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Unread 09-21-2019, 06:54 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 4,315
Default Aristophanes' Avian Cosmology

Chorus: (to Procne)
Ah dear, dear bird, ah gorgeous thing,
ah musical companion,
you’ve come here to be seen;
you’ve come to bring me sweet,
sweet song.

Weaver of tunes in spring,
introduce with your fair-toned flute
anapests on the run.

Chorus Leader: (to the audience)
Insubstantial confections of clay, frail mortals, ephemeral featherless beings,
ineffectual weaklings who live in a dream and who perish like leaves, evanescent
generations of shadow, obscurities, listen to us who, ethereal, ageless
and immortal, have minds that consider perennial thoughts. We will teach you the business
of the sky, you will thoroughly fathom the nature of birds and the primal beginnings
of the gods and the rivers, of Chaos and Erebus. Thanks to us, even the famous
intellectual Prodicus soon will be jealous of all you have learned.
intellectual Prodicus soon will be jealous of all you have learned. First came Chaos,
Night next, the diffuseness of Erebus, then the voluminous Tartarus. There was
no earth, no air, no sky, but obscure-winged Night, at the very beginning,
in the limitless bosom of Erebus, laid a tempestuous egg. From the egg hatched,
when his term was attained, irresistible Eros, a god like impetuous whirlwinds,
who had glittering wings on his back. He had sex one night with opaque-winged Chaos
in immeasurable Tartarus. There he begat birdkind. He was first to lead us
to the sunlight. The race of immortals did not come about until later, when Eros
intermingled the cosmic ingredients. From his admixture of elements Heaven,
Sea, Earth, and the race of the deathless ones sprang into being. And so we are older
than the whole blest race of the gods.
than the whole blest race of the gods. That we birds are the offspring of Eros is proven
by innumerable proofs: we have wings and are often with lovers. Though beautiful young men
quite often have vowed to have nothing to do with the pleasures of sex until marriage,
they have opened their thighs through the power of us birds: they have yielded to lovers who gave them
quails, waterfowls, roosters and geese.
quails, waterfowls, roosters and geese. And we birds are the ones who bestow all
the significant blessings on mortals. For starters, we mark off, as seasons for humans,
fall, winter and spring. When the crane flies shrieking to Libya, then it is high time
to be sowing the fields, it is time for the helmsman to hang up his tiller and sleep in,
it is time for Orestes to weave new clothing, so that he does not steal others’
on account of the cold. The return of the kite tells mortals that spring is returning
and the fleeces of sheep must be clipped. When the swallow is seen, all hasten to trade in
thick jackets for lighter attire.
thick jackets for lighter attire. We are Ammon to you, and Dodona and Delphi;
we are Phoebus Apollo. Before you attempt new ventures—a business transaction,
or the buying of produce, or marriage—you check with the birds, and you call all omens
of predestined events “birds.” Sneezes and words can be “birds”; providential encounters
can be “birds,” and mysterious rustlings, “birds.” “Birds” also are good-luck servants
and the brayings of donkeys. To you we are clearly the same as Apollo the Prophet.

If you regard us birds as gods,
we shall be seers for you and Muses,
and winds, and winter, and mild summer,
and hot summer. We shall never
run off and sit snobbily in the clouds
like Zeus but, ever present among you,
shall give to you yourselves, to your children
and your children’s children, wealth-healthiness,
prosperity, happiness, peace, youth,
good humor, choral dances and festivals
and bird’s milk. You’ll all be so well off
you could knock yourselves out with your blessings!

Prose Translation, by Eugene O-Neill Jr.

Lovable golden bird, whom I cherish above all others, you, whom I associate with all my songs, nightingale, [680] you have come, you have come, to show yourself to me and to charm me with your notes. Come, you, who play spring melodies upon the harmonious flute, lead off our anapests.

Leader of the Chorus
[685] Weak mortals, chained to the earth, creatures of clay as frail as the foliage of the woods, you unfortunate race, whose life is but darkness, as unreal as a shadow, the illusion of a dream, hearken to us, who are immortal beings, ethereal, ever young and occupied with eternal thoughts, for we shall teach you about all celestial matters; [690] you shall know thoroughly what is the nature of the birds, what the origin of the gods, of the rivers, of Erebus, and Chaos; thanks to us, even Prodicus will envy you your knowledge.
At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night, dark Erebus, and deep Tartarus. Earth, the air and heaven had no existence. [695] Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in deep Tartarus with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light. [700] That of the Immortals did not exist until Eros had brought together all the ingredients of the world, and from their marriage Heaven, Ocean, Earth and the imperishable race of blessed gods sprang into being. Thus our origin is very much older than that of the dwellers in Olympus. We are the offspring of Eros; there are a thousand proofs to show it. We have wings and we lend assistance to lovers. [705] How many handsome youths, who had sworn to remain insensible, have opened their thighs because of our power and have yielded themselves to their lovers when almost at the end of their youth, being led away by the gift of a quail, a waterfowl, a goose, or a cock.

