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And every trace of the fresh butchery
And cooking, the God soon made disappear,
As if it all had vanished through the sky; [hair,— He burned the hoofs and horns and head and
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—
He sought his natal mountain-peaks divine.
Had met him, since he killed Apollo's kine,
Now he obliquely through the key-hole passed,
Like a thin mist, or an autumnal blast.
Right through the temple of the spacious cave
Fell not on earth; no sound their falling gave;
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 new-born child,
The goddess, his fair mother, unbeguiled
"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 1
"Apollo soon will pass within this gate,
Inextricably tight, and fast as fate,
Even when within his arms—ah, runagate!
Your lather made when he made you !"—" Dear mother,"
Replied sly Hermes," wherefore scold and bother?
xxvm, "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.
1 in my subtle brain a scheme have got, [rolled, Which, whilst the sacred stars round Heaven are
Will profit you and me—nor shall our lot
"But we will leave this shadow-peopled cave, And live among the Gods, and pass each day
Id high communion, sharing what they have
And, from the portion which my father gave
Which if my father will not—nathclesse 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,
Caldrons and tripods of great worth no doubt,
All the wrought tapestries and garments gay."
So they together talked;—meanwhile the Day
Ethereal born, arose out of the flood
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 crookedhorns? for they have been Stolen from the herd in high Picria,
Where a black bull was fed apart, between Two woody mountains in a neighbouring glen, And four fierce dogs watched there, unanimous ;is men.
xxxui. "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 to me
'Tis difficult to know the invisible
Thoughts, which in all those many minds may
Thus much alone I certainly can say, [be :—
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,
And in his hand he held a polished stick:
From one side to the other of the road,
And with his face opposed the steps he trod."
xxxvi. Apollo, hearing this, passed 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!
"Hero are the footsteps of the horned herd Turned back towards their fields of asphodel;—
But these! are not the tracks'of beast or bird,
Or maned Centaur—sand was never stirred
Who with unwearied feet could e'er impress
The sand with such enormous vestiges i
"That was most strange—but this is stranger still!" Thus having said, Phoebus impetuously
Sought high Cyllene's forest-cinctured hill,
And where the ambrosial nymph with happy will
And a delighted odour from the dew
Of the hill pastures, at his coming, flew.
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 piled—
As among firebrands lies a burning spark
Covered, beneath the ashes cold and dark.
There, like an infant who had sucked his fill,
Awake, but courting sleep with weary will
lie lay, and his beloved tortoise still
He grasped and held under his shoulder-blade;
Phoobus the lovely mountain goddess knew,
Not less her subtle, swindling baby, who
Lay swathed in his sly wiles. Round even crook Of the ample cavern, for his kine Apollo
Looked sharp ; and when he saw them not, he tool. The glittering key, and opened three great hollow
Recesses in the rock—where many a nook
Was filled with the sweet food immortalsswallow.
And mighty heaps of silver and of gold
Were piled within—a wonder to behold!
And white and silver robes, all overwrought
Except among the Gods there can be nought •
Latona's offspring, after having sought
Great Hermes:—" Little cradled rogue, declare,
Of my illustrious heifers, where they arc!
"Speak quickly! or a quarrel between us Must rise, and the event will be, that I
Shall haul you into dismal Tartarus,
Nor shall your father nor your mother loose
You shall be east 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 ia done With the wild oxen which it seems you mia!
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 new-born thing,
Who, yet at least, can think of nothing wrong:—
The cradle-clothes about me all day long,—
And to be washed in water clean and warm,
And bushed and kissed and kept secure from harm.
"Oh, let not e'er this quarrel be averred!
The astounded Gods would laugh at yon, if e'er You should allege a story Bo absurd,
As that a new-born infant forth could fare Ont 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."—Th^< said, He winked as fast as could be, and Ins brew
Was wrinkled, and a whistle loud gave he, i Like one who hears some strange absurdity.
xLvm. Apollo gently smiled and said :—" Aye, aye,—
You cunning little rascal, you will bore Many a rich man's house, and your amy
Of thieves will lay their siege before ha door, Silent as night, in night; and many a day
In the wild glens rough shepherds will dejikre That you or yours, having an appetite, Met with their cattle, comrade of the night!
"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,
Round both his ears up from his shoulder's drew
His swaddling clothes, and—" What mean you to do
"With me, you unkind God I"—said Mercury: "Is it about these cows you teaze me so!
