The Birds (cont'd)
 

PISTHETAERUS
He will drive us silly if we do not get rid of him by some present. Here! you, who have a fur as well as your tunic, take it off and give it to this clever poet. Come, take this fur; you look to me to be shivering with cold.

POET
My Muse will gladly accept this gift; but engrave these verses of Pindar's on your mind.

PISTHETAERUS
Oh! what a pest! 'Tis impossible then to be rid of him!

POET
"Straton wanders among the Scythian nomads, but has no linen garment. He is sad at only wearing an animal's pelt and no tunic." Do you conceive my bent?

PISTHETAERUS
I understand that you want me to offer you a tunic. Hi! you (TO EUELPIDES), take off yours; we must help the poet.... Come, you, take it and begone.

POET
I am going, and these are the verses that I address to this city: "Phoebus of the golden throne, celebrate this shivery, freezing city; I have travelled through fruitful and snow-covered plains. Tralala! Tralala!"[1]

[1] A parody of poetic pathos, not to say bathos.

PISTHETAERUS
What are you chanting us about frosts? Thanks to the tunic, you no longer fear them. Ah! by Zeus! I could not have believed this cursed fellow could so soon have learnt the way to our city. Come, priest, take the lustral water and circle the altar.

PRIEST
Let all keep silence!

A PROPHET
Let not the goat be sacrificed.[1]

[1] Which the priest was preparing to sacrifice.

PISTHETAERUS
Who are you?

PROPHET
Who am I? A prophet.

PISTHETAERUS
Get you gone.

PROPHET
Wretched man, insult not sacred things. For there is an oracle of Bacis, which exactly applies to Nephelococcygia.

PISTHETAERUS
Why did you not reveal it to me before I founded my city?

PROPHET
The divine spirit was against it.

PISTHETAERUS
Well, 'tis best to know the terms of the oracle.

PROPHET
"But when the wolves and the white crows shall dwell together between Corinth and Sicyon..."

PISTHETAERUS
But how do the Corinthians concern me?

PROPHET
'Tis the regions of the air that Bacis indicated in this manner. "They must first sacrifice a white-fleeced goat to Pandora, and give the prophet, who first reveals my words, a good cloak and new sandals."

PISTHETAERUS
Are the sandals there?

PROPHET
Read. "And besides this a goblet of wine and a good share of the entrails of the victim."

PISTHETAERUS
Of the entrails--is it so written?

PROPHET
Read. "If you do as I command, divine youth, you shall be an eagle among the clouds; if not, you shall be neither turtle-dove, nor eagle, nor woodpecker."

PISTHETAERUS
Is all that there?

PROPHET
Read.

PISTHETAERUS
This oracle in no sort of way resembles the one Apollo dictated to me: "If an impostor comes without invitation to annoy you during the sacrifice and to demand a share of the victim, apply a stout stick to his ribs."

PROPHET
You are drivelling.

PISTHETAERUS
"And don't spare him, were he an eagle from out of the clouds, were it Lampon[1] himself or the great Diopithes."[2]

[1] Noted Athenian diviner, who, when the power was still shared between Thucydides and Pericles, predicted that it would soon be centred in the hands of the latter; his ground for this prophecy was the sight of a ram with a single horn.

[2] No doubt another Athenian diviner, and possibly the same person whom Aristophanes names in 'The Knights' and 'The Wasps' as being a thief.

PROPHET
Is all that there?

PISTHETAERUS
Here, read it yourself, and go and hang yourself.

PROPHET
Oh! unfortunate wretch that I am.

PISTHETAERUS
Away with you, and take your prophecies elsewhere.

METON[1]
I have come to you.

[1] A celebrated geometrician and astronomer.

PISTHETAERUS
Yet another pest! What have you come to do? What's your plan? What's the purpose of your journey? Why these splendid buskins?

METON
I want to survey the plains of the air for you and to parcel them into lots.

PISTHETAERUS
In the name of the gods, who are you?

METON
Who am I? Meton, known throughout Greece and at Colonus.[1]

[1] A deme contiguous to Athens. It is as though he said, "Well known throughout all England and at Croydon.

PISTHETAERUS
What are these things?

METON
Tools for measuring the air. In truth, the spaces in the air have precisely the form of a furnace. With this bent ruler I draw a line from top to bottom; from one of its points I describe a circle with the compass. Do you understand?

