This translation by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC, has certain copyright restrictions. For information please use the following link: Copyright. For comments or question please contact Ian Johnston. To see a list of other translations and lectures by Ian Johnston, use this link: johnstonia
This text is available in the form of a Word or Publisher file for those who would like to print it off as a small book. There is no charge for these files. For details, please use the following link: Publisher files. A printed paperback book of this text is available from Richer Resources Publications.
The translator would like to acknowledge the very valuable help he received from the notes in Alan H. Sommerstein’s edition of The Birds (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1987).
This text was first published in 2008. Minor formatting changes were made in 2014.
Note that in the following translation the normal numbers refer to this text, while the numbers in square brackets refer to the Greek text. Links to explanatory endnotes are indicated by an asterisk (*).
The Birds was first produced at the drama festival in 414 BC, where it won second prize. At this period, during the Peloponnesian War, Athens was very powerful and confident, having just launched the expedition to Sicily, fully expecting to triumph in that venture and in the larger war.
EUELPIDES: a middle-aged Athenian
SERVANT-BIRD: a slave serving Tereus, once a man
TEREUS: a hoopoe bird, once a man
A SECOND HOOPOE
GLUTTON-BIRD: a fictitious species
CHORUS: of birds
XANTHIAS: slave serving Pisthetairos
MANODOROS: slave serving Euelpides, also called MANES.
PROCNE: a nightingale with a woman’s body, consort of Tereus.
ORACLE MONGER: a collector and interpreter of oracles
METON: a land surveyor
COMMISSIONER OF COLONIES: an Athenian official
STATUTE SELLER: man who sells laws
FIRST MESSENGER: a construction-worker bird
SECOND MESSENGER: a soldier bird
IRIS: messenger goddess, daughter of Zeus
FIRST HERALD: a bird
YOUNG MAN: young Athenian who wants to beat up his father
CINESIAS: a very bad dithyrambic poet and singer
SYCOPHANT: a common informer
PROMETHEUS: the Titan
POSEIDON: god of the sea, brother of Zeus
HERCULES: the legendary hero, now divine
TRIBALLIAN GOD: an uncouth barbarian god
PRINCESS: a divine young lady
Scene: A rugged, treed wilderness area up in the rocky hills. Enter Pisthetairos and Euelpides, both very tired. They are clambering down from the rocky heights towards the level stage. Pisthetairos has a crow perched on his arm or shoulder, and Euelpides has a jackdaw. Both Pisthetairos and Euelpides are carrying packs on their back. They are followed by two slaves carrying more bags. The slaves stay well out of the way until they get involved in the action later on.
to the bird he is carrying]
Are you telling us to keep going straight ahead?
Over there by that tree?
Blast this bird—
it’s croaking for us to head back, go home.
Why are we wandering up and down like this?
You’re such a fool—this endless weaving round
will kill us both.
I must be an idiot
to keep hiking on along these pathways,
a hundred miles at least, and just because
that’s what this crow keeps telling me to do.
What about me? My poor toe nails are thrashed. 10
I’ve worn them out because I’m following
what this jackdaw says.
I have no idea
where on earth we are.
You mean from here
you couldn’t make it back to your place? 
No way—not even Execestides
could manage that.*
We’re in a real mess.
Well, you could try going along that pathway.
[The two men start exploring different paths down to opposite sides of the stage]
We two were conned by that Philokrates,
the crazy vendor in the marketplace
who sells his birds on trays. He claimed these two 20
would take us straight to Tereus the hoopoe,
a man who years ago became a bird.
That’s why we paid an obol for this one,
this jackdaw, son of Tharreleides.*
and three more for the crow. And then what?
The two know nothing, except how to bite.
[The jackdaw with Euelpides begins to get excited about something. Euelpides talks to the bird]
What’s got your attention now? In
those rocks? 
You want to take us there? There’s no way through.
across the stage to Euelpides]
By god, the same thing over here, no road.
What’s your crow saying about the pathway? 30
By god, it’s not cawing what it did before.
But what’s it saying about the road?
it’s saying nothing, just keeps on croaking—
something about biting my fingers off.
Don’t you think it’s really odd the two of us,
ready and eager to head off for the birds,*
just can’t find the way. You see, we’re not well.
All you men sitting there to hear our words, 
we’re ill with a disease, not like the one
which Sacas suffers,* no—the opposite. 40
He’s no true citizen, yet nonetheless
he’s pushing his way in by force, but we,
both honoured members of our tribe and clan,*
both citizens among you citizens,
with no one trying to drive us from the city,
have winged our way out of our native land
on our two feet. We don’t hate the city
because we think it’s not by nature great
and truly prosperous—open to all,
so they can spend their money paying fines. 50
Cicadas chirp up in the trees a while,
a month or two, but our Athenians 
keep chirping over lawsuits all their lives.
That’s why right now we’ve set off on this trip,
with all this stuff—basket, pot, and myrtle boughs.*
We’re looking for a nice relaxing spot,
where we can settle down, live out our lives.
We’re heading for Tereus, that hoopoe bird—
we’d like to know if in his flying around
he’s seen a city like the one we want. 60
My crow keeps cawing upwards—
My jackdaw’s looking up there, too, 
as if it wants to show me something.
There must be birds around these rocks. I know—
let’s make noise and then we’ll see for sure.
You know what you should do? Kick that outcrop.
Why not use your head? There’d be twice the noise.
[Pisthetairos and Euelpides start climbing back up the rocky outcrops towards a door in the middle of the rocks]
Pick up a stone and then knock on the door.
All right. Here I go.
[Euelpides knocks very loudly on the door and calls out]
Hey, boy . . . boy!
What are you saying? Why call the hoopoe “boy”? 70
Don’t say that—you should call out
[giving a bird call]
on the door and calling again]
Hoopoe-ho! . . . Should I knock again? . . . Hoopoe-ho!
Who is it? Who’s shouting for my master? 
[The door opens and an actor-bird emerges. He has a
huge beak which terrifies Euelpides and Pisthetairos.
They fall back in fear, and the birds they have been carrying disappear]
My lord Apollo, save us! That gaping beak—
Oh, oh, now we’re in for it. You two men,
Don’t act so weird!
Can’t you say something nice?
to scare them off]
You two men will die!
But we’re not men.
What? What are you, then?
Well . . . I’m a chicken-shitter . . . a Libyan bird . . .
No, it’s not—I’ve just dropped my load— 80
down both my legs. Take a look.
And this one here?
What kind of bird is he?
Can you speak?
Me? . . . a crapper-fowl . . . from Phasis.
God knows what kind of animal you are!
I’m a servant bird.
