Pepper, Timothy, ed. 2011. A Californian Hymn to Homer. Hellenic Studies Series 41. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_PepperT_ed.A_Californian_Hymn_to_Homer.2011.
The Places of Song in Aristophanes’ Birds
Birds’ Ideal Music between Tradition and Utopia
Song vs. Speech
ἐπὶ τῶν κραδῶν ᾄδουσ᾽, Ἀθηναῖοι δ᾽ ἀεὶ
ἐπὶ τῶν δικῶν ᾄδουσι πάντα τὸν βίον.
As you know, cicadas sing for just a month or two
out on their branches, Athenians sing constantly at court cases
their whole lives long.
These lines refer primarily to Athenian litigiousness, but the song metaphor is not accidental. It prepares us for the notion that the lost Athenians on stage may find a place where singing has its natural place.
The Bird Chorus
Tell me, though—for you might reveal something fine and
What you see at hand, some greater power neglected
By my mind devoid of understanding.
Whatever you see, tell the public. For whatever good you
Will be held in common by all.
Zimmermann observes that the contrast between excited singers and stately dactylo-epitrite might have a comic effect (Zimmermann 1985–1987, 2:108). The first line, however, with its gnomic pessimism reminiscent of Simonides,  does have a disconcerting force of its own, which may have carried through the whole stanza, despite its otherwise colloquial, demagogic language. The whimsical incongruity of a gnomic utterance about “human nature” (implied by the verb πέφυκεν) coming from a chorus of birds bemoaning the effects of human trickery, and referring to their own proverbial stupidity, does not exclude a serious commitment to listen and obey if persuaded. The traditionally choral meter, rare for comedy,  contributes to this effect of a performed commitment and gives the chorus itself a new, more unified shape on stage.
Fellow singer of my hymns.
Nightingale, fellow nurseling.
You’ve come, you’ve come. You’ve appeared
producing a song that is sweet to me
… as you play the
Fine-sounding aulos, amidst spring noises.
Despite the raucous fun that Barker and others point to in this scene, this lyric prepares us for the parabasis odes by sounding a springlike note. As with the Hoopoe’s song, we can take some of the aesthetic pressure off if we conceive of it as a prelude or ouverture.
With you I make numinous, lyrical hymns to Pan
Through my vibrant cheek
While perched in the leafy mannah ash—tio tio tio tinx
In glens and on mountain tops—tio tio tio tio
And sacred dances for the Mountain Mother—tototo tototo totototinx
Whence also once Phrynichus … often found nourishment
Of lasting melody bringing sweet song—tio tio tio tinx.
This rather convoluted lyric suggests several overlapping spaces: first, the thicket, as home of the local Muse.  Then, in a relative clause (it is a mark of high style to connect relative and vocative), μεθ’ ἣς ἐγώ, the song connects this place with other places known for birdsong: glens and mountaintops. Then, after another relative, ἔνθεν, Phrynichus is seen to occupy yet another space and time (the tense is switched to the imperfect). Each of these relatives are best taken as referring back to the Muse at the beginning of the stanza. The language of the ode is highly organized, as can be seen in the humming repetition of the mu sound and the syllable mel-, which connects ‘Muse’ to ‘bee’, ‘ash tree’, and ‘song (limb)’. Yet there is also variation within the stanza, and departure from traditional forms. The poetic locutions “on mountain tops” and “perched” are very close to Homer and archaic lyric yet not exact borrowings.  ἀναφαίνω with reference to sound is unusual (compare Aeschylus Suppliants 829), but must have accorded well with the simultaneously verbal and visual song and dance. The combination of dactyls and trochees is also unusual. But the mannah ash (μελία) is the right choice of tree, solid and Homeric, and possibly chosen as a tree of origins.  Thus, the lyric has more of solidity and rootedness than one would expect from a chorus of Birds.
Will sacrifice to me, all-seeing and all-ruling,
And pray sincerely. For I observe the whole earth,
And I preserve the flourishing grains and fruits
By killing all species of the insect race.