PISTHETAERUS
Not the very least.

METON
With the straight ruler I set to work to inscribe a square within this circle; in its centre will be the market-place, into which all the straight streets will lead, converging to this centre like a star, which, although only orbicular, sends forth its rays in a straight line from all sides.

PISTHETAERUS
Meton, you new Thales...[1]

[1] Thales was no less famous as a geometrician than he was as a sage.

METON
What d'you want with me?

PISTHETAERUS
I want to give you a proof of my friendship. Use your legs.

METON
Why, what have I to fear?

PISTHETAERUS
'Tis the same here as in Sparta. Strangers are driven away, and blows rain down as thick as hail.

METON
Is there sedition in your city?

PISTHETAERUS
No, certainly not.

METON
What's wrong then?

PISTHETAERUS
We are agreed to sweep all quacks and impostors far from our borders.

METON
Then I'm off.

PISTHETAERUS
I fear 'tis too late. The thunder growls already. (BEATS HIM.)

METON
Oh, woe! oh, woe!

PISTHETAERUS
I warned you. Now, be off, and do your surveying somewhere else. (METON TAKES TO HIS HEELS.)

AN INSPECTOR
Where are the Proxeni?[1]

[1] Officers of Athens, whose duty was to protect strangers who came on political or other business, and see to their interests generally.

PISTHETAERUS
Who is this Sardanapalus?[1]

[1] He addresses the inspector thus because of the royal and magnificent manners he assumes.

INSPECTOR
I have been appointed by lot to come to Nephelococcygia. as inspector.[1]

[1] Magistrates appointed to inspect the tributary towns.

PISTHETAERUS
An inspector! and who sends you here, you rascal?

INSPECTOR
A decree of T[e]leas.[1]

[1] A much-despised citizen, already mentioned. He ironically supposes him invested with the powers of an Archon, which ordinarily were entrusted only to men of good repute.

PISTHETAERUS
Will you just pocket your salary, do nothing, and be off?

INSPECTOR
I' faith! that I will; I am urgently needed to be at Athens to attend the assembly; for I am charged with the interests of Pharnaces.[1]

[1] A Persian satrap. --An allusion to certain orators, who, bribed with Asiatic gold, had often defended the interests of the foe in the Public Assembly.

PISTHETAERUS
Take it then, and be off. See, here is your salary. (BEATS HIM.)

INSPECTOR
What does this mean?

PISTHETAERUS
'Tis the assembly where you have to defend Pharnaces.

INSPECTOR
You shall testify that they dare to strike me, the inspector.

PISTHETAERUS
Are you not going to clear out with your urns? 'Tis not to be believed; they send us inspectors before we have so much as paid sacrifice to the gods.

A DEALER IN DECREES
"If the Nephelococcygian does wrong to the Athenian..."

PISTHETAERUS
Now whatever are these cursed parchments?

DEALER IN DECREES
I am a dealer in decrees, and I have come here to sell you the new laws.

PISTHETAERUS
Which?

DEALER IN DECREES
"The Nephelococcygians shall adopt the same weights, measures and decrees as the Olophyxians."[1]

[1] A Macedonian people in the peninsula of Chalcidice. This name is chosen because of its similarity to the Greek word [for] 'to groan.' It is from another verb, meaning the same thing, that Pisthetaerus coins the name of Ototyxians, i.e. groaners, because he is about to beat the dealer. --The mother-country had the right to impose any law it chose upon its colonies.

PISTHETAERUS
And you shall soon be imitating the Ototyxians. (BEATS HIM.)

DEALER IN DECREES
Hullo! what are you doing?

PISTHETAERUS
Now will you be off with your decrees? For I am going to let YOU see some severe ones.

INSPECTOR (RETURNING)
I summon Pisthetaerus for outrage for the month of Munychion.[1]

[1] Corresponding to our month of April.

PISTHETAERUS
Ha! my friend! are you still there?

DEALER IN DECREES
"Should anyone drive away the magistrates and not receive them, according to the decree duly posted..."

PISTHETAERUS
What! rascal! you are there too?

INSPECTOR
Woe to you! I'll have you condemned to a fine of ten thousand drachmae.

PISTHETAERUS
And I'll smash your urns.[1]

[1] Which the inspector had brought with him for the purpose of inaugurating the assemblies of the people or some tribunal.