And what important services do not the birds render to mortals! First of all, they mark the seasons for them, springtime, winter, and autumn. [710] Does the screaming crane migrate to Libya, —it warns the husbandman to sow, the pilot to take his ease beside his tiller hung up in his dwelling, and Orestes to weave a tunic, so that the rigorous cold may not drive him any more to strip other folk. When the kite reappears, he tells of the return of spring and of the period when the fleece of the sheep must be clipped. Is the swallow in sight? [715] All hasten to sell their warm tunic and to buy some light clothing. We are your Ammon, Delphi, Dodona, your Phoebus Apollo. Before undertaking anything, whether a business transaction, a marriage, or the purchase of food, you consult the birds by reading the omens, and you give this name of omen to all signs that tell of the future. [720] With you a word is an omen, you call a sneeze an omen, a meeting an omen, an unknown sound an omen, a slave or an ass an omen. Is it not clear that we are a prophetic Apollo to you?

More and more rapidly from here on.
If you recognize us as gods, we shall be your divining Muses, through us you will know the winds and the seasons, summer, [725] winter, and the temperate months. We shall not withdraw ourselves to the highest clouds like Zeus, but shall be among you and shall give to you [730] and to your children and the children of your children, health and wealth, long life, peace, youth, laughter, songs and feasts; in short, you will all be so well off, [735] that you will be weary and cloyed with enjoyment.

Greek Text: ( 6)

ὦ φίλη, ὦ ξουθή,
ὦ φίλτατον ὀρνέων
πάντων, ξύννομε τῶν ἐμῶν
ὕμνων, ξύντροφ᾽ ἀηδοῖ,
ἦλθες ἦλθες ὤφθης,
ἡδὺν φθόγγον ἐμοὶ φέρουσ᾽.
ἀλλ᾽ ὦ καλλιβόαν κρέκουσ᾽
αὐλὸν φθέγμασιν ἠρινοῖς,
ἄρχου τῶν ἀναπαίστων.

