The Birds

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    Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press

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EUELPIDES (to his jay)

Do you think I should walk straight for yon tree?

PITHETAERUS (to his crow)

Cursed beast, what are you croaking to me? retrace my steps?


Why, you wretch, we are wandering at random, we are exerting ourselves only to return to the same spot; we're wasting our time.


To think that I should trust to this crow, which has made me cover more than a thousand furlongs!


And that I, in obedience to this jay, should have worn my toes down to the nails!


If only I knew where we were....


Could you find your country again from here?


No, I feel quite sure I could not, any more than could Execestides find his.




Aye, aye, my friend, it's surely the road of "alases" we are following.


That Philocrates, the bird-seller, played us a scurvy trick, when he pretended these two guides could help us to find Tereus, the Epops, who is a bird, without being born of one. He has indeed sold us this jay, a true son of Tharrhelides, for an obolus, and this crow for three, but what can they do? Why, nothing whatever but bite and scratch! (To his jay) What's the matter with you then, that you keep opening your beak? Do you want us to fling ourselves headlong down these rocks? There is no road that way.


One of Aristophanes' greatest comedies available with notes and introduction by Jeffrey Henderson, one of the most important scholars and translators of Greek comedy. Translation in English with notes, map and introduction. One of Aristophanes greatest comedies. Considered by many to be his masterpiece, it is the story of birds taking control of the government, called in this translation Cloudcuckooland.

Aristophanes (c. 446 BC – c. 386 BC), son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his thirty plays survive virtually complete. These, together with fragments of some of his other plays, provide the only real examples of a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy, and they are used to define the genre Also known as the Father of Comedy and the Prince of Ancient Comedy, Aristophanes has been said to recreate the life of ancient Athens more convincingly than any other author. His powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by influential contemporaries; Plato singled out Aristophanes' playThe Clouds as slander that contributed to the trial and subsequent condemning to death of Socrates although other satirical playwrights had also caricatured the philosopher. His second play, The Babylonians (now lost), was denounced by the demagogue Cleon as a slander against the Athenian polis. It is possible that the case was argued in court but details of the trial are not recorded and Aristophanes caricatured Cleon mercilessly in his subsequent plays, especially The Knights, the first of many plays that he directed himself. "In my opinion," he says through the Chorus in that play, "the author-director of comedies has the hardest job of all."


So the swans on the banks of the Hebrus, tiotiotiotiotiotinx, mingle their voices to serenade Apollo, tiotiotiotinx, flapping their wings the while, tiotiotiotinx; their notes reach beyond the clouds of heaven; they startle the various tribes of the beasts; a windles sky calms the waves, totototototototototinx; all Olympus resounds, and astonishment seizes its rulers; the Olympian graces and Muses cry aloud the strain, tiotiotiotinx.


There is nothing more useful nor more pleasant than to have wings. To begin with, just let us suppose a spectator to be dying with hunger and to be weary of the choruses of the tragic poets; if he were winged, he would fly off, go home to dine and come back with his stomach filled. Some Patroclides, needing to take a crap, would not have to spill it out on his cloak, but could fly off, satisfy his requirements, let a few farts and, having recovered his breath, return. If one of you, it matters not who, had adulterous relations and saw the husband of his mistress in the seats of the senators, he might stretch his wings, fly to her, and, having laid her, resume his place. Is it not the most priceless gift of all, to be winged? Look at Diitrephes! His wings were only wicker-work ones, and yet he got himself chosen Phylarch and then Hipparch; from being nobody, he has risen to be famous; he's now the finest gilded cock of his tribe.

(PITHETAERUS and EUELPIDES return; they now have wings.)


Halloa! What's this? By Zeus! I never saw anything so funny in all my life.


What makes you laugh?


Your little wings. D'you know what you look like? Like a goose painted by some dauber.


And you look like a close-shaven blackbird.


We ourselves asked for this transformation, and, as Aeschylus has it, "These are no borrowed feathers, but truly our own."


Come now, what must be done?


First give our city a great and famous name, then sacrifice to the gods.


I think so too.


Let's see. What shall our city be called?


Will you have a high-sounding Laconian name? Shall we call it Sparta?


What! call my town Sparta? Why, I would not use esparto for my bed, even though I had nothing but bands of rushes.


Well then, what name can you suggest?


Some name borrowed from the clouds, from these lofty regions in which we dwell-in short, some well-known name.