CHORUS OF BIRDS (from "The Birds")
- E Children of Man! whose life
is a span,
- Protracted with sorrow from day to day,
- Naked and featherless, feeble and querulous,
- Sickly calamitous creatures of clay!
- Attend to the words of the Sovereign Birds,
- (Immortal, illustrious, lords of the air),
- Who survey from on high, with a merciful eye,
- Your struggles of misery, labor, and care.
- Whence you may learn and clearly discern
- Such truths as attract your inquisitive turn;
- Which is busied of late with a mighty debate,
- A profound speculation about the creation,
- And organical life, and chaotical strife,
- With various notions of heavenly motions,
- And rivers and oceans, and valleys and mountains,
- And sources of fountains, and meteors on high,
- And stars in the sky . . . We propose by and by,
- (If you'll listen and hear,) to make it all clear.
- And Prodicus henceforth shall pass for a dunce,
- When his doubts are explained and expounded at once.
- Our antiquity proved, it remains to be shown
- That Love is our author and master alone;
- Like him we can ramble, and gambol and fly
- O'er ocean and earth, and aloft to the sky;
- And all the world over, we're friends to the lover,
- And when other means fail, we are found to prevail,
- When a Peacock or Pheasant is sent as a present.
- All lessons of primary daily concern
- You have learnt from the Birds, and continue to learn,
- Your best benefactors and early instructors;
- We give you the warning of seasons returning.
- When the Cranes are arranged, and muster afloat
- In the middle air, with a creaking note,
- Steering away to the Libyan sands,
- Then careful farmers sow their lands;
- The crazy vessel is hauled ashore,
- The sail, the ropes, the rudder and oar
- Are all unshipped and housed in store.
- The shepherd is warned, by the Kite reappearing,
- To muster his flock, and be ready for shearing.
- You quit your old cloak at the Swallow's behest,
- In assurance of summer, and purchase a vest.
- For Delphi, for Ammon, Dodona, in fine
- For every oracular temple and shrine,
- The Birds are a substitute equal and fair,
- For on us you depend, and to us you repair
- For counsel and aid when a marriage is made,
- A purchase, a bargain, a venture in trade:
- Unlucky or lucky, whatever has struck ye,
- An ox or an ass that may happen to pass,
- A voice in the street, or a slave that you meet,
- A name or a word by chance overheard,
- If you deem it an omen, you call it a Bird;
- And if birds are your omens, it clearly will follow
- That birds are a proper prophetic Apollo.
POEMS BY ARISTOPHANES
This English translation, by John
Hookham Frere, of 'Chorus of Birds' is reprinted from Greek
Poets in English Verse. Ed. William Hyde Appleton. Cambridge:
The Riverside Press, 1893.