1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo

This translation, by Evelyn-White, is in the public domain.

Related Resources
Homer

Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo

(ll. 179-181) O Lord, Lycia is yours and lovely Maeonia and
Miletus, charming city by the sea, but over wave-girt Delos you
greatly reign your own self.


(ll. 182-206) Leto's all-glorious son goes to rocky Pytho,
playing upon his hollow lyre, clad in divine, perfumed garments;
and at the touch of the golden key his lyre sings sweet. Thence,
swift as thought, he speeds from earth to Olympus, to the house
of Zeus, to join the gathering of the other gods: then
straightway the undying gods think only of the lyre and song, and
all the Muses together, voice sweetly answering voice, hymn the
unending gifts the gods enjoy and the sufferings of men, all that
they endure at the hands of the deathless gods, and how they live
witless and helpless and cannot find healing for death or defence
against old age. Meanwhile the rich-tressed Graces and cheerful
Seasons dance with Harmonia and Hebe and Aphrodite, daughter of
Zeus, holding each other by the wrist. And among them sings one,
not mean nor puny, but tall to look upon and enviable in mien,
Artemis who delights in arrows, sister of Apollo. Among them
sport Ares and the keen-eyed Slayer of Argus, while Apollo plays
his lyre stepping high and featly and a radiance shines around
him, the gleaming of his feet and close-woven vest. And they,
even gold-tressed Leto and wise Zeus, rejoice in their great
hearts as they watch their dear son playing among the undying
gods.


(ll. 207-228) How then shall I sing of you -- though in all ways
you are a worthy theme for song? Shall I sing of you as wooer
and in the fields of love, how you went wooing the daughter of
Azan along with god-like Ischys the son of well-horsed Elatius,
or with Phorbas sprung from Triops, or with Ereutheus, or with
Leucippus and the wife of Leucippus....
((LACUNA))
....you on foot, he with his chariot, yet he fell not short of
Triops. Or shall I sing how at the first you went about the
earth seeking a place of oracle for men, O far-shooting Apollo?
To Pieria first you went down from Olympus and passed by sandy
Lectus and Enienae and through the land of the Perrhaebi. Soon
you came to Iolcus and set foot on Cenaeum in Euboea, famed for
ships: you stood in the Lelantine plain, but it pleased not your
heart to make a temple there and wooded groves. From there you
crossed the Euripus, far-shooting Apollo, and went up the green,
holy hills, going on to Mycalessus and grassy-bedded Teumessus,
and so came to the wood-clad abode of Thebe; for as yet no man
lived in holy Thebe, nor were there tracks or ways about Thebe's
wheat-bearing plain as yet.


(ll. 229-238) And further still you went, O far-shooting Apollo,
and came to Onchestus, Poseidon's bright grove: there the new-
broken cold distressed with drawing the trim chariot gets spirit
again, and the skilled driver springs from his car and goes on
his way. Then the horses for a while rattle the empty car, being
rid of guidance; and if they break the chariot in the woody
grove, men look after the horses, but tilt the chariot and leave
it there; for this was the rite from the very first. And the
drivers pray to the lord of the shrine; but the chariot falls to
the lot of the god.


(ll. 239-243) Further yet you went, O far-shooting Apollo, and
reached next Cephissus' sweet stream which pours forth its sweet-
flowing water from Lilaea, and crossing over it, O worker from
afar, you passed many-towered Ocalea and reached grassy
Haliartus.


(ll. 244-253) Then you went towards Telphusa: and there the
pleasant place seemed fit for making a temple and wooded grove.
You came very near and spoke to her: `Telphusa, here I am minded
to make a glorious temple, an oracle for men, and hither they
will always bring perfect hecatombs, both those who live in rich
Peloponnesus and those of Europe and all the wave-washed isles,
coming to seek oracles. And I will deliver to them all counsel
that cannot fail, giving answer in my rich temple.'


(ll. 254-276) So said Phoebus Apollo, and laid out all the
foundations throughout, wide and very long. But when Telphusa
saw this, she was angry in heart and spoke, saying: `Lord
Phoebus, worker from afar, I will speak a word of counsel to your
heart, since you are minded to make here a glorious temple to be
an oracle for men who will always bring hither perfect hecatombs
for you; yet I will speak out, and do you lay up my words in your
heart. The trampling of swift horses and the sound of mules
watering at my sacred springs will always irk you, and men will
like better to gaze at the well-made chariots and stamping,
swift-footed horses than at your great temple and the many
treasures that are within. But if you will be moved by me -- for
you, lord, are stronger and mightier than I, and your strength is
very great -- build at Crisa below the glades of Parnassus: there
no bright chariot will clash, and there will be no noise of
swift-footed horses near your well-built altar. But so the
glorious tribes of men will bring gifts to you as Iepaeon (`Hail-
Healer'), and you will receive with delight rich sacrifices from
the people dwelling round about.' So said Telphusa, that she
alone, and not the Far-Shooter, should have renown there; and she
persuaded the Far-Shooter.


(ll. 277-286) Further yet you went, far-shooting Apollo, until
you came to the town of the presumptuous Phlegyae who dwell on
this earth in a lovely glade near the Cephisian lake, caring not
for Zeus. And thence you went speeding swiftly to the mountain
ridge, and came to Crisa beneath snowy Parnassus, a foothill
turned towards the west: a cliff hangs over if from above, and a
hollow, rugged glade runs under. There the lord Phoebus Apollo
resolved to make his lovely temple, and thus he said:


(ll. 287-293) `In this place I am minded to build a glorious
temple to be an oracle for men, and here they will always bring
perfect hecatombs, both they who dwell in rich Peloponnesus and
the men of Europe and from all the wave-washed isles, coming to
question me. And I will deliver to them all counsel that cannot
fail, answering them in my rich temple.'


(ll. 294-299) When he had said this, Phoebus Apollo laid out all
the foundations throughout, wide and very long; and upon these
the sons of Erginus, Trophonius and Agamedes, dear to the
deathless gods, laid a footing of stone. And the countless
tribes of men built the whole temple of wrought stones, to be
sung of for ever.


