THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 18
To arms, all, with slings and bows! This way, all our soldiers;
shoot and strike! Some one give me a sling!
War, a terrible war is breaking out between us and the gods! Come,
let each one guard Air, the son of Erebus, in which the clouds
float. Take care no immortal enters it without your knowledge.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Scan all sides with your glance. Hark! methinks I can hear the
rustle of the swift wings of a god from heaven.
(The Machine brings in IRIS, in the form of a young girl.)
Hi! you woman! where, where, are you flying to? Halt, don't
stir! keep motionless! not a beat of your wing! (She pauses in her
flight.) Who are you and from what country? You must say whence you
I come from the abode of the Olympian gods.
What's your name, ship or head-dress?
I am swift Iris.
Paralus or Salaminia?
What do you mean?
Let a buzzard rush at her and seize her.
Seize me? But what do all these insults mean?
Woe to you!
I do not understand it.
By which gate did you pass through the wall, wretched woman?
By which gate? Why, great gods, I don't know.
You hear how she holds us in derision. Did you present yourself to
the officers in command of the jays? You don't answer. Have you a
permit, bearing the seal of the storks?
Am I dreaming?
Did you get one?
Are you mad?
No head-bird gave you a safe-conduct?
A safe-conduct to me. You poor fool!
Ah! and so you slipped into this city on the sly and into these
realms of air-land that don't belong to you.
And what other roads can the gods travel?
By Zeus! I know nothing about that, not I. But they won't pass
this way. And you still dare to complain? Why, if you were treated
according to your deserts, no Iris would ever have more justly
I am immortal.
You would have died nevertheless.-Oh! that would be truly
intolerable! What! should the universe obey us and the gods alone
continue their insolence and not understand that they must submit to
the law of the strongest in their due turn? But tell me, where are you
I? The messenger of Zeus to mankind, I am going to tell them to
sacrifice sheep and oxen on the altars and to fill their streets
with the rich smoke of burning fat.
Of which gods are you speaking?
Of which? Why, of ourselves, the gods of heaven.
Are there others then?
Men now adore the birds as gods, and it's to them, by Zeus, that
they must offer sacrifices, and not to Zeus at all!
IRIS (in tragic style)
Oh! fool! fool! fool! Rouse not the wrath of the gods, for it is
terrible indeed. Armed with the brand of Zeus, justice would
annihilate your race; the lightning would strike you as it did
Licymnius and consume both your body and the porticos of your palace.
Here! that's enough tall talk. Just you listen and keep quiet!
Do you take me for a Lydian or a Phrygian and think to frighten me
with your big words? Know, that if Zeus worries me again, I shall go
at the head of my eagles, who are armed with lightning, and reduce his
dwelling and that of Amphion to cinders. I shall send more than six
hundred porphyrions clothed in leopards' skins up to heaven against
him; and formerly a single Porphyrion gave him enough to do. As for
you, his messenger, if you annoy me, I shall begin by getting
between your thighs, and even though you are Iris, you will be
surprised at the erection the old man can produce; it's three times as
good as the ram on a ship's prow!