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IV. TO HERMES (582 lines)

(ll. 1-29) Muse, sing of Hermes, the son of Zeus and Maia, lord
of Cyllene and Arcadia rich in flocks, the luck-bringing
messenger of the immortals whom Maia bare, the rich-tressed
nymph, when she was joined in love with Zeus, -- a shy goddess,
for she avoided the company of the blessed gods, and lived within
a deep, shady cave.  There the son of Cronos used to lie with the
rich-tressed nymph, unseen by deathless gods and mortal men, at
dead of night while sweet sleep should hold white-armed Hera
fast.  And when the purpose of great Zeus was fixed in heaven,
she was delivered and a notable thing was come to pass.  For then
she bare a son, of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a
cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief
at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful deeds
among the deathless gods.  Born with the dawning, at mid-day he
played on the lyre, and in the evening he stole the cattle of
far-shooting Apollo on the fourth day of the month; for on that
day queenly Maia bare him.  So soon as he had leaped from his
mother's heavenly womb, he lay not long waiting in his holy
cradle, but he sprang up and sought the oxen of Apollo.  But as
he stepped over the threshold of the high-roofed cave, he found a
tortoise there and gained endless delight.  For it was Hermes who
first made the tortoise a singer.  The creature fell in his way
at the courtyard gate, where it was feeding on the rich grass
before the dwelling, waddling along.  When be saw it, the luck-
bringing son of Zeus laughed and said:

(ll. 30-38) 'An omen of great luck for me so soon!  I do not
slight it.  Hail, comrade of the feast, lovely in shape, sounding
at the dance!  With joy I meet you!  Where got you that rich gaud
for covering, that spangled shell -- a tortoise living in the
mountains?  But I will take and carry you within: you shall help
me and I will do you no disgrace, though first of all you must
profit me.  It is better to be at home: harm may come out of
doors.  Living, you shall be a spell against mischievous
witchcraft (13); but if you die, then you shall make sweetest
song.

(ll. 39-61) Thus speaking, he took up the tortoise in both hands
and went back into the house carrying his charming toy.  Then he
cut off its limbs and scooped out the marrow of the mountain-
tortoise with a scoop of grey iron.  As a swift thought darts
through the heart of a man when thronging cares haunt him, or as
bright glances flash from the eye, so glorious Hermes planned
both thought and deed at once.  He cut stalks of reed to measure
and fixed them, fastening their ends across the back and through
the shell of the tortoise, and then stretched ox hide all over it
by his skill.  Also he put in the horns and fitted a cross-piece
upon the two of them, and stretched seven strings of sheep-gut.
But when he had made it he proved each string in turn with the
key, as he held the lovely thing.  At the touch of his hand it
sounded marvellously; and, as he tried it, the god sang sweet
random snatches, even as youths bandy taunts at festivals.  He
sang of Zeus the son of Cronos and neat-shod Maia, the converse
which they had before in the comradeship of love, telling all the
glorious tale of his own begetting.  He celebrated, too, the
handmaids of the nymph, and her bright home, and the tripods all
about the house, and the abundant cauldrons.

(ll. 62-67) But while he was singing of all these, his heart was
bent on other matters.  And he took the hollow lyre and laid it
in his sacred cradle, and sprang from the sweet-smelling hall to
a watch-place, pondering sheet trickery in his heart -- deeds
such as knavish folk pursue in the dark night-time; for he longed
to taste flesh.

(ll. 68-86) The Sun was going down beneath the earth towards
Ocean with his horses and chariot when Hermes came hurrying to
the shadowy mountains of Pieria, where the divine cattle of the
blessed gods had their steads and grazed the pleasant, unmown
meadows.  Of these the Son of Maia, the sharp-eyed slayer of
Argus then cut off from the herd fifty loud-lowing kine, and
drove them straggling-wise across a sandy place, turning their
hoof-prints aside.  Also, he bethought him of a crafty ruse and
reversed the marks of their hoofs, making the front behind and
the hind before, while he himself walked the other way (14).
Then he wove sandals with wicker-work by the sand of the sea,
wonderful things, unthought of, unimagined; for he mixed together
tamarisk and myrtle-twigs, fastening together an armful of their
fresh, young wood, and tied them, leaves and all securely under
his feet as light sandals.  The brushwood the glorious Slayer of
Argus plucked in Pieria as he was preparing for his journey,
making shift (15) as one making haste for a long journey.

(ll. 87-89) But an old man tilling his flowering vineyard saw him
as he was hurrying down the plain through grassy Onchestus.  So
the Son of Maia began and said to him:

(ll. 90-93) 'Old man, digging about your vines with bowed
shoulders, surely you shall have much wine when all these bear
fruit, if you obey me and strictly remember not to have seen what
you have seen, and not to have heard what you have heard, and to
keep silent when nothing of your own is harmed.'