INSPECTOR
Do you recall that evening when you stooled against the column where the decrees are posted?

PISTHETAERUS
Here! here! let him be seized. (THE INSPECTOR RUNS OFF.) Well! don't you want to stop any longer?

PRIEST
Let us get indoors as quick as possible; we will sacrifice the goat inside.[1]

[1] So that the sacrifices might no longer be interrupted.

CHORUS
Henceforth it is to me that mortals must address their sacrifices and their prayers. Nothing escapes my sight nor my might. My glance embraces the universe, I preserve the fruit in the flower by destroying the thousand kinds of voracious insects the soil produces, which attack the trees and feed on the germ when it has scarcely formed in the calyx; I destroy those who ravage the balmy terrace gardens like a deadly plague; all these gnawing crawling creatures perish beneath the lash of my wing. I hear it proclaimed everywhere: "A talent for him who shall kill Diagoras of Melos,[1] and a talent for him who destroys one of the dead tyrants."[2] We likewise wish to make our proclamation: "A talent to him among you who shall kill Philocrates, the Struthian;[3] four, if he brings him to us alive. For this Philocrates skewers the finches together and sells them at the rate of an obolus for seven. He tortures the thrushes by blowing them out, so that they may look bigger, sticks their own feathers into the nostrils of blackbirds, and collects pigeons, which he shuts up and forces them, fastened in a net, to decoy others." That is what we wish to proclaim. And if anyone is keeping birds shut up in his yard, let him hasten to let them loose; those who disobey shall be seized by the birds and we shall put them in chains, so that in their turn they may decoy other men.

Happy indeed is the race of winged birds who need no cloak in winter! Neither do I fear the relentless rays of the fiery dog-days; when the divine grasshopper, intoxicated with the sunlight, when noon is burning the ground, is breaking out into shrill melody; my home is beneath the foliage in the flowery meadows. I winter in deep caverns, where I frolic with the mountain nymphs, while in spring I despoil the gardens of the Graces and gather the white, virgin berry on the myrtle bushes.

I want now to speak to the judges about the prize they are going to award; if they are favourable to us, we will load them with benefits far greater than those Paris[4] received. Firstly, the owls of Laurium,[5] which every judge desires above all things, shall never be wanting to you; you shall see them homing with you, building their nests in your money-bags and laying coins. Besides, you shall be housed like the gods, for we shall erect gables[6] over your dwellings; if you hold some public post and want to do a little pilfering, we will give you the sharp claws of a hawk. Are you dining in town, we will provide you with crops.[7] But, if your award is against us, don't fail to have metal covers fashioned for yourselves, like those they place over statues;[8] else, look out! for the day you wear a white tunic all the birds will soil it with their droppings.

[1] A disciple of Democrites; he passed over from superstition to atheism. The injustice and perversity of mankind led him to deny the existence of the gods, to lay bare the mysteries and to break the idols. The Athenians had put a price on his head, so he left Greece and perished soon afterwards in a storm at sea.

[2] By this jest Aristophanes means to imply that tyranny is dead, and that no one aspires to despotic power, though this silly accusation was constantly being raised by the demagogues and always favourably received by the populace.

[3] A poulterer. --Strouthian, used in joke to designate him, as if from the name of his 'deme,' is derived from [the Greek for] 'a sparrow.' The birds' foe is thus grotesquely furnished with an ornithological surname.

[4] From Aphrodite (Venus), to whom he had awarded the apple, prize of beauty, in the contest of the "goddesses three."

[5] Laurium was an Athenian deme at the extremity of the Attic peninsula containing valuable silver mines, the revenues of which were largely employed in the maintenance of the fleet and payment of the crews. The "owls of Laurium," of course, mean pieces of money; the Athenian coinage was stamped with a representation of an owl, the bird of Athene.

[6] A pun, impossible to keep in English, on the two meanings of [the Greek] word which signifies both an eagle and the gable of a house or pediment of a temple.

[7] That is, birds' crops, into which they could stow away plenty of good things.

[8] The Ancients appear to have placed metal discs over statues standing in the open air, to save them from injury from the weather, etc.

PISTHETAERUS
Birds! the sacrifice is propitious. But I see no messenger coming from the wall to tell us what is happening. Ah! here comes one running himself out of breath as though he were running the Olympic stadium.

MESSENGER
Where, where is he? Where, where, where is he? Where, where, where is he? Where is Pisthetaerus, our leader?

