« AnteriorContinua »
TRANSLATED FROM THE GREEK OF HOMER.
SING, Muse, the son of Maia and of Jove,
The Herald-child, king of Arcadia
And all its pastoral hills, whom in sweet love
Having been interwoven, modest May
Bore Heaven's dread Supreme-an antique grove
Shadowed the cavern where the lovers lay
In the deep night, unseen by Gods or Men,
And white-armed Juno slumbered sweetly then.
Now, when the joy of Jove had its fulfilling,
And Heaven's tenth moon chronicled her relief,
She gave to light a babe all babes excelling,
A schemer subtle beyond all belief;
A shepherd of thin dreams, a cow-stealing,
A night-watching, and door-waylaying thief,
Who 'mongst the Gods was soon about to thieve
And other glorious actions to achieve.
The babe was born at the first peep of day;
He began playing on the lyre at noon,
And the same evening did he steal away
Apollo's herds;—the fourth day of the moon
On which him bore the venerable May,
From her immortal limbs he leaped full soon,
Nor long could in the sacred cradle keep,
But out to seek Apollo's herds would creep.
Out of the lofty cavern wandering
He found a tortoise, and cried out-"A treasure!" (For Mercury first made the tortoise sing)
The beast before the portal at his leisure
The flowery herbage was depasturing,
Moving his feet in a deliberate measure
Over the turf. Jove's profitable son
Eyeing him laughed, and laughing thus begun :
"A useful godsend are you to me now, King of the dance, companion of the feast, Lovely in all your nature! Welcome, you
Excellent plaything! Where, sweet mountain beast, Got you that speckled shell? Thus much I know, You must come home with me and be my guest; You will give joy to me, and I will do
All that is in my power to honour you.
"Better to be at home than out of door;
So come with me, and though it has been said
That you alive defend from magic power,
I know you will sing sweetly when you're dead."
Thus having spoken, the quaint infant bore,
Lifting it from the grass on which it fed,
And grasping it in his delighted hold,
His treasured prize into the cavern old.
Then scooping with a chisel of grey steel
He bored the life and soul out of the beast-
Not swifter a swift thought of woe or weal
Darts through the tumult of a human breast
Which thronging cares annoy-not swifter wheel
The flashes of its torture and unrest
Out of the dizzy eyes-than Maia's son
All that he did devise hath featly done.
And through the tortoise's hard strong skin
At proper distances small holes he made,
And fastened the cut stems of reeds within,
And with a piece of leather overlaid
The open space and fixed the cubits in,
Fitting the bridge to both, and stretched o'er all
Symphonious cords of sheep-gut rhythmical.
When he had wrought the lovely instrument,
He tried the chords, and made division meet
Preluding with the plectrum, and there went
Up from beneath his hand a tumult sweet
Of mighty sounds, and from his lips he sent
A strain of unpremeditated wit
Joyous and wild and wanton-such you may
Hear among revellers on a holiday.
He sung how Jove and May of the bright sandal
Dallied in love not quite legitimate;
And his own birth, still scoffing at the scandal,
And naming his own name, did celebrate;
His mother's cave and servant maids he planned all
In plastic verse, her household stuff and state,
Perennial pot, trippet, and brazen pan,—
But singing he conceived another plan.
Seized with a sudden fancy for fresh meat,
He in his sacred crib deposited
The hollow lyre, and from the cavern sweet
Rushed with great leaps up to the mountain's head,
Revolving in his mind some subtle feat
Of thievish craft, such as a swindler might
Devise in the lone season of dun night.
Lo! the great Sun under the ocean's bed has
Driven steeds and chariot-the child meanwhile strode O'er the Pierian mountains clothed in shadows,
Where the immortal oxen of the God
Are pastured in the flowering unmown meadows,
And safely stalled in a remote abode-
The archer Argicide, elate and proud,
Drove fifty from the herd, lowing aloud.
He drove them wandering o'er the sandy way,
But, being ever mindful of his craft,
Backward and forward drove he them astray,
So that the tracks which seemed before, were aft;
His sandals then he threw to the ocean spray,
And for each foot he wrought a kind of raft
Of tamarisk, and tamarisk-like sprigs,
And bound them in a lump with withy twigs.