(ll. 300-310) But near by was a sweet flowing spring, and there
with his strong bow the lord, the son of Zeus, killed the
bloated, great she-dragon, a fierce monster wont to do great
mischief to men upon earth, to men themselves and to their thin-
shanked sheep; for she was a very bloody plague. She it was who
once received from gold-throned Hera and brought up fell, cruel
Typhaon to be a plague to men. Once on a time Hera bare him
because she was angry with father Zeus, when the Son of Cronos
bare all-glorious Athena in his head. Thereupon queenly Hera was
angry and spoke thus among the assembled gods:


(ll. 311-330) `Hear from me, all gods and goddesses, how cloud-
gathering Zeus begins to dishonour me wantonly, when he has made
me his true-hearted wife. See now, apart from me he has given
birth to bright-eyed Athena who is foremost among all the blessed
gods. But my son Hephaestus whom I bare was weakly among all the
blessed gods and shrivelled of foot, a shame and disgrace to me
in heaven, whom I myself took in my hands and cast out so that he
fell in the great sea. But silver-shod Thetis the daughter of
Nereus took and cared for him with her sisters: would that she
had done other service to the blessed gods! O wicked one and
crafty! What else will you now devise? How dared you by
yourself give birth to bright-eyed Athena? Would not I have
borne you a child -- I, who was at least called your wife among
the undying gods who hold wide heaven. Beware now lest I devise
some evil thing for you hereafter: yes, now I will contrive that
a son be born me to be foremost among the undying gods -- and
that without casting shame on the holy bond of wedlock between
you and me. And I will not come to your bed, but will consort
with the blessed gods far off from you.'


(ll. 331-333) When she had so spoken, she went apart from the
gods, being very angry. Then straightway large-eyed queenly Hera
prayed, striking the ground flatwise with her hand, and speaking
thus:


(ll. 334-362) `Hear now, I pray, Earth and wide Heaven above, and
you Titan gods who dwell beneath the earth about great Tartarus,
and from whom are sprung both gods and men! Harken you now to
me, one and all, and grant that I may bear a child apart from
Zeus, no wit lesser than him in strength -- nay, let him be as
much stronger than Zeus as all-seeing Zeus than Cronos.' Thus
she cried and lashed the earth with her strong hand. Then the
life-giving earth was moved: and when Hera saw it she was glad in
heart, for she thought her prayer would be fulfilled. And
thereafter she never came to the bed of wise Zeus for a full
year, not to sit in her carved chair as aforetime to plan wise
counsel for him, but stayed in her temples where many pray, and
delighted in her offerings, large-eyed queenly Hera. But when
the months and days were fulfilled and the seasons duly came on
as the earth moved round, she bare one neither like the gods nor
mortal men, fell, cruel Typhaon, to be a plague to men.
Straightway large-eyed queenly Hera took him and bringing one
evil thing to another such, gave him to the dragoness; and she
received him. And this Typhaon used to work great mischief among
the famous tribes of men. Whosoever met the dragoness, the day
of doom would sweep him away, until the lord Apollo, who deals
death from afar, shot a strong arrow at her. Then she, rent with
bitter pangs, lay drawing great gasps for breath and rolling
about that place. An awful noise swelled up unspeakable as she
writhed continually this way and that amid the wood: and so she
left her life, breathing it forth in blood. Then Phoebus Apollo
boasted over her:


(ll. 363-369) `Now rot here upon the soil that feeds man! You at
least shall live no more to be a fell bane to men who eat the
fruit of the all-nourishing earth, and who will bring hither
perfect hecatombs. Against cruel death neither Typhoeus shall
avail you nor ill-famed Chimera, but here shall the Earth and
shining Hyperion make you rot.'


(ll. 370-374) Thus said Phoebus, exulting over her: and darkness
covered her eyes. And the holy strength of Helios made her rot
away there; wherefore the place is now called Pytho, and men call
the lord Apollo by another name, Pythian; because on that spot
the power of piercing Helios made the monster rot away.


(ll. 375-378) Then Phoebus Apollo saw that the sweet-flowing
spring had beguiled him, and he started out in anger against
Telphusa; and soon coming to her, he stood close by and spoke to
her:


(ll. 379-381) `Telphusa, you were not, after all, to keep to
yourself this lovely place by deceiving my mind, and pour forth
your clear flowing water: here my renown shall also be and not
yours alone?'


(ll. 382-387) Thus spoke the lord, far-working Apollo, and pushed
over upon her a crag with a shower of rocks, hiding her streams:
and he made himself an altar in a wooded grove very near the
clear-flowing stream. In that place all men pray to the great
one by the name Telphusian, because he humbled the stream of holy
Telphusa.


(ll. 388-439) Then Phoebus Apollo pondered in his heart what men
he should bring in to be his ministers in sacrifice and to serve
him in rocky Pytho. And while he considered this, he became
aware of a swift ship upon the wine-like sea in which were many
men and goodly, Cretans from Cnossos (10), the city of Minos,
they who do sacrifice to the prince and announce his decrees,
whatsoever Phoebus Apollo, bearer of the golden blade, speaks in
answer from his laurel tree below the dells of Parnassus. These
men were sailing in their black ship for traffic and for profit
to sandy Pylos and to the men of Pylos. But Phoebus Apollo met
them: in the open sea he sprang upon their swift ship, like a
dolphin in shape, and lay there, a great and awesome monster, and
none of them gave heed so as to understand (11); but they sought
to cast the dolphin overboard. But he kept shaking the black
ship every way and make the timbers quiver. So they sat silent
in their craft for fear, and did not loose the sheets throughout
the black, hollow ship, nor lowered the sail of their dark-prowed
vessel, but as they had set it first of all with oxhide ropes, so
they kept sailing on; for a rushing south wind hurried on the
swift ship from behind. First they passed by Malea, and then
along the Laconian coast they came to Taenarum, sea-garlanded
town and country of Helios who gladdens men, where the thick-
fleeced sheep of the lord Helios feed continually and occupy a
glad-some country. There they wished to put their ship to shore,
and land and comprehend the great marvel and see with their eyes
whether the monster would remain upon the deck of the hollow
ship, or spring back into the briny deep where fishes shoal. But
the well-built ship would not obey the helm, but went on its way
all along Peloponnesus: and the lord, far-working Apollo, guided
it easily with the breath of the breeze. So the ship ran on its
course and came to Arena and lovely Argyphea and Thryon, the ford
of Alpheus, and well-placed Aepy and sandy Pylos and the men of
Pylos; past Cruni it went and Chalcis and past Dyme and fair
Elis, where the Epei rule. And at the time when she was making
for Pherae, exulting in the breeze from Zeus, there appeared to
them below the clouds the steep mountain of Ithaca, and Dulichium
and Same and wooded Zacynthus. But when they were passed by all
the coast of Peloponnesus, then, towards Crisa, that vast gulf
began to heave in sight which through all its length cuts off the
rich isle of Pelops. There came on them a strong, clear west-
wind by ordinance of Zeus and blew from heaven vehemently, that
with all speed the ship might finish coursing over the briny
water of the sea. So they began again to voyage back towards the
dawn and the sun: and the lord Apollo, son of Zeus, led them on
until they reached far-seen Crisa, land of vines, and into haven:
there the sea-coursing ship grounded on the sands.