Beaten by some rooster 
in a cock fight?
No. It was my master—
when he became a hoopoe, well, I prayed
that I could turn into a bird. That way
he’d still have me to serve and wait on him.
Does a bird need his own butler bird? 90
He does—I think it’s got something to do
with the fact that earlier he was a man.
So if he wants to taste some fish from Phalerum,
I grab a plate and run off for sardines.
If he wants soup, we need pot and ladle,
so I dash off for the spoon.
A runner bird—
that’s what you are. Well, my little runner,
do you know what we’d like to have you do? 
Go call your master for us.
But he’s asleep—
for heaven’s sake, his after-dinner snooze— 100
he’s just had gnats and myrtle berries.
Wake him up anyway.
I know for sure
he’ll be annoyed, but I’ll do it, just for you.
[Exit Servant-Bird back through the doors]
Damn that bird—he scared me half to death.
Bloody hell—he frightened off my bird!
You’re such a coward—the worst there is.
Were you so scared you let that jackdaw go?
What about you? Didn’t you collapse
and let your crow escape?
Not me, by god.
Where is it then?
It flew off on its own. 110 
You didn’t let go? What a valiant man!
inside, speaking in a grand style]
Throw open this wood, so I may issue forth.
[The doors open. Enter Tereus,
a hoopoe bird, with feathers on his head and wings but none on his body.
He struts and speaks with a ridiculously affected confidence. Euelpides and Pisthetairos are greatly amused
at his appearance]
O Hercules, what kind of beast is this?
What’s that plumage? What sort of triple crest?
Who are the persons here who seek me out?
The twelve gods, it seems, have worked you over.*
Does seeing my feathers make you scoff at me?
Strangers, I was once upon a time a man.
It’s not you we’re laughing at.
Then what is it?
It’s your beak—to us it looks quite funny. 120
It’s how Sophocles distorts Tereus— 
that’s me—in his tragedies.
Are you a peacock or a bird?*
I am a bird.
Then where are all your feathers?
They’ve fallen off.
Have you got some disease?
No, it’s not that.
In winter time all birds shed their feathers,
then new ones grow again. But tell me this—
who are the two of you?
Us? We’re human beings.
From what race were you born?
In Athens—which makes the finest warships. 130
Ah, so you’re jury-men, are you?
We’re different—we keep away from juries.
Does that seedling flourish in those parts? 
If you go searching in the countryside,
you’ll find a few.
So why have you come here?
What do you need?
To talk to you.
Well, you were once a man, as we are now.
You owed people money, as we do now.
You loved to skip the debt, as we do now.
Then you changed your nature, became a bird. 140
You fly in circles over land and sea.
You’ve learned whatever’s known to birds and men.
That’s why we’ve come as suppliants to you, 
to ask if you can tell us of some town,
where life is sheepskin soft, where we can sleep.
Are you looking for a mighty city,
more powerful than what Cranaus built?*
Not one more powerful, no. What we want
is one which better suits the two of us.
You clearly want an aristocracy. 150
Me? No, not at all. The son of Scellias
is someone I detest.*
All right, then,
What kind of city would you like to live in?
I’d like a city where my biggest problem
would be something like this—in the morning
a friend comes to my door and says to me,
“In the name of Olympian Zeus, take a bath, 
an early one, you and your children,
then come to my place for the wedding feast
I’m putting on. Don’t disappoint me now. 160
If you do, then don’t come looking for me
when my affairs get difficult for me.”*
By heaven, you poor man, you do love trouble.
What about you?
I’d like the same.
To have the father of some handsome lad
come up to me, as if I’d done him wrong,
and tell me off with some complaint like this—
“A fine thing there between you and my son, 
you old spark. You met him coming back
from the gymnasium, after his bath— 170
you didn’t kiss or greet him with a hug,
or even try tickling his testicles—
yet you’re a friend of mine, his father.”
How you yearn for problems, you unhappy man.
There is a happy city by the sea,
the Red Sea, just like the one you mention.*
No, no. Not by the sea! That’s not for us,
not where that ship Salamia can show up
with some man on board to serve a summons
early in the morning. What about Greece? 180
Can you tell us of some city there?*
Why not go and settle down in Elis—
In Leprous? By the gods,
I hate the place—although I’ve never seen it— 
it’s all Melanthius’ fault.*
You could go
to the Opuntians—they’re in Locris—
you might settle there.
no way, not for a talent’s weight in gold.*
But what’s it like here, living with the birds?
You must know it well.
It’s not unpleasant. 190
First of all, you have to live without a purse.
So you’re rid of one great source of fraud in life.
In the gardens we enjoy white sesame, 
the myrtles, mint, and poppies.
So you live
just like newly-weds.
That’s it! I’ve got it!
I see a great plan for this race of birds—
and power, too, if you’ll trust what I say.
What do you want to get us all to do?
What should you be convinced to do? Well, first,
don’t just fly about in all directions, 200
your beaks wide open—that makes you despised.
With us, you see, if you spoke of men
who always flit about and if you asked,
“Who’s that Teleas” someone would respond,
“The man’s a bird—he’s unreliable,
flighty, vague, never stays in one place long.”* 
By Dionysus, that’s a valid point—
the criticism’s fair. What should we do?
Settle down together in one city.
What sort of city could we birds set up? 210
Why ask that? What a stupid thing to say!
Now look up.
I’m looking up.
Turn your head round to the side.
this’ll do me good, if I twist off my neck.
What do you see?
Clouds and sky.
isn’t this a staging area for birds?
A staging area? How come it’s that?
You might say it’s a location for them— 
there’s lots of business here, but everything
keeps moving through this zone, so it’s now called 220
a staging place. But if you settled here,
fortified it, and fenced it off with walls,
this staging area could become your state.
Then you’d rule all men as if they’re locusts
and annihilate the gods with famine,
just like in Melos.*
How’d we manage that?
Look, between earth and heaven there’s the air.
Now, with us, when we want to go to Delphi,
we have to ask permission to pass through
from the Boeotians. You should do the same. 230
When men sacrifice, make gods pay you cash. 
If not, you don’t grant them rights of passage.
You’ll stop the smell of roasting thigh bones
moving through an empty space and city
which don’t belong to them.
By earth, snares, traps, nets, what a marvellous scheme!
I’ve never heard a neater plan! So now,
with your help, I’m going to found a city,
if other birds agree.
The other birds?
Who’s going to lay this business out to them? 240
You can do it. I’ve taught them how to speak. 
Before I came, they could only twitter,
but I’ve been with them here a long, long time.
How do you call to bring them all together?
Easy. I’ll step inside my thicket here,
and wake my nightingale. Then we’ll both call.
