The Birds (cont'd)
 

CHORUS
Why, do they think to see some advantage that determines them to settle here? Are they hoping with our help to triumph over their foes or to be useful to their friends?

EPOPS
They speak of benefits so great it is impossible either to describe or conceive them; all shall be yours, all that we see here, there, above and below us; this they vouch for.

CHORUS
Are they mad?

EPOPS
They are the sanest people in the world.

CHORUS
Clever men?

EPOPS
The slyest of foxes, cleverness its very self, men of the world, cunning, the cream of knowing folk.

CHORUS
Tell them to speak and speak quickly; why, as I listen to you, I am beside myself with delight.

EPOPS
Here, you there, take all these weapons and hang them up inside close to the fire, near the figure of the god who presides there and under his protection;[1] as for you, address the birds, tell them why I have gathered them together.

[1] Epops is addressing the two slaves, no doubt Xanthias and Manes, who are mentioned later on.

PISTHETAERUS
Not I, by Apollo, unless they agree with me as the little ape of an armourer agreed with his wife, not to bite me, nor pull me by the parts, nor shove things up my...

CHORUS
You mean the...(PUTS FINGER TO BOTTOM) Oh! be quite at ease.

PISTHETAERUS
No, I mean my eyes.

CHORUS
Agreed.

PISTHETAERUS
Swear it.

CHORUS
I swear it and, if I keep my promise, let judges and spectators give me the victory unanimously.

PISTHETAERUS
It is a bargain.

CHORUS
And if I break my word, may I succeed by one vote only.

HERALD
Hearken, ye people! Hoplites, pick up your weapons and return to your firesides; do not fail to read the decrees of dismissal we have posted.

CHORUS
Man is a truly cunning creature, but nevertheless explain. Perhaps you are going to show me some good way to extend my power, some way that I have not had the wit to find out and which you have discovered. Speak! 'tis to your own interest as well as to mine, for if you secure me some advantage, I will surely share it with you. But what object can have induced you to come among us? Speak boldly, for I shall not break the truce, --until you have told us all.

PISTHETAERUS
I am bursting with desire to speak; I have already mixed the dough of my address and nothing prevents me from kneading it.... Slave! bring the chaplet and water, which you must pour over my hands. Be quick![1]

[1] It was customary, when speaking in public and also at feasts, to wear a chaplet; hence the question Euelpides puts. --The guests wore chaplets of flowers, herbs, and leaves, which had the property of being refreshing.

EUELPIDES
Is it a question of feasting? What does it all mean?

PISTHETAERUS
By Zeus, no! but I am hunting for fine, tasty words to break down the hardness of their hearts. --I grieve so much for you, who at one time were kings...

CHORUS
We kings! Over whom?

PISTHETAERUS
...of all that exists, firstly of me and of this man, even of Zeus himself. Your race is older than Saturn, the Titans and the Earth.

CHORUS
What, older than the Earth!

PISTHETAERUS
By Phoebus, yes.

CHORUS
By Zeus, but I never knew that before!

PISTHETAERUS
'Tis because you are ignorant and heedless, and have never read your Aesop. 'Tis he who tells us that the lark was born before all other creatures, indeed before the Earth; his father died of sickness, but the Earth did not exist then; he remained unburied for five days, when the bird in its dilemma decided, for want of a better place, to entomb its father in its own head.

EUELPIDES
So that the lark's father is buried at Cephalae.[1]

[1] A deme of Attica. In Greek the word also means 'heads,' and hence the pun.

EPOPS
Hence, if we existed before the Earth, before the gods, the kingship belongs to us by right of priority.

EUELPIDES
Undoubtedly, but sharpen your beak well; Zeus won't be in a hurry to hand over his sceptre to the woodpecker.

PISTHETAERUS
It was not the gods, but the birds, who were formerly the masters and kings over men; of this I have a thousand proofs. First of all, I will point you to the cock, who governed the Persians before all other monarchs, before Darius and Megabyzus.[1] 'Tis in memory of his reign that he is called the Persian bird.

