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- The Birds - 19/19 -


POSIDON Oh! you ninny! do you always want to be fooled? Why, you are seeking your own downfall. If Zeus were to die, after having yielded them the sovereignty, you would be ruined, for you are the heir of all the wealth he will leave behind.

PISTHETAERUS Oh! by the gods! how he is cajoling you. Step aside, that I may have a word with you. Your uncle is getting the better of you, my poor friend.[1] The law will not allow you an obolus of the paternal property, for you are a bastard and not a legitimate child.

f[1] Heracles, the god of strength, was far from being remarkable in the way of cleverness.

HERACLES I a bastard! What's that you tell me?

PISTHETAERUS Why, certainly; are you not born of a stranger woman? Besides, is not Athene recognized as Zeus' sole heiress? And no daughter would be that, if she had a legitimate brother.

HERACLES But what if my father wished to give me his property on his death-bed, even though I be a bastard?

PISTHETAERUS The law forbids it, and this same Posidon would be the first to lay claim to his wealth, in virtue of being his legitimate brother. Listen; thus runs Solon's law: "A bastard shall not inherit, if there are legitimate children; and if there are no legitimate children, the property shall pass to the nearest kin."[1]

f[1] This was Athenian law.

HERACLES And I get nothing whatever of the paternal property?

PISTHETAERUS Absolutely nothing. But tell me, has your father had you entered on the registers of his phratria?[1]

f[1] The poet attributes to the gods the same customs as those which governed Athens, and according to which no child was looked upon as legitimate unless his father had entered him on the registers of his phratria. The phratria was a division of the tribe and consisted of thirty families.

HERACLES No, and I have long been surprised at the omission.

PISTHETAERUS What ails you, that you should shake your fist at heaven? Do you want to fight it? Why, be on my side, I will make you a king and will feed you on bird's milk and honey.

HERACLES Your further condition seems fair to me. I cede you the young damsel.

POSIDON But I, I vote against this opinion.

PISTHETAERUS Then it all depends on the Triballian. (TO THE TRIBALLIAN.) What do you say?

TRIBALLUS Big bird give daughter pretty and queen.

HERACLES You say that you give her?

POSIDON Why no, he does not say anything of the sort, that he gives her; else I cannot understand any better than the swallows.

PISTHETAERUS Exactly so. Does he not say she must be given to the swallows?

POSIDON Very well! you two arrange the matter; make peace, since you wish it so; I'll hold my tongue.

HERACLES We are of a mind to grant you all that you ask. But come up there with us to receive Basileia and the celestial bounty.

PISTHETAERUS Here are birds already cut up, and very suitable for a nuptial feast.

HERACLES You go and, if you like, I will stay here to roast them.

PISTHETAERUS You to roast them! you are too much the glutton; come along with us.

HERACLES Ah! how well I would have treated myself!

PISTHETAERUS Let some[one] bring me a beautiful and magnificent tunic for the wedding.

CHORUS[1] At Phanae,[2] near the Clepsydra,[3] there dwells a people who have neither faith nor law, the Englottogastors,[4] who reap, sow, pluck the vines and the figs[5] with their tongues; they belong to a barbaric race, and among them the Philippi and the Gorgiases[6] are to be found; 'tis these Englottogastorian Philippi who introduced the custom all over Attica of cutting out the tongue separately at sacrifices.[7]

f[1] The chorus continues to tell what it has seen on its flights. f[2] The harbour of the island of Chios; but this name is here used in the sense of being the land of informers ([from the Greek for] 'to denounce'). f[3] i.e. near the orators' platform, in the Public Assembly, or because there stood the water-clock, by which speeches were limited. f[4] A coined name, made up of [the Greek for] the tongue, and [for] the stomach, and meaning those who fill their stomach with what they gain with their tongues, to wit, the orators. f[5] [The Greek for] a fig forms part of the word which in Greek means an informer. f[6] Both rhetoricians. f[7] Because they consecrated it specially to the god of eloquence.

A MESSENGER Oh, you, whose unbounded happiness I cannot express in words, thrice happy race of airy birds, receive your king in your fortunate dwellings. More brilliant than the brightest star that illumes the earth, he is approaching his glittering golden palace; the sun itself does not shine with more dazzling glory. He is entering with his bride at his side,[1] whose beauty no human tongue can express; in his hand he brandishes the lightning, the winged shaft of Zeus; perfumes of unspeakable sweetness pervade the ethereal realms. 'Tis a glorious spectacle to see the clouds of incense wafting in light whirlwinds before the breath of the Zephyr! But here he is himself. Divine Muse! let thy sacred lips begin with songs of happy omen.

f[1] Basileia, whom he brings back from heaven.

CHORUS Fall back! to the right! to the left! advance![1] Fly around this happy mortal, whom Fortune loads with her blessings. Oh! oh! what grace! what beauty! Oh, marriage so auspicious for our city! All honour to this man! 'tis through him that the birds are called to such glorious destinies. Let your nuptial hymns, your nuptial songs, greet him and his Basileia! 'Twas in the midst of such festivities that the Fates formerly united Olympian Here to the King who governs the gods from the summit of his inaccessible throne. Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus! Rosy Eros with the golden wings held the reins and guided the chariot; 'twas he, who presided over the union of Zeus and the fortunate Here. Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!

f[1] Terms used in regulating a dance.

PISTHETAERUS I am delighted with your songs, I applaud your verses. Now celebrate the thunder that shakes the earth, the flaming lightning of Zeus and the terrible flashing thunderbolt.

CHORUS Oh, thou golden flash of the lightning! oh, ye divine shafts of flame, that Zeus has hitherto shot forth! Oh, ye rolling thunders, that bring down the rain! 'Tis by the order of OUR king that ye shall now stagger the earth! Oh, Hymen! 'tis through thee that he commands the universe and that he makes Basileia, whom he has robbed from Zeus, take her seat at his side. Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!

PISTHETAERUS Let all the winged tribes of our fellow-citizens follow the bridal couple to the palace of Zeus[1] and to the nuptial couch! Stretch forth your hands, my dear wife! Take hold of me by my wings and let us dance; I am going to lift you up and carry you through the air.

f[1] Where Pisthetaerus is henceforth to reign.

CHORUS Oh, joy! Io Paean! Tralala! victory is thing, oh, thou greatest of the gods!


The Birds - 19/19

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