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Ch. 2: Hermes

Of Hermes sing, O Muse, the son of Zeus and Maia, Lord of Cyllene, and Arcadia rich in sheep, the fortune-bearing Herald of the Gods, him whom Maia bore, the fair-tressed nymph, that lay in the arms of Zeus; a shamefaced nymph was she, shunning the assembly of the blessed Gods, dwelling within a shadowy cave. Therein was Cronion wont to embrace the fair-tressed nymph in the deep of night, when sweet sleep held white-armed Hera, the immortal Gods knowing it not, nor mortal men.

But when the mind of great Zeus was fulfilled, and over her the tenth moon stood in the sky, the babe was born to light, and all was made manifest; yea, then she bore a child of many a wile and cunning counsel, a robber, a driver of the kine, a captain of raiders, a watcher of the night, a thief of the gates, who soon should show forth deeds renowned among the deathless Gods. Born in the dawn, by midday well he harped, and in the evening stole the cattle of Apollo the Far-darter, on that fourth day of the month wherein lady Maia bore him. Who, when he leaped from the immortal knees of his mother, lay not long in the sacred cradle, but sped forth to seek the cattle of Apollo, crossing the threshold of the high-roofed cave. There found he a tortoise, and won endless delight, for lo, it was Hermes that first made of the tortoise a minstrel. The creature met him at the outer door, as she fed on the rich grass in front of the dwelling, waddling along, at sight whereof the luck- bringing son of Zeus laughed, and straightway spoke, saying:

"Lo, a lucky omen for me, not by me to be mocked! Hail, darling and dancer, friend of the feast, welcome art thou! whence gatst thou the gay garment, a speckled shell, thou, a mountain-dwelling tortoise? Nay, I will carry thee within, and a boon shalt thou be to me, not by me to be scorned, nay, thou shalt first serve my turn. Best it is to bide at home, since danger is abroad. Living shalt thou be a spell against ill witchery, and dead, then a right sweet music-maker."

So spake he, and raising in both hands the tortoise, went back within the dwelling, bearing the glad treasure. Then he choked the creature, and with a gouge of grey iron he scooped out the marrow of the hill tortoise. And as a swift thought wings through the breast of one that crowding cares are haunting, or as bright glances fleet from the eyes, so swiftly devised renowned Hermes both deed and word. He cut to measure stalks of reed, and fixed them in through holes bored in the stony shell of the tortoise, and cunningly stretched round it the hide of an ox, and put in the horns of the lyre, and to both he fitted the bridge, and stretched seven harmonious chords of sheep-gut. {136}

Then took he his treasure, when he had fashioned it, and touched the strings in turn with the plectrum, and wondrously it sounded under his hand, and fair sang the God to the notes, improvising his chant as he played, like lads exchanging taunts at festivals. Of Zeus Cronides and fair-sandalled Maia he sang how they had lived in loving dalliance, and he told out the tale of his begetting, and sang the handmaids and the goodly halls of the Nymph, and the tripods in the house, and the store of cauldrons. So then he sang, but dreamed of other deeds; then bore he the hollow lyre and laid it in the sacred cradle, then, in longing for flesh of kine he sped from the fragrant hall to a place of outlook, with such a design in his heart as reiving men pursue in the dark of night.

The sun had sunk down beneath earth into ocean, with horses and chariot, when Hermes came running to the shadowy hills of Pieria, where the deathless kine of the blessed Gods had ever their haunt; there fed they on the fair unshorn meadows. From their number did the keen-sighted Argeiphontes, son of Maia, cut off fifty loud-lowing kine, and drove them hither and thither over the sandy land, reversing their tracks, and, mindful of his cunning, confused the hoof-marks, the front behind, the hind in front, and himself fared down again. Straightway he wove sandals on the sea-sand (things undreamed he wrought, works wonderful, unspeakable) mingling myrtle twigs and tamarisk, then binding together a bundle of the fresh young wood, he shrewdly fastened it for light sandals beneath his feet, leaves and all, {138}--brushwood that the renowned slayer of Argos had plucked on his way from Pieria [being, as he was, in haste, down the long way].

Then an old man that was labouring a fruitful vineyard, marked the God faring down to the plain through grassy Onchestus, and to him spoke first the son of renowned Maia:

"Old man that bowest thy shoulders over thy hoeing, verily thou shalt have wine enough when all these vines are bearing. . . . See thou, and see not; hear thou, and hear not; be silent, so long as naught of thine is harmed."

