THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 19
May you perish, you wretch, you and your infamous words!
Won't you get out of here quickly? Come, stretch your wings or
look out for squalls!
If my father does not punish you for your insults...
(The Machine takes IRIS away.)
Ha!... but just you be off elsewhere to roast younger folk than us
with your lightning.
We forbid the gods, the sons of Zeus, to pass through our city and
the mortals to send them the smoke of their sacrifices by this road.
It's odd that the messenger we sent to the mortals has never
(The HeraLD enters, wearing a golden garland on his head.)
Oh! blessed Pithetaerus, very wise, very illustrious, very
gracious, thrice happy, very...Come, prompt me, somebody, do
Get to your story!
All peoples are filled with admiration for your wisdom, and they
award you this golden crown.
I accept it. But tell me, why do the people admire me?
Oh you, who have founded so illustrious a city in the air, you
know not in what esteem men hold you and how many there are who burn
with desire to dwell in it. Before your city was built, all men had
a mania for Sparta; long hair and fasting were held in honour, men
went dirty like Socrates and carried staves. Now all is changed.
Firstly, as soon as it's dawn, they all spring out of bed together
to go and seek their food, the same as you do; then they fly off
towards the notices and finally devour the decrees. The bird-madness
is so clear that many actually bear the names of birds. There is a
halting victualler, who styles himself the partridge; Menippus calls
himself the swallow; Opuntius the one-eyed crow; Philocles the lark;
Theogenes the fox-goose; Lycurgus the ibis; Chaerephon the bat;
Syracosius the magpie; Midias the quail; indeed he looks like a
quail that has been hit hard on the head. Out of love for the birds
they repeat all the songs which concern the swallow, the teal, the
goose or the pigeon; in each verse you see wings, or at all events a
few feathers. This is what is happening down there. Finally, there are
more than ten thousand folk who are coming here from earth to ask
you for feathers and hooked claws; so, mind you supply yourself with
wings for the immigrants.
Ah! by Zeus, there's no time for idling. (To some slaves) Go as
quick as possible and fill every hamper, every basket you can find
with wings. Manes will bring them to me outside the walls, where I
will welcome those who present themselves.
This town will soon be inhabited by a crowd of men. Fortune
favours us alone and thus they have fallen in love with our city.
PITHETAERUS (to the slave MANES, who brings in a basket full of
Come, hurry up and bring them along.
Will not man find here everything that can please him-wisdom,
love, the divine Graces, the sweet face of gentle peace?
PITHETAERUS (as MANES Comes in with another basket)
Oh! you lazy servant! won't you hurry yourself?
Let a basket of wings be brought speedily. Come, beat him as I do,
and put some life into him; he is as lazy as an ass.
Aye, Manes is a great craven.
Begin by putting this heap of wings in order; divide them in three
parts according to the birds from whom they came; the singing, the
prophetic and the aquatic birds; then you must take care to distribute
them to the men according to their character.
PITHETAERUS (to MANES, who is bringing in another basket)
Oh! by the kestrels! I can keep my hands off you no longer; you
are too slow and lazy altogether.
(He hits MANES, who runs away. A young PARRICIDE enters.)
Oh! might I but become an eagle, who soars in the skies! Oh! might
I fly above the azure waves of the barren sea!
Ha! it would seem the news was true; I hear someone coming who
talks of wings.
Nothing is more charming than to fly; I am bird-mad and fly
towards you, for I want to live with you and to obey your laws.
Which laws? The birds have many laws.
All of them; but the one that pleases me most is that among the
birds it is considered a fine thing to peck and strangle one's father.
Yes, by Zeus! according to us, he who dares to strike his
father, while still a chick, is a brave fellow.
And therefore I want to dwell here, for I want to strangle my
father and inherit his wealth.