PISTHETAERUS
Here am I.

MESSENGER
The wall is finished.

PISTHETAERUS
That's good news.

MESSENGER
'Tis a most beautiful, a most magnificent work of art. The wall is so broad that Proxenides, the Braggartian, and Theogenes could pass each other in their chariots, even if they were drawn by steeds as big as the Trojan horse.

PISTHETAERUS
'Tis wonderful!

MESSENGER
Its length is one hundred stadia; I measured it myself.

PISTHETAERUS
A decent length, by Posidon! And who built such a wall?

MESSENGER
Birds--birds only; they had neither Egyptian brickmaker, nor stone-mason, nor carpenter; the birds did it all themselves; I could hardly believe my eyes. Thirty thousand cranes came from Libya with a supply of stones,[1] intended for the foundations. The water- rails chiselled them with their beaks. Ten thousand storks were busy making bricks; plovers and other water fowl carried water into the air.

[1] So as not to be carried away by the wind when crossing the sea, cranes are popularly supposed to ballast themselves with stones, which they carry in their beaks.

PISTHETAERUS
And who carried the mortar?

MESSENGER
Herons, in hods.

PISTHETAERUS
But how could they put the mortar into hods?

MESSENGER
Oh! 'twas a truly clever invention; the geese used their feet like spades; they buried them in the pile of mortar and then emptied them into the hods.

PISTHETAERUS
Ah! to what use cannot feet be put?[1]

[1] Pisthetaerus modifies the Greek proverbial saying, "To what use cannot hands be put?"

MESSENGER
You should have seen how eagerly the ducks carried bricks. To complete the tale, the swallows came flying to the work, their beaks full of mortar and their trowel on their back, just the way little children are carried.

PISTHETAERUS
Who would want paid servants after this? But tell me, who did the woodwork?

MESSENGER
Birds again, and clever carpenters too, the pelicans, for they squared up the gates with their beaks in such a fashion that one would have thought they were using axes; the noise was just like a dockyard. Now the whole wall is tight everywhere, securely bolted and well guarded; it is patrolled, bell in hand; the sentinels stand everywhere and beacons burn on the towers. But I must run off to clean myself; the rest is your business.

CHORUS
Well! what do you say to it? Are you not astonished at the wall being completed so quickly?

PISTHETAERUS
By the gods, yes, and with good reason. 'Tis really not to be believed. But here comes another messenger from the wall to bring us some further news! What a fighting look he has!

SECOND MESSENGER
Oh! oh! oh! oh! oh! oh!

PISTHETAERUS
What's the matter?

SECOND MESSENGER
A horrible outrage has occurred; a god sent by Zeus has passed through our gates and has penetrated the realms of the air without the knowledge of the jays, who are on guard in the daytime.

PISTHETAERUS
'Tis an unworthy and criminal deed. What god was it?

SECOND MESSENGER
We don't know that. All we know is, that he has got wings.

PISTHETAERUS
Why were not guards sent against him at once?

SECOND MESSENGER
We have d[i]spatched thirty thousand hawks of the legion of Mounted Archers.[1] All the hook-clawed birds are moving against him, the kestrel, the buzzard, the vulture, the great-horned owl; they cleave the air, so that it resounds with the flapping of their wings; they are looking everywhere for the god, who cannot be far away; indeed, if I mistake not, he is coming from yonder side.

[1] A corps of Athenian cavalry was so named.

PISTHETAERUS
All arm themselves with slings and bows! This way, all our soldiers; shoot and strike! Some one give me a sling!

CHORUS
War, a terrible war is breaking out between us and the gods! Come, let each one guard Air, the son of Erebus,[1] in which the clouds float. Take care no immortal enters it without your knowledge. Scan all sides with your glance. Hark! methinks I can hear the rustle of the swift wings of a god from heaven.

[1] Chaos, Night, Tartarus, and Erebus alone existed in the beginning; Eros was born from Night and Erebus, and he wedded Chaos and begot Earth, Air, and Heaven; so runs the fable.

PISTHETAERUS
Hi! you woman! where are you flying to? Halt, don't stir! keep motionless! not a beat of your wing! --Who are you and from what country? You must say whence you come.[1]

[1] Iris appears from the top of the stage and arrests her flight in mid-career.

IRIS
I come from the abode of the Olympian gods.

