Aristophanes Clouds: Joke on Bombastic Performers

Aristophanes says: "Break wind superannuated codger, seeking artful words, priest of subtlest hogwash. You we like because you swagger all over town, and roll your eyes, suffering every kind of woe, and proud on our account." And he said that female singer "goddesses give us judgment, dialectic, intelligence, fantasy and double-talking, eloquence and forceful talk. Just to hear their voices makes my very soul take wing and fly,

makes me long to chop some logic, blow some elocutive smoke, bust big maxims with little maxims."

"One other aspect of production needs to be mentioned. Socrates first appears in the play suspended in air.

"The means of his suspension is undoubtedly the mechane, which in tragedy is mostly used for gods,

"but in comedy is used for any character who needs to fly or just be in the air." To understand this play Click Here.

While Socrates was a "spiritual" thinker he surrounded himself with a band of young men who were gender-distressed and revolutionary.

Paul warned about those trying to "fly away" or "take up anchor" before he defined "singing" as teaching the already-spoken words of God in Ephesiand 5:18-19. He warned them that they should be as forceful in putting away the signs of pagan lostness as the pagans were in their music:

Let all bitterness, and wrath (hard breathing), and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: Ephesians 4:31

Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Ephesians 5:6

When the performers actually get angry and "soar away" the Greek is:

Orge (g3709) or-gay'; from 3713; prop. desire (as a reaching forth or excitement of the mind), i.e. (by anal) violent passion (ire, or [justifiable] abhorence); by impl. punishment: - anger, indignation, vengeance, wrath.

Orgizo (g3710) or-gid'-zo; from 3709; to provoke or enrage, i.e. (pass.) become exasperated: - be angry (wroth).

Another example of the artificial flying machine for those who have no flight feathers:

[Enter Thetis aloft on the mechane.]

Chorus Leader

"Ah, what is this motion, what divine being do I see? Look, women, see! Here is a god who wings his way through the bright air and treads the ground of horse-pasturing Phthia. Euripides Andromache.

And again, In Euripides Medea


Where did she kill them? In the house or outside?


Open the gates and you will see your slaughtered sons.


Servants, remove the bar at once so that I may see a double disaster, these children's corpses and her who did the deed, so that for these children's murder I may exact punishment.

[Jason tries to open the doors of the house. Medea appears aloft in a winged chariot upon the mechane, which rises from behind the skene.]


Why do you rattle these gates and try to unbar them, in search of the corpses and me who did the deed? Cease our toil.

The performers often meet their fate because they try to fly "too close to the sun" and the actor's wax melts. We remember a wrestler who flew to his death from just such a mechane because, you see, he had no wing feathers.

Dramatic Tragedy often resulted in real paganism because people worshipped the clouds rather than the Creator of the clouds. Aristophanes shows how the women musicians as "clouds" took the place of the god who made the clouds. Why? Because the sound, lightning and water came from the clouds and not from a visible god. Or is it just too much hot air?

While the language is earthy it teaches how we should not honor preaching clergy and musical worship teams rather than God. The men and women who presume to be a platform upon which God lands or as mediators between mankind and God are just blasts of gas from a wine filled wineskin belly.

Then, as now, there were real teachers who loved their God and were dedicated to telling you about Him. They are just as shamed as the spectators of these ancient farces because they put music, drama and artificial "flying" machines" in the place of the God whom they honerably represent for little pay or honor.

In Hebrew:

Anan (h6049) aw-nan'; a prim. root; to cover; used only as denom. from 605 (thundercloud), to cloud over; figurative: to act covertly, i. e. practise magic: -bring, enchanter, Meonemin (responsive singer), observer of times, soothsayer, sorcerer.


Aristophanes Clouds

Written 419 B.C.E
PASIAS, a Money-lender
AMYNIAS, another Money-lender


In the background are two houses, that of Strepsiades and that of Socrates, the
Thoughtery. The latter is small and dingy; the in, terior of the former is shown and two beds are seen, each occupied.

