THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 12
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Oh, rustic Muse of such varied note, tiotiotiotiotiotinx, I sing
with you in the groves and on the mountain tops, tiotiotiotinx. I
poured forth sacred strains from my golden throat in honour of the god
Pan, tiotiotiotinx, from the top of the thickly leaved ash, and my
voice mingles with the mighty choirs who extol Cybele on the
mountain tops, totototototototototinx. 'Tis to our concerts that
Phrynichus comes to pillage like a bee the ambrosia of his songs,
the sweetness of which so charms the ear, tiotiotiotinx.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
If there is one of you spectators who wishes to spend the rest
of his life quietly among the birds, let him come to us. All that is
disgraceful and forbidden by law on earth is on the contrary
honourable among us, the birds. For instance, among you it's a crime
to beat your father, but with us it's an estimable deed; it's
considered fine to run straight at your father and hit him, saying,
"Come, lift your spur if you want to fight." The runaway slave, whom
you brand, is only a spotted francolin with us. Are you Phrygian
like Spintharus? Among us you would be the Phrygian bird, the
goldfinch, of the race of Philemon. Are you a slave and a Carian
like Execestides? Among us you can create yourself fore-fathers; you
can always find relations. Does the son of Pisias want to betray the
gates of the city to the foe? Let him become a partridge, the
fitting offspring of his father; among us there is no shame in
escaping as cleverly as a partridge.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
So the swans on the banks of the Hebrus, tiotiotiotiotiotinx,
mingle their voices to serenade Apollo, tiotiotiotinx, flapping
their wings the while, tiotiotiotinx; their notes reach beyond the
clouds of heaven; they startle the various tribes of the beasts; a
windles sky calms the waves, totototototototototinx; all Olympus
resounds, and astonishment seizes its rulers; the Olympian graces
and Muses cry aloud the strain, tiotiotiotinx.
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
There is nothing more useful nor more pleasant than to have wings.
To begin with, just let us suppose a spectator to be dying with hunger
and to be weary of the CHORUSes of the tragic poets; if he were
winged, he would fly off, go home to dine and come back with his
stomach filled. Some Patroclides, needing to take a crap, would not
have to spill it out on his cloak, but could fly off, satisfy his
requirements, let a few farts and, having recovered his breath,
return. If one of you, it matters not who, had adulterous relations
and saw the husband of his mistress in the seats of the senators, he
might stretch his wings, fly to her, and, having laid her, resume
his place. Is it not the most priceless gift of all, to be winged?
Look at Diitrephes! His wings were only wicker-work ones, and yet he
got himself chosen Phylarch and then Hipparch; from being nobody, he
has risen to be famous; he's now the finest gilded cock of his tribe.
(PITHETAERUS and EUELPIDES return; they now have wings.)
Halloa! What's this? By Zeus! I never saw anything so funny in all
What makes you laugh?
Your little wings. D'you know what you look like? Like a goose
painted by some dauber.
And you look like a close-shaven blackbird.
We ourselves asked for this transformation, and, as Aeschylus
has it, "These are no borrowed feathers, but truly our own."
Come now, what must be done?
First give our city a great and famous name, then sacrifice to the
I think so too.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Let's see. What shall our city be called?
Will you have a high-sounding Laconian name? Shall we call it
What! call my town Sparta? Why, I would not use esparto for my
bed, even though I had nothing but bands of rushes.
Well then, what name can you suggest?
Some name borrowed from the clouds, from these lofty regions in
which we dwell-in short, some well-known name.
Do you like Nephelococcygia?
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