(ll. 440-451) Then, like a star at noonday, the lord, far-working
Apollo, leaped from the ship: flashes of fire flew from him thick
and their brightness reached to heaven. He entered into his
shrine between priceless tripods, and there made a flame to flare
up bright, showing forth the splendour of his shafts, so that
their radiance filled all Crisa, and the wives and well-girded
daughters of the Crisaeans raised a cry at that outburst of
Phoebus; for he cast great fear upon them all. From his shrine
he sprang forth again, swift as a thought, to speed again to the
ship, bearing the form of a man, brisk and sturdy, in the prime
of his youth, while his broad shoulders were covered with his
hair: and he spoke to the Cretans, uttering winged words:


(ll. 452-461) `Strangers, who are you? Whence come you sailing
along the paths of the sea? Are you for traffic, or do you
wander at random over the sea as pirates do who put their own
lives to hazard and bring mischief to men of foreign parts as
they roam? Why rest you so and are afraid, and do not go ashore
nor stow the gear of your black ship? For that is the custom of
men who live by bread, whenever they come to land in their dark
ships from the main, spent with toil; at once desire for sweet
food catches them about the heart.'


(ll. 462-473) So speaking, he put courage in their hearts, and
the master of the Cretans answered him and said: `Stranger --
though you are nothing like mortal men in shape or stature, but
are as the deathless gods -- hail and all happiness to you, and
may the gods give you good. Now tell me truly that I may surely
know it: what country is this, and what land, and what men live
herein? As for us, with thoughts set otherwards, we were sailing
over the great sea to Pylos from Crete (for from there we declare
that we are sprung), but now are come on shipboard to this place
by no means willingly -- another way and other paths -- and
gladly would we return. But one of the deathless gods brought us
here against our will.'


(ll. 474-501) Then far-working Apollo answered then and said:
`Strangers who once dwelt about wooded Cnossos but now shall
return no more each to his loved city and fair house and dear
wife; here shall you keep my rich temple that is honoured by many
men. I am the son of Zeus; Apollo is my name: but you I brought
here over the wide gulf of the sea, meaning you no hurt; nay,
here you shall keep my rich temple that is greatly honoured among
men, and you shall know the plans of the deathless gods, and by
their will you shall be honoured continually for all time. And
now come, make haste and do as I say. First loose the sheets and
lower the sail, and then draw the swift ship up upon the land.
Take out your goods and the gear of the straight ship, and make
an altar upon the beach of the sea: light fire upon it and make
an offering of white meal. Next, stand side by side around the
altar and pray: and in as much as at the first on the hazy sea I
sprang upon the swift ship in the form of a dolphin, pray to me
as Apollo Delphinius; also the altar itself shall be called
Delphinius and overlooking (12) for ever. Afterwards, sup beside
your dark ship and pour an offering to the blessed gods who dwell
on Olympus. But when you have put away craving for sweet food,
come with me singing the hymn Ie Paean (Hail, Healer!), until you
come to the place where you shall keep my rich temple.'


(ll. 502-523) So said Apollo. And they readily harkened to him
and obeyed him. First they unfastened the sheets and let down
the sail and lowered the mast by the forestays upon the mast-
rest. Then, landing upon the beach of the sea, they hauled up
the ship from the water to dry land and fixed long stays under
it. Also they made an altar upon the beach of the sea, and when
they had lit a fire, made an offering of white meal, and prayed
standing around the altar as Apollo had bidden them. Then they
took their meal by the swift, black ship, and poured an offering
to the blessed gods who dwell on Olympus. And when they had put
away craving for drink and food, they started out with the lord
Apollo, the son of Zeus, to lead them, holding a lyre in his
hands, and playing sweetly as he stepped high and featly. So the
Cretans followed him to Pytho, marching in time as they chanted
the Ie Paean after the manner of the Cretan paean-singers and of
those in whose hearts the heavenly Muse has put sweet-voiced
song. With tireless feet they approached the ridge and
straightway came to Parnassus and the lovely place where they
were to dwell honoured by many men. There Apollo brought them
and showed them his most holy sanctuary and rich temple.


(ll. 524-525) But their spirit was stirred in their dear breasts,
and the master of the Cretans asked him, saying:


(ll. 526-530) `Lord, since you have brought us here far from our
dear ones and our fatherland, -- for so it seemed good to your
heart, -- tell us now how we shall live. That we would know of
you. This land is not to be desired either for vineyards or for
pastures so that we can live well thereon and also minister to
men.'


