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THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 13

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Oh! capital! truly that's a brilliant thought!
EUELPIDES
Is it in Nephelococcygia that all the wealth of Theogenes and most
of Aeschines' is?
PITHETAERUS
No, it's rather the plain of Phlegra, where the gods withered
the pride of the sons of the Earth with their shafts.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Oh! what a splendid city! But what god shall be its patron? for
whom shall we weave the peplus?
EUELPIDES
Why not choose Athene Polias?
PITHETAERUS
Oh! what a well-ordered town it would be to have a female deity
armed from head to foot, while Clisthenes was spinning!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Who then shall guard the Pelargicon?
PITHETAERUS
A bird.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
One of us? What kind of bird?
PITHETAERUS
A bird of Persian strain, who is everywhere proclaimed to be the
bravest of all, a true chick of Ares.
EUELPIDES
Oh! noble chick!
PITHETAERUS
Because he is a god well suited to live on the rocks. Come! into
the air with you to help the workers who are building the wall;
carry up rubble, strip yourself to mix the mortar, take up the hod,
tumble down the ladder, if you like, post sentinels, keep the fire
smouldering beneath the ashes, go round the walls, bell in hand, and
go to sleep up there yourself then despatch two HeraLDs, one to the
gods above, the other to mankind on earth and come back here.
EUELPIDES
As for yourself, remain here, and may the plague take you for a
troublesome fellow!
(He departs.)
PITHETAERUS
Go, friend, go where I send you, for without you my orders
cannot be obeyed. For myself, I want to sacrifice to the new god,
and I am going to summon the priest who must preside at the
ceremony. Slaves! slaves! bring forward the basket and the lustral
water.
CHORUS (singing)
I do as you do, and I wish as you wish, and I implore you to
address powerful and solemn prayers to the gods, and in addition to
immolate a sheep as a token of our gratitude. Let us sing the
Pythian chant in honour of the god, and let Chaeris accompany our
voices.
PITHETAERUS
Enough! but, by Heracles! what is this? Great gods! I have seen
many prodigious things, but I never saw a muzzled raven. (The PRIEST
arrives.) Priest! it's high time! Sacrifice to the new gods.
PRIEST
I begin, but where is the man with the basket? Pray to the
Hestia of the birds, to the kite, who presides over the hearth, and to
all the god and goddess-birds who dwell in Olympus...
PITHETAERUS
Oh! Hawk, the sacred guardian of Sunium, oh, god of the storks!
PRIEST
...to the swan of Delos, to Leto the mother of the quails, and to
Artemis, the goldfinch...
PITHETAERUS
It's no longer Artemis Colaenis, but Artemis the goldfinch.
PRIEST
...to Bacchus, the finch and Cybele, the ostrich and mother of the
gods and mankind...
PITHETAERUS
Oh! sovereign ostrich Cybele, mother of Cleocritus!
PRIEST
...to grant health and safety to the Nephelococcygians as well as
to the dwellers in Chios...
PITHETAERUS
The dwellers in Chios! Ah! I am delighted they should be thus
mentioned on all occasions.
PRIEST
...to the heroes, the birds, to the sons of heroes, to the
porphyrion, the pelican, the spoon-bill, the redbreast, the grouse,
the peacock, the horned-owl, the teal, the bittern, the heron, the
stormy petrel, the fig-pecker, the titmouse...
PITHETAERUS
Stop! stop! you drive me crazy with your endless list. Why,
wretch, to what sacred feast are you inviting the vultures and the
sea-eagles? Don't you see that a single kite could easily carry off
the lot at once? Begone, you and your fillets and all; I shall know
how to complete the sacrifice by myself.
(The PRIEST departs.)
It is imperative that I sing another sacred chant for the rite
of the lustral water, and that I invoke the immortals, or at least one
of them, provided always that you have some suitable food to offer
him; from what I see here, in the shape of gifts, there is naught
whatever but horn and hair.

 

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