Imatges de pàgina

And whilst their seats in order due they fill,

The lofty Thunderer in a careless mood

To Phoebus said :-" Whence drive you this sweet prey, This herald-baby, born but yesterday?


"A most important subject, trifler, this

To lay before the Gods !"-" Nay, father, nay,
When you have understood the business,
Say not that I alone am fond of prey.
I found this little boy in a recess

Under Cyllene's mountains far away-
A manifest and most apparent thief,
A scandal-monger beyond all belief.


"I never saw his like either in heaven Or upon earth for knavery and craft: Out of the field my cattle yester-even,

By the low shore on which the loud sea laughed,
He right down to the river-ford had driven;

And mere astonishment would make you daft
To see the double kind of footstep strange
He has impressed wherever he did range.


"The cattle's track on the black dust, full well
Is evident, as if they went towards

The place from which they came-that asphodel
Meadow, in which I feed my many herds-

His steps were most incomprehensible

I know not how I can describe in words

Those tracks--he could have gone along the sands
Neither upon his feet nor on his hands;


"He must have had some other stranger mode

Of moving on: those vestiges immense,

Far as I traced them on the sandy road,

Seemed like the trail of oak-toppings:-but thence

No mark or track denoting where they trod

The hard ground gave :-but, working at his fence,

A mortal hedger saw him as he past

To Pylos, with the cows, in fiery haste.


"I found that in the dark he quietly

Had sacrificed some cows, and before light

Had thrown the ashes all dispersedly

About the road-then, still as gloomy night,

Had crept into his cradle, either eye

Rubbing, and cogitating some new sleight.
No eagle could have seen him as he lay
Hid in his cavern from the peering day.


"I taxed him with the fact, when he averred
Most solemnly that he did neither see
Or even had in any manner heard

Of my lost cows, whatever things cows be;
Nor could he tell, though offered a reward,

Not even who could tell of them to me.'
So speaking, Phoebus sate; and Hermes then
Addressed the Supreme Lord of Gods and Men:


"Great Father, you know clearly beforehand That all which I shall say to you is soothe ; I am a most veracious person, and

Totally unacquainted with untruth.

At sunrise, Phoebus came, but with no band
Of Gods to bear him witness, in great wrath,
To my abode, seeking his heifers there,

And saying that I must show him where they are,


Or he would hurl me down the dark abyss.
I know, that every Apollonian limb
Is clothed with speed and might and manliness,
As a green bank with flowers-but unlike him
I was born yesterday, and you may guess

He well knew this when he indulged the whim

Of bullying a poor little newborn thing
That slept, and never thought of cow-driving.


"Am I like a strong fellow who steals kine
Believe me, dearest Father, such you are,
This driving of the herds is none of mine;
Across my threshold did I wander ne'er,
So may I thrive! I reverence the divine

Sun and the Gods, and I love you, and care
Even for this hard accuser-who must know
I am as innocent as they or you.


"I swear by these most gloriously-wrought portals—
(It is, you will allow, an oath of might)
Through which the multitude of the Immortals
Pass and repass for ever, day and night,
Devising schemes for the affairs of mortals-
That I am guiltless; and I will requite,
Although mine enemy be great and strong,
His cruel threat-do thou defend the young!"


So speaking, the Cyllenian Argiphont

Winked, as if now his adversary was fitted:

And Jupiter according to his wont,

Laughed heartily to hear the subtle-witted

Infant give such a plausible account,

And every word a lie. But he remitted Judgment at present-and his exhortation Was, to compose the affair by arbitration.


And they by mighty Jupiter were bidden
To go forth with a single purpose both,
Neither the other chiding nor yet chidden:
And Mercury with innocence and truth
To lead the way, and show where he had hidden
The mighty heifers.-Hermes, nothing loth,
Obeyed the Ægis-bearer's will-for he
Is able to persuade all easily.


These lovely children of Heaven's highest Lord
Hastened to Pylos and the pastures wide

And lofty stalls by the Alphean ford,

Where wealth in the mute night is multiplied

With silent growth. Whilst Hermes drove the herd
Out of the stony cavern, Phoebus spied
The hides of those the little babe had slain,
Stretched on the precipice above the plain.