Socrates (Pretend Socrates from the Thinkery)

Clouds that we revere so greatly,
show that you have heard my cry!
You: you heard their voice, their thunder,
bellowing with force divine?


Honored Clouds, I do revere you;
let me answer with a fart
all their thunder: that's how scared they've
made me, that's how terrified!
Now, if its allowed, or even
if it's not, I need to crap!


Don't be joking, don't behave like
one of these comedians!
Reverence, please! A swarm of gods are
stirring and prepared to sing.

Chorus (I.2)

Rain-bearing maidens,
come to the glistening land of Athena,
Cecrops' soil with its crop of fine he-men;
here is the home of the sanctified rites none may speak of,
the temple in festival open for worship,
gifts for the heavenly gods in abundance,
temples on high, sacred statues and
holy processions and sacrifice,
ubiquitous garlands, festivities here
throughout the year.
The onset of spring brings Dionysian joy,
maddening dance, the music of the flute.


Tell me, Socrates, I beg you,
who these ladies are that sang
such a reverent song as this?
They aren't some kind of heroines?


Not at all. They're clouds from heaven,
goddesses for idle men.
They're the ones who give us judgment,
dialectic, intelligence,
fantasy and double-talking,
eloquence and forceful talk.


Just to hear their voices makes my
very soul take wing and fly,
makes me long to chop some logic,
blow some elocutive smoke,
bust big maxims with little maxims,
counterpoint an argument!
Time to see the ladies close up;
I'm ready now, if now's the time!
See how the female prophetesses made souls fly.
Look this way, then, toward Mt. Parnes; (N.E. of Athens)
now I see them coming down peacefully.
This was the mountain where Apollo had his Seeker Center. He is Abaddon or Apollyon.
See how Lucian of Samosata defined such a Sucker-Seeker-Center
Where? Show them to me.
Quite a bunch are coming on your side.
What's going on?
I can't see them.
Look offstage there.
Now I think I'm seeing them!
Now you've simply got to see them,
unless you've got pumpkins in your eyes!
There they are! O reverend ladies!
They're settling over everything
So, you didn't think that they were
goddesses, and disbelieved?
Right. I thought that they were only
lots of dew and steam and gas.
Didn't know that they sustain and
feed a host of specialists,
sayers of sooth, quack doctors, [Frogs in Revelation are Quacks]
hairy idlers with onyx signet-rings,
writers of chorus-bending screeches,
phony meteorologists,
doing nothing useful,
living only to sing about the Clouds?
That's why they write 'O dire downdraft
drumming rainclouds radiant',
'Locks of hundred-headed Typho',
(Typhon, serpent or Egyptian Set)
'blasting squalls of mighty blow',
'airy scudders crook'd of talon,
birds breast-stroking up on high',
'rain of waters down from dew-clouds.'
Then, for poems like that, they get
fine fillets of choicest mullet,
avian breast of thrush supreme!
Thanks to the Clouds; don't they deserve it?
Tell me, if they're really clouds,
what's the reason why they look so
much like mortal women do?
Sky-clouds don't resemble these clouds.
What do they look like to you?
Can't exactly say. They look like
balls of wool spread out up there,
not at all like women, no sir;
these are wearing noses, too.
Answer me a little question.
Fire away, whatever you like.
Ever gazed up and seen a cloud that
looked just like a centaur, or
a wolf, or bull, perhaps a leopard?
Sure I have; but what's the point?
Clouds take any shape they fancy.
Say they see a shaggy tough,
one of those hairy (bearded) guys we all know,
e.g. Xenophantus' son: (hereditary effeminacy)
they'll make fun of his affectations,
making centaurs of themselves
(Note: "People too fond of amusement are thought to be profligate,
but really they are soft;
for amusement is rest, and therefore a slackening of effort,
and addiction to amusement is a form of excessive slackness.")
Say they spot a man who steals from
public funds, as Simon does?
They'll expose his character by
turning into hungry wolves
That's why, when yesterday they saw
Cleonymus who lost his shield,
showing up his cowardice they
took the shape of running deer!

