Welcome
   Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Authors
Works by Aristophanes
Pages of The Birds



Previous | Next
                  

The Birds   


PITHETAERUS
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.
PITHETAERUS
Lead the way, and may success attend us.
(EPOPS goes into the thicket, followed by PITHETAERUS and
EUELPIDES.)

CHORUS (singing)
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, lead off
our anapests.
(The CHORUS turns and faces the audience.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
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 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 opened their thighs because of 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.
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, and Orestes 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. 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 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. Is it not
clear that we are a prophetic Apollo to you? (More and more rapidly
from here on.)
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

Previous | Next
Site Search