How was it possible," then Phoebus said, That you, a little child, born yesterday, A thing on mother's milk and kisses fed, Could two prodigious heifers ever flay? Even I myself may well hereafter dread

Your prowess, offspring of Cyllenian May,

When you grow strong and tall."-He spoke, and bound Stiff withy bands the infant's wrists around.


He might as well have bound the oxen wild;
The withy bands, though starkly interknit,
Fell at the feet of the immortal child,

Loosened by some device of his quick wit.
Phoebus perceived himself again beguiled,

And stared--while Hermes sought some hole or pit,

Looking askance and winking fast as thought,
Where he might hide himself and not be caught.


Sudden he changed his plan, and with strange skill
Subdued the strong Latonian, by the might

Of winning music, to his mightier will;

His left hand held the lyre, and in his right The plectrum struck the chords-unconquerable Up from beneath his hand in circling flight The gathering music rose--and sweet as Love The penetrating notes did live and move


Within the heart of great Apollo-he

Listened with all his soul, and laughed for pleasure. Close to his side stood harping fearlessly

The unabashed boy; and to the measure

Of the sweet lyre, there followed loud and free
His joyous voice; for he unlocked the treasure
Of his deep song, illustrating the birth

Of the bright Gods and the dark desert Earth :


And how to the Immortals every one
A portion was assigned of all that is;
But chief Mnemosyne did Maia's son
Clothe in the light of his loud melodies;
And as each God was born or had begun
He in their order due and fit degrees
Sung of his birth and being-and did move
Apollo to unutterable love.


These words were winged with his swift delight:
You heifer-stealing schemer, well do you

Deserve that fifty oxen should requite

Such minstrelsies as I have heard even now. Comrade of feasts, little contriving wight,

One of your secrets I would gladly know,

Whether the glorious power you now show forth
Was folded up within you at your birth,


"Or whether mortal taught or God inspired
The power of unpremeditated song?
Many divinest sounds have I admired,

The Olympian Gods and mortal men among:
But such a strain of wondrous, strange, untired,
And soul-awakening music, sweet and strong,
Yet did I never hear except from thee,
Offspring of May, impostor Mercury!


"What Muse, what skill, what unimagined use, What exercise of subtlest art, has given

Thy songs such power?-for those who hear may choose From three, the choicest of the gifts of Heaven,

Delight, and love, and sleep,-sweet sleep, whose dews

Ale sweeter than the balmy tears of even:

And I, who speak this praise, am that Apollo

Whom the Olympian Muses ever follow:


"And their delight is dance, and the blithe noise

Of song and overflowing poesy;

And sweet, even as desire, the liquid voice
Of pipes, that fills the clear air thrillingly;

But never did my inmost soul rejoice
In this dear work of youthful revelry,
As now I wonder at thee, son of Jove;
Thy harpings and thy song are soft as love.


"Now since thou hast, although so very small,
Science of arts so glorious, thus I swear,
And let this cornel javelin, keen and tall,

Witness between us what I promise here,-
That I will lead thee to the Olympian Hall,

Honoured and mighty, with thy mother dear, And many glorious gifts in joy will give thee, And even at the end will ne'er deceive thee."


To whom thus Mercury with prudent speech:'Wisely hast thou inquired of my skill:

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I envy thee nothing I know to teach

Even this day:-for both in word and will
I would be gentle with thee; thou canst reach
All things in thy wise spirit, and thy sill
Is highest in heaven among the sons of Jove,
Who loves thee in the fulness of his love.


"The Counsellor Supreme has given to thee
Divinest gifts, out of the amplitude
Of his profuse exhaustless treasury;

By thee, 'tis said, the depths are understood
Of his far voice; by thee the mystery

Of all oracular fates,-and the dread mood

Of the diviner is breathed up, even I-
A child-perceive thy might and majesty-


"Thou canst seek out and compass all that wit

Can find or teach;-yet since thou wilt, come take The lyre-be mine the glory giving it—

Strike the sweet chords, and sing aloud, and wake Thy joyous pleasure out of many a fit

Of tranced sound-and with fleet fingers make Thy liquid-voiced comrade talk with thee,

It can talk measured music eloquently.


"Then bear it boldly to the revel loud,
Love-wakening dance, or feast of solemn state,
A joy by night or day-for those endowed
With art and wisdom who interrogate

It teaches, babbling in delightful mood

All things which make the spirit most elate, Soothing the mind with sweet familiar play, Chasing the heavy shadows of dismay.

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