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Aristophanes Index


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THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 08

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Clever men?
EPOPS
The slyest of foxes, cleverness its very self, men of the world,
cunning, the cream of knowing folk.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Tell them to speak and speak quickly; why, as I listen to you, I
am beside myself with delight.
EPOPS (to two ATTENDANTs)
Here, you there, take all these weapons and hang them up inside
dose to the fire, near the figure of the god who presides there and
under his protection; (to PITHETAERUS) as for you, address the
birds, tell them why I have gathered them together.
PITHETAERUS
Not I, by Apollo, unless they agree with me as the little ape of
an armourer agreed with his wife, not to bite me, nor pull me by the
balls, nor shove things into my...
EUELPIDES (bending over and pointing his finger at his anus)
Do you mean this?
PITHETAERUS
No, I mean my eyes.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Agreed.
PITHETAERUS
Swear it.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
I swear it and, if I keep my promise, let judges and spectators
give me the victory unanimously.
PITHETAERUS
It is a bargain.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
And if I break my word, may I succeed by one vote only.
EPOPS (as HeraLD)
Hearken, ye people! Hoplites, pick up your weapons and return to
your firesides; do not fail to read the decrees of dismissal we have
posted.
CHORUS (singing)
Man is a truly cunning creature, but nevertheless explain. Perhaps
you are going to show me some good way to extend my power, some way
that I have not had the wit to find out and which you have discovered.
Speak! 'tis to your own interest as well as to mine, for if you secure
me some advantage, I will surely share it with you.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But what object can have induced you to come among us? Speak
boldly, for I shall not break the truce,-until you have told us all.
PITHETAERUS
I am bursting with desire to speak; I have already mixed the dough
of my address and nothing prevents me from kneading it....Slave! bring
the chaplet and water, which you must pour over my hands. Be quick!
EUELPIDES
Is it a question of feasting? What does it all mean?
PITHETAERUS
By Zeus, no! but I am hunting for fine, tasty words to break
down the hardness of their hearts. (To the CHORUS) I grieve so much
for you, who at one time were kings...
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
We kings? Over whom?
PITHETAERUS
...of all that exists, firstly of me and of this man, even of Zeus
himself. Your race is older than Saturn, the Titans and the Earth.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
What, older than the Earth!
PITHETAERUS
By Phoebus, yes.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
By Zeus, but I never knew that before!
PITHETAERUS
That's because you are ignorant and heedless, and have never
read your Aesop. He is the one who tells us that the lark was born
before all other creatures, indeed before the Earth; his father died
of sickness, but the Earth did not exist then; he remained unburied
for five days, when the bird in its dilemma decided, for want of a
better place, to entomb its father in its own head.
EUELPIDES
So that the lark's father is buried at Cephalae.
PITHETAERUS
Hence, if they existed before the Earth, before the gods, the
kingship belongs to them by right of priority.
EUELPIDES
Undoubtedly, but sharpen your beak well; Zeus won't be in a
hurry to hand over his sceptre to the woodpecker.
PITHETAERUS
It was not the gods, but the birds, who were formerly the
masters and kings over men; of this I have a thousand proofs. First of
all, I will point you to the cock, who governed the Persians before
all other monarchs, before Darius and Megabazus. It's in memory of his
reign that he is called the Persian bird.
EUELPIDES
For this reason also, even to-day, he alone of all the birds wears
his tiara straight on his head, like the Great King.
PITHETAERUS
He was so strong, so great, so feared, that even now, on account
of his ancient power, everyone jumps out of bed as soon as ever he
crows at daybreak. Blacksmiths, potters, tanners, shoemakers, bathmen,
corndealers, lyre-makers and armourers, all put on their shoes and
go to work before it is daylight.

 

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