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"As if I were like other babes as old,
And understood nothing of what is what;
And cared at all to hear my mother scold.
I in my subtle brain a scheme have got,
Which whilst the sacred stars round Heaven are rolled
Will profit you and me-nor shall our lot
Be as you counsel, without gifts or food,
To spend our lives in this obscure abode.
"But we will leave this shadow-peopled cave
And live among the Gods, and pass each day
In high communion, sharing what they have
Of profuse wealth and unexhausted prey;
And from the portion which my father gave
To Phoebus, I will snatch my share away,
Which if my father will not-natheless I,
Who am the king of robbers, can but try.
"And, if Latona's son should find me out,
I'll countermine him by a deeper plan;
I'll pierce the Pythian temple-walls, though stout,
And sack the fane of everything I can-
Cauldrons and tripods of great worth no doubt,
Each golden cup and polished brazen pan,
All the wrought tapestries and garments gay."
So they together talked;-meanwhile the Day
Ethereal born arose out of the flood
Of flowing Ocean, bearing light to men.
Apollo past toward the sacred wood,
"Which from the inmost depths of its green glen
Echoes the voice of Neptune,-and there stood
On the same spot in green Onchestus then
That same old animal, the vine-dresser,
Who was employed hedging his vineyard there.
Latona's glorious Son began:-" I pray
Tell, ancient hedger of Onchestus green,
Whether a drove of kine has past this way,
All heifers with crooked horns? for they have been
Stolen from the herd in high Pieria,
Where a black bull was fed apart, between
Two woody mountains in a neighbouring glen,
And four fierce dogs watched there, unanimous as men.
"And, what is strange, the author of this theft
Has stolen the fatted heifers every one,
But the four dogs and the black bull are left:
Stolen they were last night at set of sun,
Of their soft beds and their sweet food bereft-
Now tell me, man born ere the world begun,
Have you seen any one pass with the cows?"-
To whom the man of overhanging brows:
"My friend, it would require no common skill
Justly to speak of everything I see:
On various purposes of good or ill
Many pass by my vineyard,-and
'Tis difficult to know the invisible
Thoughts, which in all those many minds may be: Thus much alone I certainly can say,
I tilled these vines till the decline of day.
"And then I thought I saw, but dare not speak
With certainty of such a wondrous thing,
A child, who could not have been born a week,
Those fair-horned cattle closely following,
And in his hand he held a polished stick:
And, as on purpose, he walked wavering
From one side to the other of the road,
And with his face opposed the steps he trod."
Apollo hearing this, past quickly on
No winged omen could have shown more clear That the deceiver was his father's son.
So the God wraps a purple atmosphere Around his shoulders, and like fire is gone To famous Pylos, seeking his kine there,
And found their track and his, yet hardly cold, And cried-" What wonder do mine eyes behold!
"Here are the footsteps of the horned herd
Turned back towards their fields of asphodel;
But these! are not the tracks of beast or bird,
Grey wolf, or bear, or lion of the dell,
Or maned Centaur-sand was never stirred
By man or woman thus ! Inexplicable !
Who with unwearied feet could e'er impress
The sand with such enormous vestiges?
"That was most strange-but this is stranger still!'' Thus having said, Phoebus impetuously
Sought high Cyllene's forest-cinctured hill,
And the deep cavern where dark shadows lie,
And where the ambrosial nymph with happy wil
Bore the Saturnian's love-child, Mercury-
And a delightful odour from the dew
And Phoebus stooped under the craggy roof
Arched over the dark cavern:-Maia's child
Perceived that he came angry, far aloof,
About the cows of which he had been beguiled, And over him the fine and fragrant woof
Of his ambrosial swaddling-clothes he piledAs among firebrands lies a burning spark Covered, beneath the ashes cold and dark.
There, like an infant who had sucked his fill
And now was newly washed and put to bed,
Awake, but courting sleep with weary will,
And gathered in a lump hands, feet, and head,
He lay, and his beloved tortoise still
He grasped and held under his shoulder-blade.
Phoebus the lovely mountain-goddess knew,
Not less her subtle, swindling baby, who
Lay swathed in his sly wiles.