[1] One of Darius' best generals. After his expedition against the Scythians, this prince gave him the command of the army which he left in Europe. Megabyzus took Perinthos (afterwards called Heraclea) and conquered Thrace.

EUELPIDES
For this reason also, even to-day, he alone of all the birds wears his tiara straight on his head, like the Great King.[1]

[1] All Persians wore the tiara, but always on one side; the Great King alone wore it straight on his head.

PISTHETAERUS
He was so strong, so great, so feared, that even now, on account of his ancient power, everyone jumps out of bed as soon as ever he crows at daybreak. Blacksmiths, potters, tanners, shoemakers, bathmen, corn-dealers, lyre-makers and armourers, all put on their shoes and go to work before it is daylight.

EUELPIDES
I can tell you something about that. 'Twas the cock's fault that I lost a splendid tunic of Phrygian wool. I was at a feast in town, given to celebrate the birth of a child; I had drunk pretty freely and had just fallen asleep, when a cock, I suppose in a greater hurry than the rest, began to crow. I thought it was dawn and set out for Alimos.[1] I had hardly got beyond the walls, when a footpad struck me in the back with his bludgeon; down I went and wanted to shout, but he had already made off with my mantle.

[1] Noted as the birthplace of Thucydides, a deme of Attica of the tribe of Leontis. Demosthenes tells us it was thirty-five stadia from Athens.

PISTHETAERUS
Formerly also the kite was ruler and king over the Greeks.

EPOPS
The Greeks?

PISTHETAERUS
And when he was king, 'twas he who first taught them to fall on their knees before the kites.[1]

[1] The appearance of the kite in Greece betokened the return of springtime; it was therefore worshipped as a symbol of that season.

EUELPIDES
By Zeus! 'tis what I did myself one day on seeing a kite; but at the moment I was on my knees, and leaning backwards[1] with mouth agape, I bolted an obolus and was forced to carry my bag home empty.[2]

[1] To look at the kite, who no doubt was flying high in the sky.

[2] As already shown, the Athenians were addicted to carrying small coins in their mouths. --This obolus was for the purpose of buying flour to fill the bag he was carrying

PISTHETAERUS
The cuckoo was king of Egypt and of the whole of Phoenicia. When he called out "cuckoo," all the Phoenicians hurried to the fields to reap their wheat and their barley.[1]

[1] In Phoenicia and Egypt the cuckoo makes its appearance about harvest-time.

EUELPIDES
Hence no doubt the proverb, "Cuckoo! cuckoo! go to the fields, ye circumcised."[1]

[1] This was an Egyptian proverb, meaning, 'When the cuckoo sings we go harvesting.' Both the Phoenicians and the Egyptians practised circumcision.

PISTHETAERUS
So powerful were the birds that the kings of Grecian cities, Agamemnon, Menelaus, for instance, carried a bird on the tip of their sceptres, who had his share of all presents.[1]

[1] The staff, called a sceptre, generally terminated in a piece of carved work, representing a flower, a fruit, and most often a bird.

EUELPIDES
That I didn't know and was much astonished when I saw Priam come upon the stage in the tragedies with a bird, which kept watching Lysicrates[1] to see if he got any present.

[1] A general accused of treachery. The bird watches Lysicrates, because, according to Pisthetaerus, he had a right to a share of the presents.

PISTHETAERUS
But the strongest proof of all is, that Zeus, who now reigns, is represented as standing with an eagle on his head as a symbol of his royalty;[1] his daughter has an owl, and Phoebus, as his servant, has a hawk.

[1] It is thus that Phidias represents his Olympian Zeus.

EUELPIDES
By Demeter, 'tis well spoken. But what are all these birds doing in heaven?