(ll. 531-544) Then Apollo, the son of Zeus, smiled upon them and
said: `Foolish mortals and poor drudges are you, that you seek
cares and hard toils and straits! Easily will I tell you a word
and set it in your hearts. Though each one of you with knife in
hand should slaughter sheep continually, yet would you always
have abundant store, even all that the glorious tribes of men
bring here for me. But guard you my temple and receive the
tribes of men that gather to this place, and especially show
mortal men my will, and do you keep righteousness in your heart.
But if any shall be disobedient and pay no heed to my warning, of
if there shall be any idle word or deed and outrage as is common
among mortal men, then other men shall be your masters and with a
strong hand shall make you subject for ever. All has been told
you: do you keep it in your heart.'


(ll. 545-546) And so, farewell, son of Zeus and Leto; but I will
remember you and another hymn also.



IV. TO HERMES (582 lines)


(ll. 1-29) Muse, sing of Hermes, the son of Zeus and Maia, lord
of Cyllene and Arcadia rich in flocks, the luck-bringing
messenger of the immortals whom Maia bare, the rich-tressed
nymph, when she was joined in love with Zeus, -- a shy goddess,
for she avoided the company of the blessed gods, and lived within
a deep, shady cave. There the son of Cronos used to lie with the
rich-tressed nymph, unseen by deathless gods and mortal men, at
dead of night while sweet sleep should hold white-armed Hera
fast. And when the purpose of great Zeus was fixed in heaven,
she was delivered and a notable thing was come to pass. For then
she bare a son, of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a
cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief
at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful deeds
among the deathless gods. Born with the dawning, at mid-day he
played on the lyre, and in the evening he stole the cattle of
far-shooting Apollo on the fourth day of the month; for on that
day queenly Maia bare him. So soon as he had leaped from his
mother's heavenly womb, he lay not long waiting in his holy
cradle, but he sprang up and sought the oxen of Apollo. But as
he stepped over the threshold of the high-roofed cave, he found a
tortoise there and gained endless delight. For it was Hermes who
first made the tortoise a singer. The creature fell in his way
at the courtyard gate, where it was feeding on the rich grass
before the dwelling, waddling along. When be saw it, the luck-
bringing son of Zeus laughed and said:


(ll. 30-38) `An omen of great luck for me so soon! I do not
slight it. Hail, comrade of the feast, lovely in shape, sounding
at the dance! With joy I meet you! Where got you that rich gaud
for covering, that spangled shell -- a tortoise living in the
mountains? But I will take and carry you within: you shall help
me and I will do you no disgrace, though first of all you must
profit me. It is better to be at home: harm may come out of
doors. Living, you shall be a spell against mischievous
witchcraft (13); but if you die, then you shall make sweetest
song.


(ll. 39-61) Thus speaking, he took up the tortoise in both hands
and went back into the house carrying his charming toy. Then he
cut off its limbs and scooped out the marrow of the mountain-
tortoise with a scoop of grey iron. As a swift thought darts
through the heart of a man when thronging cares haunt him, or as
bright glances flash from the eye, so glorious Hermes planned
both thought and deed at once. He cut stalks of reed to measure
and fixed them, fastening their ends across the back and through
the shell of the tortoise, and then stretched ox hide all over it
by his skill. Also he put in the horns and fitted a cross-piece
upon the two of them, and stretched seven strings of sheep-gut.
But when he had made it he proved each string in turn with the
key, as he held the lovely thing. At the touch of his hand it
sounded marvellously; and, as he tried it, the god sang sweet
random snatches, even as youths bandy taunts at festivals. He
sang of Zeus the son of Cronos and neat-shod Maia, the converse
which they had before in the comradeship of love, telling all the
glorious tale of his own begetting. He celebrated, too, the
handmaids of the nymph, and her bright home, and the tripods all
about the house, and the abundant cauldrons.


(ll. 62-67) But while he was singing of all these, his heart was
bent on other matters. And he took the hollow lyre and laid it
in his sacred cradle, and sprang from the sweet-smelling hall to
a watch-place, pondering sheet trickery in his heart -- deeds
such as knavish folk pursue in the dark night-time; for he longed
to taste flesh.


(ll. 68-86) The Sun was going down beneath the earth towards
Ocean with his horses and chariot when Hermes came hurrying to
the shadowy mountains of Pieria, where the divine cattle of the
blessed gods had their steads and grazed the pleasant, unmown
meadows. Of these the Son of Maia, the sharp-eyed slayer of
Argus then cut off from the herd fifty loud-lowing kine, and
drove them straggling-wise across a sandy place, turning their
hoof-prints aside. Also, he bethought him of a crafty ruse and
reversed the marks of their hoofs, making the front behind and
the hind before, while he himself walked the other way (14).
Then he wove sandals with wicker-work by the sand of the sea,
wonderful things, unthought of, unimagined; for he mixed together
tamarisk and myrtle-twigs, fastening together an armful of their
fresh, young wood, and tied them, leaves and all securely under
his feet as light sandals. The brushwood the glorious Slayer of
Argus plucked in Pieria as he was preparing for his journey,
making shift (15) as one making haste for a long journey.


(ll. 87-89) But an old man tilling his flowering vineyard saw him
as he was hurrying down the plain through grassy Onchestus. So
the Son of Maia began and said to him:


(ll. 90-93) `Old man, digging about your vines with bowed
shoulders, surely you shall have much wine when all these bear
fruit, if you obey me and strictly remember not to have seen what
you have seen, and not to have heard what you have heard, and to
keep silent when nothing of your own is harmed.'


(ll. 94-114) When he had said this much, he hurried the strong
cattle on together: through many shadowy mountains and echoing
gorges and flowery plains glorious Hermes drove them. And now
the divine night, his dark ally, was mostly passed, and dawn that
sets folk to work was quickly coming on, while bright Selene,
daughter of the lord Pallas, Megamedes' son, had just climbed her
watch-post, when the strong Son of Zeus drove the wide-browed
cattle of Phoebus Apollo to the river Alpheus. And they came
unwearied to the high-roofed byres and the drinking-troughs that
were before the noble meadow. Then, after he had well-fed the
loud-bellowing cattle with fodder and driven them into the byre,
close-packed and chewing lotus and began to seek the art of fire.