Therewith he drave on together the sturdy heads of cattle. And over many a shadowy hill, and through echoing corries and flowering plains drave renowned Hermes. Then stayed for the more part his darkling ally, the sacred Night, and swiftly came morning when men can work, and sacred Selene, daughter of Pallas, mighty prince, clomb to a new place of outlook, and then the strong son of Zeus drave the broad-browed kine of Phoebus Apollo to the river Alpheius. Unwearied they came to the high- roofed stall and the watering-places in front of the fair meadow. There, when he had foddered the deep-voiced kine, he herded them huddled together into the byre, munching lotus and dewy marsh marigold; next brought he much wood, and set himself to the craft of fire-kindling. Taking a goodly shoot of the daphne, he peeled it with the knife, fitting it to his hand, {140} and the hot vapour of smoke arose. [Lo, it was Hermes first who gave fire, and the fire-sticks.] Then took he many dry faggots, great plenty, and piled them in the trench, and flame began to break, sending far the breath of burning fire. And when the force of renowned Hephaestus kept the fire aflame, then downward dragged he, so mighty his strength, two bellowing kine of twisted horn: close up to the fire he dragged them, and cast them both panting upon their backs to the ground. [Then bending over them he turned them upwards and cut their throats] . . . task upon task, and sliced off the fat meat, pierced it with spits of wood, and broiled it,--flesh, and chine, the joint of honour, and blood in the bowels, all together;--then laid all there in its place. The hides he stretched out on a broken rock, as even now they are used, such as are to be enduring: long, and long after that ancient day. {141a} Anon glad Hermes dragged the fat portions on to a smooth ledge, and cut twelve messes sorted out by lot, to each its due meed he gave. Then a longing for the rite of the sacrifice of flesh came on renowned Hermes: for the sweet savour irked him, immortal as he was, but not even so did his strong heart yield. {141b} . . . The fat and flesh he placed in the high-roofed stall, the rest he swiftly raised aloft, a trophy of his reiving, and, gathering dry faggots, he burned heads and feet entire with the vapour of flame. Anon when the God had duly finished all, he cast his sandals into the deep swirling pool of Alpheius, quenched the embers, and all night long spread smooth the black dust: Selene lighting him with her lovely light. Back to the crests of Cyllene came the God at dawn, nor blessed God, on that long way, nor mortal man encountered him; nay, and no dog barked. Then Hermes, son of Zeus, bearer of boon, bowed his head, and entered the hall through the hole of the bolt, like mist on the breath of autumn. Then, standing erect, he sped to the rich inmost chamber of the cave, lightly treading noiseless on the floor. Quickly to his cradle came glorious Hermes and wrapped the swaddling bands about his shoulders, like a witless babe, playing with the wrapper about his knees. So lay he, guarding his dear lyre at his left hand. But his Goddess mother the God did not deceive; she spake, saying:

"Wherefore, thou cunning one, and whence comest thou in the night, thou clad in shamelessness? Anon, methinks, thou wilt go forth at Apollo's hands with bonds about thy sides that may not be broken, sooner than be a robber in the glens. Go to, wretch, thy Father begat thee for a trouble to deathless Gods and mortal men."

But Hermes answered her with words of guile: "Mother mine, why wouldst thou scare me so, as though I were a redeless child, with little craft in his heart, a trembling babe that dreads his mother's chidings? Nay, but I will essay the wiliest craft to feed thee and me for ever. We twain are not to endure to abide here, of all the deathless Gods alone unapproached with sacrifice and prayer, as thou commandest. Better it is eternally to be conversant with Immortals, richly, nobly, well seen in wealth of grain, than to be homekeepers in a darkling cave. And for honour, I too will have my dues of sacrifice, even as Apollo. Even if my Father give it me not I will endeavour, for I am of avail, to be a captain of reivers. And if the son of renowned Leto make inquest for me, methinks some worse thing will befall him. For to Pytho I will go, to break into his great house, whence I shall sack goodly tripods and cauldrons enough, and gold, and gleaming iron, and much raiment. Thyself, if thou hast a mind, shalt see it."

So held they converse one with another, the son of Zeus of the AEgis, and Lady Maia. Then Morning the Daughter of Dawn was arising from the deep stream of Oceanus, bearing light to mortals, what time Apollo came to Onchestus in his journeying, the gracious grove, a holy place of the loud Girdler of the Earth: there he found an old man grazing his ox, the stay of his vineyard, on the roadside. {144} Him first bespoke the son of renowned Leto.