PISTHETAERUS
What's your name, ship or cap?[1]

[1] Ship, because of her wings, which resemble oars; cap, because she no doubt wore the head-dress (as a messenger of the gods) with which Hermes is generally depicted.

IRIS
I am swift Iris.

PISTHETAERUS
Paralus or Salaminia?[1]

[1] The names of the two sacred galleys which carried Athenian officials on State business.

IRIS
What do you mean?

PISTHETAERUS
Let a buzzard rush at her and seize her.[1]

[1] A buzzard is named in order to raise a laugh, the Greek name also meaning, etymologically, provided with three testicles, vigorous in love.

IRIS
Seize me! But what do all these insults mean?

PISTHETAERUS
Woe to you!

IRIS
'Tis incomprehensible.

PISTHETAERUS
By which gate did you pass through the wall, wretched woman?

IRIS
By which gate? Why, great gods, I don't know.

PISTHETAERUS
You hear how she holds us in derision. Did you present yourself to the officers in command of the jays? You don't answer. Have you a permit, bearing the seal of the storks?

IRIS
Am I awake?

PISTHETAERUS
Did you get one?

IRIS
Are you mad?

PISTHETAERUS
No head-bird gave you a safe-conduct?

IRIS
A safe-conduct to me, you poor fool!

PISTHETAERUS
Ah! and so you slipped into this city on the sly and into these realms of air-land that don't belong to you.

IRIS
And what other roads can the gods travel?

PISTHETAERUS
By Zeus! I know nothing about that, not I. But they won't pass this way. And you still dare to complain! Why, if you were treated according to your deserts, no Iris would ever have more justly suffered death.

IRIS
I am immortal.

PISTHETAERUS
You would have died nevertheless. --Oh! 'twould be truly intolerable! What! should the universe obey us and the gods alone continue their insolence and not understand that they must submit to the law of the strongest in their due turn? But tell me, where are you flying to?

IRIS
I? The messenger of Zeus to mankind, I am going to tell them to sacrifice sheep and oxen on the altars and to fill their streets with the rich smoke of burning fat.

PISTHETAERUS
Of which gods are you speaking?

IRIS
Of which? Why, of ourselves, the gods of heaven.

PISTHETAERUS
You, gods?

IRIS
Are there others then?

PISTHETAERUS
Men now adore the birds as gods, and 'tis to them, by Zeus, that they must offer sacrifices, and not to Zeus at all!

IRIS
Oh! fool! fool! Rouse not the wrath of the gods, for 'tis terrible indeed. Armed with the brand of Zeus, Justice would annihilate your race; the lightning would strike you as it did Licymnius and consume both your body and the porticos of your palace.[1]

[1] Iris' reply is a parody of the tragic style. --'Lycimnius' is, according to the scholiast, the title of a tragedy by Euripides, which is about a ship that is struck by lightning.

PISTHETAERUS
Here! that's enough tall talk. Just you listen and keep quiet! Do you take me for a Lydian or a Phrygian[1] and think to frighten me with your big words? Know, that if Zeus worries me again, I shall go at the head of my eagles, who are armed with lightning, and reduce his dwelling and that of Amphion to cinders.[2] I shall send more than six hundred porphyrions clothed in leopards' skins[3] up to heaven against him; and formerly a single Porphyrion gave him enough to do. As for you, his messenger, if you annoy me, I shall begin by stretching your legs asunder, and so conduct myself, Iris though you be, that despite my age, you will be astonished. I will show you something that will make you three times over.

[1] i.e. for a poltroon, like the slaves, most of whom came to Athens from these countries.

[2] A parody of a passage in the lost tragedy of 'Niobe' of Aeschylus.

[3] Because this bird has a spotted plumage. --Porphyrion is also the name of one of the Titans who tried to storm heave.

IRIS
May you perish, you wretch, you and your infamous words!

PISTHETAERUS
Won't you be off quickly? Come, stretch your wings or look out for squalls!

IRIS
If my father does not punish you for your insults...

PISTHETAERUS
Ha!... but just you be off elsewhere to roast younger folk than us with your lightning.

CHORUS
We forbid the gods, the sons of Zeus, to pass through our city and the mortals to send them the smoke of their sacrifices by this road.

PISTHETAERUS
'Tis odd that the messenger we sent to the mortals has never returned.