He chose a stout laurel branch and trimmed it with the knife....
((LACUNA)) (16)
....held firmly in his hand: and the hot smoke rose up. For it
was Hermes who first invented fire-sticks and fire. Next he took
many dried sticks and piled them thick and plenty in a sunken
trench: and flame began to glow, spreading afar the blast of
fierce-burning fire.


(ll. 115-137) And while the strength of glorious Hephaestus was
beginning to kindle the fire, he dragged out two lowing, horned
cows close to the fire; for great strength was with him. He
threw them both panting upon their backs on the ground, and
rolled them on their sides, bending their necks over (17), and
pierced their vital chord. Then he went on from task to task:
first he cut up the rich, fatted meat, and pierced it with wooden
spits, and roasted flesh and the honourable chine and the paunch
full of dark blood all together. He laid them there upon the
ground, and spread out the hides on a rugged rock: and so they
are still there many ages afterwards, a long, long time after all
this, and are continually (18). Next glad-hearted Hermes dragged
the rich meats he had prepared and put them on a smooth, flat
stone, and divided them into twelve portions distributed by lot,
making each portion wholly honourable. Then glorious Hermes
longed for the sacrificial meat, for the sweet savour wearied
him, god though he was; nevertheless his proud heart was not
prevailed upon to devour the flesh, although he greatly desired
(19). But he put away the fat and all the flesh in the high-
roofed byre, placing them high up to be a token of his youthful
theft. And after that he gathered dry sticks and utterly
destroyed with fire all the hoofs and all the heads.


(ll. 138-154) And when the god had duly finished all, he threw
his sandals into deep-eddying Alpheus, and quenched the embers,
covering the black ashes with sand, and so spent the night while
Selene's soft light shone down. Then the god went straight back
again at dawn to the bright crests of Cyllene, and no one met him
on the long journey either of the blessed gods or mortal men, nor
did any dog bark. And luck-bringing Hermes, the son of Zeus,
passed edgeways through the key-hole of the hall like the autumn
breeze, even as mist: straight through the cave he went and came
to the rich inner chamber, walking softly, and making no noise as
one might upon the floor. Then glorious Hermes went hurriedly to
his cradle, wrapping his swaddling clothes about his shoulders as
though he were a feeble babe, and lay playing with the covering
about his knees; but at his left hand he kept close his sweet
lyre.


(ll. 155-161) But the god did not pass unseen by the goddess his
mother; but she said to him: `How now, you rogue! Whence come
you back so at night-time, you that wear shamelessness as a
garment? And now I surely believe the son of Leto will soon have
you forth out of doors with unbreakable cords about your ribs, or
you will live a rogue's life in the glens robbing by whiles. Go
to, then; your father got you to be a great worry to mortal men
and deathless gods.'


(ll. 162-181) Then Hermes answered her with crafty words:
`Mother, why do you seek to frighten me like a feeble child whose
heart knows few words of blame, a fearful babe that fears its
mother's scolding? Nay, but I will try whatever plan is best,
and so feed myself and you continually. We will not be content
to remain here, as you bid, alone of all the gods unfee'd with
offerings and prayers. Better to live in fellowship with the
deathless gods continually, rich, wealthy, and enjoying stories
of grain, than to sit always in a gloomy cave: and, as regards
honour, I too will enter upon the rite that Apollo has. If my
father will not give it to me, I will seek -- and I am able -- to
be a prince of robbers. And if Leto's most glorious son shall
seek me out, I think another and a greater loss will befall him.
For I will go to Pytho to break into his great house, and will
plunder therefrom splendid tripods, and cauldrons, and gold, and
plenty of bright iron, and much apparel; and you shall see it if
you will.'


(ll. 182-189) With such words they spoke together, the son of
Zeus who holds the aegis, and the lady Maia. Now Eros the early
born was rising from deep-flowing Ocean, bringing light to men,
when Apollo, as he went, came to Onchestus, the lovely grove and
sacred place of the loud-roaring Holder of the Earth. There he
found an old man grazing his beast along the pathway from his
court-yard fence, and the all-glorious Son of Leto began and said
to him.


(ll. 190-200) `Old man, weeder (20) of grassy Onchestus, I am
come here from Pieria seeking cattle, cows all of them, all with
curving horns, from my herd. The black bull was grazing alone
away from the rest, but fierce-eyed hounds followed the cows,
four of them, all of one mind, like men. These were left behind,
the dogs and the bull -- which is great marvel; but the cows
strayed out of the soft meadow, away from the pasture when the
sun was just going down. Now tell me this, old man born long
ago: have you seen one passing along behind those cows?'


(ll. 201-211) Then the old man answered him and said: `My son, it
is hard to tell all that one's eyes see; for many wayfarers pass
to and fro this way, some bent on much evil, and some on good: it
is difficult to know each one. However, I was digging about my
plot of vineyard all day long until the sun went down, and I
thought, good sir, but I do not know for certain, that I marked a
child, whoever the child was, that followed long-horned cattle --
an infant who had a staff and kept walking from side to side: he
was driving them backwards way, with their heads toward him.'


(ll. 212-218) So said the old man. And when Apollo heard this
report, he went yet more quickly on his way, and presently,
seeing a long-winged bird, he knew at once by that omen that
thief was the child of Zeus the son of Cronos. So the lord
Apollo, son of Zeus, hurried on to goodly Pylos seeking his
shambling oxen, and he had his broad shoulders covered with a
dark cloud. But when the Far-Shooter perceived the tracks, he
cried:


(ll. 219-226) `Oh, oh! Truly this is a great marvel that my eyes
behold! These are indeed the tracks of straight-horned oxen, but
they are turned backwards towards the flowery meadow. But these
others are not the footprints of man or woman or grey wolves or
bears or lions, nor do I think they are the tracks of a rough-
maned Centaur -- whoever it be that with swift feet makes such
monstrous footprints; wonderful are the tracks on this side of
the way, but yet more wonderfully are those on that.'