Once they hear our voices they’ll come running.
O, you darling bird, now don’t just stand there—
not when I’m begging you to go right now,
get in your thicket, wake your nightingale. 250
[Tereus goes back through the doors]*
Come my queen, don’t sleep so long,
pour forth the sound of sacred song— 
lament once more through lips divine
for Itys, your dead child and mine,
the one we’ve cried for all this time.*
out your music’s liquid trill
in that vibrato voice—the thrill
which echoes in those purest tones
through leafy haunts of yew trees roams
and rises up to Zeus’ throne. 260
with the golden hair
sits listening to your music there—
and in response he plucks his string—
his lyre of ivory then brings
the gods themselves to dance and sing.
Then from gods’ mouths in
come sounds of sacred melody.
[A flute starts playing within, in imitation of the nightingale’s song. The melody continues for a few moments]
By lord Zeus, that little birdie’s got a voice!
She pours her honey all through that thicket!
That hoopoe bird— 270
he’s all set to sing another song.
TEREUS [issuing a bird call to all the birds. His song or chant is accompanied by the flute indicating the nightingale’s song]
Io, io, ito, ito, ito, ito.
here to me,
all you with feathers just like mine, 
all you who live in country fields
fresh-ploughed, still full of seed,
and all you thousand tribes
who munch on barley corn
who gather up the grain, 280
and fly at such a speed
and utter your sweet cries,
all you who in the furrows there
twitter on the turned-up earth,
and sweetly sing
tio tio tio tio tio tio tio tio—
those of you
who like to scavenge food
from garden ivy shoots, 
all you in the hills up there 290
who eat from olive and arbutus trees.
come here as quickly as you can,
fly here in answer to this call—
trio-to trio-to toto-brix!
every one of you
in low-lying marshy ground
who snap sharp-biting gnats,
by regions of well-watered land,
and lovely fields of Marathon,
all you variously coloured birds, 300
godwits and francolins—
I’m calling you.
flocks who fly across the seas 
across the waves with halcyons
come here to learn the news.
We’re all assembling here,
all tribes of long-neck birds.
A shrewd old man’s arrived—
he’s here with a new plan,
a man of enterprise, 310
all set to improvise.
So gather all of you
to hear his words.
[The final words gradually change from coherent speech into a bird call]
here, come here,
come here, come here.
Kik-kabau, kik-kabau. 
Toro-toro toro-toro li-li-lix
[Euelpides and Pisthetairos start looking up into the sky for birds]
Seen any birds lately?
No, by Apollo, I haven’t—
even though I’m staring up into the sky, 320
not even blinking.
It seems to me
that hoopoe bird was just wasting time
hiding, like a curlew, in that thicket,
and screaming out his bird calls—
[imitating Tereus] po-poi po-poi
[There is an instant response to Pisthetairos’ call from off stage, a loud bird call which really scares Pisthetairos and Euelpides]
Hey, my good man, here comes a bird.
[Enter a flamingo, very tall and flaming red-something Pisthetairos and Euelpides have never seen]
that’s a bird? What kind would you call that?
It couldn’t be a peacock, could it?
[Tereus re-enters from the thicket]
Tereus here will tell us. Hey, my friend, 330
what’s that bird there?
Not your everyday fowl—
the kind you always see. She’s a marsh bird. 
My goodness, she’s gorgeous—flaming red!
Naturally, that’s why she’s called Flamingo.
[A second bird enters, a Peacock]
Hey . . .
What is it?
Another bird’s arrived.
You’re right. By god, this one looks really odd.
[To Tereus] Who’s this bizarre bird-prophet of the Muse,
this strutter from the hills?
He’s called the Mede.
He’s a Mede? By lord Hercules, how come
a Mede flew here without his camel? 340
Here’s another one . . .
[The next bird enters, another Hoopoe]
. . what a crest of feathers!
PISTHETAIROS [To Tereus]
What’s this marvel? You’re not the only hoopoe? 
This here’s another one?
He’s my grandson—
son of Philocles the Hoopoe—it’s like
those names you pass along, when you call
Hipponicus the son of Callias,
and Callias son of Hipponicus.*
So this bird is Callias. His feathers—
he seems to have lost quite a few.
Yes, that’s true—
being a well-off bird he’s plucked by parasites, 350
and female creatures flock around him, too,
to yank his plumage out.
[Enter the Glutton-bird, an invented species, very fat and brightly coloured]
here’s another bright young bird. What’s it called?
This one’s the Glutton-bird.
Cleonymus is not the only one?*
If this bird were like our Cleonymus, 
wouldn’t he have thrown away his crest?
Why do all the birds display such head crests?
Are they going to run a race in armour?
No, my dear fellow, they live up on the crests, 360
because it’s safer, like the Carians.*
Holy Poseidon, do you see those birds!
What a fowl bunch of them—all flocking here!
in the same direction]
Lord Apollo, there’s a huge bird cloud! Wow!
So many feathered wings in there I can’t see
a way through all those feathers to the wings.
[Enter the Chorus of Birds in a dense mass. Pisthetairos and Euelpides clamber up the rock to get a better look at them]
Hey, look at that—
it’s a partridge, and that one over there,
by Zeus, a francolin—there’s a widgeon—
and that’s a halcyon!
What’s the one behind her?
What is it? It’s a spotted shaver.
You mean there’s a bird that cuts our hair?
After all, there’s that barber in the city—
the one we all call Sparrow Sporgilos.* 
Here comes an owl.
Well, what about that?
Who brings owls to Athens?*
birds in the crowd]
. . . a turtle dove,
a jay, lark, sedge bird . . .
. . . finch, pigeon . . .
. . . falcon,
hawk, ring dove . . .
. . . cuckoo, red shank . . .
. . . fire-crest . . .
. . . porphyrion, kestrel, dabchick, bunting,
vulture, and that one’s there’s a . . . [he’s stumped]
. . . woodpecker!!
What a crowd of birds! A major flock of fowls! 380
All that twitter as they prance around,
those rival cries! . . . Oh, oh, what’s going on?
Are they a threat? They’re looking straight at us—
their beaks are open!
It looks that way to me.
CHORUS LEADER [starting
with a bird call]
To-toto-to to-toto-to to-to. 
Who’s been calling me?
Where’s he keep his nest?
I’m the one. I’ve been waiting here a while.
I’ve not left my bird friends in the lurch.
Ti-tit-ti ti-tit-ti ti-ti-ti-ti 390
tell me as a friend what you have to say.
I have news for all of us—something safe,
judicious, sweet, and profitable.
Two men have just come here to visit me,
two subtle thinkers . . .