"Old man, hedger of grassy Onchestus; hither am I come seeking cattle from Pieria, all the crook-horned kine out of my herd: my black bull was wont to graze apart from the rest, and my four bright-eyed hounds followed, four of them, wise as men and all of one mind. These were left, the hounds and the bull, a marvel; but the kine wandered away from their soft meadow and sweet pasture, at the going down of the sun. Tell me, thou old man of ancient days, if thou hast seen any man faring after these cattle?"

Then to him the old man spake and answered:

"My friend, hard it were to tell all that a man may see: for many wayfarers go by, some full of ill intent, and some of good: and it is difficult to be certain regarding each. Nevertheless, the whole day long till sunset I was digging about my vineyard plot, and methought I marked--but I know not surely--a child that went after the horned kine; right young he was, and held a staff, and kept going from side to side, and backwards he drove the kine, their faces fronting him."

So spake the old man, but Apollo heard, and went fleeter on his path. Then marked he a bird long of wing, and anon he knew that the thief had been the son of Zeus Cronion. Swiftly sped the Prince, Apollo, son of Zeus, to goodly Pylos, seeking the shambling kine, while his broad shoulders were swathed in purple cloud. Then the Far-darter marked the tracks, and spake:

"Verily, a great marvel mine eyes behold! These be the tracks of high- horned kine, but all are turned back to the meadow of asphodel. But these are not the footsteps of a man, nay, nor of a woman, nor of grey wolves, nor bears, nor lions, nor, methinks, of a shaggy-maned Centaur, whosoever with fleet feet makes such mighty strides! Dread to see they are that backwards go, more dread they that go forwards."

So speaking, the Prince sped on, Apollo, son of Zeus. To the Cyllenian hill he came, that is clad in forests, to the deep shadow of the hollow rock, where the deathless nymph brought forth the child of Zeus Cronion. A fragrance sweet was spread about the goodly hill, and many tall sheep were grazing the grass. Thence he went fleetly over the stone threshold into the dusky cave, even Apollo, the Far-darter.

Now when the son of Zeus and Maia beheld Apollo thus in wrath for his kine, he sank down within his fragrant swaddling bands, being covered as piled embers of burnt tree-roots are covered by thick ashes, so Hermes coiled himself up, when he saw the Far-darter; and curled himself, feet, head, and hands, into small space [summoning sweet sleep], though of a verity wide awake, and his tortoise-shell he kept beneath his armpit. But the son of Zeus and Leto marked them well, the lovely mountain nymph and her dear son, a little babe, all wrapped in cunning wiles. Gazing round all the chamber of the vasty dwelling, Apollo opened three aumbries with the shining key; full were they of nectar and glad ambrosia, and much gold and silver lay within, and much raiment of the Nymph, purple and glistering, such as are within the dwellings of the mighty Gods. Anon, when he had searched out the chambers of the great hall, the son of Leto spake to renowned Hermes:

"Child, in the cradle lying, tell me straightway of my kine: or speedily between us twain will be unseemly strife. For I will seize thee and cast thee into murky Tartarus, into the darkness of doom where none is of avail. Nor shall thy father or mother redeem thee to the light: nay, under earth shalt thou roam, a reiver among folk fordone."

Then Hermes answered with words of craft: "Apollo, what ungentle word hast thou spoken? And is it thy cattle of the homestead thou comest here to seek? I saw them not, heard not of them, gave ear to no word of them: of them I can tell no tidings, nor win the fee of him who tells. Not like a lifter of cattle, a stalwart man, am I: no task is this of mine: hitherto I have other cares; sleep, and mother's milk, and about my shoulders swaddling bands, and warmed baths. Let none know whence this feud arose! And verily great marvel among the Immortals it would be, that a new-born child should cross the threshold after kine of the homestead; a silly rede of thine. Yesterday was I born, my feet are tender, and rough is the earth below. But if thou wilt I shall swear the great oath by my father's head, that neither I myself am to blame, nor have I seen any other thief of thy kine: be kine what they may, for I know but by hearsay."

So spake he with twinkling eyes, and twisted brows, glancing hither and thither, with long-drawn whistling breath, hearing Apollo's word as a vain thing. Then lightly laughing spake Apollo the Far-darter:

"Oh, thou rogue, thou crafty one; verily methinks that many a time thou wilt break into stablished homes, and by night leave many a man bare, silently pilling through his house, such is thy speech to-day! And many herdsmen of the steadings wilt thou vex in the mountain glens, when in lust for flesh thou comest on the herds and sheep thick of fleece. Nay come, lest thou sleep the last and longest slumber, come forth from thy cradle, thou companion of black night! For surely this honour hereafter thou shalt have among the Immortals, to be called for ever the captain of reivers."

