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- The Birds - 2/19 -

upon the table. Tereus rushed with drawn sword upon the princesses, but all the actors in this terrible scene were metamorph[o]sed. Tereus became an Epops (hoopoe), Procne a swallow, Philomela a nightingale, and Itys a goldfinch. According to Anacreon and Apollodorus it was Procne who became the nightingale and Philomela the swallow, and this is the version of the tradition followed by Aristophanes. f[2] An Athenian who had some resemblance to a jay--so says the scholiast, at any rate.

PISTHETAERUS Not even the vestige of a track in any direction.

EUELPIDES And what does the crow say about the road to follow?

PISTHETAERUS By Zeus, it no longer croaks the same thing it did.

EUELPIDES And which way does it tell us to go now?

PISTHETAERUS It says that, by dint of gnawing, it will devour my fingers.

EUELPIDES What misfortune is ours! we strain every nerve to get to the birds,[1] do everything we can to that end, and we cannot find our way! Yes, spectators, our madness is quite different from that of Sacas. He is not a citizen, and would fain be one at any cost; we, on the contrary, born of an honourable tribe and family and living in the midst of our fellow-citizens, we have fled from our country as hard as ever we could go. 'Tis not that we hate it; we recognize it to be great and rich, likewise that everyone has the right to ruin himself; but the crickets only chirrup among the fig-trees for a month or two, whereas the Athenians spend their whole lives in chanting forth judgments from their law-courts.[2] That is why we started off with a basket, a stew-pot and some myrtle boughs[3] and have come to seek a quiet country in which to settle. We are going to Tereus, the Epops, to learn from him, whether, in his aerial flights, he has noticed some town of this kind.

f[1] Literally, 'to go to the crows,' a proverbial expression equivalent to our 'going to the devil.' f[2] They leave Athens because of their hatred of lawsuits and informers; this is the especial failing of the Athenians satirized in 'The Wasps.' f[3] Myrtle boughs were used in sacrifices, and the founding of every colony was started by a sacrifice.


EUELPIDES What's the matter?

PISTHETAERUS Why, the crow has been pointing me to something up there for some time now.

EUELPIDES And the jay is also opening its beak and craning its neck to show me I know not what. Clearly, there are some birds about here. We shall soon know, if we kick up a noise to start them.

PISTHETAERUS Do you know what to do? Knock your leg against this rock.

EUELPIDES And you your head to double the noise.

PISTHETAERUS Well then use a stone instead; take one and hammer with it.

EUELPIDES Good idea! Ho there, within! Slave! slave!

PISTHETAERUS What's that, friend! You say, "slave," to summon Epops! It would be much better to shout, "Epops, Epops!"

EUELPIDES Well then, Epops! Must I knock again? Epops!

TROCHILUS Who's there? Who calls my master?

PISTHETAERUS Apollo the Deliverer! what an enormous beak![1]

f[1] The actors wore masks made to resemble the birds they were supposed to represent.

TROCHILUS Good god! they are bird-catchers.

EUELPIDES The mere sight of him petrifies me with terror. What a horrible monster.

TROCHILUS Woe to you!

EUELPIDES But we are not men.

TROCHILUS What are you, then?

EUELPIDES I am the Fearling, an African bird.

TROCHILUS You talk nonsense.

EUELPIDES Well, then, just ask it of my feet.[1]

f[1] Fear had had disastrous effects upon Euelpides' internal economy, and this his feet evidenced.

TROCHILUS And this other one, what bird is it?

PISTHETAERUS I? I am a Cackling,[1] from the land of the pheasants.

f[1] The same mishap had occurred to Pisthetaerus.

EUELPIDES But you yourself, in the name of the gods! what animal are you?

TROCHILUS Why, I am a slave-bird.

EUELPIDES Why, have you been conquered by a cock?

TROCHILUS No, but when my master was turned into a peewit, he begged me to become a bird too, to follow and to serve him.

EUELPIDES Does a bird need a servant, then?

TROCHILUS 'Tis no doubt because he was a man. At times he wants to eat a dish of loach from Phalerum; I seize my dish and fly to fetch him some. Again he wants some pea-soup; I seize a ladle and a pot and run to get it.

EUELPIDES This is, then, truly a running-bird.[1] Come, Trochilus, do us the kindness to call your master.

f[1] The Greek word for a wren is derived from the same root as 'to run.'

TROCHILUS Why, he has just fallen asleep after a feed of myrtle-berries and a few grubs.

EUELPIDES Never mind; wake him up.

TROCHILUS I an certain he will be angry. However, I will wake him to please you.

PISTHETAERUS You cursed brute! why, I am almost dead with terror!

EUELPIDES Oh! my god! 'twas sheer fear that made me lose my jay.

PISTHETAERUS Ah! you great coward! were you so frightened that you let go your jay?

EUELPIDES And did you not lose your crow, when you fell sprawling on the ground? Pray tell me that.


EUELPIDES Where is it, then?

PISTHETAERUS It has flown away.

EUELPIDES Then you did not let it go? Oh! you brave fellow!

EPOPS Open the forest,[1] that I may go out!

f[1] No doubt there was some scenery to represent a forest. Besides, there is a pun intended. The words answering for 'forests' and 'door' in Greek only differ slightly in sound.

EUELPIDES By Heracles! what a creature! what plumage! What means this triple crest?

The Birds - 2/19

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