PISTHETAERUS
When anyone sacrifices and, according to the rite, offers the entrails to the gods, these birds take their share before Zeus. Formerly men always swore by the birds and never by the gods; even now Lampon[1] swears by the goose, when he wants to lie....Thus 'tis clear that you were great and sacred, but now you are looked upon as slaves, as fools, as Helots; stones are thrown at you as at raving madmen, even in holy places. A crowd of bird-catchers sets snares, traps, limed-twigs and nets of all sorts for you; you are caught, you are sold in heaps and the buyers finger you over to be certain you are fat. Again, if they would but serve you up simply roasted; but they rasp cheese into a mixture of oil, vinegar and laserwort, to which another sweet and greasy sauce is added, and the whole is poured scalding hot over your back, for all the world as if you were diseased meat.

[1] One of the diviners sent to Sybaris (in Magna Graecia, S. Italy) with the Athenian colonists, who rebuilt the town under the new name of Thurium.

CHORUS
Man, your words have made my heart bleed; I have groaned over the treachery of our fathers, who knew not how to transmit to us the high rank they held from their forefathers. But 'tis a benevolent Genius, a happy Fate, that sends you to us; you shall be our deliverer and I place the destiny of my little ones and my own in your hands with every confidence. But hasten to tell me what must be done; we should not be worthy to live, if we did not seek to regain our royalty by every possible means.

PISTHETAERUS
First I advise that the birds gather together in one city and that they build a wall of great bricks, like that at Babylon, round the plains of the air and the whole region of space that divides earth from heaven.

EPOPS
Oh, Cebriones! oh, Porphyrion![1] what a terribly strong place!

[1] As if he were saying, "Oh, gods!" Like Lampon, he swears by the birds, instead of swearing by the gods. --The names of these birds are those of two of the Titans.

PISTHETAERUS
Th[en], this being well done and completed, you demand back the empire from Zeus; if he will not agree, if he refuses and does not at once confess himself beaten, you declare a sacred war against him and forbid the gods henceforward to pass through your country with lust, as hitherto, for the purpose of fondling their Alcmenas, their Alopes, or their Semeles![1] if they try to pass through, you infibulate them with rings so that they can work no longer. You send another messenger to mankind, who will proclaim to them that the birds are kings, that for the future they must first of all sacrifice to them, and only afterwards to the gods; that it is fitting to appoint to each deity the bird that has most in common with it. For instance, are they sacrificing to Aphrodite, let them at the same time offer barley to the coot; are they immolating a sheep to Posidon, let them consecrate wheat in honour of the duck;[2] is a steer being offered to Heracles, let honey-cakes be dedicated to the gull;[3] is a goat being slain for King Zeus, there is a King-Bird, the wren,[4] to whom the sacrifice of a male gnat is due before Zeus himself even.

[1] Alcmena, wife of Amphitryon, King of Thebes and mother of Heracles. --Semele, the daughter of Cadmus and Hermione and mother of Bacchus; both seduced by Zeus. --Alope, daughter of Cercyon, a robber, who reigned at Eleusis and was conquered by Perseus. Alope was honoured with Posidon's caresses; by him she had a son named Hippothous, at first brought up by shepherds but who afterwards was restored to the throne of his grandfather by Theseus.

[2] Because water is the duck's domain, as it is that of Posidon.

[3] Because the gull, like Heracles, is voracious.

[4] The Germans still call it 'Zaunkonig' and the French 'roitelet,' both names thus containing the idea of 'king.'

EUELPIDES
This notion of an immolated gnat delights me! And now let the great Zeus thunder!

EPOPS
But how will mankind recognize us as gods and not as jays? Us, who have wings and fly?

PISTHETAERUS
You talk rubbish! Hermes is a god and has wings and flies, and so do many other gods. First of all, Victory flies with golden wings, Eros is undoubtedly winged too, and Iris is compared by Homer to a timorous dove.[1] If men in their blindness do not recognize you as gods and continue to worship the dwellers in Olympus, then a cloud of sparrows greedy for corn must descend upon their fields and eat up all their seeds; we shall see then if Demeter will mete them out any wheat.

[1] The scholiast draws our attention to the fact that Homer says this of Here and not of Iris (Iliad, V, 778); it is only another proof that the text of Homer has reached us in a corrupted form, or it may be that Aristophanes was liable, like other people, to occasional mistakes of quotation.

EUELPIDES
By Zeus, she'll take good care she does not, and you will see her inventing a thousand excuses.