So spake Phoebus Apollo, and lifted the child, but even then strong Argus- bane had his device, and, in the hands of the God, let forth an Omen, an evil belly-tenant, with tidings of worse, and a speedy sneeze thereafter. Apollo heard, and dropped renowned Hermes on the ground, then sat down before him, eager as he was to be gone, chiding Hermes, and thus he spoke:

"Take heart, swaddling one, child of Zeus and Maia. By these thine Omens shall I find anon the sturdy kine, and thou shalt lead the way."

So spake he, but swiftly arose Cyllenian Hermes, and swiftly fared, pulling about his ears his swaddling bands that were his shoulder wrapping. Then spake he:

"Whither bearest thou me, Far-darter, of Gods most vehement? Is it for wrath about thy kine that thou thus provokest me? Would that the race of kine might perish, for thy cattle have I not stolen, nor seen another steal, whatsoever kine may be; I know but by hearsay, I! But let our suit be judged before Zeus Cronion."

Now were lone Hermes and the splendid son of Leto point by point disputing their pleas, Apollo with sure knowledge was righteously seeking to convict renowned Hermes for the sake of his kine, but he with craft and cunning words sought to beguile,--the Cyllenian to beguile the God of the Silver Bow. But when the wily one found one as wily, then speedily he strode forward through the sand in front, while behind came the son of Zeus and Leto. Swiftly they came to the crests of fragrant Olympus, to father Cronion they came, these goodly sons of Zeus, for there were set for them the balances of doom. Quiet was snowy Olympus, but they who know not decay or death were gathering after gold-throned Dawn. Then stood Hermes and Apollo of the Silver Bow before the knees of Zeus, the Thunderer, who inquired of his glorious Son, saying:

"Phoebus, whence drivest thou such mighty spoil, a new-born babe like a Herald? A mighty matter this, to come before the gathering of the Gods!"

Then answered him the Prince, Apollo the Far-darter:

"Father, anon shalt thou hear no empty tale; tauntest thou me, as though I were the only lover of booty? This boy have I found, a finished reiver, in the hills of Cyllene, a long way to wander; so fine a knave as I know not among Gods or men, of all robbers on earth. My kine he stole from the meadows, and went driving them at eventide along the loud sea shores, straight to Pylos. Wondrous were the tracks, a thing to marvel on, work of a glorious god. For the black dust showed the tracks of the kine making backward to the mead of asphodel; but this child intractable fared neither on hands nor feet, through the sandy land, but this other strange craft had he, to tread the paths as if shod on with oaken shoots. {153} While he drove the kine through a land of sand, right plain to discern were all the tracks in the dust, but when he had crossed the great tract of sand, straightway on hard ground his traces and those of the kine were ill to discern. But a mortal man beheld him, driving straight to Pylos the cattle broad of brow. Now when he had stalled the kine in quiet, and confused his tracks on either side the way, he lay dark as night in his cradle, in the dusk of a shadowy cave. The keenest eagle could not have spied him, and much he rubbed his eyes, with crafty purpose, and bluntly spake his word:

"I saw not, I heard not aught, nor learned another's tale; nor tidings could I give, nor win reward of tidings."

Therewith Phoebus Apollo sat him down, but another tale did Hermes tell, among the Immortals, addressing Cronion, the master of all Gods:

"Father Zeus, verily the truth will I tell thee: for true am I, nor know the way of falsehood. To-day at sunrise came Apollo to our house, seeking his shambling kine. No witnesses of the Gods brought he, nor no Gods who had seen the fact. But he bade me declare the thing under duress, threatening oft to cast me into wide Tartarus, for he wears the tender flower of glorious youth, but I was born but yesterday, as well himself doth know, and in naught am I like a stalwart lifter of kine. Believe, for thou givest thyself out to be my father, that may I never be well if I drove home the kine, nay, or crossed the threshold. This I say for sooth! The Sun I greatly revere, and other gods, and Thee I love, and him I dread. Nay, thyself knowest that I am not to blame; and thereto I will add a great oath: by these fair-wrought porches of the Gods I am guiltless, and one day yet I shall avenge me on him for this pitiless accusation, mighty as he is; but do thou aid the younger!"

