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- The Birds - 10/19 -


the most priceless gift of all, to be winged? Look at Diitrephes![18] His wings were only wicker-work ones, and yet he got himself chosen Phylarch and then Hipparch; from being nobody, he has risen to be famous; 'tis now the finest gilded cock of his tribe.[19]

f[1] The actor, representing Procne, was a flute-player. f[2] The parabasis. f[3] A sophist of the island of Ceos, a disciple of Protagoras, as celebrated for his knowledge as for his eloquence. The Athenians condemned him to death as a corrupter of youth in 396 B.C. f[4] Lovers were wont to make each other presents of birds. The cock and the goose are mentioned, of course, in jest. f[5] i.e. that it gave notice of the approach of winter, during which season the Ancients did not venture to sea. f[6] A notorious robber. f[7] Meaning, "We are your oracles." --Dodona was an oracle in Epirus. --The temple of Zeus there was surrounded by a dense forest, all the trees of which were endowed with the gift of prophecy; both the sacred oaks and the pigeons that lived in them answered the questions of those who came to consult the oracle in pure Greek. f[8] The Greek word for 'omen' is the same as that for 'bird.' f[9] A satire on the passion of the Greeks for seeing an omen in everything. f[10] An imitation of the nightingale's song. f[11] God of the groves and wilds. f[12] The 'Mother of the Gods'; roaming the mountains, she held dances, always attended by Pan and his accompanying rout of Fauns and Satyrs. f[13] An allusion to cock-fighting; the birds are armed with brazen spurs. f[14] An allusion to the spots on this bird, which resemble the scars left by a branding iron. f[15] He was of Asiatic origin, but wished to pass for an Athenian. f[16] Or Philamnon, King of Thrace; the scholiast remarks that the Phrygians and the Thracians had a common origin. f[17] The Greek word here is also the name of a little bird. f[18] A basket-maker who had become rich. --The Phylarchs were the headmen of the tribes. They presided at the private assemblies and were charged with the management of the treasury. --The Hipparchs, as the name implies, were the leaders of the cavalry; there were only two of these in the Athenian army. f[19] He had become a senator.

PISTHETAERUS Halloa! What's this? By Zeus! I never saw anything so funny in all my life.[1]

f[1] Pisthetaerus and Euelpides now both return with wings.

EUELPIDES What makes you laugh?

PISTHETAERUS 'Tis your bits of wings. D'you know what you look like? Like a goose painted by some dauber-fellow.

EUELPIDES And you look like a close-shaven blackbird.

PISTHETAERUS 'Tis ourselves asked for this transformation, and, as Aeschylus has it, "These are no borrowed feathers, but truly our own."[1]

f[1] Meaning, 'tis we who wanted to have these wings. --The verse from Aeschylus, quoted here, is taken from 'The Myrmidons,' a tragedy of which only a few fragments remain.

EPOPS Come now, what must be done?

PISTHETAERUS First give our city a great and famous name, then sacrifice to the gods.

EUELPIDES I think so too.

EPOPS Let's see. What shall our city be called?

PISTHETAERUS Will you have a high-sounding Laconian name? Shall we call it Sparta?

EUELPIDES What! call my town Sparta? Why, I would not use esparto for my bed,[1] even though I had nothing but bands of rushes.

f[1] The Greek word signified the city of Sparta, and also a kind of broom used for weaving rough matting, which served for the beds of the very poor.

PISTHETAERUS Well then, what name can you suggest?

EUELPIDES Some name borrowed from the clouds, from these lofty regions in which we dwell--in short, some well-known name.

PISTHETAERUS Do you like Nephelococcygia?[1]

f[1] A fanciful name constructed from [the word for] a cloud, and [the word for] a cuckoo; thus a city of clouds and cuckoos. --'Wolkenkukelheim' is a clever approximation in German. Cloud-cuckoo-town, perhaps, is the best English equivalent.

EPOPS Oh! capital! truly 'tis a brilliant thought!

EUELPIDES Is it in Nephelococcygia that all the wealth of Theovenes[1] and most of Aeschines'[2] is?

f[1] He was a boaster nicknamed 'smoke,' because he promised a great deal and never kept his word. f[2] Also mentioned in 'The Wasps.'

PISTHETAERUS No, 'tis rather the plain of Phlegra,[1] where the gods withered the pride of the sons of the Earth with their shafts.

f[1] Because the war of the Titans against the gods was only a fiction of the poets.

EUELPIDES Oh! what a splendid city! But what god shall be its patron? for whom shall we weave the peplus?[1]

f[1] A sacred cloth, with which the statue of Athene in the Acropolis was draped.

PISTHETAERUS Why not choose Athene Polias?[1]

f[1] Meaning, to be patron-goddess of the city. Athene had a temple of this name.

EUELPIDES Oh! what a well-ordered town 'twould be to have a female deity armed from head to foot, while Clisthenes[1] was spinning!

f[1] An Athenian effeminate, frequently ridiculed by Aristophanes.

PISTHETAERUS Who then shall guard the Pelargicon?[1]

f[1] This was the name of the wall surrounding the Acropolis.

EPOPS One of us, a bird of Persian strain, who is everywhere proclaimed to be the bravest of all, a true chick of Ares.[1]

f[1] i.e. the fighting cock.

EUELPIDES Oh! noble chick! What a well-chosen god for a rocky home!

PISTHETAERUS Come! into the air with you to help the workers who are building the wall; carry up rubble, strip yourself to mix the mortar, take up the hod, tumble down the ladder, an you like, post sentinels, keep the fire smouldering beneath the ashes, go round the walls, bell in hand,[1] and go to sleep up there yourself; then d[i]spatch two heralds, one to the gods above, the other to mankind on earth and come back here.

f[1] To waken the sentinels, who might else have fallen asleep. --There are several merry contradictions in the various parts of this list of injunctions.

EUELPIDES As for yourself, remain here, and may the plague take you for a troublesome fellow!

PISTHETAERUS Go, friend, go where I send you, for without you my orders cannot be obeyed. For myself, I want to sacrifice to the new god, and I am going to summon the priest who must preside at the ceremony. Slaves! slaves! bring forward the basket and the lustral water.

CHORUS I do as you do, and I wish as you wish, and I implore you to address powerful and solemn prayers to the gods, and in addition to immolate a sheep as a token of our gratitude. Let us sing the Pythian chant in honour of the god, and let Chaeris accompany our voices.

PISTHETAERUS (TO THE FLUTE-PLAYER) Enough! but, by Heracles! what is this? Great gods! I have seen many prodigious things, but I never saw a muzzled raven.[1]

f[1] In allusion to the leather strap which flute-players wore to constrict the cheeks and add to the power of the breath. The performer here no doubt wore a raven's mask.

EPOPS Priest! 'tis high time! Sacrifice to the new gods.

PRIEST I begin, but where is he with the basket? Pray to the Vesta of the birds, to the kite, who presides over the hearth, and to all the god and goddess-birds who dwell in Olympus.


The Birds - 10/19

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