Singing the Blues

Meditations from the Classics

Singing the Blues
Aristophanes, Knights



(Greek comedy, 424 BC)
Acts 16:22-30

Demos, an elderly Athenian master, enraged by the gossip of a new slave he had recently purchased, turned his wrath on two veteran slaves, Nicias and Demosthenes. He beat them furiously. The new slave in the house, Cleon, had gained favor with the boss and told him a bunch of lies about the old-timers. Listen to them gripe and whine as they run from their most recent beating by the master:


“Ouch! How I hurt! …Oh, Lord! Goodness me!
That Cleon our master lately bought…
Confound him anyway, and all his tricks!
For, since the day he got into this house,
There’s been a perfect itch of beatings here…
How do you feel, my boy?”


“No worse than you, I’m sure.”


Let’s sing a sob duet to Olympus’s tune.”


“Boohoo, boohoo, boohoo.”
(μυμῦ μυμῦ μυμῦ μυμῦ μυμῦ μυμῦ.)

 Poor fellows. Two Athenian slaves who had it bad. The best they could summon within them was to break down and sob in perfect harmony with their pain. They remind me of two other men, slaves to a higher master as well, who likewise were rudely and improperly beaten. They too sang their pain away. But when Paul and Silas sang, it was a joyful duet about the majesty of God. Listen in—

     “And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 23And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 24Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God…”(Acts 16:25).

What’s the name of your tune? “Sobbing the Blues” or “Praising the Lord.”

David R. Denny  Ph.D

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