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The Birds   


All the more reason why I wish to strangle him.
(PITHETAERUS comes out of the thicket, followed by slaves, who are
carrying various kitchen utensils; one of them sets up a table
on which he places poultry dressed for roasting.)

PITHETAERUS
Hand me the cheese-grater; bring me the silphium for sauce; pass
me the cheese and watch the coals.
HERACLES
Mortal! we who greet you are three gods.
PITHETAERUS
Wait a bit till I have prepared my silphium pickle.
HERACLES
What are these meats?
PITHETAERUS
These are birds that have been punished with death for attacking
the people's friends.
HERACLES
And you are going to season them before answering us?
PITHETAERUS (looking up from his work for the first time)
Ah! Heracles! welcome, welcome! What's the matter?
POSIDON
The gods have sent us here as ambassadors to treat for peace.
PITHETAERUS (ignoring this)
There's no more oil in the flask.
HERACLES
And yet the birds must be thoroughly basted with it.
POSIDON
We have no interest to serve in fighting you; as for you, be
friends and we promise that you shall always have rain-water in your
pools and the warmest of warm weather. So far as these points go we
are plenipotentiaries.
PITHETAERUS
We have never been the aggressors, and even now we are as well
disposed for peace as yourselves, provided you agree to one
equitable condition. namely, that Zeus yield his sceptre to the birds.
If only this is agreed to, I invite the ambassadors to dinner.
HERACLES
That's good enough for me. I vote for peace.
POSIDON
You wretch! you are nothing but a fool and a glutton. Do you
want to dethrone your own father?
PITHETAERUS
What an error. Why, the gods will be much more powerful if the
birds govern the earth. At present the mortals are hidden beneath
the clouds, escape your observation, and commit perjury in your
name; but if you had the birds for your allies, and a man, after
having sworn by the crow and Zeus, should fail to keep his oath, the
crow would dive down upon him unawares and pluck out his eye.
POSIDON
Well thought of, by Posidon!
HERACLES
My notion too.
PITHETAERUS (to TRIBALLUS)
And you, what's your opinion?
TRIBALLUS
Nabaisatreu.
PITHETAERUS
D'you see? he also approves. But listen, here is another thing
in which we can serve you. If a man vows to offer a sacrifice to
some god, and then procrastinates, pretending that the gods can
wait, and thus does not keep his word, we shall punish his stinginess.
POSIDON
Ah! and how?
PITHETAERUS

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