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on, however, till they come to the foot of the rocks, which stop up their passage, and put them to their wits' end. Here the raven croaks, and the jay chatters and looks up into the air, as much as to say that this is the place : upon which they knock with a stone and with their heels (as though it were against a door) against the side of the mountain.
“ Trochilus, a bird that waits upon Epops, appears above; he is frightened at the sight of two men, and they are much more so at the length of his beak and the fierceness of his aspect. He takes them for fowlers ; and they insist upon it, that they are not men, but birds. In their confusion, their guides, whom they held in a string, escape and fly away. Epops, during this, is asleep within, after having dined upon a dish of beetles and berries : their noise awakens him, and he comes out of the grove.
“At the strangeness of his figure, they are divided between fear and laughing. They tell him their errand, and he gives them the choice of several cities fit for their purpose, one particularly on the coast of the Red Sea, all which they refuse, for many comical reasons. He tells them the happiness of living among the birds; they are much pleased with the liberty and simplicity of it; and Pisthetaerus, a shrewd old fellow, proposes a scheme to improve it, and make them a far more powerful and considerable nation. Epops is struck with the project, and calls
his consort, the nightingale, to summon all his people together with her voice. They sing a fine ode.
“ The birds come flying down, at first one by one, and perch here and there about the scene ; and at last the Chorus, in a whole body, come hopping and fluttering and twittering in. At the sight of the two men they are in great tumult, and think that their king has betrayed
them to the enemy. They determine to tear the two old men to pieces, draw themselves up in battle array, and are giving the word to fall on. Euelpides and Pisthetaerus, in all the terrors of death, after upbraiding each the other for bringing him into such distress, and trying in vain to escape, assume courage from mere despair, seize upon the kitchen furniture which they had brought with them, and, armed with pipkins for helmets, and with spits for lances, they present a resolute front to the enemy's phalanx. On the point of battle, Epops interposes, pleads hard for his two guests, who are, he says, his wife's relations, and people of wonderful abilities, and well affected to their commonwealth. His eloquence has its effect : the birds grow less violent, they enter into a truce with the old men, and both sides lay down their arms. Pisthetaerus, upon the authority of Aesop's fables, proves to them the great antiquity of their nation ; that they were born before the creation of the earth, and before the gods, and once reigned over all countries, as he shows from several testimonies and monuments of different nations; that the cock wears his tiara erect, like the Persian king, and that all mankind start out of their beds at his command ; that when the kite makes his first appearance in the spring, every one prostrates himself on the ground before it; that the Egyptians and Phoenicians set about their harvest as soon as the cuckoo is heard ; that all kings bear an eagle on their sceptre, and many of the gods carry a bird on their head ; that many great men swear by the goose, &c., &c. When he has revived in them the memory of their ancient empire, he laments their present despicable condition, and the affronts put upon them by mankind. They are convinced of what he says, applaud his oration, and desire his advice. He proposes that they shall unite, and build a city in the mid-air, whereby all commerce will effectually be stopped between heaven and earth : the gods will no longer be able to visit at ease their Semeles and Alcmenas below, nor feast on the fume of sacrifices daily sent up to them, nor men enjoy the benefit of the seasons, nor the fruits of the earth, without permission from those winged deities of the middle region. He shows how mankind will lose nothing by this change of government; that the birds may be worshipped at a far ess expense, nothing more than a few berries or a handful of corn; that they will need no sumptuous temples; that, by their great knowledge of futurity, they will direct their good votaries in all their expeditions, so as they can never fail of success; that the ravens, famed for the length of their lives, may make a present of a century or two to their worshippers ; and, besides, the birds will ever be within call, when invoked, and not sit pouting in the clouds, and keeping their state so many miles off. The scheme is highly admired, and the two old men are to be made free of the city, and each of them is to be adorned with a pair of wings at the public charge. Epops invites them to his nest-royal, and entertains them nobly. The nightingale in the mean time joins the Chorus without, and the parabasis begins.
“ They sing their own nobility and ancient grandeur, their prophetic skill, the benefits they do mankind already, and all the good which they design them; they descant upon the power of music, in which they are such great masters, and intermix many strokes of satire; they show the advantages of flying, and apply it to several whimsical cases ; and they invite all such as would be free from the heavy tyranny of human laws to live among them, where it is no sin to beat one's father, &c., &c.
“ The old men, now become birds, and magnificently fledged, after laughing awhile at the new and awkward
figure they make, consult about the name which they shall give to their rising city, and fix upon that of Nephelococcygia, or Cuckoocloudland; and while one goes to superintend the workmen, the other prepares to sacrifice for the prosperity of the city, which is growing apace.
They begin a solemn prayer to all the birds of Olympus, putting the swan in the place of Apollo, the cock in that of Mars, and the ostrich in that of the great mother Cybele, &c.
“A miserable poet having already heard of the new settlement, comes with some lyric poetry, which he has composed on this great occasion. Pisthetaerus knows his errand from his looks, and makes them give him an old coat ; but, not contented with that, he begs to have the waistcoat to it, in the elevated style of Pindar: they comply, and get rid of him.
“The sacrifice is again interrupted by a begging prophet, who brings a cargo of oracles, partly relating to the prosperity of the city of Nephelococcygia, and partly to a new pair of shoes, of which he is in extreme want. Pisthetaerus loses patience, and cuffs him and his religious trumpery off the stage.
“ Meto, the famous geometrician, comes next, and offers a plan which he has drawn for the new buildings, with much importance and impertinence: he meets with as had a reception as the prophet.
“ An ambassador, or licensed spy, from Athens arrives, and a legislator, with a body of new laws. They are used with abundance of indignity, and go off, threatening everybody with a prosecution. The sacred rites being so often interrupted, they are forced to remove their altar, and finish them behind the scenes.
“ The Chorus rejoice in their own increasing power ; and (as about the time of the Dionysia it was usual to make proclamation against the enemies of the republic) they set a price upon the head of a famous poulterer, who has exercised infinite cruelties upon their friends and brethren; then they turn themselves to the judges and spectators, and promise, if this drama obtain the victory, how propitious they will be to them.
“ Pisthetaerus returns, and reports, that the sacrifice appears auspicious to their undertaking: a messenger then enters, with an account how quick the works advance, and whimsically describes the employments allotted to the several birds, in different parts of the building.
“ Another messenger arrives in a violent hurry, to tell how somebody from heaven has deceived the vigilance of the jackdaws, who were upon guard, and passed through the gates down into the lower air ; but that a whole squadron of light-winged forces were in pursuit of this insolent person, and hoped to fetch him back again. The birds are in great perturbation, and all in a flutter about it.
“ This proves to be Iris, who in her return is stopped short, and seized by order of Pisthetaerus. He examines her, Where is her passport? Whether she had leave from the watch? What is her business? Who is she? - in short, he treats her with great authority. She tells her name, and that she was sent by Jove with orders to mankind, that they should keep holiday, and perform a grand sacrifice; she wonders at their sauciness and madness, and threatens them with all her father's thunder. The governor of Nephelococcygia returns it with higher menaces, and with language very indecent indeed for a goddess and a maid to hear.
“ The herald, who had been despatched to the lower world, returns with an account that all Athens was gone bird-mad; that it was grown a fashion to imitate them in their names and manners ; and that shortly they might