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Aristophanes Index


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THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 04

EUELPIDES
I would not be Opuntian for a talent. But come, what is it like to
live with the birds? You should know pretty well.
EPOPS
Why, it's not a disagreeable life. In the first place, one has
no purse.
EUELPIDES
That does away with a lot of roguery.
EPOPS
For food the gardens yield us white sesame, myrtle-berries,
poppies and mint.
EUELPIDES
Why, 'tis the life of the newly-wed indeed.
PITHETAERUS
Ha! I am beginning to see a great plan, which will transfer the
supreme power to the birds, if you will but take my advice.
EPOPS
Take your advice? In what way?
PITHETAERUS
In what way? Well, firstly, do not fly in all directions with open
beak; it is not dignified. Among us, when we see a thoughtless man, we
ask, "What sort of bird is this?" and Teleas answers, "It's a man
who has no brain, a bird that has lost his head, a creature you cannot
catch, for it never remains in any one place."
EPOPS
By Zeus himself! your jest hits the mark. What then is to be done?
PITHETAERUS
Found a city.
EPOPS
We birds? But what sort of city should we build?
PITHETAERUS
Oh, really, really! you talk like such a fool! Look down.
EPOPS
I am looking.
PITHETAERUS
Now look up.
EPOPS
I am looking.
PITHETAERUS
Turn your head round.
EPOPS
Ah! it will be pleasant for me if I end in twisting my neck of!
PITHETAERUS
What have you seen?
EPOPS
The clouds and the sky.
PITHETAERUS
Very well! is not this the pole of the birds then?
EPOPS
How their pole?
PITHETAERUS
Or, if you like it, their place. And since it turns and passes
through the whole universe, it is called 'pole.' If you build and
fortify it, you will turn your pole into a city. In this way you
will reign over mankind as you do over the grasshoppers and you will
cause the gods to die of rabid hunger
EPOPS
How so?
PITHETAERUS
The air is between earth and heaven. When we want to go to Delphi,
we ask the Boeotians for leave of passage; in the same way, when men
sacrifice to the gods, unless the latter pay you tribute, you exercise
the right of every nation towards strangers and don't allow the
smoke of the sacrifices to pass through your city and territory.
EPOPS
By earth! by snares! by network! by cages! I never heard of
anything more cleverly conceived; and, if the other birds approve, I
am going to build the city along with you.
PITHETAERUS
Who will explain the matter to them?
EPOPS
You must yourself. Before I came they were quite ignorant, but
since have lived with them I have taught them to speak.
PITHETAERUS
But how can they be gathered together?
EPOPS
Easily. I will hasten down to the thicket to waken my dear
Procne and as soon as they hear our voices, they will come to us hot
wing.
PITHETAERUS
My dear bird, lose no time, please! Fly at once into the thicket
and awaken Procne.
(EPOPS rushes into the thicket.)
EPOPS (from within; singing)
Chase off drowsy sleep, dear companion. Let the sacred hymn gush
from thy divine throat in melodious strains; roll forth in soft
cadence your refreshing melodies to bewail the fate of Itys, which has
been the cause of so many tears to us both. Your pure notes rise
through the thick leaves of the yew-tree right up to the throne of
Zeus, where Phoebus listens to you, Phoebus with his golden hair.
And his ivory lyre responds to your plaintive accents; he gathers
the choir of the gods and from their immortal lips pours forth a
sacred chant of blessed voices.
(The flute is played behind the scene, imitating the song of the
nightingale.)

 

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