I wish the race of cows were perished !—I
What things cows are. Alas! I well may sigh,
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 foundHe 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,
Before Jove's throne, the indestructible
And, whilst their seats in order due they fill,
To Phoebus said:—" Whence drive you this sweet
This herald-baby, born but yesterday 1— [prey,
"A most important subject, trifler, this
To lay before the Gods!"—« Nay, father, nay,
When you have understood the business,
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 cither in heaven Or upon earth for knavery or 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 footsteps 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 pone along the sands Neither upon his feet nor on his hands;—
"He must have had some other stranger mode Of moving on: those vestigos immense,
Far as I traced them on the sandy road,
No mark nor track denoting where they trod
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
Nor even had in any manner heard
Nor could he tell, though offered a reward,
So speaking, Phoebus sate; and Hermes then
Addressed the Supreme Lord of Gods and Men:
"Great Father, you know clearly beforehand
I am a most veracious person, and
At sunrise Phoebus came, but with no band
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 hiin I was born yesterday, and you may guess
He well knew this when he indulged the whim Of bullying a poor little new-born 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 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 mostgloriously-wroughtportals(It is, you will allow, an oath of might)
Through which the multitude of the Immortals
Devising schemes for the affairs of mortals—
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,
Judgment at present—and his exhortation
Was, to compose the affair by arbitration.
And they by mighty Jupiter were bidden
Neither the other chiding nor yet chidden:
To lead the way, and show where he had hidden
Obeyed the jEgis-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,
A thing on mother's milk and kisses fed,
E'en I myself may well hereafter dread
When you grow strong and tall."—He spoke, and
Stiff withy bands the infant's wrists around, [bound
He might as well have bound the oxen wild;
The withy bands, though Btarkly 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 Looking askance and winking fast as thought, [pit, 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 chord*—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 laugh ed for pi
Close to his side stood harping fearlessly The unabashed boy; and to the measure
Of the sweet lyre, there followed loud and fi His joyous voice; for he unlocked the
Of his deep song, illustrating the birth
Of the bright Gods and the dark desert Earth
And how to the Immortals every one
But chief Mnemosyne did Maia's son
Clothe in the light of his loud melodies;—
And, as each God was born or had begun,
Sung of his birth and being—and did move
Apollo to unutterable love.
These words were winged with his swift deli eh t: "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,
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 [cboo-*
Thy songs such power!—for those who hear may From three, the choicest of the gifts of Heavm,
Delight, and love, and sleep, sweet sleep.whose dews Are 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 nots?
Of song and everflowing poesy;
Of pipes, that fills the clear air thrillingly;
In this dear work of youthful revelry,
"Now since thou hast, although so very sm»l;. 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:
I envy thee no thing I know to teach
I would be gentle with thee ; thou canst reach
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;
Of his far voice; by thee the mystery
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,—
11 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
It teaches, babbling in delightful mood,
Soothing the mind with sweet familiar play,
Chasing the heavy shadows of dismay.
"To those who are unskilled in its sweet tongue, Though they should question most impetuously
Its hidden soul, it gossips something wrong—
But thou who art as wise as thou art strong,
Present thee with this music-flowing shell,
Knowing thou canst interrogate it well.
"And let us two henceforth together feed
On this green mountain slope and pastoral plain,
The herds in litigation—they will breed
If to the bulls and cows we take good heed;—
Grudge me not half the profit."—Having spoke,
The shell he proffered, and Apollo took.
And gave him in return the glittering lash,
Of Mercury then laughed a joyous flash;
The chords, and from beneath his hands a crash
The soul with sweetness, and like an adept
His sweeter voice a just accordance kept.
The herd went wandering o'er the divine mead,
Won their swift way up to the snowy head
Soothing their journey ; and their father dread
Affection sweet,—and then, and now, and ever,
Hermes must love Him of the Golden Quiver,
To whom he gave the lyre that sweetly sounded, Which skilfully he held and played thereon.
He piped the while, and far and wide rebounded
Of the Olympians sat with joy astounded,
One of his old tricks—which the God of Day
Perceiving, said:—" I fear thee, Son of May ;—
"1 fear thee and thy sly chamelion spirit.
Lest thou should'st steal my lyre and crooked bow; This glory and power thou dost from Jove inherit,
To teach all craft upon the earth below;
To make all mortal business ebb and flow
"That you will never rob me, you will do
Then Mercury sware by the Stygian dew,
Or lay his hands on what to him was due,
Against his Pythian fane. Then Phoebus swore
There was no God or man whom he loved more.
"And I will give thee as a good-will token The beautiful wand of wealth and happiness;
A perfect three-leaved rod of gold unbroken,
And whatsoever by Jove's voice is spoken
It like a loving soul to thee will speak,
And more than this do thou forbear to seek:
"For, dearest child, the divinations high
That thou, or any other deity,
For they arc hidden in Jove's mind, and I,
Betray the counsels of Jove's inmost will
To any God—the oath was terrible.
xcir. "Then, golden-wanded brother, ask me not
To speak the fates by Jupiter designed; But be it mine to tell their various lot
To the unnumbered tribes of human kind.
As I dispense—but he who comes consigned