25 January 2010

The Phantom of the Great Dionysia

When Gary Corby of A Dead Man Fell From the Sky and I were chatting on Twitter the other day, he mentioned how much more attractive to the average male the addition of zombies made "Pride and Prejudice". I can't say I'd ever felt the lack before, but we kicked around a few titles which might increase the ancient world's visibility today.

Purely by coincidence I can announce the translation of a fragments of a play found in the Oxyrhynchus papyri. It appears to be by a hitherto unknown tragedian, Andreas Arachnis.

The Phantom of the Great Dionysia

Enter chorus:
Lightning-born son of Zeus and Semele,
Great Dionysus, tell us of the king
of your mother's city,the man with the
swollen feet, the son of Laertes and,
O dreadful to say, of Jocasta.

Enter Messenger:
I bring news sad to say.
The father of our Oedipus,
Not the man himself you understand,
But the one who speaks his words,
His father is dead and so
Without pollution he cannot enter
The god's precinct.

The news is sad but worse still,
how can we go on without an
Oedipus? How can we worship the god?

There is a lad in this chorus you see
here now, he has been trained,
he can sing the words.
Exit Messenger

Is this true?

It is true sir.
It is as the man said.

And who trained you?

I do not know, I cannot tell.
It is a secret of the god.

Well, let me hear you.

This plague that afflicts my city,
I cannot bear it. We must find
what god has been angered.
I will send to Delphi to enquire.

But now, dark night comes.
We will begin again tomorrow.
Exit Choregos

Phantom (from the machine):
Nikeratos you have done well.
I made it happen. Come, offer sacrifice.

Spirit of Orpheus, hear me.
Let me be the mask you wear.
Sing through me.

Dark-robed Night we sing to you.
Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness wakes and stirs imagination


The power of the music of night

As rosy fingered dawn lights the Maiden's temple
I choose a new actor to play Oedipus.
One with experience of many festivals.

A man or perhaps one of the immortal gods
Gave me this message of doom.
If you do not obey, disaster will fall.
Exit Messenger

Messenger 2:
From mountain girt Delphi I come
With word from the far shooting one
Given through his oracle.
Obedience is always wise.
Remember whose is the mask.
Exit Messenger 2

My chosen actor will speak.

Can I who solved the riddle
of the Sphinx rest quiet
Brekekekex koax koax

Brekekekex koax koax
Brekekekex koax koax
Exit chorus

Frogs. My whole cast are frogs.
Very well let the boy try.

Wife, given to me by the city
as reward and by your own hand
as wife and more than wife.
Come out of the palace and tell me
of time gone before I came to this place.

O, terrible to relate.
How can I speak and yet
How not?

What is it?

Foul death.
I can say no more.

Speak on.

Death comes
in many forms, but this!

Tell me.

Just as in years gone by
Denaira gave her husband a robe
And Jason's wife from Colchis
Gave his new love a crown of fire
So, O, how can I say it?
Your chorus put on their robes
And were burnt. Flesh charred from bone.
Terrible were their screams. Still I hear them.

A chorus of Scythians enters
Goddess of justice, you who
punish man's overweening pride,
aid us. Come from the land
of the Hyperboreans or wherever
you are feasting now, and help us,
we implore you.

Where is this murderer? How can he be found?

He has a lair, in a cave
under the temple sacred to the Muses nine.
I can take you there.


See where he rises in a chariot
drawn by dragons sent by the Queen of Night.
He takes the body of Nikeratos with him.
The gods have done this.
Nothing turns out as we expected.
The music is ended.

Although a translation into English has been prepared, no scholarly commentary or apparatus criticus has appeared. If anyone would like to contribute notes to such an enterprise, please feel free to add them to the comments.


Juliette said...

Love it! :)

RWMG said...

Glad you enjoyed it. BTW, have you covered Hannibal in Phantom of the Opera?

Carrie said...

Ha! Fantastic!

Loretta Ross said...

I have to admit that you're over my head here, but what I was able to follow was very nice. ;)

Winchester whisperer said...


RWMG said...

Thank you for the kind words, Carrie, Loretta, and WW