CHORUS LEADER [interrupting]
What? What are you saying?
I’m telling you two old men have arrived— 
they’ve come from lands where human beings live
and bring the stalk of a stupendous plan.
You fool! This is the most disastrous thing
since I was hatched. What are you telling us? 400
Don’t be afraid of what I have to say.
What have you done to us?
I’ve welcomed here
two men in love with our society.
You dared to do that?
Yes, indeed, I did.
And I’m very pleased I did so.
These two men of yours,
are they among us now?
Yes, as surely as I am.
into a song of indignation]
He’s cheated us,
he’s done us wrong.
That friend of ours, 410
who all along
has fed with us
in fields we share, 
now breaks old laws
and doesn’t care.
swore a pact
of all the birds.
He’s now trapped us
with deceitful words—
so power goes 420
to all our foes,
that wicked race
which since its birth
was raised for war
with us on earth.
We’ll have some words with that one later.
These two old men should get their punishment—
I think we should give it now. Let’s do it—
rip ’em to pieces, bit by bit.
We’re done for.
It’s all your fault—getting us into this mess. 430
Why’d you bring me here?
I wanted you to come. 
What? So I could weep myself to death?
Now, you’re really talking nonsense—
how do you intend to weep, once these birds
poke out your eyes?
towards Pisthetairos and Euelpides
On, on . . .
let’s move in to attack,
and launch a bloody rush,
come in from front and back,
and break ’em in the crush—
with wings on every side 440
they’ll have no place to hide.
two will start to howl,
when my beak starts to eat
and makes ’em food for fowl.
There’s no well-shaded peak,
no cloud or salt-grey sea 
where they can flee from me.
Now let’s bite and tear these two apart!
Where’s the brigadier? Bring up the right wing!
[The birds start to close in on Pisthetairos and Euelpides, cowering up on the rocks]
This is it! I’m done for. Where can I run? 450
Why aren’t you staying put?
Here with you?
I don’t want ’em to rip me into pieces.
How do you intend to get away from them?
I haven’t a clue.
Then I’ll tell you how—
we have to stay right here and fight it out.
So put that cauldron down.
[Pisthetairos takes the cauldron from Euelpides and sets it down on the ground in front of them]
What good’s a cauldron?
It’ll keep the owls away from us.
What about the birds with claws?
in the pack]
Grab this spit—
stick it in the ground in front of you.
How do we protect our eyes? 
a couple of tin bowls]
An upturned bowl. 460
Set this on your head.
the tin bowl upside down on his head and holding up the pot, with the spit
stuck in the ground]
What a grand stroke of warlike strategy!
In military matters you’re the best—
already smarter than that Nikias*
[Pisthetairos and Euelpides, with tin bowls on
their heads, await the birds’ charge-with Pisthetairos hiding behind
Euelpides, who is holding up the big pot. Their two slaves cower behind them]
El-el-el-eu . . . Charge!
Keep those beaks level—no holding back now!
Pull ‘em, scratch ’em, hit ’em, rip their skins off!
Go smash that big pot first of all.
[As the Chorus is about to start its charge, Tereus rushes in between the two men and the Chorus and
to stop the Chorus Leader]
Hold on, you wickedest of animals!
Tell me this: Why do you want to kill these men, 470
to tear them both to bits? They’ve done no wrong.
Besides, they’re my wife’s relatives, her clansmen.
Why should we be more merciful to them
than we are to wolves? What other animals
are greater enemies of ours than them?
Have we got better targets for revenge? 
Yes, by nature enemies—but what if
they’ve got good intentions? What if they’ve come
to teach you something really valuable?
How could they ever teach us anything, 480
or tell us something useful—they’re enemies,
our feathered forefathers’ fierce foes.
But folks with fine minds find from foemen
they can learn a lot. Caution saves us all.
We don’t learn that from friends. But enemies
can force that truth upon us right away.
That’s why cities learn, not from their allies,
but from enemies, how to build high walls,
assemble fleets of warships—in that way,
their knowledge saves their children, homes, and goods. 490 
Well, here’s what seems best to me—first of all,
let’s hear what they have come to say. It’s true—
our enemies can teach us something wise.
I think their anger’s easing off. Let’s retreat.
[Pisthetairos and Euelpides inch their way toward the doors, still bunched together, with Euelpides holding up the pot]
the Chorus Leader]
It’s only fair—and you do owe me a favour,
out of gratitude.
In other things,
before today, we’ve never stood against you.
They’re acting now more peacefully to us—
so put that pot and bowl down on the ground.
But we’d better hang onto the spit, our spear. 500
We’ll use it on patrol inside our camp 
right by this cauldron here. Keep your eyes peeled—
don’t even think of flight.
[Euelpides puts down the cauldron, removes his
tin-plate helmet, and marches with the spear back and forth
by the cauldron, on guard]
What happens if we’re killed? Where on earth
will we be buried?
where the potters live—they’ll bury both of us.
We’ll get it done and have the public pay—
I’ll tell the generals we died in battle,
fighting with the troops at Orneai.*
Fall back into the ranks you held before. 510 
Bend over, and like well-armed soldier boys,
put your spirit and your anger down.
We’ll look into who these two men may be,
where they come from, what their intentions are.
[The Chorus of Birds breaks up and retreats]
Hey, Hoopoe bird, I’m calling you!
What would you like to hear?
These two men—
where do they come from and who are they?
These strangers are from Greece, font of wisdom.
What accident or words 
now brings them to the birds? 520
The two men love your life,
adore the way you live—
they want to share with you
in all there is to give.
What’s that you just said?
What plan is in their head?
Things you’d never think about—
you’ll be amazed—just hear him out.
He thinks it’s good that he
should stay and live with me? 530
Is he trusting in some plan
to help his fellow man
or thump his enemy? 
He talks of happiness
too great for thought or words
He claims this emptiness—
all space—is for the birds—
here, there, and everywhere.
You’ll be convinced, I swear.
Is he crazy in the head? 540
He is shrewder than I said.
A brilliant thinking box?
The subtlest, sharpest fox—
he’s been around a lot
knows every scheme and plot. 
Ask him to speak to us, to tell us all.
As I listen now to what you’re telling me,
it makes me feel like flying—taking off!
the two slaves]
Take their suits of armour in the house—
hang the stuff up in the kitchen there, 550
beside the cooking stool—may it bring good luck!
[turning to Pisthetairos]
Now you. Lay out your plans—explain to them
the reason why I called them all together.
[Pisthetairos is struggling with the servants, refusing to give up his armour]
No. By Apollo, I won’t do it—
not unless they swear a pact with me
just like one that monkey Panaitios, 
who makes our knives, had his wife swear to him—
not to bite or pull my balls or poke me.