PISTHETAERUS
The crows too will prove your divinity to them by pecking out the eyes of their flocks and of their draught-oxen; and then let Apollo cure them, since he is a physician and is paid for the purpose.[1]

[1] In sacrifices.

EUELPIDES
Oh! don't do that! Wait first until I have sold my two young bullocks.

PISTHETAERUS
If on the other hand they recognize that you are God, the principle of life, that you are Earth, Saturn, Posidon, they shall be loaded with benefits.

EPOPS
Name me one of these then.

PISTHETAERUS
Firstly, the locusts shall not eat up their vine-blossoms; a legion of owls and kestrels will devour them. Moreover, the gnats and the gall-bugs shall no longer ravage the figs; a flock of thrushes shall swallow the whole host down to the very last.

EPOPS
And how shall we give wealth to mankind? This is their strongest passion.

PISTHETAERUS
When they consult the omens, you will point them to the richest mines, you will reveal the paying ventures to the diviner, and not another shipwreck will happen or sailor perish.

EPOPS
No more shall perish? How is that?

PISTHETAERUS
When the auguries are examined before starting on a voyage, some bird will not fail to say, "Don't start! there will be a storm," or else, "Go! you will make a most profitable venture."

EUELPIDES
I shall buy a trading-vessel and go to sea, I will not stay with you.

PISTHETAERUS
You will discover treasures to them, which were buried in former times, for you know them. Do not all men say, "None knows where my treasure lies, unless perchance it be some bird."[1]

[1] An Athenian proverb.

EUELPIDES
I shall sell my boat and buy a spade to unearth the vessels.

EPOPS
And how are we to give them health, which belongs to the gods?

PISTHETAERUS
If they are happy, is not that the chief thing towards health? The miserable man is never well.

EPOPS
Old Age also dwells in Olympus. How will they get at it? Must they die in early youth?

PISTHETAERUS
Why, the birds, by Zeus, will add three hundred years to their life.

EPOPS
From whom will they take them?

PISTHETAERUS
From whom? Why, from themselves. Don't you know the cawing crow lives five times as long as a man?

EUELPIDES
Ah! ah! these are far better kings for us than Zeus!

PISTHETAERUS
Far better, are they not? And firstly, we shall not have to build them temples of hewn stone, closed with gates of gold; they will dwell amongst the bushes and in the thickets of green oak; the most venerated of birds will have no other temple than the foliage of the olive tree; we shall not go to Delphi or to Ammon to sacrifice;[1] but standing erect in the midst of arbutus and wild olives and holding forth our hands filled with wheat and barley, we shall pray them to admit us to a share of the blessings they enjoy and shall at once obtain them for a few grains of wheat.

[1] A celebrated temple to Zeus in an oasis of Libya.

CHORUS
Old man, whom I detested, you are now to me the dearest of all; never shall I, if I can help it, fail to follow your advice. Inspirited by your words, I threaten my rivals the gods, and I swear that if you march in alliance with me against the gods and are faithful to our just, loyal and sacred bond, we shall soon have shattered their sceptre. 'Tis our part to undertake the toil, 'tis yours to advise.

EPOPS
By Zeus! 'tis no longer the time to delay and loiter like Nicias;[1] let us act as promptly as possible.... In the first place, come, enter my nest built of brushwood and blades of straw, and tell me your names.

[1] Nicias was commander, along with Demosthenes, and later on Alcibiades, of the Athenian forces before Syracuse, in the ill-fated Sicilian Expedition, 415-413 B.C. He was much blamed for dilatoriness and indecision.

PISTHETAERUS
That is soon done; my name is Pisthetaerus.

EPOPS
And his?

PISTHETAERUS
Euelpides, of the deme of Thria.

EPOPS
Good! and good luck to you.

PISTHETAERUS
We accept the omen.

EPOPS
Come in here.

PISTHETAERUS
Very well, 'tis you who lead us and must introduce us.

EPOPS
Come then.

PISTHETAERUS
Oh! my god! do come back here. Hi! tell us how we are to follow you. You can fly, but we cannot.