HERALD
Oh! blessed Pisthetaerus, very wise, very illustrious, very gracious, thrice happy, very... Come, prompt me, somebody, do.

PISTHETAERUS
Get to your story!

HERALD
All peoples are filled with admiration for your wisdom, and they award you this golden crown.

PISTHETAERUS
I accept it. But tell me, why do the people admire me?

HERALD
Oh you, who have founded so illustrious a city in the air, you know not in what esteem men hold you and how many there are who burn with desire to dwell in it. Before your city was built, all men had a mania for Sparta; long hair and fasting were held in honour, men went dirty like Socrates and carried staves. Now all is changed. Firstly, as soon as 'tis dawn, they all spring out of bed together to go and seek their food, the same as you do; then they fly off towards the notices and finally devour the decrees. The bird-madness is so clear, that many actually bear the names of birds. There is a halting victualler, who styles himself the partridge; Menippus calls himself the swallow; Opuntius the one-eyed crow; Philocles the lark; Theogenes the fox-goose; Lycurgus the ibis; Chaerephon the bat; Syracosius the magpie; Midias the quail;[1] indeed he looks like a quail that has been hit hard over the head. Out of love for the birds they repeat all the songs which concern the swallow, the teal, the goose or the pigeon; in each verse you see wings, or at all events a few feathers. This is what is happening down there. Finally, there are more than ten thousand folk who are coming here from earth to ask you for feathers and hooked claws; so, mind you supply yourself with wings for the immigrants.

[1] All these surnames bore some relation to the character or the build of the individual to whom the poet applies them. --Chaerephon, Socrates' disciple, was of white and ashen hue. --Opuntius was one-eyed. --Syracosius was a braggart. --Midias had a passion for quail-fights, and, besides, resembled that bird physically.

PISTHETAERUS
Ah! by Zeus, 'tis not the time for idling. Go as quick as possible and fill every hamper, every basket you can find with wings. Manes[1] will bring them to me outside the walls, where I will welcome those who present themselves.

[1] Pisthetaerus' servant, already mentioned.

CHORUS
This town will soon be inhabited by a crowd of men.

PISTHETAERUS
If fortune favours us.

CHORUS
Folk are more and more delighted with it.

PISTHETAERUS
Come, hurry up and bring them along.

CHORUS
Will not man find here everything that can please him--wisdom, love, the divine Graces, the sweet face of gentle peace?

PISTHETAERUS
Oh! you lazy servant! won't you hurry yourself?

CHORUS
Let a basket of wings be brought speedily. Come, beat him as I do, and put some life into him; he is as lazy as an ass.

PISTHETAERUS
Aye, Manes is a great craven.

CHORUS
Begin by putting this heap of wings in order; divide them in three parts according to the birds from whom they came; the singing, the prophetic[1] and the aquatic birds; then you must take care to distribute them to the men according to their character.

[1] From the inspection of which auguries were taken, e.g. the eagles, the vultures, the crows.

PISTHETAERUS (TO MANES)
Oh! by the kestrels! I can keep my hands off you no longer; you are too slow and lazy altogether.

A PARRICIDE[1]
Oh! might I but become an eagle, who soars in the skies! Oh! might I fly above the azure waves of the barren sea![2]

[1] Or rather, a young man who contemplated parricide.

[2] A parody of verses in Sophocles 'Oenomaus.'

PISTHETAERUS
Ha! 'twould seem the news was true; I hear someone coming who talks of wings.

PARRICIDE
Nothing is more charming than to fly; I burn with desire to live under the same laws as the birds; I am bird-mad and fly towards you, for I want to live with you and to obey your laws.

PISTHETAERUS
Which laws? The birds have many laws.

PARRICIDE
All of them; but the one that pleases me most is, that among the birds it is considered a fine thing to peck and strangle one's father.

PISTHETAERUS
Aye, by Zeus! according to us, he who dares to strike his father, while still a chick, is a brave fellow.

PARRICIDE
And therefore I want to dwell here, for I want to strangle my father and inherit his wealth.

PISTHETAERUS
But we have also an ancient law written in the code of the storks, which runs thus, "When the stork father has reared his young and has taught them to fly, the young must in their turn support the father."

PARRICIDE
'Tis hardly worth while coming all this distance to be compelled to keep my father!

