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SWELLFOOT THE TYRANT
IN TWO ACTS
TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL DORIC
Choose Reform or Civil War, When through thy streets, instead of hare with dogs, A CONSORT-QUEEN shall hunt a KING with hogs, Riding on the IONIAN MINOTAUR.
Edipus Tyrannus was published, without Shelley's name, at London, in 1820, under the imprint of C. F. Seyfang, for the author, by J. Johnston, Cheapside. The drama was begun, under the circumstances described in Mrs. Shelley's Note, August 24, 1819, at the Baths of San Giuliano, near Pisa. It was sent to Horace Smith, who employed the publisher. It was threatened with prosecution by citizens of the ward, and some steps thereto seem to have been taken ; but at the suggestion of Alderman Rothwell the publisher gave up the whole edition, except seven copies, which had been sold, and also told the name of his employer. The secret of the authorship was kept by Horace Smith, who said only that the work had been sent to him from Pisa. The drama was suggested by the affair of Queen Caroline. Of the characters Purganax stands for Lord Castlereagh, Dakry for Lord Eldon, and Laoctonos for the Duke of Wellington.
This Tragedy is one of a triad or system of three Plays (an arrangement according to which the Greeks were accustomed to connect their dramatic representations) elucidating the wonderful and appalling fortunes of the Swellfoot dynasty.
It was evidently written by some learned Theban ; and, from its characteristic dulness, apparently before the duties on the importation of Attic salt had been repealed by the Bæotarchs. The tenderness with which he treats the Pigs proves him to have been a sus Bæotice; possibly Epicuri de grege porcus ; for, as the poet observes,
“A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind." No liberty has been taken with the translation of this remarkable piece of antiquity except the suppressing a seditious and blasphemous Chorus of the Pigs and Bulls at the last act. The word Hoydipouse (or more properly Edipus), has been rendered literally Swellfoot without its having been conceived necessary to determine whether a swelling of the hind or the fore feet of the Swinish Monarch is particularly indicated.
Should the remaining portions of this Tragedy be found, entitled Swellfoot in Angaria and Charité, the Translator might be tempted to give them to the reading Public.
TYRANT SWELLFOOT, King of
Chorus of the Swinish Multitude.
SCENE — A magnificent Temple, built of thigh-bones and death's
heads, and tiled with scalps. Over the Altar the statue of Famine, veiled ; a number of boars, sows and sucking-pigs, crowned with thistle, shamrock and oak, sitting on the steps and clinging round the Altar of the Temple.
Enter SWELLFOOT, in his royal robes, without perceiving the Pigs.
Thou supreme goddess ! by whose power divine These graceful limbs are clothed in proud array
[He contemplates himself with satisfaction. Of gold and purple, and this kingly paunch Swells like a sail before a favoring breeze, And these most sacred nether promontories Lie satisfied with layers of fat; and these Baotian cheeks, like Egypt's pyramid, (Nor with less toil were their foundations laid) Sustain the cone of my untroubled brain, That point, the emblem of a pointless nothing ! Thou to whom Kings and laurelled Emperors, Radical-butchers, Paper-money-millers, Bishops and deacons, and the entire army Of those fat martyrs to the persecution Of stifling turtle-soup and brandy-devils,