ἄγε δὴ φύσιν ἄνδρες ἀμαυρόβιοι, φύλλων γενεᾷ προσόμοιοι,
ὀλιγοδρανέες, πλάσματα πηλοῦ, σκιοειδέα φῦλ᾽ ἀμενηνά,
ἀπτῆνες ἐφημέριοι ταλαοὶ βροτοὶ ἀνέρες εἰκελόνειροι,
προσέχετε τὸν νοῦν τοῖς ἀθανάτοις ἡμῖν τοῖς αἰὲν ἐοῦσιν,
τοῖς αἰθερίοις τοῖσιν ἀγήρῳς τοῖς ἄφθιτα μηδομένοισιν,
ἵν᾽ ἀκούσαντες πάντα παρ᾽ ἡμῶν ὀρθῶς περὶ τῶν μετεώρων.
φύσιν οἰωνῶν γένεσίν τε θεῶν ποταμῶν τ᾽ Ἐρέβους τε Χάους τε
εἰδότες ὀρθῶς, Προδίκῳ παρ᾽ ἐμοῦ κλάειν εἴπητε τὸ λοιπόν.
Χάος ἦν καὶ Νὺξ Ἔρεβός τε μέλαν πρῶτον καὶ Τάρταρος εὐρύς,
γῆ δ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἀὴρ οὐδ᾽ οὐρανὸς ἦν: Ἐρέβους δ᾽ ἐν ἀπείροσι κόλποις
τίκτει πρώτιστον ὑπηνέμιον Νὺξ ἡ μελανόπτερος ᾠόν,
ἐξ οὖ περιτελλομέναις ὥραις ἔβλαστεν Ἔρως ὁ ποθεινός,
στίλβων νῶτον πτερύγοιν χρυσαῖν, εἰκὼς ἀνεμώκεσι δίναις.
οὗτος δὲ Χάει πτερόεντι μιγεὶς νυχίῳ κατὰ Τάρταρον εὐρὺν
ἐνεόττευσεν γένος ἡμέτερον, καὶ πρῶτον ἀνήγαγεν ἐς φῶς.
πρότερον δ᾽ οὐκ ἦν γένος ἀθανάτων, πρὶν Ἔρως ξυνέμειξεν ἅπαντα:
ξυμμιγνυμένων δ᾽ ἑτέρων ἑτέροις γένετ᾽ οὐρανὸς ὠκεανός τε
καὶ γῆ πάντων τε θεῶν μακάρων γένος ἄφθιτον. ὦδε μέν ἐσμεν
πολὺ πρεσβύτατοι πάντων μακάρων. ἡμεῖς δ᾽ ὡς ἐσμὲν Ἔρωτος
πολλοῖς δῆλον: πετόμεσθά τε γὰρ καὶ τοῖσιν ἐρῶσι σύνεσμεν:
πολλοὺς δὲ καλοὺς ἀπομωμοκότας παῖδας πρὸς τέρμασιν ὥρας
διὰ τὴν ἰσχὺν τὴν ἡμετέραν διεμήρισαν ἄνδρες ἐρασταί,
ὁ μὲν ὄρτυγα δοὺς ὁ δὲ πορφυρίων᾽ ὁ δὲ χῆν᾽ ὁ δὲ Περσικὸν
ὄρπάντα δὲ θνητοῖς ἐστὶν ἀφ᾽ ἡμῶν τῶν ὀρνίθων τὰ μέγιστα.
πρῶτα μὲν ὥρας φαίνομεν ἡμεῖς ἦρος χειμῶνος ὀπώρας:
σπείρειν μέν, ὅταν γέρανος κρώζουσ᾽ ἐς τὴν Λιβύην μεταχωρῇ.
καὶ πηδάλιον τότε ναυκλήρῳ φράζει κρεμάσαντι καθεύδειν,
εἶτα δ᾽ Ὀρέστῃ χλαῖναν ὑφαίνειν, ἵνα μὴ ῥιγῶν ἀποδύῃ.
ἰκτῖνος δ᾽ αὖ μετὰ ταῦτα φανεὶς ἑτέραν ὥραν ἀποφαίνει,
ἡνίκα πεκτεῖν ὥρα προβάτων πόκον ἠρινόν: εἶτα χελιδών,
ὅτε χρὴ χλαῖναν πωλεῖν ἤδη καὶ ληδάριόν τι πρίασθαι.
ἐσμὲν δ᾽ ὑμῖν Ἄμμων Δελφοὶ Δωδώνη Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων.
ἐλθόντες γὰρ πρῶτον ἐπ᾽ ὄρνις οὕτω πρὸς ἅπαντα τρέπεσθε,
πρός τ᾽ ἐμπορίαν, καὶ πρὸς βιότου κτῆσιν, καὶ πρὸς γάμον ἀνδρός.
ὄρνιν τε νομίζετε πάνθ᾽ ὅσαπερ περὶ μαντείας διακρίνει:
φήμη γ᾽ ὑμῖν ὄρνις ἐστί, πταρμόν τ᾽ ὄρνιθα καλεῖτε,
ξύμβολον ὄρνιν, φωνὴν ὄρνιν, θεράποντ᾽ ὄρνιν, ὄνον ὄρνιν.
ἆρ᾽ οὐ φανερῶς ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν ἐσμὲν μαντεῖος Ἀπόλλων; νιν.

ἢν οὖν ἡμᾶς νομίσητε θεούς,
ἕξετε χρῆσθαι μάντεσι Μούσαις
αὔραις ὥραις χειμῶνι θέρει
μετρίῳ πνίγει: κοὐκ ἀποδράντες
καθεδούμεθ᾽ ἄνω σεμνυνόμενοι
παρὰ ταῖς νεφέλαις ὥσπερ χὠ Ζεύς:
ἀλλὰ παρόντες δώσομεν ὑμῖν
αὐτοῖς, παισίν, παίδων παισίν,
εὐδαιμονίαν βίον εἰρήνην
νεότητα γέλωτα χοροὺς θαλίας
γάλα τ᾽ ὀρνίθων. ὥστε παρέσται
κοπιᾶν ὑμῖν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀγαθῶν:
οὕτω πλουτήσετε πάντες.

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 09-21-2019 at 07:08 AM.
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