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The Birds   


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 Halimus. 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.
PITHETAERUS
Formerly also the kite was ruler and king over the Greeks.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
The Greeks?
PITHETAERUS
And when he was king, he was the one who first taught them to fall
on their knees before the kites.
EUELPIDES
By Zeus! that's what I did myself one day on seeing a kite; but at
the moment I was on my knees, and leaning backwards with mouth
agape, I bolted an obolus and was forced to carry my meal-sack home
empty.
PITHETAERUS
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.
EUELPIDES
Hence no doubt the proverb, "Cuckoo! cuckoo! go to the fields,
ye circumcised."
PITHETAERUS
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.
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 to see if he got any present.
PITHETAERUS
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; his daughter has an owl, and Phoebus, as his servant, has a
hawk.
EUELPIDES
By Demeter, the point is well taken. But what are all these
birds doing in heaven?
PITHETAERUS
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.
EUELPIDES
And even now Lampon swears by the goose whenever he wishes to
deceive someone.
PITHETAERUS
Thus it is clear that you were once great and sacred, but now
you are looked upon as slaves, as fools, as Maneses; 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.
CHORUS (singing)
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

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