The Homeric Hymn to Hermes

Make a hymn to Hermes, Muse, son of Zeus and Maia.
He lords it over Kyllene
and Arkadia, rich in flocks,
courier of the immortals,
messenger, quick-as-death,
infant born to Maia,
a nymph with beautiful hair.
It was her pleasure to avoid
the company of the blessèd gods
preferring to live in a deep shady cave.
There the Son of Kronos used to lie with her,
that nymph with the beautiful hair,
under cover of night,
while sweet sleep spell-bound white-armed Hera,
the immortal gods and mortal people both,
lost in oblivion.

But when the intent of mighty Zeus was accomplished,
and Maia's tenth moon was fixed in the heavens,
she bore a child of infinite devices, child of winning wiles,
a cattle-driver,  leader-of-dreams, watcher-by-night,  thief-at-the-gates,
a deity soon to perform remarkable deeds
among the immortals.

Dawn-born, by mid-day
he was playing the lyre;
by evening he'd pilfered the cows of Apollo—
all this, on the fourth of the month,
the day Lady Maia bore him.

And once he'd jumped from th'immortal womb of his mother,
he didn't lie waiting around in the sacred cradle
but vaulted the threshold of the high-roofed cave
and went after those cows. 

In the cave-yard was a turtle,
in whom he intuited a thousand pleasures to come.
(Hermes, indeed, was the first to turn a turtle to song.)
The slow-footed creature was eating high grass
just outside of the dwelling,
so the messenger, quick-as-death, son of Zeus
laughed and addressed it:

"It's a sign! Good fortune for me! And so soon! I do not poo poo it.
Hello, O dance beat, O friend of the feast, O lovely to look at,
happily manifesting before me without further ado.
But where did you get that gorgeous garment, ahem,
that fantastically ornamented carapace?—
and you but a turtle, living in the wastes of these mountains!
I'll take you into the house, you'll be—of use,
(no dishonor intended), but primarily (I can see it)
of great profit for me.
I think you would do well to stay at home—
danger lurks out there beyond the portal.
Alive, you'll work as a charm against witchcraft;
If you die, you'll make beautiful song."

So he spoke.
And lifting the pleasant plaything with both his hands,
he took it into the cave house
and scooped out its spinal marrow with a chisel of iron.

And just as when a swift thought
                              drives right through the breast of a man
when thronging anxieties distract him,
or as when sparkling glances apin from his eyes,
so was it the habit
of noble Hermes to join
word and deed together in a single action.
He cut reed stalks and attached them
at measured spans
through the shell of the tortoise,
and with skill stretched an ox skin across it,
and put the horns in, then their cross piece,
and set in place the seven
                                      sheep-gut strings.

Once he'd finished its fashioning,
he took up the happy contrivance
and gave it a try with its plectrum, part by part.
It sounded just fantastic beneath his fingers.
And the god sang very well
whatever occurred to him,
improvising like boys
bandying taunts at some festival.
What did he sing?
He sang of Zeus and Maia with the beautiful shoes,
how once they made love and begot him!
He came out with the whole glorious business;
and he winked in song at his mother's chamber girls
and praised her glittering villas
with their tripods distributed everywhere
and their kettles overflowing.

But even while he was ticking off these ditties
other matters occupied his thought:
he'd developed a hank'ring to eat meat;
so, stashing the hollow lyre in his sacred cradle,
he was out again from his mother's
                                            sweetly odoriferous abode,
this time up to a lofty lookout point
plotting high chicanery in his heart,
such as subdolous persons pursue in black night—
lusting after something.

Helios was descending under the earth toward Okeanos
with his horses and car,
and Hermes came scurrying along
to the shadowy hills of Pieria.
There the immortal cows of the blessèd gods
had their stables
and did their cow things
in an uncut meadow, quite delightful.

Of these, the son of Maia, keen-sighted slayer of Argos,
separated fifty loud-bellowing cows
and drove the scattered lot of them
across a sandy place,
nor did he neglect this crafty stratagem:
he caused their hooves to go backwards
so that front feet seemed back feet, back feet front,
while he himself marched along
in the conventional manner.

To accomplish the latter,
in a snap he wove wicker-work sandals by the sands of the sea—
an act of sheer thaumaturgy producing
inconceivable and previously unimagined objects.
Here's how he did it:
Having taken pains to prepare for a considerable journey
in a manner peculiar to his wiles
he intertwined twigs of tamarisk and myrtle
and secured them under his feet as nimble shoes.
He'd already bound together
a bundle of fresh branches, including the leaves,
plucked in Pieria.
But an old fellow tilling his vineyard happened to take note of him
speeding across the fields to grassy Onchestus.
Said Hermes:

"Old fellow, tending your vines though your shoulders are stooping,
there’ll be much wine here
when these shoots of yours ripen,
if you manage
            NOT to see
                     what in fact you are seeing
and to be deaf to that which you hear.
Mum's the word. Then no harm will befall
what rightly belongs to you."

