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THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 16

INSPECTOR
What does this mean?
PITHETAERUS
This is the assembly where you have to defend Pharnaces.
INSPECTOR
You shall testify that they dare to strike me, the inspector.
PITHETAERUS
Are you not going to get out with your urns? It's not to be
believed; they send us inspectors before we have so much as paid
sacrifice to the gods.
(The INSPECTOR goes into hiding. A DEALER IN DECREES arrives.)
DEALER IN DECREES (reading)
"If the Nephelococcygian does wrong to the Athenian..."
PITHETAERUS
What trouble now? What book is that?
DEALER IN DECREES
I am a dealer in decrees, and I have come here to sell you the new
laws.
PITHETAERUS
Which?
DEALER IN DECREES
"The Nephelococcygians shall adopt the same weights, measures
and decrees as the Olophyxians."
PITHETAERUS
And you shall soon be imitating the Ototyxians.
(He beats him.)
DEALER IN DECREES
Ow! what are you doing?
PITHETAERUS
Now will you get out of here with your decrees? For I am going
to let you see some severe ones.
(The DEALER IN DECREES departs; the INSPECTOR comes out of
hiding.)
INSPECTOR (returning)
I summon Pithetaerus for outrage for the month of Munychion.
PITHETAERUS
Ha! my friend! are you still here?
(The DEALER IN DECREES also returns.)
DEALER IN DECREES
"Should anyone drive away the magistrates and not receive them,
according to the decree duly posted..."
PITHETAERUS
What! rascal! you are back too?
(He rushes at him.)
INSPECTOR
Woe to you! I'll have you condemned to a fine of ten thousand
drachmae.
PITHETAERUS
And I'll smash your urns.
INSPECTOR
Do you recall that evening when you crapped on the column where
the decrees are posted?
PITHETAERUS
Here! here! let him be seized. (The INSPECTOR runs off.) Why,
don't you want to stay any longer? But let us get indoors as quick
as possible; we will sacrifice the goat inside.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Henceforth it is to me that mortals must address their
sacrifices and their prayers. Nothing escapes my sight nor my might.
My glance embraces the universe, I preserve the fruit in the flower by
destroying the thousand kinds of voracious insects the soil
produces, which attack the trees and feed on the germ when it has
scarcely formed in the calyx; I destroy those who ravage the balmy
terrace gardens like a deadly plague; all these gnawing crawling
creatures perish beneath the lash of my wing.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
I hear it proclaimed everywhere: "A talent for him who shall
kill Diagoras of Melos, and a talent for him who destroys one of the
dead tyrants." We likewise wish to make our proclamation: "A talent to
him among you who shall kill Philocrates, the Struthian; four, if he
brings him to us alive. For this Philocrates skewers the finches
together and sells them at the rate of an obolus for seven. He
tortures the thrushes by blowing them out, so that they may look
bigger, sticks their own feathers into the nostrils of blackbirds, and
collects pigeons, which he shuts up and forces them, fastened in a
net, to decoy others." That is what we wish to proclaim. And if anyone
is keeping birds shut up in his yard, let him hasten to let them
loose; those who disobey shall be seized by the birds and we shall put
them in chains, so that in their turn they may decoy other men.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Happy indeed is the race of winged birds who need no cloak in
winter! Neither do I fear the relentless rays of the fiery dog-days;
when the divine grasshopper, intoxicated with the sunlight, as noon is
burning the ground, is breaking out into shrill melody; my home is
beneath the foliage in the flowery meadows. I winter in deep
caverns, where I frolic with the mountain nymphs, while in spring I
despoil the gardens of the Graces and gather the white, virgin berry
on the myrtle bushes.

 

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