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Aristophanes Index


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THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 20

PITHETAERUS
But we have also an ancient law written in the code of the storks,
which runs thus, "When the stork father has reared his young and has
taught them to fly, the young must in their turn support the father."
PARRICIDE (petulantly)
It's hardly worth while coming all this distance to be compelled
to keep my father!
PITHETAERUS
No, no, young friend, since you have come to us with such
willingness, I am going to give you these black wings, as though you
were an orphan bird; furthermore, some good advice, that I received
myself in infancy. Don't strike your father, but take these wings in
one hand and these spurs in the other; imagine you have a cock's crest
on your head and go and mount guard and fight; live on your pay and
respect your father's life. You're a gallant fellow! Very well,
then! Fly to Thrace and fight.
PARRICIDE
By Bacchus! You're right; I will follow your counsel.
PITHETAERUS
It's acting wisely, by Zeus.
(The PARRICIDE departs, and the dithyrambic poet CINESIAS
arrives.)
CINESIAS (singing)
"On my light pinions I soar off to Olympus; in its capricious
flight my Muse flutters along the thousand paths of poetry in turn..."
PITHETAERUS
This is a fellow will need a whole shipload of wings.
CINESIAS (singing)
"...and being fearless and vigorous, it is seeking fresh outlet."
PITHETAERUS
Welcome, Cinesias, you lime-wood man! Why have you come here
twisting your game leg in circles?
CINESIAS (singing)
"I want to become a bird, a tuneful nightingale."
PITHETAERUS
Enough of that sort of ditty. Tell me what you want.
CINESIAS
Give me wings and I will fly into the topmost airs to gather fresh
songs in the clouds, in the midst of the vapours and the fleecy snow.
PITHETAERUS
Gather songs in the clouds?
CINESIAS
'Tis on them the whole of our latter-day art depends. The most
brilliant dithyrambs are those that flap their wings in empty space
and are clothed in mist and dense obscurity. To appreciate this,
just listen.
PITHETAERUS
Oh! no, no, no!
CINESIAS
By Hermes! but indeed you shall. (He sings.) "I shall travel
through thine ethereal empire like a winged bird, who cleaveth space
with his long neck..."
PITHETAERUS
Stop! Way enough!
CINESIAS
"...as I soar over the seas, carried by the breath of the
winds..."
PITHETAERUS
By Zeus! I'll cut your breath short.
(He picks up a pair of wings and begins trying to stop CINESIAS'
mouth with them.)
CINESIAS (running away)
"...now rushing along the tracks of Notus, now nearing Boreas
across the infinite wastes of the ether." Ah! old man, that's a pretty
and clever idea truly!
PITHETAERUS
What! are you not delighted to be cleaving the air?
CINESIAS
To treat a dithyrambic poet, for whom the tribes dispute with each
other, in this style!
PITHETAERUS
Will you stay with us and form a CHORUS of winged birds as slender
as Leotrophides for the Cecropid tribe?
CINESIAS
You are making game of me, that's clear; but know that I shall
never leave you in peace if I do not have wings wherewith to
traverse the air.
(CINESIAS departs and an INFORMER arrives.)
INFORMER
What are these birds with downy feathers, who look so pitiable
to me? Tell me, oh swallow with the long dappled wings.
PITHETAERUS
Oh! it's a regular invasion that threatens us. Here comes
another one, humming along.
INFORMER
Swallow with the long dappled wings, once more I summon you.
PITHETAERUS
It's his cloak I believe he's addressing; it stands in great
need of the swallows' return.
INFORMER
Where is he who gives out wings to all comers?
PITHETAERUS
Here I am, but you must tell me for what purpose you want them.
INFORMER
Ask no questions. I want wings, and wings I must have.
PITHETAERUS
Do you want to fly straight to Pellene?
INFORMER
I? Why, I am an accuser of the islands, an informer...
PITHETAERUS
A fine trade, truly!

 

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