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THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 14

PITHETAERUS
Let us address our sacrifices and our prayers to the winged gods.
(A POET enters.)
POET
Oh, Muse! celebrate happy Nephelococcygia in your hymns.
PITHETAERUS
What have we here? Where did you come from, tell me? Who are you?
POET
I am he whose language is sweeter than honey, the zealous slave of
the Muses, as Homer has it.
PITHETAERUS
You a slave! and yet you wear your hair long?
POET
No, but the fact is all we poets are the assiduous slaves of the
Muses, according to Homer.
PITHETAERUS
In truth your little cloak is quite holy too through zeal! But,
poet, what ill wind drove you here?
POET
I have composed verses in honour of your Nephelococcygia, a host
of splendid dithyrambs and parthenia worthy of Simonides himself.
PITHETAERUS
And when did you compose them? How long since?
POET
Oh! 'tis long, aye, very long, that I have sung in honour of
this city.
PITHETAERUS
But I am only celebrating its foundation with this sacrifice; I
have only just named it, as is done with little babies.
POET
"Just as the chargers fly with the speed of the wind, so does
the voice of the Muses take its flight. Oh! thou noble founder of
the town of Aetna, thou, whose name recalls the holy sacrifices,
make us such gift as thy generous heart shall suggest."
(He puts out his hand.)
PITHETAERUS
He will drive us silly if we do not get rid of him by some
present. (To the PRIEST'S acolyte) Here! you, who have a fur as well
as your tunic, take it off and give it to this clever poet. Come, take
this fur; you look to me to be shivering with cold.
POET
My Muse will gladly accept this gift; but engrave these verses
of Pindar's on your mind.
PITHETAERUS
Oh! what a pest! It's impossible then to get rid of him!
POET
"Straton wanders among the Scythian nomads, but has no linen
garment. He is sad at only wearing an animal's pelt and no tunic."
Do you get what I mean?
PITHETAERUS
I understand that you want me to offer you a tunic. Hi! you (to
the acolyte), take off yours; we must help the poet....Come, you, take
it and get out.
POET
I am going, and these are the verses that I address to this
city: "Phoebus of the golden throne, celebrate this shivery,
freezing city; I have travelled through fruitful and snow-covered
plains. Tralala! Tralala!"
(He departs.)
PITHETAERUS
What are you chanting us about frosts? Thanks to the tunic, you no
longer fear them. Ah! by Zeus! I could not have believed this cursed
fellow could so soon have learnt the way to our city. (To a slave)
Come, take the lustral water and circle the altar. Let all keep
silence!
(An ORACLE-MONGER enters.)
ORACLE-MONGER
Let not the goat be sacrificed.
PITHETAERUS
Who are you?
ORACLE-MONGER
Who am I? An oracle-monger.
PITHETAERUS
Get out!
ORACLE-MONGER
Wretched man, insult not sacred things. For there is an oracle
of Bacis, which exactly applies to Nephelococcygia.
PITHETAERUS
Why did you not reveal it to me before I founded my city?
ORACLE-MONGER
The divine spirit was against it.
PITHETAERUS
Well, I suppose there's nothing to do but hear the terms of the
oracle.
ORACLE-MONGER
"But when the wolves and the white crows shall dwell together
between Corinth and Sicyon..."
PITHETAERUS
But how do the Corinthians concern me?
ORACLE-MONGER
It is the regions of the air that Bacis indicates in this
manner. "They must first sacrifice a white-fleeced goat to Pandora,
and give the prophet who first reveals my words a good cloak and new
sandals."
PITHETAERUS
Does it say sandals there?
ORACLE-MONGER
Look at the book. "And besides this a goblet of wine and a good
share of the entrails of the entrails of the victim."
PITHETAERUS
Of the entrails-does it say that?

 

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