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The Birds   


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.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
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.
PITHETAERUS
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! what a terribly strong place!
PITHETAERUS
Then, when this has been 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 their tools up, as hitherto, for the purpose of laying
their Alcmenas, their Alopes, or their Semeles! if they try to pass
through, you put rings on their tools so that they can't make love any
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; if a
steer is being offered to Heracles, let honey-cakes be dedicated to
the gull; if a goat is being slain for King Zeus, there is a
King-Bird, the wren, to whom the sacrifice of a male gnat is due
before Zeus himself even.
EUELPIDES
This notion of an immolated gnat delights me! And now let the
great Zeus thunder!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But how will mankind recognize us as gods and not as jays? Us, who
have wings and fly?
PITHETAERUS
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.
EUELPIDES
But will not Zeus thunder and send his winged bolts against us?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
If men in their blindness do not recognize us as gods and so
continue to worship the dwellers in Olympus?
PITHETAERUS
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.
EUELPIDES
By Zeus, she'll take good care she does not, and you will see
her inventing a thousand excuses.
PITHETAERUS
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.
EUELPIDES
Oh! don't do that! Wait first until I have sold my two young
bullocks.
PITHETAERUS

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