(ll. 94-114) When he had said this much, he hurried the strong
cattle on together: through many shadowy mountains and echoing
gorges and flowery plains glorious Hermes drove them.  And now
the divine night, his dark ally, was mostly passed, and dawn that
sets folk to work was quickly coming on, while bright Selene,
daughter of the lord Pallas, Megamedes' son, had just climbed her
watch-post, when the strong Son of Zeus drove the wide-browed
cattle of Phoebus Apollo to the river Alpheus.  And they came
unwearied to the high-roofed byres and the drinking-troughs that
were before the noble meadow.  Then, after he had well-fed the
loud-bellowing cattle with fodder and driven them into the byre,
close-packed and chewing lotus and began to seek the art of fire.

He chose a stout laurel branch and trimmed it with the knife....
((LACUNA)) (16)
....held firmly in his hand: and the hot smoke rose up.  For it
was Hermes who first invented fire-sticks and fire.  Next he took
many dried sticks and piled them thick and plenty in a sunken
trench: and flame began to glow, spreading afar the blast of
fierce-burning fire.

(ll. 115-137) And while the strength of glorious Hephaestus was
beginning to kindle the fire, he dragged out two lowing, horned
cows close to the fire; for great strength was with him.  He
threw them both panting upon their backs on the ground, and
rolled them on their sides, bending their necks over (17), and
pierced their vital chord.  Then he went on from task to task:
first he cut up the rich, fatted meat, and pierced it with wooden
spits, and roasted flesh and the honourable chine and the paunch
full of dark blood all together.  He laid them there upon the
ground, and spread out the hides on a rugged rock: and so they
are still there many ages afterwards, a long, long time after all
this, and are continually (18).  Next glad-hearted Hermes dragged
the rich meats he had prepared and put them on a smooth, flat
stone, and divided them into twelve portions distributed by lot,
making each portion wholly honourable.  Then glorious Hermes
longed for the sacrificial meat, for the sweet savour wearied
him, god though he was; nevertheless his proud heart was not
prevailed upon to devour the flesh, although he greatly desired
(19).  But he put away the fat and all the flesh in the high-
roofed byre, placing them high up to be a token of his youthful
theft.  And after that he gathered dry sticks and utterly
destroyed with fire all the hoofs and all the heads.

(ll. 138-154) And when the god had duly finished all, he threw
his sandals into deep-eddying Alpheus, and quenched the embers,
covering the black ashes with sand, and so spent the night while
Selene's soft light shone down.  Then the god went straight back
again at dawn to the bright crests of Cyllene, and no one met him
on the long journey either of the blessed gods or mortal men, nor
did any dog bark.  And luck-bringing Hermes, the son of Zeus,
passed edgeways through the key-hole of the hall like the autumn
breeze, even as mist: straight through the cave he went and came
to the rich inner chamber, walking softly, and making no noise as
one might upon the floor.  Then glorious Hermes went hurriedly to
his cradle, wrapping his swaddling clothes about his shoulders as
though he were a feeble babe, and lay playing with the covering
about his knees; but at his left hand he kept close his sweet
lyre.

(ll. 155-161) But the god did not pass unseen by the goddess his
mother; but she said to him: 'How now, you rogue!  Whence come
you back so at night-time, you that wear shamelessness as a
garment?  And now I surely believe the son of Leto will soon have
you forth out of doors with unbreakable cords about your ribs, or
you will live a rogue's life in the glens robbing by whiles.  Go
to, then; your father got you to be a great worry to mortal men
and deathless gods.'

(ll. 162-181) Then Hermes answered her with crafty words:
'Mother, why do you seek to frighten me like a feeble child whose
heart knows few words of blame, a fearful babe that fears its
mother's scolding?  Nay, but I will try whatever plan is best,
and so feed myself and you continually.  We will not be content
to remain here, as you bid, alone of all the gods unfee'd with
offerings and prayers.  Better to live in fellowship with the
deathless gods continually, rich, wealthy, and enjoying stories
of grain, than to sit always in a gloomy cave: and, as regards
honour, I too will enter upon the rite that Apollo has.  If my
father will not give it to me, I will seek -- and I am able -- to
be a prince of robbers.  And if Leto's most glorious son shall
seek me out, I think another and a greater loss will befall him.
For I will go to Pytho to break into his great house, and will
plunder therefrom splendid tripods, and cauldrons, and gold, and
plenty of bright iron, and much apparel; and you shall see it if
you will.'

(ll. 182-189) With such words they spoke together, the son of
Zeus who holds the aegis, and the lady Maia.  Now Eros the early
born was rising from deep-flowing Ocean, bringing light to men,
when Apollo, as he went, came to Onchestus, the lovely grove and
sacred place of the loud-roaring Holder of the Earth.  There he
found an old man grazing his beast along the pathway from his
court-yard fence, and the all-glorious Son of Leto began and said
to him.