You mean up your . . .
No, not there. I mean the eyes.
Oh, I’ll agree to that.
Then swear an oath on it. 560
I swear on this condition—that I get
all the judges’ and spectators’ votes and win.*
Oh, you’ll win!
And if I break the oath
then let me win by just a single vote.
Listen all of you! The armed infantry
can now pick up their weapons and go home.
Keep an eye out for any bulletins
we put up on our notice boards. 
Man’s by nature’s born to lie.
But state your case. Give it a try. 570
There’s a chance you have observed
some useful things inside this bird,
some greater power I possess,
which my dull brain has never guessed.
So tell all here just what you see.
If there’s a benefit to me,
we’ll share in it communally.
Tell us the business that’s brings you here. 
Persuade us of your views. So speak right up.
No need to be afraid—we’ve made a pact— 580
we won’t be the ones who break it first.
By god, I’m full of words, bursting to speak.
I’ve worked my speech like well-mixed flour—
like kneading dough. There’s nothing stopping me.
[giving instructions to the two slaves]
You, lad, fetch me a speaker’s wreath—and, you,
bring water here, so I can wash my hands.
[The two slaves go into the house and return with a wreath and some water]
You mean it’s time for dinner? What’s going on?
For a long time now I’ve been keen, by god,
to give them a stupendous speech—overstuffed—
something to shake their tiny birdy souls. 590
[Pisthetairos, with the wreath on his head, now turns to the birds and begins his formal oration]
I’m so sorry for you all, who once were kings . . .
Kings? Us? What of?
You were kings indeed,
you ruled over everything there is—
over him and me, first of all, and then
over Zeus himself. You see, your ancestry
goes back before old Kronos and the Titans,
way back before even Earth herself!*
Before the Earth?
Yes, by Apollo.
Well, that’s something I never knew before! 
That’s because you’re naturally uninformed— 600
you lack resourcefulness. You’ve not read Aesop.
His story tells us that the lark was born
before the other birds, before the Earth.
Her father then grew sick and died. For five days
he lay there unburied—there was no Earth.
Not knowing what to do, at last the lark,
at her wits’ end, set him in her own head.
So now, the father of the lark lies dead
in a headland plot.
So if they were born
before the Earth, before the gods, well then, 610
as the eldest, don’t they get the right to rule?
By Apollo, yes they do.
[addressing the audience]
So you out there,
look ahead and sprout yourselves a beak—
in good time Zeus will hand his sceptre back 
to the birds who peck his sacred oaks.
Way back then it wasn’t gods who ruled.
They didn’t govern men. No. It was the birds.
There’s lots of proof for this. I’ll mention here
example number one—the fighting cock—
first lord and king of all those Persians, 620
well before the time of human kings—
those Dariuses and Megabazuses.
Because he was their king, the cock’s still called
the Persian Bird.
That’s why to this very day
the cock’s the only bird to strut about
like some great Persian king, and on his head
he wears his crown erect.
He was so great,
so mighty and so strong, that even now,
thanks to his power then, when he sings out
his early morning song, all men leap up 630
to head for work—blacksmiths, potters, tanners, 
men who deal in corn or supervise the baths,
or make our shields or fabricate our lyres—
they all lace on their shoes and set off in the dark.
I can vouch for that! I had some bad luck,
thanks to that cock—I lost my cloak to thieves,
a soft and warm one, too, of Phrygian wool.
I’d been invited to a festive do,
where some child was going to get his name,
right here in the city. I’d had some drinks— 640
and those drinks, well, they made me fall asleep.
Before the other guests began to eat,
that bird lets rip his cock-a-doodle-doo!
I thought it was the early morning call.
So I run off for Halimus*—but then,
just outside the city walls, I get mugged,
some coat thief hits me square across the back—
he used a cudgel! When I fall down there,
about to cry for help, he steals my cloak!
To resume—way back then the Kite was king. 650
He ruled the Greeks.
King of the Greeks!!
As king he was the first to show us how 
to grovel on the ground before a kite.
By Dionysus, I once saw a kite
and rolled along the ground, then, on my back,
my mouth wide open, gulped an obol down.
I had to trudge home with an empty sack.*
Take Egypt and Phoenicia—they were ruled
by Cuckoo kings. And when they cried “Cuckoooo!!”
all those Phoenicians harvested their crop— 660
the wheat and barley in their fields.
if someone’s cock is ploughing your wife’s field,
we call you “Cuckoo!”—you’re being fooled!*
The kingship of the birds was then so strong
that in the cities of the Greeks a king—
an Agamemnon, say, or Menelaus—
had a bird perched on his regal sceptre.
And it got its own share of all the gifts 
the king received.
Now, that I didn’t know.
I always get amazed in tragedies 670
when some king Priam comes on with a bird.
I guess it stands on guard there, keeping watch
to see what presents Lysicrates gets.*
Here’s the weirdest proof of all—lord Zeus
who now commands the sky, because he’s king,
carries an eagle on his head. There’s more—
his daughter has an owl, and Apollo,
like a servant, has a hawk.
by Demeter! What’s the reason for those birds?
So when someone makes a sacrifice 680
and then, in accordance with tradition,
puts the guts into god’s hands, the birds
can seize those entrails well before Zeus can.
Back then no man would swear upon the gods—
they swore their oaths on birds. And even now, 
our Lampon seals his promises “By Goose,”
when he intends to cheat.* In days gone by,
all men considered you like that—as great
and sacred beings. Now they all think of you
as slaves and fools and useless layabouts. 690
They throw stones at you, as if you’re mad.
And every hunter in the temples there
sets up his traps—all those nooses, gins,
limed sticks and snares, fine mesh and hunting nets,
and cages, too. Then once they’ve got you trapped,
they sell you by the bunch. Those who come to buy
poke and prod your flesh. If you seem good to eat, 
they don’t simply roast you by yourself—no!
They grate on cheese, mix oil and silphium
with vinegar—and then whip up a sauce, 700
oily and sweet, which they pour on you hot,
as if you were a chunk of carrion meat.
This human speaks
of our great pain
our fathers’ sins 
we mourn again—
born into rule,
they threw away
what they received,
their fathers’ sway. 710
But now you’ve come—
fine stroke of fate—
to save our cause.
Here let me state
I’ll trust myself
and all my chicks
to help promote
You need to stick around to tell us all
what we should do. Our lives won’t be worth living 720
unless by using every scheme there is
we get back what’s ours—our sovereignty.
Then the first point I’d advise you of is this: 
there should be one single city of the birds.