("I wonder whence comes this fearful voracity of Cleonymus. 'Tis said that when dining with a rich host, he springs at the dishes with the gluttony of a wild beast and never leaves the bread-bin until his host seizes him round the knees, exclaiming, "Go, go, good gentleman, in mercy go, and spare my poor table!" Where is the son of Cleonymus? Sing me something before going back to the feast. I am at least certain he will not sing of battles, for his father is far too careful a man. )


Now it's Cleisthenes they've spotted:
see him? Thus the Clouds are women.

[Enter Cleisthenes, dressed as a woman.] " Euripides singed and depilated him and disguised him as a woman."


Hail then, sovereign Ladies! If you've
ever so favored another man,
break for me too, Queens almighty,
a sound that spans the heavens wide!


Greetings, superannuated codger,
seeking artful words;
you too, priest of subtlest hogwash,
tell us what your heart desires.
You alone we listen to,
of all the scientists today,
Prodicus (sophist ) excepted, for his
cleverness and judgment fine.
You we like because you swagger
all over town, and roll your eyes,
barefoot, suffering every kind o
woe, and proud on our account.

Wherefore, when the right moment comes, one must say, "And give me your attention, for it concerns you as much as myself"; and, "I will tell you such a thing as you have never yet" heard of, so strange and wonderful. This is what Prodicus used to do; whenever his hearers began to nod, he would throw in a dash of his fifty-drachma lecture


Mother Earth, the sound they make!
How holy, august, wonderful!


These are the only gods, my man; and
all the rest are fantasies.


Come now, don't you all consider
Zeus on high to be a god?


Zeus, you say? Don't kid me!
There's no Zeus at all.


What's that you say?
Who makes rain, then? That's what I would
like to know right off the bat.


Clouds, of course! I'll prove it so by
arguments irrefutable.
Tell me, have you ever seen it
raining when there were no clouds?
Why can't Zeus produce a rainstorm
while the clouds are out of town?


By Apollo, what you say jibes
well with what you said before.
When it rained I used to think that
Zeus was pissing through a sieve!
Tell me, though, who makes the thunder:
that's what makes me shake and quake.

This is a sieve. It was like the hollow, old wineskin of the witch of Endor. She mumbled into it and the echo and confused voice was sold as the voice of the gods. The familiar spirit is also the nebel or harp device. Pagans always told the audience that the voice coming from stretched strings was the gods living inside. Paul speaks of a bronze vase or echo-chamber as a hi-tek familiar spirit while warning the Corinthian churches that such "speaking in tongues" was not appropriate for the Christian assembly. Lucian of Samosata shows that at the Oracle at Delphi home of Apollo the thunderer "divining from the sieve" was a tool.

"Alexander, on the other hand, preferred his native place, urging very truly that an enterprise like theirs required congenial soil to give it a start,

in the shape of 'fat-heads' and simpletons; that was a fair description, he said, of the Paphlagonians beyond Abonutichus;

they were mostly superstitious and well-to-do; one had only to go there with someone to play the flute, the tambourine, or the cymbals, set the proverbial mantic sieve a-spinning, and there they would all be gaping as if he were a god from heaven.


Clouds do, when they roll around.


You'll stop at nothing! But tell me, how?


Clouds fill up with lots of water,
then they're forced to move about,
sagging soddenly with rain,
then getting heavier perforce,
collide with one another, breaking
up and making crashing sounds.


Who is it, though, that starts them moving?
Isn't that the work of Zeus?


Hardly. It's cosmic Vertigo.

(The circular dance which made the world go around and you dizzy-sick at your stomach was believed, like musical sounds and bodily movements in dance or drunkenness from wine, to be the real proof that the gods were in your presence. Charismatic speaking has always been known to produce the same madness.)