So spake Cyllenian Argus-bane, and winked, with his wrapping on his arm: he did not cast it down. But Zeus laughed aloud at the sight of his evil- witted child, so well and wittily he pled denial about the kine. Then bade he them both be of one mind, and so seek the cattle, with Hermes as guide to lead the way, and show without guile where he had hidden the sturdy kine. The Son of Cronos nodded, and glorious Hermes obeyed, for lightly persuadeth the counsel of Zeus of the AEgis.

Then sped both of them, the fair children of Zeus, to sandy Pylos, at the ford of Alpheius, and to the fields they came, and the stall of lofty roof, where the booty was tended in the season of darkness. There anon Hermes went to the side of the rocky cave, and began driving the sturdy cattle into the light. But the son of Leto, glancing aside, saw the flayed skins on the high rock, and quickly asked renowned Hermes:

"How wert thou of avail, oh crafty one, to flay two kine; new-born and childish as thou art? For time to come I dread thy might: no need for thee to be growing long, thou son of Maia!" {156}

[So spake he, and round his hands twisted strong bands of withes, but they at his feet were soon intertwined, each with other, and lightly were they woven over all the kine of the field, by the counsel of thievish Hermes, but Apollo marvelled at that he saw.]

Then the strong Argus-bane with twinkling glances looked down at the ground, wishful to hide his purpose. But that harsh son of renowned Leto, the Far-darter, did he lightly soothe to his will; taking his lyre in his left hand he tuned it with the plectrum: and wondrously it rang beneath his hand. Thereat Phoebus Apollo laughed and was glad, and the winsome note passed through to his very soul as he heard. Then Maia's son took courage, and sweetly harping with his harp he stood at Apollo's left side, playing his prelude, and thereon followed his winsome voice. He sang the renowns of the deathless Gods, and the dark Earth, how all things were at the first, and how each God gat his portion.

To Mnemosyne first of Gods he gave the meed of minstrelsy, to the Mother of the Muses, for the Muse came upon the Son of Maia.

Then all the rest of the Immortals, in order of rank and birth, did he honour, the splendid son of Zeus, telling duly all the tale, as he struck the lyre on his arm. But on Apollo's heart in his breast came the stress of desire, who spake to him winged words:

"Thou crafty slayer of kine, thou comrade of the feast; thy song is worth the price of fifty oxen! Henceforth, methinks, shall we be peacefully made at one. But, come now, tell me this, thou wily Son of Maia, have these marvels been with thee even since thy birth, or is it that some immortal, or some mortal man, has given thee the glorious gift and shown thee song divine? For marvellous is this new song in mine ears, such as, methinks, none hath known, either of men, or of Immortals who have mansions in Olympus, save thyself, thou reiver, thou Son of Zeus and Maia! What art is this, what charm against the stress of cares? What a path of song! for verily here is choice of all three things, joy, and love, and sweet sleep. For truly though I be conversant with the Olympian Muses, to whom dances are a charge, and the bright minstrel hymn, and rich song, and the lovesome sound of flutes, yet never yet hath aught else been so dear to my heart, dear as the skill in the festivals of the Gods. I marvel, Son of Zeus, at this, the music of thy minstrelsy. But now since, despite thy youth, thou hast such glorious skill, to thee and to thy Mother I speak this word of sooth: verily, by this shaft of cornel wood, I shall lead thee renowned and fortunate among the Immortals, and give thee glorious gifts, nor in the end deceive thee."

Then Hermes answered him with cunning words:

"Shrewdly thou questionest me, Far-darter, nor do I grudge thee to enter upon mine art. This day shalt thou know it: and to thee would I fain be kind in word and will: but within thyself thou well knowest all things, for first among the Immortals, Son of Zeus, is thy place. Mighty art thou and strong, and Zeus of wise counsels loves thee well with reverence due, and hath given thee honour and goodly gifts. Nay, they tell that thou knowest soothsaying, Far-darter, by the voice of Zeus: for from Zeus are all oracles, wherein I myself now know thee to be all-wise. Thy province it is to know what so thou wilt. Since, then, thy heart bids thee play the lyre, harp thou and sing, and let joys be thy care, taking this gift from me; and to me, friend, gain glory. Sweetly sing with my shrill comrade in thy hands, that knoweth speech good and fair and in order due. Freely do thou bear it hereafter into the glad feast, and the winsome dance, and the glorious revel, a joy by night and day. Whatsoever skilled hand shall inquire of it artfully and wisely, surely its voice shall teach him all things joyous, being easily played by gentle practice, fleeing dull toil. But if an unskilled hand first impetuously inquires of it, vain and discordant shall the false notes sound. But thine it is of nature to know what things thou wilt: so to thee will I give this lyre, thou glorious son of Zeus. But we for our part will let graze thy cattle of the field on the pastures of hill and plain, thou Far- darter. So shall the kine, consorting with the bulls, bring forth calves male and female, great store, and no need there is that thou, wise as thou art, should be vehement in anger."