And on his feet he tied these sandals light,
The trail of whose wide leaves might not betray
His track; and then, a self-sufficing wight,
Like a man hastening on some distant way,
He from Piera's mountain bent his flight;
But an old man perceived the infant pass
Down green Onchestus heaped like beds with grass.
The old man stood dressing his sunny vine:
"Halloo! old fellow with the crooked shoulder!
You grub those stumps? before they will bear wine
Methinks even you must grow a little older:
Attend, I pray, to this advice of mine,
As you would 'scape what might appal a bolder-
Seeing, see not-and hearing, hear not-and-
If you have understanding-understand."
So saying, Hermes roused the oxen vast;
O'er shadowy mountain and resounding dell,
And flower-paven plains, great Hermes past;
Till the black night divine, which favouring fell
Around his steps, grew grey, and morning fast
Wakened the world to work, and from her cell
Sea-strewn, the Pallantean Moon sublime
Into her watch-tower just began to climb.
Now to Alpheus he had driven all
The broad-foreheaded oxen of the Sun:
They came unwearied to the lofty stall
And to the water-troughs which ever run
Through the fresh fields-and when with rushgrass tall,
Lotus and all sweet herbage, every one
Had pastured been, the great God made them move Towards the stall in a collected drove.
A mighty pile of wood the God then heaped,
And having soon conceived the mystery
Of fire, from two smooth laurel branches stript
The bark, and rubbed them in his palms,-on high
Suddenly forth the burning vapour leapt,
And the divine child saw delightedly-
Mercury first found out for human weal
Tinder-box, matches, fire-irons, flint and steel.
And fine dry logs and roots innumerous
He gathered in a delve upon the ground-
And kindled them-and instantaneous
The strength of the fierce flame was breathed around:
And whilst the might of glorious Vulcan thus
Wrapt the great pile with glare and roaring sound,
Hermes dragged forth two heifers, lowing loud,
Close to the fire-such might was in the God.
And on the earth upon their backs he threw
The panting beasts, and rolled them o'er and o'er,
And bored their lives out. Without more ado
He cut up fat and flesh, and down before
The fire, on spits of wood he placed the two,
Toasting their flesh and ribs, and all the gore
Pursed in the bowels; and while this was done
He stretched their hides over a craggy stone.
We mortals let an ox grow old, and then
Cut it up after long consideration,-
But joyous-minded' Hermes from the glen
Drew the fat spoils to the more open station
Of a flat smooth space, and portioned them; and whe
He had by lot assigned to each a ration
Of the twelve Gods, his mind became aware
Of all the joys which in religion are.
For the sweet savour of the roasted meat
Tempted him though immortal. Natheless
He checked his haughty will and did not eat,
Though what it cost him words can scarce express,
And every wish to put such morsels sweet
Down his most sacred throat, he did repress;
But soon within the lofty portalled stall
He placed the fat and flesh and bones and all.
And every trace of the fresh butchery
And cooking, the God soon made disappear,
As if it all had vanished through the sky;
He burned the hoofs and horns and head and hair,
The insatiate fire devoured them hungrily;
And when he saw that everything was clear,
He quenched the coals and trampled the black dust,
And in the stream his bloody sandals tossed.
All night he worked in the serene moonshine-
But when the light of day was spread abroad
He sought his natal mountain peaks divine.
On his long wandering, neither man nor god
Had met him, since he killed Apollo's kine,
Nor house-dog had barked at him on his road;
Now he obliquely through the keyhole past,
Like a thin mist, or an autumnal blast.
Right through the emple of the spacious cave
He went with soft light feet-as if his tread
Fell not on earth; no sound their falling gave;
Then to his cradle he crept quick, and spread
The swaddling-clothes about him; and the knave
Lay playing with the covering of the bed
With his left hand about his knees-the right
Held his beloved tortoise-lyre tight.
There he lay innocent as a newborn child,
As gossips say; but though he was a god,
The goddess, his fair mother, unbeguiled
Knew all that he had done being abroad:
"Whence come you, and from what adventure wild,
You cunning rogue, and where have you abode
All the long night, clothed in your impudence?
What have you done since you departed hence?
"Apollo soon will pass within this gate
Ard bind your tender body in a chain
Inextricably tight, and fast as fate,
Unless you can delude the God again,
Even when within his arms-ah, runagate!
A pretty torment both for gods and men
Your father made when he made you !"- -"Dear mother," Replied sly Hermes, "wherefore scold and bother?