(ll. 227-234) When he had so said, the lord Apollo, the Son of
Zeus hastened on and came to the forest-clad mountain of Cyllene
and the deep-shadowed cave in the rock where the divine nymph
brought forth the child of Zeus who is the son of Cronos. A
sweet odour spread over the lovely hill, and many thin-shanked
sheep were grazing on the grass. Then far-shooting Apollo
himself stepped down in haste over the stone threshold into the
dusky cave.


(ll. 235-253) Now when the Son of Zeus and Maia saw Apollo in a
rage about his cattle, he snuggled down in his fragrant
swaddling-clothes; and as wood-ash covers over the deep embers of
tree-stumps, so Hermes cuddled himself up when he saw the Far-
Shooter. He squeezed head and hands and feet together in a small
space, like a new born child seeking sweet sleep, though in truth
he was wide awake, and he kept his lyre under his armpit. But
the Son of Leto was aware and failed not to perceive the
beautiful mountain-nymph and her dear son, albeit a little child
and swathed so craftily. He peered in ever corner of the great
dwelling and, taking a bright key, he opened three closets full
of nectar and lovely ambrosia. And much gold and silver was
stored in them, and many garments of the nymph, some purple and
some silvery white, such as are kept in the sacred houses of the
blessed gods. Then, after the Son of Leto had searched out the
recesses of the great house, he spake to glorious Hermes:


(ll. 254-259) `Child, lying in the cradle, make haste and tell me
of my cattle, or we two will soon fall out angrily. For I will
take and cast you into dusty Tartarus and awful hopeless
darkness, and neither your mother nor your father shall free you
or bring you up again to the light, but you will wander under the
earth and be the leader amongst little folk.' (21)


(ll. 260-277) Then Hermes answered him with crafty words: `Son of
Leto, what harsh words are these you have spoken? And is it
cattle of the field you are come here to seek? I have not seen
them: I have not heard of them: no one has told me of them. I
cannot give news of them, nor win the reward for news. Am I like
a cattle-liter, a stalwart person? This is no task for me:
rather I care for other things: I care for sleep, and milk of my
mother's breast, and wrappings round my shoulders, and warm
baths. Let no one hear the cause of this dispute; for this would
be a great marvel indeed among the deathless gods, that a child
newly born should pass in through the forepart of the house with
cattle of the field: herein you speak extravagantly. I was born
yesterday, and my feet are soft and the ground beneath is rough;
nevertheless, if you will have it so, I will swear a great oath
by my father's head and vow that neither am I guilty myself,
neither have I seen any other who stole your cows -- whatever
cows may be; for I know them only by hearsay.'


(ll. 278-280) So, then, said Hermes, shooting quick glances from
his eyes: and he kept raising his brows and looking this way and
that, whistling long and listening to Apollo's story as to an
idle tale.


(ll. 281-292) But far-working Apollo laughed softly and said to
him: `O rogue, deceiver, crafty in heart, you talk so innocently
that I most surely believe that you have broken into many a well-
built house and stripped more than one poor wretch bare this
night (22), gathering his goods together all over the house
without noise. You will plague many a lonely herdsman in
mountain glades, when you come on herds and thick-fleeced sheep,
and have a hankering after flesh. But come now, if you would not
sleep your last and latest sleep, get out of your cradle, you
comrade of dark night. Surely hereafter this shall be your title
amongst the deathless gods, to be called the prince of robbers
continually.'


(ll. 293-300) So said Phoebus Apollo, and took the child and
began to carry him. But at that moment the strong Slayer of
Argus had his plan, and, while Apollo held him in his hands, sent
forth an omen, a hard-worked belly-serf, a rude messenger, and
sneezed directly after. And when Apollo heard it, he dropped
glorious Hermes out of his hands on the ground: then sitting down
before him, though he was eager to go on his way, he spoke
mockingly to Hermes:


(ll. 301-303) `Fear not, little swaddling baby, son of Zeus and
Maia. I shall find the strong cattle presently by these omens,
and you shall lead the way.'


(ll. 304-306) When Apollo had so said, Cyllenian Hermes sprang up
quickly, starting in haste. With both hands he pushed up to his
ears the covering that he had wrapped about his shoulders, and
said:


(ll. 307-312) `Where are you carrying me, Far-Worker, hastiest of
all the gods? Is it because of your cattle that you are so angry
and harass me? O dear, would that all the sort of oxen might
perish; for it is not I who stole your cows, nor did I see
another steal them -- whatever cows may be, and of that I have
only heard report. Nay, give right and take it before Zeus, the
Son of Cronos.'


(ll. 313-326) So Hermes the shepherd and Leto's glorious son kept
stubbornly disputing each article of their quarrel: Apollo,
speaking truly....
((LACUNA))
....not fairly sought to seize glorious Hermes because of the
cows; but he, the Cyllenian, tried to deceive the God of the
Silver Bow with tricks and cunning words. But when, though he
had many wiles, he found the other had as many shifts, he began
to walk across the sand, himself in front, while the Son of Zeus
and Leto came behind. Soon they came, these lovely children of
Zeus, to the top of fragrant Olympus, to their father, the Son of
Cronos; for there were the scales of judgement set for them both.


There was an assembly on snowy Olympus, and the immortals who
perish not were gathering after the hour of gold-throned Dawn.


(ll. 327-329) Then Hermes and Apollo of the Silver Bow stood at
the knees of Zeus: and Zeus who thunders on high spoke to his
glorious son and asked him:


(ll. 330-332) `Phoebus, whence come you driving this great spoil,
a child new born that has the look of a herald? This is a
weighty matter that is come before the council of the gods.'


