THE BIRDS by Aristophanes, Part 21
...a hatcher of lawsuits. Hence I have great need of wings to
prowl round the cities and drag them before justice.
Would you do this better if you had wings?
No, but I should no longer fear the pirates; I should return
with the cranes, loaded with a supply of lawsuits by way of ballast.
So it seems, despite all your youthful vigour, you make it your
trade to denounce strangers?
Well, and why not? I don't know how to dig.
But, by Zeus! there are honest ways of gaining a living at your
age without all this infamous trickery.
My friend, I am asking you for wings, not for words.
It's just my words that gives you wings.
And how can you give a man wings with your words?
They all start this way.
Have you not often heard the father say to young men in the
barbers' shops, "It's astonishing how Diitrephes' advice has made my
son fly to horse-riding."-"Mine," says another, "has flown towards
tragic poetry on the wings of his imagination."
So that words give wings?
Undoubtedly; words give wings to the mind and make a man soar to
heaven. Thus I hope that my wise words will give you wings to fly to
some less degrading trade.
But I do not want to.
What do you reckon on doing then?
I won't belie my breeding; from generation to generation we have
lived by informing. Quick, therefore, give me quickly some light,
swift hawk or kestrel wings, so that I may summon the islanders,
sustain the accusation here, and haste back there again on flying
I see. In this way the stranger will be condemned even before he
That's just it.
And while he is on his way here by sea, you will be flying to
the islands to despoil him of his property.
You've hit it, precisely; I must whirl hither and thither like a
I catch the idea. Wait, I've got some fine Corcyraean wings. How
do you like them?
Oh! woe is me! Why, it's a whip!
No, no; these are the wings, I tell you, that make the top spin.
INFORMER (as PITHETAERUS lashes him)
Oh! oh! oh!
Take your flight, clear off, you miserable cur, or you will soon
see what comes of quibbling and lying. (The INFORMER flees. To his
slaves) Come, let us gather up our wings and withdraw.
(The baskets are taken away.)
In my ethereal flights I have seen many things new and strange and
wondrous beyond belief. There is a tree called Cleonymus belonging
to an unknown species; it has no heart, is good for nothing and is
as tall as it is cowardly. In springtime it shoots forth calumnies
instead of buds and in autumn it strews the ground with bucklers in
place of leaves.
Far away in the regions of darkness, where no ray of light ever
enters, there is a country, where men sit at the table of the heroes
and dwell with them always-except in the evening. Should any mortal
meet the hero ORESTES at night, he would soon be stripped and
covered with blows from head to foot.
(PROMETHEUS enters, masked to conceal his identity.)
Ah! by the gods! if only Zeus does not espy me! Where is
Ha! what is this? A masked man!
Can you see any god behind me?
No, none. But who are you, pray?
What's the time, please?
The time? Why, it's past noon. Who are you?