Next, you should encircle the entire air,
all this space between the earth and heaven,
with a huge wall of baked brick—like Babylon.
O Kebriones and Porphyrion!
What a mighty place! How well fortified!*
When you’ve completed that, demand from Zeus 730
he give you back your rule. If he says no,
he doesn’t want to and won’t sign on at once,
you then declare a holy war on him.
Tell those gods they can’t come through your space
with cocks erect, the way they used to do,
rushing down to screw another woman—
like Alkmene, Semele, or Alope.*
For if you ever catch them coming down
you’ll stamp your seal right on their swollen pricks— 
they won’t be fucking women any more. 740
And I’d advise you send another bird
as herald down to human beings to say
that since the birds from now on will be kings,
they have to offer sacrifice to them.
The offerings to the gods take second place.
Then each of the gods must be closely matched
with an appropriate bird. So if a man
is offering Athena holy sacrifice,
he must first give the Coot some barley corn.
If sacrificing sheep to god Poseidon, 750
let him bring toasted wheat grains to the Duck.
And anyone who’s going to sacrifice
to Hercules must give the Cormorant
some honey cakes. A ram for Zeus the king?
Then first, because the Wren is king of birds,
ahead of Zeus himself, his sacrifice
requires the worshipper to execute
an uncastrated gnat.
I like that bit about
the slaughtered gnat. Now thunder on, great Zan.* 
But how will humans think of us as gods 760
and not just jackdaws flying around on wings?
A foolish question. Hermes is a god,
and he has wings and flies—so do others,
all sorts of them. There’s Victory, for one,
with wings of gold. And Eros is the same.
Then there’s Iris—just like a timorous dove,
that’s what Homer says.
But what if Zeus
lets his thunder peal, then fires down on us
his lightning bolt—that’s got wings as well.
Now, if men in their stupidity 770
think nothing of you and keep worshipping
Olympian gods, then a large cloud of birds,
of rooks and sparrows, must attack their farms,
devouring all the seed. And as they starve,
let Demeter then dole out grain to them. 
She won’t be willing to do that, by Zeus.
She’ll make excuses—as you’ll see.
Then as a test,
the ravens can peck out their livestock’s eyes,
the ones that pull the ploughs to work the land,
and other creatures, too. Let Apollo 780
make them better—he’s the god of healing.
That’s why he gets paid.
But you can’t do this
’til I’ve sold my two little oxen first.
But if they think of you as god, as life,
as Earth, as Kronos and Poseidon, too,
then all good things will come to them.
what these good things are.
Well, for starters,
locusts won’t eat the blossoms on their vines.
The owls and kestrels in just one platoon
will rid them of those pests. Mites and gall wasps 790 
won’t devour the figs. One troop of thrushes
will eradicate them one and all.
But how will we make people wealthy?
That’s what they mostly want.
When people come
petitioning your shrines, the birds can show
the mining sites that pay. They’ll tell the priest
the profitable routes for trade. That way
no captain of a ship will be wiped out.
Why won’t those captains come to grief?
They’ll always ask the birds about the trip. 800
Their seer will say, “A storm is on the way.
Don’t sail just yet” or “Now’s the time to sail—
you’ll turn a tidy profit.”
Hey, that’s for me—
I’ll buy a merchant ship and take command.
I won’t be staying with you.
Birds can show men
the silver treasures of their ancestors,
buried in the ground so long ago.
For birds know where these are. Men always say, 
“No one knows where my treasure lies, no one,
except perhaps some bird.”
I’ll sell my boat. 810
I’ll buy a spade and dig up tons of gold.
How will we provide for human health?
Such things dwell with the gods.
If they’re doing well,
is that not giving them good health?
A man whose business isn’t very sound
is never medically well.
but how will they get old? That’s something, too,
Olympian gods bestow. Must they die young?
No, no, by god. The birds will add on years,
three hundred more.
And where will those come from? 820
From the birds’ supply. You know the saying,
“Five human lifetimes lives the cawing crow.”*
My word, these birds are much more qualified 
to govern us than Zeus.
Far better qualified!
First, we don’t have to build them holy shrines,
made out of stone, or put up golden doors
to decorate their sanctuaries. They live
beneath the bushes and young growing trees.
As for the prouder birds, an olive grove
will be their temple. When we sacrifice, 830
no need to go to Ammon or to Delphi—
we’ll just stand among arbutus trees 
or oleasters with an offering—
barley grains or wheat—uttering our prayers,
our arms outstretched, so from them we receive
our share of benefits. And these we’ll gain
by throwing them a few handfuls of grain.
Old man, how much you’ve been transformed for me—
From my worst enemy into my friend,
my dearest friend. These strategies of yours— 840
I’ll not abandon them, not willingly.
The words you’ve said make us rejoice—
and so we’ll swear with just one voice
an oath that if you stand with me— 
our thoughts and aims in unity—
honest, pious, just, sincere,
to go against the gods up there,
if we’re both singing the same song
the gods won’t have my sceptre long.
Whatever can be done with force alone 850
we’re ready to take on—what requires brains
or thinking through, all that stuff’s up to you.
That’s right, by Zeus. No time for dozing now, 
or entertaining doubts, like Nikias.*
No—let’s get up and at it fast.
But first, you must come in this nest of mine,
these sticks and twigs assembled here. So now,
both of you, tell us your names.
My name’s Pisthetairos.
And this man here?
I’m Euelpides, from Crioa. 860
Welcome both of you!
PISTHETAIROS and EUELPIDES
Thanks very much.
Won’t you come in?
Let’s go. But you go first—
show us the way.
Come on, then.
[Tereus enters his house]
back, calling into the house]
But . . . it’s strange . . .
Come back a minute.
[Tereus reappears at the door]
Look, tell us both
how me and him can share the place with you
when you can fly but we’re not able to. 
I don’t see any problem there.
but in Aesop’s fables there’s a story told
about some fox who hung around an eagle,
with unfortunate results.
Don’t be afraid. 870
We have a little root you nibble on—
and then you’ll grow some wings.
All right then,
let’s go. [To the slaves] Manodorus, Xanthias,
bring in our mattresses.
CHORUS LEADER [to
Hold on a second—
I’m calling you.
Why are you calling me?
Take those two men in—give ‘em a good meal.
But bring your tuneful nightingale out here,
who with the Muses sings such charming songs—
leave her with us so we can play together. 
Yes, by god—agree to their request. 880
Bring out your little birdie in the reeds.
For gods’ sake, bring her out, so we can see
this lovely nightingale of yours.
If that’s what you both want, it must be done.
Come here, Procne. Our guests are calling you.
[Enter Procne from the
house. She has a nightingale’s head and wings but the body of a young woman.