So spake he, and held forth the lyre that Phoebus Apollo took, and pledged his shining whip in the hands of Hermes, and set him over the herds. Gladly the son of Maia received it; while the glorious son of Leto, Apollo, the Prince, the Far-darter, held the lyre in his left hand, and tuned it orderly with the plectrum. Sweetly it sounded to his hand, and fair thereto was the song of the God. Thence anon the twain turned the kine to the rich meadow, but themselves, the glorious children of Zeus, hastened back to snow-clad Olympus, rejoicing in the lyre: ay, and Zeus, the counsellor, was glad of it. [Both did he make one in love, and Hermes loved Leto's son constantly, even as now, since when in knowledge of his love he pledged to the Far-darter the winsome lyre, who held it on his arm and played thereon.] But Hermes withal invented the skill of a new art, the far-heard music of the reed pipes.

Then spake the son of Leto to Hermes thus:

"I fear me, Son of Maia, thou leader, thou crafty one, lest thou steal from me both my lyre and my bent bow. For this meed thou hast from Zeus, to establish the ways of barter among men on the fruitful earth. Wherefore would that thou shouldst endure to swear me the great oath of the Gods, with a nod of the head or by the showering waters of Styx, that thy doings shall ever to my heart be kind and dear."

Then, with a nod of his head, did Maia's son vow that never would he steal the possessions of the Far-darter, nor draw nigh his strong dwelling. And Leto's son made vow and band of love and alliance, that none other among the Gods should be dearer of Gods or men the seed of Zeus. [And I shall make, with thee, a perfect token of a Covenant of all Gods and all men, loyal to my heart and honoured.] {162a} "Thereafter shall I give thee a fair wand of wealth and fortune, a golden wand, three- pointed, which shall guard thee harmless, accomplishing all things good of word and deed that it is mine to learn from the voice of Zeus. {162b} But as touching the art prophetic, oh best of fosterlings of Zeus, concerning which thou inquirest, for thee it is not fit to learn that art, nay, nor for any other Immortal. That lies in the mind of Zeus alone. Myself did make pledge, and promise, and strong oath, that, save me, none other of the eternal Gods should know the secret counsel of Zeus. And thou, my brother of the Golden Wand, bid me not tell thee what awful purposes is planning the far-seeing Zeus.

"One mortal shall I harm, and another shall I bless, with many a turn of fortune among hapless men. Of mine oracle shall he have profit whosoever comes in the wake of wings and voice of birds of omen: he shall have profit of mine oracle: him I will not deceive. But whoso, trusting birds not ominous, approaches mine oracle, to inquire beyond my will, and know more than the eternal Gods, shall come, I say, on a bootless journey, yet his gifts shall I receive. Yet another thing will I tell thee, thou Son of renowned Maia and of Zeus of the AEgis, thou bringer of boon; there be certain Thriae, sisters born, three maidens rejoicing in swift wings. Their heads are sprinkled with white barley flour, and they dwell beneath a glade of Parnassus, apart they dwell, teachers of soothsaying. This art I learned while yet a boy I tended the kine, and my Father heeded not. Thence they flit continually hither and thither, feeding on honeycombs and bringing all things to fulfilment. They, when they are full of the spirit of soothsaying, having eaten of the wan honey, delight to speak forth the truth. But if they be bereft of the sweet food divine, then lie they all confusedly. These I bestow on thee, and do thou, inquiring clearly, delight thine own heart, and if thou instruct any man, he will often hearken to thine oracle, if he have the good fortune. {164} These be thine, O Son of Maia, and the cattle of the field with twisted horn do thou tend, and horses, and toilsome mules. . . . And be lord over the burning eyes of lions, and white-toothed swine, and dogs, and sheep that wide earth nourishes, and over all flocks be glorious Hermes lord. And let him alone be herald appointed to Hades, who, though he be giftless, will give him highest gift of honour."

With such love, in all kindness, did Apollo pledge the Son of Maia, and thereto Cronion added grace. With all mortals and immortals he consorts. Somewhat doth he bless, but ever through the dark night he beguiles the tribes of mortal men.

Hail to thee thus, Son of Zeus and Maia, of thee shall I be mindful and of another lay.


Andrew Lang