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In the opening scene, two old Athenians appear, named Euelpides and Peisthetairos. Wearied with the annoyances to which they have been subjected in their native city, they leave it to search for Epops, the king of the birds, who was connected with the Attic traditions, under the mythical name of Tereus. They have taken with them, as guides of their journey, a raven and a jackdaw, which have led them up and down over a rough and rocky country, until the fugi. tives are jaded out by the fatigues of the way, and begin to scold about the cheating poulterer who has sold them, for an obol and a three-obol piece, a pair of birds good for nothing but to bite. At length they reach the forest and the steep rocks which shut them from all farther progress.
Line 1. 'Opohv. This agrees with odov, to be constructed with lévai, or some similar verb. Dost thou bid me go straight up ? — addressed to the jackdaw. For the ellipsis of the substantive, see Kühner, § 263.
2. Alappayeins. This is addressed, as a sort of humorous imprecation, to Euelpides. The word occurs frequently in the orators, especially Demosthenes, to express a violent passion or effort of the person to whom it is applied; as, for instance, ουδ' άν διαρραγής ψευδόμενος, « not even if you split with lying.” Translate here, May you split. — 18€, i. e.
kopávn, but this raven. — máu, back, in the opposite direction.
3. Tavúrtomer. A Scholiast speaks of this word as Attic for Alavóueda ; and Suidas, cited by Bothe, considers it as a comic usage; perhaps it may be rendered, Why are we tramping ?
4. άλλως = μάτην, to no purpose.
5, 6. Tò περιελθείν. For the construction of the infinitive in sentences expressing exclamation, see Kühner, § 308, Rem. 2. See also Clouds, 268, note.
11. ουδ' ' . . 'Eénkeotidns, Not even Exekestides could perceive the country hence. The name of this person occurs in two other places of the play, lines 766 and 1512. He was often introduced by the comic writers, and satirized as a person of barbarian origin, who had by fraudulent means got himself enrolled among the Athenian citizens. The meaning of the answer of Peisthetairos, then, is, are farther off than Exekestides : even he could not discern Athens from this spot.” “ It would puzzle Exekestides himself to make out Athens from here."
13. o'k twv ópvéwv, he of the birds ; i. e. the bird-seller or poulterer. The expression is like that in the Clouds (1065), oúk TÔ Núxvwv, the dealer in lamps. There is also an allusion here, and in line 16, to the town of Orneæ, in Argolis, which, according to a Scholiast, had suffered severely during the campaign which ended, B. C. 418, in the battle of Mantinea. See Thirlwall, Vol. III. p. 349, seq.
14. '0 .... Melayxodôv, The poulterer Philocrates, being mad. Philocrates would seem to have been well known as a dealer in birds in the Athenian market, He is again in. troduced by the Chorus (v. 1070), where a reward of one talent is offered for any one who will kill him ; for any one who will take him alive, four talents ; - his various of. fences against the race of birds being enumerated.
16. Ởs . . . . opvéwy. This refers, of course, to the fable of the metamorphosis of Tereus into the Epops, or Hoopoo, for which, see Ovid, Metam., VI. 423, seq. With regard to the Hoopoo, or Huppoo, Cary (Preface to Translation of the Birds) has the following note. “ As this bird acts a principal part in the play, the reader may not be displeased to see the following description of it:— At Penyrhiw, the farm to which this wild, uncultivated tract is a sheep-walk, was lately shot a Huppoo, a solitary bird, two being seldom seen together, and in this kingdom very uncommon ;
even in Egypt, where common, not very gregarious. Bewick’s description of it is very correct. Upupa of Linnæus, la Hupe of Buffon. This bird is of the order of Picæ; its length twelve inches, breadth nineteen; bill above two inches long, black, slender, and somewhat curved ; eyes hazel ; tongue very short and triangular; head ornamented with a crest, consisting of a double row of feathers of pale orange color, tipped with black; highest about two inches long; neck pale reddish brown, breast and belly white; back, scapulars, and wings crossed with broad bars of black and white; lesser coverts of the wings light brown, rump white ; the tail consists of ten feathers, each marked with white, which, when closed, assumes the form of a crescent, the horns pointing downwards ; legs short and black. Crest usually falls behind on its neck, except when surprised, and then erect, agreeing exactly with Pliny's character of it. “Cristâ visenda plicatili, contrahens eam subrigensque per longitudinem capitis," whose annotator, Dalecampius, mentions another curious particular of this bird : “ Nidum ex stercore
præcipuè conficit." Bewick, Vol. I. 262; Plin. Variorum, 688. In Sweden, the appearance of this bird is vulgarly considered as a presage
and it was formerly deemed in our country a forerunner of some calamity.' – Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire, by Richard Fenton,
Esq., p. 17. London, 4to, 1810. The particular mentioned by Dalecampius is observed by Aristotle also, who adds that the bird changes its appearance summer and winter, as most of the other wild birds do.” Von der Mühle (Beiträge zur Ornithologie Griechenlands, p. 34) says of the Epops, that it is found in great numbers in Greece, in the month of September, but more seldom in spring; that it is fond of the oleanders near the coast, &c.
What is the point of the phrase ék Tôv opvéwv, in this place, has been a question. The Scholiast explains it mapútróvolav · άδει γαρ εκ των ανθρώπων και i. e. instead of saying he was changed from a man to a bird, the poet gives an unexpected turn to the words and says, who became a bird from — the birds. Bergler's opinion is, “ Videtur voce õpvea metaphorice significare homines superbos aut leves et inconstantes ; hoc sensu: ex homine superbo, aut levi et inconstante, factus est ales superbus, aut levis et inconstans.” Brunck rejects this, and constructs « ος έφασκε τώδε (μόνω) εκ των ορνέων φράσεις νων τον Τηρέα τον έποπα, ος όρνις εγένετο.” Perhaps the explanation of the Scholiast, and that of Bergler combined with the remark of Cary, that “this is intended as a stroke of satire on the levity of the Athenians," may suggest the true meaning of the poet, especially as the general bearing of the play is to be explained by the circumstances and relations of Athenian affairs.
17. Dappeleídov, i. e. vióv, this son of Tharreleides. The jackdaw is called the son of Tharreleides, according to some, because of the loquacity of that individual, whose name was Asopodoros ; according to others, from his small stature, or some other point in which a resemblance might be found or fancied.
18. οβολου .... τριωβόλου. Genitive of price.
19. ap. For the conclusive signification of apa, see the exact analysis of Hartung, “De Particulis," Vol. I. pp. 448,