Of the ample cavern, for his kine, Apollo Looked sharp; and when he saw them not, he took The glittering key, and opened three great hollow Recesses in the rock-where many a nook
Was filled with the sweet food immortals swallow, And mighty heaps of silver and of gold Were piled within-a wonder to behold
And white and silver robes, all overwrought
With cunning workmanship of tracery sweet-
Except among the Gods there can be naught
In the wide world to be compared with it.
Latona's offspring, after having sought
His herds in every corner, thus did greet
Great Hermes:-" Little cradled rogue, declare
Of my illustrious heifers, where they are!
"Speak quickly! or a quarrel between us
Must rise, and the event will be, that I
Shall haul you into dismal Tartarus,
In fiery gloom to dwell eternally:
Nor shall your father nor your mother loose
The bars of that black dungeon-utterly
You shall be cast out from the light of day,
To rule the ghosts of men, unblest as they."
To whom thus Hermes slily answered:-"Son
Of great Latona, what a speech is this!
Why come you here to ask me what is done
With the wild oxen which it seems you miss?
I have not seen them, nor from any one
Have heard a word of the whole business;
If you should promise an immense reward,
I could not tell more than you now have heard.
"An ox-stealer should be both tall and strong,
And I am but a little newborn thing,
Who, yet at least, can think of nothing wrong:
My business is to suck, and sleep, and fling
The cradle-clothes about me all day long,
Or, half asleep, hear my sweet mother sing,
And to be washed in water clean and warm,
And hushed and kissed and kept secure from harm.
"O, let not e'er this quarrel be averred!
The astounded Gods would laugh at you, if e'er
You should allege a story so absurd,
As that a newborn infant forth could fare
Out of his home after a savage herd.
I was born yesterday-my small feet are Too tender for the roads so hard and rough: And if you think that this is not enough,
"I swear a great oath, by my father's head, That I stole not your cows, and that I know Of no one else, who might, or could, or did.
Whatever things cows are, I do not know, For I have only heard the name."-This said,
He winked as fast as could be, and his brow Was wrinkled, and a whistle loud gave he, Like one who hears some strange absurdity.
Apollo gently smiled and said :—" Ay, ay,-
You cunning little rascal, you will bore
Many a rich man's house, and your arrav
Of thieves will lay their siege before his door,
Silent as night, in night; and many a day
In the wild glens rough shepherds will deplore
That you or yours, having an appetite,
Met with their cattle, comrade of the night!
"And this among the Gods shall be your gift,
To be considered as the lord of those
Who swindle, housebreak, sheepsteal, and shoplift ;--
But now if you would not your last sleep doze,
Crawl out!"-Thus saying, Phoebus did uplift
The subtle infant in his swaddling-clothes,
And in his arms, according to his wont,
A scheme devised the illustrious Argiphont.
And sneezed and shuddered-Phœbus on the grass
Him threw, and whilst all that he had designed
He did perform-eager although to pass,
Apollo darted from his mighty mind Towards the subtle babe the following scoff:"Do not imagine this will get you off,
"You little swaddled child of Jove and May!"
And seized him :—“ By this omen I shall trace
My noble herds, and you shall lead the way."
Cyllenian Hermes from the grassy place,
Like one in earnest haste to get away,
Rose, and with hands lifted towards his face
Roused both his ears-up from his shoulders drew
His swaddling-clothes, and-"What mean you to do
"With me, you unkind God?"—said Mercury:
"Is it about these cows you tease me so?
I wish the race of cows were perished !--I
Stole not your cows-I do not even know
What things cows are. Alas! I well may sigh,
That since I came into this world of woe,
I should have ever heard the name of one-
But I appeal to the Saturnian's throne."
Thus Phoebus and the vagrant Mercury
Talked without coming to an explanation,
With adverse purpose. As for Phoebus, he
Sought not revenge, but only information,
And Hermes tried with lies and roguery
To cheat Apollo-but when no evasion
Served-for the cunning one his match had found-
He paced on first over the sandy ground.
He of the Silver Bow the child of Jove
Followed behind, till to their heavenly Sire
Came both his children-beautiful as Love,
And from his equal balance did require
A judgment in the cause wherein they strove.
O'er odorous Olympus and its snows
A murmuring tumult as they came arose,—
And from the folded depths of the great Hill,
While Hermes and Apollo reverent stood
Before Jove's throne, the indestructible
Immortals rushed in mighty multitude;