
STROMBILUS Keep your cattle and donkeys. It’s dinner-time. Come inside my house, Vulpinus.
GRILLUS To mine, I say.
STROMBILUS To mine.
GRILLUS To mine. (One takes his left hand, the other his right, and they both tug at him.)
VULPINUS. Hey, I’m being pulled apart, my limbs are being torn off.
STROMBILUS To mine.
GRILLUS. To mine. H — H — H — (Vulpinus frees his hand and Grillus falls backward.) What need for words?
Go to Act IV