THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 17
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
I want now to speak to the judges about the prize they are going
to award; if they are favourable to us, we will load them with
benefits far greater than those Paris received. Firstly, the owls of
Laurium, which every judge desires above all things, shall never be
wanting to you; you shall see them homing with you, building their
nests in your money-bags and laying coins. Besides, you shall be
housed like the gods, for we shall erect gables over your dwellings;
if you hold some public post and want to do a little pilfering, we
will give you the sharp claws of a hawk. Are you dining in town, we
will provide you with stomachs as capacious as a bird's crop. But,
if your award is against us, don't fail to have metal covers fashioned
for yourselves, like those they place over statues; else, look out!
for the day you wear a white tunic all the birds will soil it with
Birds! the sacrifice is propitious. But I see no messenger
coming from the wall to tell us what is happening. Ah! here comes
one running himself out of breath as though he were in the Olympic
MESSENGER (running back and forth)
Where, where, where is he? Where, where, where is he? Where,
where, where is he? Where is Pithetaerus, our LEADER?
Here am I.
The wall is finished.
That's good news.
It's a most beautiful, a most magnificent work of art. The wall is
so broad that Proxenides, the Braggartian, and Theogenes could pass
each other in their chariots, even if they were drawn by steeds as big
as the Trojan horse.
Its length is one hundred stadia; I measured it myself.
A decent length, by Posidon! And who built such a wall?
Birds-birds only; they had neither Egyptian brickmaker, nor
stone-mason, nor carpenter; the birds did it all themselves; I could
hardly believe my eyes. Thirty thousand cranes came from Libya with
a supply of stones, intended for the foundations. The water-rails
chiselled them with their beaks. Ten thousand storks were busy
making bricks; plovers and other water fowl carried water into the
And who carried the mortar?
Herons, in hods.
But how could they put the mortar into the hods?
Oh! it was a truly clever invention; the geese used their feet
like spades; they buried them in the pile of mortar and then emptied
them into the hods.
Ah! to what use cannot feet be put?
You should have seen how eagerly the ducks carried bricks. To
complete the tale, the swallows came flying to the work, their beaks
full of mortar and their trowels on their backs, just the way little
children are carried.
Who would want paid servants after this? But tell me, who did
Birds again, aid clever carpenters too, the pelicans, for they
squared up the gates with their beaks in such a fashion that one would
have thought they were using axes; the noise was just like a dockyard.
Now the whole wall is tight everywhere, securely bolted and well
guarded; it is patrolled, bell in hand; the sentinels stand everywhere
and beacons burn on the towers. But I must run off to clean myself;
the rest is your business.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS (to PITHETAERUS)
Well! what do you say to it? Are you not astonished at the wall
being completed so quickly?
By the gods, yes, and with good reason. It's really not to be
believed. But here comes another messenger from the wall to bring us
some further news! What a fighting look he has!
SECOND MESSENGER (rushing in)
Alas! alas! alas! alas! alas! alas!
What's the matter?
A horrible outrage has occurred; a god sent by Zeus has passed
through our gates and has penetrated the realms of the air without the
knowledge of the jays, who are on guard in the daytime.
It's a terrible and criminal deed. What god was it?
We don't know that. All we know is, that he has got wings.
Why were not patrolmen sent against him at once?
We have despatched thirty thousand hawks of the legion of
Mounted Archers. All the hook-clawed birds are moving against him, the
kestrel, the buzzard, the vulture, the great-horned owl; they cleave
the air so that it resounds with the flapping of their wings; they are
looking everywhere for the god, who cannot be far away; indeed, if I
mistake not, he is coming from yonder side.