The repetition of the word ‘all’ and a series of fifty-one consecutive long syllables produce an effect of comprehensive grandiosity.  A panoptic  view of the seasons is taken, with the birds effortlessly enduring them. Archaic poets were greatly interested in the seasons (e.g. Alcman 20 Page, Hesiod’s Works and Days), but this picture of birds equally content in all seasons bespeaks an enlightened optimism not found in earlier poetry.  Yet by including a certain number of harsh-sounding phrases for the birds’ insecticide—“killing all kinds of beasts,” “I kill whoever hatefully outrages fragrant gardens,” “they perish beneath the murders of my wing”—the poet keeps the language from being too flowery and otiose, and some traditional/choral bird aggression is preserved. Similarly, the cicada, now assuming its honorary epithet ἀχέτας,  makes a sharp, songlike noise (ὀξὺ μέλος . . . βοᾷ), and the comic cretics also cut through the more splendid long syllables. Thus, the overall effect is of a tranquility that is also piercing. The nightingale’s thicket is not without its solid branches and thorns. The traditional resonances of this ode, however, are not so easily pinned down. Probably no one poet is referred to; rather, the verses follow the evocations of place that Homer, Sappho, Alcman, Pindar, and Sophocles all exhibit, shorn of the sometimes fearful specificity of divine encounters in natural landscapes, not to speak of the obligations of prayer, processions, and sacrifice. 
Lyrical Interruptions: Literary Criticism in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land?
In your songs of hymn.
Peisetairos: Where did this business come from? Hey, who are you?
Poet: I am a nimble follower of the Muses, for I sing a song of sweet-tongued words
according to Homer …
Peisetairos: Well, you’re certainly wearing a hole-y little cloak. But, poet, why have
you made your damned way here?
Poet: I’ve made songs for your Nephelokokkugia, lots of nice dithyrambs,  songs for
young women, and à la Simonides.
In his poverty, the beggar-poet is eager to offer any genre for any occasion, but also seems dimly aware that foundation songs are called for. There follow several Pindaric quotes that some have taken as an oblique criticism of Pindar’s obscurity. However, from his costume and begging, the audience would have immediately been able to distinguish this bettelpoet, as Kugelmeier calls him, from the wealthy Theban. There is other evidence that Aristophanes admired Pindar (see n4 above). Still, the fact that the poet limits his quotations to Pindar is striking. The joke is apparently that, despite the various goods he has promised, Pindar’s poems are what he has memorized and he will recite Pindar in all circumstances. And it makes for a comic effect to have the poet beg for basic necessities in high-flown, Pindareia epea. But the reference to Hieron may also throw a sidelight on the colonial enterprise of Cloud-cuckoo-land. The quote runs: “but [there is] some swift rumour of the Muses, like the rapid sparkle of horses. You, dear founder of Aetna, named after holy places, give us whatever you gladly wish to give, you your very self [τεᾷ κεφαλᾷ]” (924–930). As is clear from his response, “this guy is just gonna cause us a lot of problems” (τουτὶ παρέξει τὸ κακὸν ἡμῖν πράγματα), this is not the kind of attention Peisetairos wants, despite his self-proclamation as city-founder. What would the Athenian audience have made of this reference to Pindar and Hieron and its rejection? Is it simply a famous and appropriate poem to quote? Or were they meant to think about it in connection to the colonizing themes of the play? At first glance, these themes might seem remote to an Athenian audience, but if we keep in mind the intense involvement of Athens with colonies in Southern Italy and Sicily, especially in 415, then maybe we should reconsider the assumption that the Athenians only attended plays to hear about themselves.  The play had already contained many references to colonies, and the audience would have been readied for this perspective.  Thus, mocking a relationship between colonial founder and poet belonging to a bygone age might have dramatized the novelty of Birds’ colonial enterprise.
Peisetairos: Just let that be our luck!
Chorus: Desires prevail over my city.
Peisetairos: Hey, carry faster.
Chorus: What noble thing is lacking for a man to live with? Wisdom, longing,
immortal graces, and the face of serene and gentle peace of mind.
The meter here is anapaestic, a meter closely related to the dactylic parabasis ode, but now comic interruption has been included in the high style. The epithet πολυάνωρ, ‘abundant in men’, is a rare one, but the idea is familiar to the lyric tradition, especially if we think of the near-synonyms εὔανδρος and εὐανδρία.  Dunbar rightly sees an ironic contrast between the wing-carrying and the “peace of mind” (Dunbar 1995:649). But despite the irony, these Pindaric concepts are seen positively enough to motivate the enterprise and flurry. Thus, on the whole, it may be a mistake to see a criticism of Pindar in Birds.
Epilogue: In the Basket of Muses
Peisetairos: Hell yeah. First of all, we won’t have to build them stone temples, provided with golden doors, but instead they’ll live under bushes and holm oak. Yes, an olive tree will do for the holiest of them.