(ll. 190-200) 'Old man, weeder (20) of grassy Onchestus, I am
come here from Pieria seeking cattle, cows all of them, all with
curving horns, from my herd.  The black bull was grazing alone
away from the rest, but fierce-eyed hounds followed the cows,
four of them, all of one mind, like men.  These were left behind,
the dogs and the bull -- which is great marvel; but the cows
strayed out of the soft meadow, away from the pasture when the
sun was just going down.  Now tell me this, old man born long
ago: have you seen one passing along behind those cows?'

(ll. 201-211) Then the old man answered him and said: 'My son, it
is hard to tell all that one's eyes see; for many wayfarers pass
to and fro this way, some bent on much evil, and some on good: it
is difficult to know each one.  However, I was digging about my
plot of vineyard all day long until the sun went down, and I
thought, good sir, but I do not know for certain, that I marked a
child, whoever the child was, that followed long-horned cattle --
an infant who had a staff and kept walking from side to side: he
was driving them backwards way, with their heads toward him.'

(ll. 212-218) So said the old man.  And when Apollo heard this
report, he went yet more quickly on his way, and presently,
seeing a long-winged bird, he knew at once by that omen that
thief was the child of Zeus the son of Cronos.  So the lord
Apollo, son of Zeus, hurried on to goodly Pylos seeking his
shambling oxen, and he had his broad shoulders covered with a
dark cloud.  But when the Far-Shooter perceived the tracks, he
cried:

(ll. 219-226) 'Oh, oh!  Truly this is a great marvel that my eyes
behold!  These are indeed the tracks of straight-horned oxen, but
they are turned backwards towards the flowery meadow.  But these
others are not the footprints of man or woman or grey wolves or
bears or lions, nor do I think they are the tracks of a rough-
maned Centaur -- whoever it be that with swift feet makes such
monstrous footprints; wonderful are the tracks on this side of
the way, but yet more wonderfully are those on that.'

(ll. 227-234) When he had so said, the lord Apollo, the Son of
Zeus hastened on and came to the forest-clad mountain of Cyllene
and the deep-shadowed cave in the rock where the divine nymph
brought forth the child of Zeus who is the son of Cronos.  A
sweet odour spread over the lovely hill, and many thin-shanked
sheep were grazing on the grass.  Then far-shooting Apollo
himself stepped down in haste over the stone threshold into the
dusky cave.

(ll. 235-253) Now when the Son of Zeus and Maia saw Apollo in a
rage about his cattle, he snuggled down in his fragrant
swaddling-clothes; and as wood-ash covers over the deep embers of
tree-stumps, so Hermes cuddled himself up when he saw the Far-
Shooter.  He squeezed head and hands and feet together in a small
space, like a new born child seeking sweet sleep, though in truth
he was wide awake, and he kept his lyre under his armpit.  But
the Son of Leto was aware and failed not to perceive the
beautiful mountain-nymph and her dear son, albeit a little child
and swathed so craftily.  He peered in ever corner of the great
dwelling and, taking a bright key, he opened three closets full
of nectar and lovely ambrosia.  And much gold and silver was
stored in them, and many garments of the nymph, some purple and
some silvery white, such as are kept in the sacred houses of the
blessed gods.  Then, after the Son of Leto had searched out the
recesses of the great house, he spake to glorious Hermes:

(ll. 254-259) 'Child, lying in the cradle, make haste and tell me
of my cattle, or we two will soon fall out angrily.  For I will
take and cast you into dusty Tartarus and awful hopeless
darkness, and neither your mother nor your father shall free you
or bring you up again to the light, but you will wander under the
earth and be the leader amongst little folk.' (21)

(ll. 260-277) Then Hermes answered him with crafty words: 'Son of
Leto, what harsh words are these you have spoken?  And is it
cattle of the field you are come here to seek?  I have not seen
them: I have not heard of them: no one has told me of them.  I
cannot give news of them, nor win the reward for news.  Am I like
a cattle-liter, a stalwart person?  This is no task for me:
rather I care for other things: I care for sleep, and milk of my
mother's breast, and wrappings round my shoulders, and warm
baths.  Let no one hear the cause of this dispute; for this would
be a great marvel indeed among the deathless gods, that a child
newly born should pass in through the forepart of the house with
cattle of the field: herein you speak extravagantly.  I was born
yesterday, and my feet are soft and the ground beneath is rough;
nevertheless, if you will have it so, I will swear a great oath
by my father's head and vow that neither am I guilty myself,
neither have I seen any other who stole your cows -- whatever
cows may be; for I
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   Leah
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