EPOPS
Well, well.

PISTHETAERUS
Remember Aesop's fables. It is told there, that the fox fared very ill, because he had made an alliance with the eagle.

EPOPS
Be at ease. You shall eat a certain root and wings will grow on your shoulders.

PISTHETAERUS
Then let us enter. Xanthias and Manes,[1] pick up our baggage.

[1] Servants of Pisthetaerus and Euelpides.

CHORUS
Hi! Epops! do you hear me?

EPOPS
What's the matter?

CHORUS
Take them off to dine well and call your mate, the melodious Procne, whose songs are worthy of the Muses; she will delight our leisure moments.

PISTHETAERUS
Oh! I conjure you, accede to their wish; for this delightful bird will leave her rushes at the sound of your voice; for the sake of the gods, let her come here, so that we may contemplate the nightingale.[1]

[1] It has already been mentioned that, according to the legend followed by Aristophanes, Procne had been changed into a nightingale and Philomela into a swallow.

EPOPS
Let is be as you desire. Come forth, Procne, show yourself to these strangers.

PISTHETAERUS
Oh! great Zeus! what a beautiful little bird! what a dainty form! what brilliant plumage![1]

[1] The actor, representing Procne, was dressed out as a courtesan, but wore a mask of a bird.

EUELPIDES
Do you know how dearly I should like to splint her legs for her?

PISTHETAERUS
She is dazzling all over with gold, like a young girl.[1]

[1] Young unmarried girls wore golden ornaments; the apparel of married women was much simpler.

EUELPIDES
Oh! how I should like to kiss her!

PISTHETAERUS
Why, wretched man, she has two little sharp points on her beak!

EUELPIDES
I would treat her like an egg, the shell of which we remove before eating it; I would take off her mask and then kiss her pretty face.

EPOPS
Let us go in.

PISTHETAERUS
Lead the way, and may success attend us.

CHORUS
Lovable golden bird, whom I cherish above all others, you, whom I associate with all my songs, nightingale, you have come, you have come, to show yourself to me and to charm me with your notes. Come, you, who play spring melodies upon the harmonious flute,[1] lead off our anapaests.[2]

Weak mortals, chained to the earth, creatures of clay as frail as the foliage of the woods, you unfortunate race, whose life is but darkness, as unreal as a shadow, the illusion of a dream, hearken to us, who are immortal beings, ethereal, ever young and occupied with eternal thoughts, for we shall teach you about all celestial matters; you shall know thoroughly what is the nature of the birds, what the origin of the gods, of the rivers, of Erebus, and Chaos; thanks to us, even Prodicus[3] will envy you your knowledge.

At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night, dark Erebus, and deep Tartarus. Earth, the air and heaven had no existence. Firstly, black-winged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in deep Tartarus with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light. That of the Immortals did not exist until Eros had brought together all the ingredients of the world, and from their marriage Heaven, Ocean, Earth and the imperishable race of blessed gods sprang into being. Thus our origin is very much older than that of the dwellers in Olympus. We are the offspring of Eros; there are a thousand proofs to show it. We have wings and we lend assistance to lovers. How many handsome youths, who had sworn to remain insensible, have not been vanquished by our power and have yielded themselves to their lovers when almost at the end of their youth, being led away by the gift of a quail, a waterfowl, a goose, or a cock.[4]

And what important services do not the birds render to mortals! First of all, they mark the seasons for them, springtime, winter, and autumn. Does the screaming crane migrate to Libya, --it warns the husbandman to sow, the pilot to take his ease beside his tiller hung up in his dwelling,[5] and Orestes[6] to weave a tunic, so that the rigorous cold may not drive him any more to strip other folk. When the kite reappears, he tells of the return of spring and of the period when the fleece of the sheep must be clipped. Is the swallow in sight? All hasten to sell their warm tunic and to buy some light clothing. We are your Ammon, Delphi, Dodona, your Phoebus Apollo.[7] Before undertaking anything, whether a business transaction, a marriage, or the purchase of food, you consult the birds by reading the omens, and you give this name of omen[8] to all signs that tell of the future. With you a word is an omen, you call a sneeze an omen, a meeting an omen, an unknown sound an omen, a slave or an ass an omen.[9] Is it not clear that we are a prophetic Apollo to you? If you recognize us as gods, we shall be your divining Muses, through us you will know the winds and the seasons, summer, winter, and the temperate months. We shall not withdraw ourselves to the highest clouds like Zeus, but shall be among you and shall give to you and to your children and the children of your children, health and wealth, long life, peace, youth, laughter, songs and feasts; in short, you will all be so well off, that you will be weary and satiated with enjoyment.