(ll. 333-364) Then the lord, far-working Apollo, answered him: `O
my father, you shall soon hear no triffling tale though you
reproach me that I alone am fond of spoil. Here is a child, a
burgling robber, whom I found after a long journey in the hills
of Cyllene: for my part I have never seen one so pert either
among the gods or all men that catch folk unawares throughout the
world. He strole away my cows from their meadow and drove them
off in the evening along the shore of the loud-roaring sea,
making straight for Pylos. There were double tracks, and
wonderful they were, such as one might marvel at, the doing of a
clever sprite; for as for the cows, the dark dust kept and showed
their footprints leading towards the flowery meadow; but he
himself -- bewildering creature -- crossed the sandy ground
outside the path, not on his feet nor yet on his hands; but,
furnished with some other means he trudged his way -- wonder of
wonders! -- as though one walked on slender oak-trees. Now while
he followed the cattle across sandy ground, all the tracks showed
quite clearly in the dust; but when he had finished the long way
across the sand, presently the cows' track and his own could not
be traced over the hard ground. But a mortal man noticed him as
he drove the wide-browed kine straight towards Pylos. And as
soon as he had shut them up quietly, and had gone home by crafty
turns and twists, he lay down in his cradle in the gloom of a dim
cave, as still as dark night, so that not even an eagle keenly
gazing would have spied him. Much he rubbed his eyes with his
hands as he prepared falsehood, and himself straightway said
roundly: "I have not seen them: I have not heard of them: no man
has told me of them. I could not tell you of them, nor win the
reward of telling."'


(ll. 365-367) When he had so spoken, Phoebus Apollo sat down.
But Hermes on his part answered and said, pointing at the Son of
Cronos, the lord of all the gods:


(ll. 368-386) `Zeus, my father, indeed I will speak truth to you;
for I am truthful and I cannot tell a lie. He came to our house
to-day looking for his shambling cows, as the sun was newly
rising. He brought no witnesses with him nor any of the blessed
gods who had seen the theft, but with great violence ordered me
to confess, threatening much to throw me into wide Tartarus. For
he has the rich bloom of glorious youth, while I was born but
yesterday -- as he too knows -- nor am I like a cattle-lifter, a
sturdy fellow. Believe my tale (for you claim to be my own
father), that I did not drive his cows to my house -- so may I
prosper -- nor crossed the threshold: this I say truly. I
reverence Helios greatly and the other gods, and you I love and
him I dread. You yourself know that I am not guilty: and I will
swear a great oath upon it: -- No! by these rich-decked porticoes
of the gods. And some day I will punish him, strong as he is,
for this pitiless inquisition; but now do you help the younger.'


(ll. 387-396) So spake the Cyllenian, the Slayer of Argus, while
he kept shooting sidelong glances and kept his swaddling-clothes
upon his arm, and did not cast them away. But Zeus laughed out
loud to see his evil-plotting child well and cunningly denying
guilt about the cattle. And he bade them both to be of one mind
and search for the cattle, and guiding Hermes to lead the way
and, without mischievousness of heart, to show the place where
now he had hidden the strong cattle. Then the Son of Cronos
bowed his head: and goodly Hermes obeyed him; for the will of
Zeus who holds the aegis easily prevailed with him.


(ll. 397-404) Then the two all-glorious children of Zeus hastened
both to sandy Pylos, and reached the ford of Alpheus, and came to
the fields and the high-roofed byre where the beasts were
cherished at night-time. Now while Hermes went to the cave in
the rock and began to drive out the strong cattle, the son of
Leto, looking aside, saw the cowhides on the sheer rock. And he
asked glorious Hermes at once:


(ll. 405-408) `How were you able, you crafty rogue, to flay two
cows, new-born and babyish as you are? For my part, I dread the
strength that will be yours: there is no need you should keep
growing long, Cyllenian, son of Maia!'


(ll. 409-414) So saying, Apollo twisted strong withes with his
hands meaning to bind Hermes with firm bands; but the bands would
not hold him, and the withes of osier fell far from him and began
to grow at once from the ground beneath their feet in that very
place. And intertwining with one another, they quickly grew and
covered all the wild-roving cattle by the will of thievish
Hermes, so that Apollo was astonished as he gazed.


(ll. 414-435) Then the strong slayer of Argus looked furtively
upon the ground with eyes flashing fire.... desiring to hide....
((LACUNA))
....Very easily he softened the son of all-glorious Leto as he
would, stern though the Far-shooter was. He took the lyre upon
his left arm and tried each string in turn with the key, so that
it sounded awesomely at his touch. And Phoebus Apollo laughed
for joy; for the sweet throb of the marvellous music went to his
heart, and a soft longing took hold on his soul as he listened.
Then the son of Maia, harping sweetly upon his lyre, took courage
and stood at the left hand of Phoebus Apollo; and soon, while he
played shrilly on his lyre, he lifted up his voice and sang, and
lovely was the sound of his voice that followed. He sang the
story of the deathless gods and of the dark earth, how at the
first they came to be, and how each one received his portion.
First among the gods he honoured Mnemosyne, mother of the Muses,
in his song; for the son of Maia was of her following. And next
the goodly son of Zeus hymned the rest of the immortals according
to their order in age, and told how each was born, mentioning all
in order as he struck the lyre upon his arm. But Apollo was
seized with a longing not to be allayed, and he opened his mouth
and spoke winged words to Hermes:


(ll. 436-462) `Slayer of oxen, trickster, busy one, comrade of
the feast, this song of yours is worth fifty cows, and I believe
that presently we shall settle our quarrel peacefully. But come
now, tell me this, resourceful son of Maia: has this marvellous
thing been with you from your birth, or did some god or mortal
man give it you -- a noble gift -- and teach you heavenly song?
For wonderful is this new-uttered sound I hear, the like of which
I vow that no man nor god dwelling on Olympus ever yet has known
but you, O thievish son of Maia. What skill is this? What song
for desperate cares? What way of song? For verily here are
three things to hand all at once from which to choose, -- mirth,
and love, and sweet sleep. And though I am a follower of the
Olympian Muses who love dances and the bright path of song -- the
full-toned chant and ravishing thrill of flutes -- yet I never
cared for any of those feats of skill at young men's revels, as I
do now for this: I am filled with wonder, O son of Zeus, at your
sweet playing. But now, since you, though little, have such
glorious skill, sit down, dear boy, and respect the words of your
elders. For now you shall have renown among the deathless gods,
you and your mother also. This I will declare to you exactly: by
this shaft of cornel wood I will surely make you a leader
renowned among the deathless gods, and fortunate, and will give
you glorious gifts and will not deceive you from first to last.'