She is wearing gold jewellery]
Holy Zeus, that’s one gorgeous little bird!
What a tender chick!
How I’d love to help that birdie
spread her legs, if you catch my drift.
Look at that—
all the gold she’s wearing—just like a girl. 
What I’d like to do right now is kiss her. 890
You idiot—look at that beak she’s got,
a pair of skewers.
All right, by god,
we’ll treat her like an egg—peel off the shell,
take it clean off her head, and then we’ll kiss her.
Let’s get inside.
You lead us in—good luck to all!
[Pisthetairos, Euelpides, Tereus, Xanthias, and Manodorus enter the house]
Ah, my tawny throated love,
of all the birds that fly above
you’re dearest to my heart
your sweet melodious voice
in my song plays its part— 900
my lovely Nightingale,
you’ve come, 
And now you’re here with me.
Pour forth your melody.
Pipe out the lovely sounds of spring,
a prelude to my rhythmic speech
in every melody you sing.
[Procne plays on the
flute for a few moments as the Chorus Leader prepares to address the audience
He steps forward getting close to the spectators]
Come now, you men out there, who live such dark, sad lives—
you’re frail, just like a race of leaves—you’re shaped from clay,
you tribes of insubstantial shadows without wings,
you creatures of a day, unhappy mortal men,
you figures from a dream, now turn your minds to us,
the eternal, deathless, air-borne, ageless birds,
whose wisdom never dies, so you may hear from us
the truth about celestial things, about the birds— 
how they sprang into being, how the gods arose,
how rivers, Chaos, and dark Erebus were formed*—
about all this you’ll learn the truth. And so from me
tell Prodicus in future to depart.* At the start, 920
there was Chaos, and Night, and pitch-black Erebus,
and spacious Tartarus. There was no earth, no heaven,
no atmosphere. Then in the wide womb of Erebus,
that boundless space, black-winged Night, first creature born,
made pregnant by the wind, once laid an egg. It hatched,
when seasons came around, and out of it sprang Love—
the source of all desire, on his back the glitter
of his golden wings, just like the swirling whirlwind.
In broad Tartarus, Love had sex with murky Chaos.
From them our race was born—our first glimpse of the light. 930
Before that there was no immortal race at all,
not before Love mixed all things up. But once they’d bred 
and blended in with one another, Heaven was born,
Ocean and Earth—and all that clan of deathless gods.
Thus, we’re by far the oldest of all blessed ones,
for we are born from Love. There’s lots of proof for this.
We fly around the place, assisting those in love—
the handsome lads who swear they’ll never bend for sex,
but who, as their young charms come to an end, agree
to let male lovers bugger them, thanks to the birds, 940
our power as gifts—one man gives a porphyrion,
another man a quail, a third one gives a goose,
and yet another offers up a Persian Fowl.*
All mortals’ greatest benefits come from us birds.
The first is this: we make the season known—springtime,
winter, autumn—it’s time to sow, as soon as Crane
migrates to Lybia with all that noise. He tells 
the master mariner to hang his rudder up
and go to sleep awhile. He tells Orestes, too,
to weave himself a winter cloak, so he won’t freeze 950
when he sets out again to rip off people’s clothes.*
Then after that the Kite appears, to let you know
another season’s here—it’s time to shear the sheep.
Then Swallow comes. Now you should sell your winter cloak
and get yourself a light one. So we’re your Ammon,
Delphi and Dodona—we’re your Apollo, too.*
See how, in all your business, you first look to birds—
when you trade, buy goods, or when a man gets married.
Whatever you think matters in a prophecy,
you label that a bird—to you, Rumour’s a bird; 
you say a sneeze or a chance meeting is a bird,
a sound’s a bird, a servant’s a bird—and so’s an ass.
It’s clear you look on us as your Apollo.
So you ought to make gods of your birds,
your muses prophetic, whose words
all year round you’ve got,
unless it’s too hot.
Your questions will always be heard.
we won’t run away to a cloud
and sit there like Zeus, who’s so proud— 970
we’re ready to give,
hang out where you live,
and be there for you in the crowd.
Yes, to you, your children, and their children, too, 
we’ll grant wealth and health, good life, and happiness,
peace, youth, laughter, dances, festivals of song—
and birds’ milk, too—so much, you’ll find yourself worn out
with our fine gifts—yes, that’s how rich you’ll be.
O woodland Muse
my muse of varied artful song
on trees and from high mountain peaks 
to your notes I sing along
in my leafy ash tree seat.
From my tawny throat I fling
my sacred melodies to Pan.
In holy dance I chant and sing
our mother from the mountain land. 990
Here Phrynichus would always sip 
ambrosial nectar from our tone
to make sweet music of his own.
If there’s someone out there in the audience
who’d like to spend his future life among the birds
enjoying himself, he should come to us. Here, you see,
whatever is considered shameful by your laws,
is all just fine among us birds. Consider this— 1000
if your tradition says one shouldn’t beat one’s dad,
up here with us it’s all right if some young bird
goes at his father, hits him, cries, “You wanna fight?
Then put up your spur!” If out there among you all 
there is, by chance, a tattooed slave who’s run away,
we’ll call him a spotted francolin. Or else,
if someone happens to be Phrygian, as pure
as Spintharos, he’ll be a Philemon-bred finch.
If he’s like Execestides, a Carian slave,
let him act the Cuckoo—steal his kin from us— 1010
some group of citizens will claim him soon enough.
And if the son of Peisias still has in mind
betraying our city gates to worthless men,
let him become his father’s little partridge cock—
for us there’s nothing wrong with crafty partridge stock.
That’s how the swans 
massed in a crowd
with rustling wings
once raised aloud 1020
They sat in rows
on river banks
where Hebros flows.
Their song then rose
through cloud and air—
it cast its spell
on mottled tribes 1030
of wild beasts there—
the silent sky
calmed down the sea.
Olympus rang— 
its lords and kings.
Then Muses there
and Graces, too,
voiced their response— 1040
There’s nothing sweeter or better than growing wings.
If any of you members of the audience
had wings, well, if you were feeling bored or hungry
with these tragic choruses, you could fly away,
go home for dinner, and then, once you’d had enough,
fly back to us again. Or if, by any chance,
a Patrocleides sits out there among you all, 
dying to shit, he wouldn’t have to risk a fart 1050
in his own pants—he could fly off and let ’er rip,
take a deep breath, and fly back down again.
If it should be the case that one of you out there
is having an affair, and you observe her husband
sitting here, in seats reserved for Council men,
well, once again, you could fly off and fuck the wife,
then fly back from her place and take your seat once more.
Don’t you see how having wings to fly beats everything?