Oh, rustic Muse of such varied note, tio, tio, tio, tiotinx, I sing with you in the groves and on the mountain tops, tio, tio, tio, tio, tiotinx.[10] I poured forth sacred strains from my golden throat in honour of the god Pan,[11] tio, tio, tio, tiotinx, from the top of the thickly leaved ash, and my voice mingles with the mighty choirs who extol Cybele on the mountain tops,[12] tototototototototinx. 'Tis to our concerts that Phrynichus comes to pillage like a bee the ambrosia of his songs, the sweetness of which so charms the ear, tio, tio, tio, tio, tinx.

If there be one of you spectators who wishes to spend the rest of his life quietly among the birds, let him come to us. All that is disgraceful and forbidden by law on earth is on the contrary honourable among us, the birds. For instance, among you 'tis a crime to beat your father, but with us 'tis an estimable deed; it's considered fine to run straight at your father and hit him, saying, "Come, lift your spur if you want to fight."[13] The runaway slave, whom you brand, is only a spotted francolin with us.[14] Are you Phrygian like Spintharus?[15] Among us you would be the Phrygian bird, the goldfinch, of the race of Philemon.[16] Are you a slave and a Carian like Execestides? Among us you can create yourself fore-fathers;[17] you can always find relations. Does the son of Pisias want to betray the gates of the city to the foe? Let him become a partridge, the fitting offspring of his father; among us there is no shame in escaping as cleverly as a partridge.

So the swans on the banks of the Hebrus, tio, tio, tio, tio, tiotinx, mingle their voices to serenade Apollo, tio, tio, tio, tio. tiotinx, flapping their wings the while, tio, tio, tio, tio, tiotinx; their notes reach beyond the clouds of heaven; all the dwellers in the forest stand still with astonishment and delight; a calm rests upon the waters, and the Graces and the choirs in Olympus catch up the strain, tio, tio, tio, tio, tiotinx.

There is nothing more useful nor more pleasant than to have wings. To begin with, just let us suppose a spectator to be dying with hunger and to be weary of the choruses of the tragic poets; if he were winged, he would fly off, go home to dine and come back with his stomach filled. Some Patroclides in urgent need would not have to soil his cloak, but could fly off, satisfy his requirements, and, having recovered his breath, return. If one of you, it matters not who, had adulterous relations and saw the husband of his mistress in the seats of the senators, he might stretch his wings, fly thither, and, having appeased his craving, resume his place. Is it not 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]

[1] The actor, representing Procne, was a flute-player.

[2] The parabasis.

[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.

[4] Lovers were wont to make each other presents of birds. The cock and the goose are mentioned, of course, in jest.

[5] i.e. that it gave notice of the approach of winter, during which season the Ancients did not venture to sea.

[6] A notorious robber.

[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.

[8] The Greek word for 'omen' is the same as that for 'bird.'

[9] A satire on the passion of the Greeks for seeing an omen in everything.

[10] An imitation of the nightingale's song.

[11] God of the groves and wilds.

[12] The 'Mother of the Gods'; roaming the mountains, she held dances, always attended by Pan and his accompanying rout of Fauns and Satyrs.

[13] An allusion to cock-fighting; the birds are armed with brazen spurs.

[14] An allusion to the spots on this bird, which resemble the scars left by a branding iron.

[15] He was of Asiatic origin, but wished to pass for an Athenian.