Vertigo? I never realized
Zeus (Jehovah today or "Je zeus") is gone and in his place this
Vertigo's become the king. (Frenzy or epilepsy)
Still you've not explained
what makes the crashing of a thunder-clap.


Weren't you listening? I said that when the
clouds fill up with water, then
collide with one another, they make a
crash because of their density.


Who would fall for that? Come on now.


I'll use your body to prove my case.
Ever gorged yourself with soup at a
festival, then got a pain
there in your belly, and suddenly it
starts to make a rumbling noise?
Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind? Job 15:2


By Apollo, yes I have! It
starts to make an awful fuss;
just a bit of soup starts rumbling,
making awful thunder-sounds,
gently at first--bap bap bap bap--then
harder--boomba boomba boom--
then I crap and really thunder--
whamba wham--just like the clouds!


Yes, yes, by Apollo I suffer, I get colic, then the stew sets to rumbling like thunder and finally bursts forth with a terrific noise.

At first, it's but a little gurgling pappax, pappax!

then it increases, papapappax! and when I take my crap (to rhyme with clap),

why, it's thunder indeed, papapappax! pappax!! papapappax!!! just like the clouds.

Elihu speaking over his silent elders said:

I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know. Job 32:17

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me; Job 32:18

inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst. Job 32:19

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply. Job 32:20

While dramatic bombast and bawling or cloud-fluffy musical performance may put outrageous pride on display, the thinking or rational mind will just fall flat on its face with embracement. This is a consistent theme of the ancient writers. Even Paul said that the identical performance in Corinth would just make them look mad - insane!

Plato, in the Republic warns:

"But the contemporaries of our age negligently apply a few years of ardent youth,

burning by turns with the fire of vice;

and when they have attained the acumen of discerning a doubtful truth,

they immediately become involved in extraneous business, retire, and say farewell to the schools of philosophy;

they sip the frothy must of juvenile wit over the difficulties of philosophy,

and pour out the purified old wine with economical care."

Aristophanes knew the eternal battle: those who were sexually or emotionally abnormal gradually took over the mediating job from the common people (as at Delphi). Those who usurped everyones acces to God presumed to stand between mankind and God -- hands waving with bombast so you don't forget. In time such self-appointed usurpers are promoted from speaking for God to being God's replacement.

As the clouds received the credit rather the creator, the abnormal musical performers were worshipped in place of Zeus.

Aristophanes laughs for all of us at the common comedy played upon those who, as Paul said and we paraphrase: "Fools love to be fooled" especially if the price is high enough.

Ovid Metamorphoses 12.72.more (More)

There is a spot
convenient in the center of the world,
between the land and sea and the wide heavens,
the meeting of the threefold universe.
From there is seen all things that anywhere
exist, although in distant regions far;
and there all sounds of earth and space are heard.
Fame is possessor of this chosen place,
and has her habitation in a tower,
which aids her view from that exalted highs.
And she has fixed there numerous avenues,
and openings, a thousand, to her tower
and no gates with closed entrance, for the house
is open, night and day, of sounding brass,
reechoing the tones of every voice.
It must repeat whatever it may hear;
and there's no rest, and silence in no part.
There is no clamor; but the murmuring sound
of subdued voices, such as may arise
from waves of a far sea, which one may hear
who listens at a distance; or the sound
which ends a thunderclap, when Jupiter
has clashed black clouds together.
Fickle crowds
are always in that hall, that come and go,
and myriad rumors--false tales mixed with true--
are circulated in confusing words.
Some fill their empty ears with all this talk,
and some spread elsewhere all that's told to them.
The volume of wild fiction grows apace,
and each narrator adds to what he hears.
Credulity is there and rash Mistake,
and empty Joy, and coward Fear alarmed
by quick Sedition, and soft Whisper--all
of doubtful life. sees what things are done
in heaven and on the sea, and on the earth.
She spies all things in the wide universe.


Kenneth Sublett



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