Just look at Diitrephes—the only wings he had
were handles on his flasks of wine, but nonetheless, 1060
they chose him to lead a squad of cavalry,
then for a full command, so now, from being nobody,
he carries out our great affairs—he’s now become 
a tawny civic horse-cock.*
[Enter Pisthetairos and Euelpides from Tereus’ house. They now have wings on and feathers on their
instead of hair}
Well, that’s that. By Zeus,
I’ve never seen a more ridiculous sight!
What are you laughing at?
At your feathers.
Have you any idea what you look like—
what you most resemble with those feathers on?
A goose painted by some cheap artiste!
And you look like a blackbird—one whose hair 1070
has just been cut using a barber’s bowl.
People will use us as metaphors—
as Aeschlyus would say, “We’re shot by feathers
not from someone else but of our very own.”
All right, then. What do we now need to do?
First, we have to name our city, something
fine and grand. Then after that we sacrifice 
an offering to the gods.
That’s my view, too.
So what name shall we give our city?
Well, do you want to use that mighty name 1080
from Lacedaimon—shall we call it Sparta?
By Hercules, would I use that name Sparta
for my city? No. I wouldn’t even try
esparto grass to make my bed, not if
I could use cords of linen.*
All right then, what name
shall we provide?
Some name from around here—
to do with clouds, with high places full of air,
something really extra grand.
how do you like this: Cloudcuckooland?
Yes! That’s good! You’ve come up with a name 1090 
that’s really wonderful—it’s great!
is this Cloudcuckooland the very spot
where Theogenes keeps lots of money,
and Aeschines hides all his assets?*
It’s even more than that—it’s Phlegra Plain,
the place where gods beat up on all the giants
in a bragging match.*
This fine metropolis!
O what a glittering thing this city is!
Now who should be the city’s guardian god?
Who gets to wear the sacred robes we weave? 1100
Why not let Athena do the guarding?
But how can we have a finely ordered state
where a female goddess stands there fully armed, 
while Cleisthenes still fondles weaving shuttles.*
Well, who will hold our city’s strong Storkade?
A bird among us of a Persian breed—
it’s said to be the fiercest anywhere
of all the war god’s chicks.
Some princely cocks?
They’re just the gods to live among the rocks!
Come now, you must move up into the air, 1110
and help the ones who’re building up the wall—
hoist rubble for ’em, strip and mix the mortar,
haul up the hod, and then fall off the ladder. 
Put guards in place, and keep all fires concealed.
Make your inspection rounds holding the bell.*
Go to sleep up there. Then send out heralds—
one to gods above, one down to men below.
And then come back from there to me.
You’ll stay here? Well, to hell with you . . .
Hey, my friend,
you should go where I send you—without you 1120
none of that work I mentioned will get done.
We need a sacrifice to these new gods.
I’ll call a priest to organize the show.
[Euelpides exits. Pisthetairos calls to the slaves through the doors of Tereus’ house]
You, boy, pick up the basket, and you,
my lad, grab up the holy water. 
[Pisthetairos enters the house. As the Chorus
sings, the slaves emerge and prepare for the sacrifice.
The Chorus is accompanied by a raven playing the pipes]
I think it’s good and I agree,
your notions here are fine with me,
a great big march with dancing throngs
and to the gods send holy songs,
and then their benefits to keep 1130
we’ll sacrifice a baby sheep—
let go our cry, the Pythian shout,
while Chaeris plays our chorus out.
[The Raven plays erratically on the pipe.
Pisthetairos comes out of the house. He brings a priest with him,
who is leading a small scrawny goat for the sacrifice]
Stop blowing all that noise! By Hercules,
what’s this? I’ve seen some strange things, heaven knows, 
but never this—a raven with a pipe
shoved up his nose. Come on, priest, work your spell,
and sacrifice to these new gods as well.
I’ll do it. But where’s the basket-bearing boy?
[The slave appears with the basket]
Let us now pray to Hestia of the birds,* 1140
and to the Kite that watches o’er the hearth,
to all Olympian birds and birdesses . . .
O Hawk of Sunium, all hail to you,
Lord of the Sea . . .
And to the Pythian Swan of Delos—
let’s pray to Leto, mother of the quail 
to Artemis the Goldfinch . . .
Ha! No more goddess
of Colaenis now, but goldfinch Artemis . . .
. . . to Sabazdios, Phrygian frigate bird,
to the great ostrich mother of the gods 1150
and of all men . . .
. . . to Cybele, our ostrich queen,
mother of Cleocritos* . . .
. . . may they give
to all Cloudcuckooites security,
good health, as well—and to the Chians, too.*
I do like that—the way those Chians 
always get tacked on everywhere—
. . . to Hero birds, and to their chicks,
to Porphyrions and Pelicans,
both white and grey, to Raptor-birds and Pheasants,
Peacocks and Warblers . . .
[The Priest starts to get carried away]
. . Ospreys and Teals
Herons and Gannets, Terns, small Tits, big Tits, and . . . 1160
Hold on, dammit—stop calling all these birds.
You idiot! In what sort of sacrifice 
does one call for ospreys and for vultures?
Don’t you see—one kite could snatch this goat,
then carry it away? Get out of here,
you and your garlands, too. I’ll do it myself—
I’ll offer up this beast all on my own.
[Pisthetairos pushes the Priest away. Exit Priest]
Now once again I have to sing
a song to purify you all,
a holy sacred melody. 1170
The Blessed Ones I have to call—
but if you’re in a mood to eat
we just need one and not a score
for here our sacrificial meat 
is horns and hair, and nothing more.
Let us pray while we make sacrifice
to our feathery gods . . . [raises his eyes to sky and shuts his eyes]
[A poet suddenly bursts on the scene reciting his verses as he enters]
O Muse, in your songs sing the renown
of Cloudcuckooland—this happy town . . .
Where’d this thing come from? Tell me—who are you? 1180
Me? I’m a sweet tongued warbler of the words—
a nimble servant of the Muse, as Homer says. 
You’re a slave and wear your hair that long?
No, but all poets of dramatic songs
are nimble servants of the Muse, as Homer says.
No doubt that’s why your nimble cloak’s so thin.
But, oh poet, why has thou come hither?
I’ve been making up all sorts of splendid songs
to celebrate your fine Cloudcuckoolands—
dithyrambs and virgin songs and other tunes 1190
after the style of that Simonides.*
When did you compose these tunes? Some time ago? 
O long long ago—yes, I’ve been singing
the glory of this town for years.
I’ve just been making sacrifice today—
the day our city gets its name. What’s more,
it’s only now, as with a new-born child,
I’ve given it that name.