(ll. 463-495) Then Hermes answered him with artful words: `You
question me carefully, O Far-worker; yet I am not jealous that
you should enter upon my art: this day you shall know it. For I
seek to be friendly with you both in thought and word. Now you
well know all things in your heart, since you sit foremost among
the deathless gods, O son of Zeus, and are goodly and strong.
And wise Zeus loves you as all right is, and has given you
splendid gifts. And they say that from the utterance of Zeus you
have learned both the honours due to the gods, O Far-worker, and
oracles from Zeus, even all his ordinances. Of all these I
myself have already learned that you have great wealth. Now, you
are free to learn whatever you please; but since, as it seems,
your heart is so strongly set on playing the lyre, chant, and
play upon it, and give yourself to merriment, taking this as a
gift from me, and do you, my friend, bestow glory on me. Sing
well with this clear-voiced companion in your hands; for you are
skilled in good, well-ordered utterance. From now on bring it
confidently to the rich feast and lovely dance and glorious
revel, a joy by night and by day. Whoso with wit and wisdom
enquires of it cunningly, him it teaches through its sound all
manner of things that delight the mind, being easily played with
gentle familiarities, for it abhors toilsome drudgery; but whoso
in ignorance enquires of it violently, to him it chatters mere
vanity and foolishness. But you are able to learn whatever you
please. So then, I will give you this lyre, glorious son of
Zeus, while I for my part will graze down with wild-roving cattle
the pastures on hill and horse-feeding plain: so shall the cows
covered by the bulls calve abundantly both males and females.
And now there is no need for you, bargainer though you are, to be
furiously angry.'


(ll. 496-502) When Hermes had said this, he held out the lyre:
and Phoebus Apollo took it, and readily put his shining whip in
Hermes' hand, and ordained him keeper of herds. The son of Maia
received it joyfully, while the glorious son of Leto, the lord
far-working Apollo, took the lyre upon his left arm and tried
each string with the key. Awesomely it sounded at the touch of
the god, while he sang sweetly to its note.


(ll. 503-512) Afterwards they two, the all-glorious sons of Zeus
turned the cows back towards the sacred meadow, but themselves
hastened back to snowy Olympus, delighting in the lyre. Then
wise Zeus was glad and made them both friends. And Hermes loved
the son of Leto continually, even as he does now, when he had
given the lyre as token to the Far-shooter, who played it
skilfully, holding it upon his arm. But for himself Hermes found
out another cunning art and made himself the pipes whose sound is
heard afar.


(ll. 513-520) Then the son of Leto said to Hermes: `Son of Maia,
guide and cunning one, I fear you may steal form me the lyre and
my curved bow together; for you have an office from Zeus, to
establish deeds of barter amongst men throughout the fruitful
earth. Now if you would only swear me the great oath of the
gods, either by nodding your head, or by the potent water of
Styx, you would do all that can please and ease my heart.'


(ll. 521-549) Then Maia's son nodded his head and promised that
he would never steal anything of all the Far-shooter possessed,
and would never go near his strong house; but Apollo, son of
Leto, swore to be fellow and friend to Hermes, vowing that he
would love no other among the immortals, neither god nor man
sprung from Zeus, better than Hermes: and the Father sent forth
an eagle in confirmation. And Apollo sware also: `Verily I will
make you only to be an omen for the immortals and all alike,
trusted and honoured by my heart. Moreover, I will give you a
splendid staff of riches and wealth: it is of gold, with three
branches, and will keep you scatheless, accomplishing every task,
whether of words or deeds that are good, which I claim to know
through the utterance of Zeus. But as for sooth-saying, noble,
heaven-born child, of which you ask, it is not lawful for you to
learn it, nor for any other of the deathless gods: only the mind
of Zeus knows that. I am pledged and have vowed and sworn a
strong oath that no other of the eternal gods save I should know
the wise-hearted counsel of Zeus. And do not you, my brother,
bearer of the golden wand, bid me tell those decrees which all-
seeing Zeus intends. As for men, I will harm one and profit
another, sorely perplexing the tribes of unenviable men.
Whosoever shall come guided by the call and flight of birds of
sure omen, that man shall have advantage through my voice, and I
will not deceive him. But whoso shall trust to idly-chattering
birds and shall seek to invoke my prophetic art contrary to my
will, and to understand more than the eternal gods, I declare
that he shall come on an idle journey; yet his gifts I would
take.


(ll. 550-568) `But I will tell you another thing, Son of all-
glorious Maia and Zeus who holds the aegis, luck-bringing genius
of the gods. There are certain holy ones, sisters born -- three
virgins (23) gifted with wings: their heads are besprinkled with
white meal, and they dwell under a ridge of Parnassus. These are
teachers of divination apart from me, the art which I practised
while yet a boy following herds, though my father paid no heed to
it. From their home they fly now here, now there, feeding on
honey-comb and bringing all things to pass. And when they are
inspired through eating yellow honey, they are willing to speak
truth; but if they be deprived of the gods' sweet food, then they
speak falsely, as they swarm in and out together. These, then, I
give you; enquire of them strictly and delight your heart: and if
you should teach any mortal so to do, often will he hear your
response -- if he have good fortune. Take these, Son of Maia,
and tend the wild roving, horned oxen and horses and patient
mules.'


(ll. 568a-573) So he spake. And from heaven father Zeus himself
gave confirmation to his words, and commanded that glorious
Hermes should be lord over all birds of omen and grim-eyed lions,
and boars with gleaming tusks, and over dogs and all flocks that
the wide earth nourishes, and over all sheep; also that he only
should be the appointed messenger to Hades, who, though he takes
no gift, shall give him no mean prize.


(ll. 574-578) Thus the lord Apollo showed his kindness for the
Son of Maia by all manner of friendship: and the Son of Cronos
gave him grace besides. He consorts with all mortals and
immortals: a little he profits, but continually throughout the
dark night he cozens the tribes of mortal men.


(ll. 579-580) And so, farewell, Son of Zeus and Maia; but I will
remember you and another song also.


From: Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns and Homerica

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.