PISTHETAERUS
No, no, young friend, since you have come to us with such willingness, I am going to give you these black wings, as though you were an orphan bird; furthermore, some good advice, that I received myself in infancy. Don't strike your father, but take these wings in one hand and these spurs in the other; imagine you have a cock's crest on your head and go and mount guard and fight; live on your pay and respect your father's life. You're a gallant fellow! Very well, then! Fly to Thrace and fight.[1]

[1] The Athenians were then besieging Amphipolis in the Thracian Chalcidice.

PARRICIDE
By Bacchus! 'Tis well spoken; I will follow your counsel.

PISTHETAERUS
'Tis acting wisely, by Zeus.

CINESIAS[1]
"On my light pinions I soar off to Olympus; in its capricious flight my Muse flutters along the thousand paths of poetry in turn..."

[1] There was a real Cinesias--a dythyrambic poet born at Thebes.

PISTHETAERUS
This is a fellow will need a whole shipload of wings.

CINESIAS (singing)
"...and being fearless and vigorous, it is seeking fresh outlet."

PISTHETAERUS
Welcome, Cinesias, you lime-wood man![1] Why have you come here a-twisting your game leg in circles?

[1] The scholiast thinks that Cinesias, who was tall and slight of build, wore a kind of corset of lime-wood to support his waist-- surely rather a far-fetched interpretation!

CINESIAS
"I want to become a bird, a tuneful nightingale."

PISTHETAERUS
Enough of that sort of ditty. Tell me what you want.

CINESIAS
Give me wings and I will fly into the topmost airs to gather fresh songs in the clouds, in the midst of the vapours and the fleecy snow.

PISTHETAERUS
Gather songs in the clouds?

CINESIAS
'Tis on them the whole of our latter-day art depends. The most brilliant dithyrambs are those that flap their wings in void space and are clothed in mist and dense obscurity. To appreciate this, just listen.

PISTHETAERUS
Oh! no, no, no!

CINESIAS
By Hermes! but indeed you shall. "I shall travel through thine ethereal empire like a winged bird, who cleaveth space with his long neck..."

PISTHETAERUS
Stop! easy all, I say![1]

[1] The Greek word used here was the word of command employed to stop the rowers.

CINESIAS
"...as I soar over the seas, carried by the breath of the winds..."

PISTHETAERUS
By Zeus! but I'll cut your breath short.

CINESIAS
"...now rushing along the tracks of Notus, now nearing Boreas across the infinite wastes of the ether." (PISTHETAERUS BEATS HIM.} Ah! old man, that's a pretty and clever idea truly!

PISTHETAERUS
What! are you not delighted to be cleaving the air?[1]

[1] Cinesias makes a bound each time that Pisthetaerus strikes him.

CINESIAS
To treat a dithyrambic poet, for whom the tribes dispute with each other, in this style![1]

[1] The tribes of Athens, or rather the rich citizens belonging to them, were wont on feast-days to give representations of dithyrambic choruses as well as of tragedies and comedies.

PISTHETAERUS
Will you stay with us and form a chorus of winged birds as slender as Leotrophides[1] for the Cecropid tribe?

[1] Another dithyrambic poet, a man of extreme leanness.

CINESIAS
You are making game of me, 'tis clear; but know that I shall never leave you in peace if I do not have wings wherewith to traverse the air.

AN INFORMER
What are these birds with downy feathers, who look so pitiable to me? Tell me, oh swallow with the long dappled wings.[1]

[1] A parody of a hemistich from 'Alcaeus.' --The informer is dissatisfied at only seeing birds of sombre plumage and poor appearance. He would have preferred to denounce the rich.

PISTHETAERUS
Oh! but 'tis a regular invasion that threatens us. Here comes another of them, humming along.

INFORMER
Swallow with the long dappled wings, once more I summon you.

PISTHETAERUS
It's his cloak I believe he's addressing; 'faith, it stands in great need of the swallows' return.[1]

[1] The informer, says the scholiast, was clothed with a ragged cloak, the tatters of which hung down like wings, in fact, a cloak that could not protect him from the cold and must have made him long for the swallows' return, i.e. the spring.

INFORMER
Where is he who gives out wings to all comers?

PISTHETAERUS
'Tis I, but you must tell me for what purpose you want them.

INFORMER
Ask no questions. I want wings, and wings I must have.

PISTHETAERUS
Do you want to fly straight to Pellene?[1]

[1] A town in Achaia, where woollen cloaks were made.