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- The Birds - 4/19 -


PISTHETAERUS Found a city.

EPOPS We birds? But what sort of city should we build?

PISTHETAERUS Oh, really, really! 'tis spoken like a fool! Look down.

EPOPS I am looking.

PISTHETAERUS Now look upwards.

EPOPS I am looking.

PISTHETAERUS Turn your head round.

EPOPS Ah! 'twill be pleasant for me, if I end in twisting my neck!

PISTHETAERUS What have you seen?

EPOPS The clouds and the sky.

PISTHETAERUS Very well! is not this the pole of the birds then?

EPOPS How their pole?

PISTHETAERUS Or, if you like it, the land. And since it turns and passes through the whole universe, it is called, 'pole.'[1] If you build and fortify it, you will turn your pole into a fortified city.[2] In this way you will reign over mankind as you do over the grasshoppers and cause the gods to die of rabid hunger

f[1] From [the word meaning] 'to turn.' f[2] The Greek words for 'pole' and 'city' only differ by a single letter.

EPOPS How so?

PISTHETAERUS The air is 'twixt earth and heaven. When we want to go to Delphi, we ask the Boeotians[1] for leave of passage; in the same way, when men sacrifice to the gods, unless the latter pay you tribute, you exercise the right of every nation towards strangers and don't allow the smoke of the sacrifices to pass through your city and territory.

f[1] Boeotia separated Attica from Phocis.

EPOPS By earth! by snares! by network![1] I never heard of anything more cleverly conceived; and, if the other birds approve, I am going to build the city along with you.

f[1] He swears by the powers that are to him dreadful.

PISTHETAERUS Who will explain the matter to them?

EPOPS You must yourself. Before I came they were quite ignorant, but since I have lived with them I have taught them to speak.

PISTHETAERUS But how can they be gathered together?

EPOPS Easily. I will hasten down to the coppice to waken my dear Procne![1] as soon as they hear our voices, they will come to us hot wing.

f[1] As already stated, according to the legend accepted by Aristophanes, it was Procne who was turned into the nightengale.

PISTHETAERUS My dear bird, lose no time, I beg. Fly at once into the coppice and awaken Procne.

EPOPS Chase off drowsy sleep, dear companion. Let the sacred hymn gush from thy divine throat in melodious strains; roll forth in soft cadence your refreshing melodies to bewail the fate of Itys,[1] which has been the cause of so many tears to us both. Your pure notes rise through the thick leaves of the yew-tree right up to the throne of Zeus, where Phoebus listens to you, Phoebus with his golden hair. And his ivory lyre responds to your plaintive accents; he gathers the choir of the gods and from their immortal lips rushes a sacred chant of blessed voices. (THE FLUTE IS PLAYED BEHIND THE SCENE.)

f[1] The son of Tereus and Procne.

PISTHETAERUS Oh! by Zeus! what a throat that little bird possesses. He has filled the whole coppice with honey-sweet melody!

EUELPIDES Hush!

PISTHETAERUS What's the matter?

EUELPIDES Will you keep silence?

PISTHETAERUS What for?

EUELPIDES Epops is going to sing again.

EPOPS (IN THE COPPICE) Epopoi poi popoi, epopoi, popoi, here, here, quick, quick, quick, my comrades in the air; all you who pillage the fertile lands of the husbandmen, the numberless tribes who gather and devour the barley seeds, the swift flying race who sing so sweetly. And you whose gentle twitter resounds through the fields with the little cry of tio, tio, tio, tio, tio, tio, tio, tio; and you who hop about the branches of the ivy in the gardens; the mountain birds, who feed on the wild olive berries or the arbutus, hurry to come at my call, trioto, trioto, totobrix; you also, who snap up the sharp-stinging gnats in the marshy vales, and you who dwell in the fine plain of Marathon, all damp with dew, and you, the francolin with speckled wings; you too, the halcyons, who flit over the swelling waves of the sea, come hither to hear the tidings; let all the tribes of long-necked birds assemble here; know that a clever old man has come to us, bringing an entirely new idea and proposing great reforms. Let all come to the debate here, here, here, here. Torotorotorotorotix, kikkobau, kikkobau, torotorotorotorolililix.

PISTHETAERUS Can you see any bird?

EUELPIDES By Phoebus, no! and yet I am straining my eyesight to scan the sky.

PISTHETAERUS 'Twas really not worth Epops' while to go and bury himself in the thicket like a plover when a-hatching.

PHOENICOPTERUS Torotina, torotina.

PISTHETAERUS Hold, friend, here is another bird.

EUELPIDES I' faith, yes, 'tis a bird, but of what kind? Isn't it a peacock?

PISTHETAERUS Epops will tell us. What is this bird?

EPOPS 'Tis not one of those you are used to seeing; 'tis a bird from the marshes.

PISTHETAERUS Oh! oh! but he is very handsome with his wings as crimson as flame.

EPOPS Undoubtedly; indeed he is called flamingo.[1]

f[1] An African bird, that comes to the southern countries of Europe, to Greece, Italy, and Spain; it is even seen in Provence.

EUELPIDES Hi! I say! You!

PISTHETAERUS What are you shouting for?

EUELPIDES Why, here's another bird.

PISTHETAERUS Aye, indeed; 'tis a foreign bird too. What is this bird from beyond the mountains with a look as solemn as it is stupid?

EPOPS He is called the Mede.[1]

f[1] Aristophanes amusingly mixes up real birds with people and individuals, whom he represents in the form of birds; he is personifying the Medians here.

PISTHETAERUS The Mede! But, by Heracles, how, if a Mede, has he flown here without a camel?

EUELPIDES Here's another bird with a crest.


The Birds - 4/19

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