[16] Or Philamnon, King of Thrace; the scholiast remarks that the Phrygians and the Thracians had a common origin.

[17] The Greek word here is also the name of a little bird.

[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.

[19] He had become a senator.

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

[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]

[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.

[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]

[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?

[1] He was a boaster nicknamed 'smoke,' because he promised a great deal and never kept his word.

[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.

[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]

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

PISTHETAERUS
Why not choose Athene Polias?[1]

[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!

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

PISTHETAERUS
Who then shall guard the Pelargicon?[1]

[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]

[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.

[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]

[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.

CHORUS
Oh! Hawk, the sacred guardian of Sunium, oh, god of the storks!

PRIEST
Pray to the swan of Delos, to Latona the mother of the quails, and to Artemis, the goldfinch.

PISTHETAERUS
'Tis no longer Artemis Colaenis, but Artemis the goldfinch.[1]

[1] Hellanicus, the Mitylenian historian, tells that this surname of Artemis is derived from Colaenus, King of Athens before Cecrops and a descendant of Hermes. In obedience to an oracle he erected a temple to the goddess, invoking her as Artemis Colaenis (the Artemis of Colaenus).

PRIEST
And to Bacchus, the finch and Cybele, the ostrich and mother of the gods and mankind.

CHORUS
Oh! sovereign ostrich, Cybele, The mother of Cleocritus,[1] grant health and safety to the Nephelococcygians as well as to the dwellers in Chios...

[1] This Cleocritus, says the scholiast, was long-necked and strutted like an ostrich.

PISTHETAERUS
The dwellers in Chios! Ah! I am delighted they should be thus mentioned on all occasions.[1]

[1] The Chians were the most faithful allies of Athens, and hence their name was always mentioned in prayers, decrees, etc.

CHORUS
...to the heroes, the birds, to the sons of heroes, to the porphyrion, the pelican, the spoon-bill, the redbreast, the grouse, the peacock, the horned-owl, the teal, the bittern, the heron, the stormy petrel, the fig-pecker, the titmouse...

PISTHETAERUS
Stop! stop! you drive me crazy with your endless list. Why, wretch, to what sacred feast are you inviting the vultures and the sea-eagles? Don't you see that a single kite could easily carry off the lot at once? Begone, you and your fillets and all; I shall know how to complete the sacrifice by myself.

PRIEST
It is imperative that I sing another sacred chant for the rite of the lustral water, and that I invoke the immortals, or at least one of them, provided always that you have some suitable food to offer him; from what I see here, in the shape of gifts, there is naught whatever but horn and hair.

PISTHETAERUS
Let us address our sacrifices and our prayers to the winged gods.

A POET
Oh, Muse! celebrate happy Nephelococcygia in your hymns.

PISTHETAERUS
What have we here? Where did you come from, tell me? Who are you?

POET
I am he whose language is sweeter than honey, the zealous slave of the Muses, as Homer has it.

PISTHETAERUS
You a slave! and yet you wear your hair long?

POET
No, but the fact is all we poets are the assiduous slaves of the Muses, according to Homer.

PISTHETAERUS
In truth your little cloak is quite holy too through zeal! But, poet, what ill wind drove you here?

POET
I have composed verses in honour of your Nephelococcygia, a host of splendid dithyrambs and parthenians[1] worthy of Simonides himself.

[1] Verses sung by maidens.

PISTHETAERUS
And when did you compose them? How long since?

POET
Oh! 'tis long, aye, very long, that I have sung in honour of this city.

PISTHETAERUS
But I am only celebrating its foundation with this sacrifice;[1] I have only just named it, as is done with little babies.

[1] This ceremony took place on the tenth day after birth, and may be styled the pagan baptism.

POET
"Just as the chargers fly with the speed of the wind, so does the voice of the Muses take its flight. Oh! thou noble founder of the town of Aetna,[1] thou, whose name recalls the holy sacrifices,[2] make us such gift as thy generous heart shall suggest."

[1] Hiero, tyrant of Syracuse. --This passage is borrowed from Pindar.

[2] [Hiero] in Greek means 'sacrifice.'