That said, noble Hermes gathered the cattle
and drove them through shadowy mountains,
                                               down sounding gorges,
                                                          across fresh flowering fields.

At this point daimoniac Night, his murky ally,
                                                         was almost over.
The time, just before daybreak,
that gets people up and working,
was just coming on.
Bright Selênê, daughter of Pallas, Megamedes' son
(that is, the moon)
              had newly climbed her lookout.
Then the mighty son of Zeus
took the cow-eyed cows of Phoibos Apollo
to the river Alphaeus. 

When he'd fed the bellowing beasts with cattle fodder
and packed them into the cow-fold
to sup on dewy galingale and lotus,
he gathered a woodpile
and invented the art of starting wood fires.
Selecting branches of shining laurel,
he trimmed them, and, with iron firm in hand…
[                                            ]
and the fragrant heat went up.
For Hermes was the first
to draw fire from fire sticks.
So taking many dry ones
he piled them thick in a deep trench.
Flame flashed
         sending abroad
                  a fearsome blaze.

As the force of Hephaistos was beginning to get the fire going,
single-handedly
              he dragged two bellowing cows near to the trench,
for great power was in him.
He threw them snorting to the ground, pulling their heads back
and rolled them onto their sides to get at the spines
and pierced them through
to the spinal marrow,
proceeding from deed to deed,
cutting the fat-rich meat
and pierced it with wood spits,
flesh and venerable backs and black blood together
to be cooked with the entrails.
Then he set all that apart
and spread the skins on a jagged rock
so that even now,
              long after so many ages have gone by,
there they are—clear to behold—in perpetuity.

Next, happy-hearted Hermes dragged
the rich results of his labors—that is, the meat—
onto a flat smooth rock
and divided the lot in twelve equal portions,
showing perfect honor to each one.
And Hermes was ravenous to gorge on the holy meat,
for the sweet odor overcame him, though he was a god.  135
Not that his proud heart in fact succumbed.
Rather,
       he stashed all that flesh and fat
                        high away in the loft of the stable
as a monument
to his precocious thievery
and then, once again, he gathered dry sticks
in order to commit to the flames
the heads and the hooves.

Now, when Hermes had done what had to be done,
he threw his sandals away in the deep eddying Alphaeus.
He cooled and extinguished the black embers with sand,
watching all night while the moon shined down.
Then he went back to the bright peaks of Kyllene,
neither god nor person intercepting him,
and no dogs dogged his trail on the long trip home.

When he got there, Hermes slipped slanting edgewise
through a key-hole in the cave-hall door
like a cool late summer breeze or like a mist.
Straight through the cave he flew to the rich inner chamber,
soft stepping, advancing, not thumping loudly
                                                            as one might
                                                                     upon the floor,
but glorious Hermes furiously sped to his cradle
and wrapping his blankets about his shoulders like a feeble babe,
he lay their playing with the coverlet over his knees,
though on his left he secured the turtle lyre.

But the god eluded not his goddess mother. She said:

"You bloody rogue! Whence do you come
in the middle of the night
wearing shamelessness as your cloak?
Now I see that the son of Leto
will tie you up with a rope about your rib cage
and drag you out of doors —
or else you'll have to live like a thief in the glens
by stealth and wiles. So up with you!
Your father begot you to be
nothing but a terrible nuisance to gods and mortals." 

Hermes responded to her with a tricky speech:

"Mother, why do you try to scare me with such business,
as if I were a feeble babe,
ignorant of the language of blame
within the human breast,
a trembling infant who fears his mother's scowls?
You know I will try out
whatever plan seems best,
feeding myself, and you too, uninterruptedly.
And, by the way, we all not stay here,
alone of all the gods
unattended by prayers and offerings, as is your habit.
Better to live among them for all our days,
wealthy and well-stocked with grain,
than to make our home in this gloomy cave.
And as regards to prerogatives,
either I shall share
in the rites that Apollo has,
or, if my father refuses me that,
I'll seek, as well I can,
to make myself the very prince of felons.
And if Leto's illustrious son tries to find me,
a thing I think he won't like will likely befall him:
I go to Delphi
—break into that big building of his
—plunder his tripods
—knock over his cauldrons
—make away with his brilliant iron and shining gold
also his fancy garments—
you'll be a party to this—if you want to."

With words like these, they spoke to one another—
son of Zeus, Aegis-holder, and Lady Maia.

Now Dawn, who bears the early light to mortals,
was rising from deep-flowing Okeanos.
And at that moment Apollo approached Onchestus,
the exceedingly lovely grove
of loud-bellowing, Earth-holder Poseidon,
and sacred to him.
There he found an old man grazing some animal
on an out-path out past his courtyard fence.
The glorious son of Leto was first to speak.

"Old fellow — thorn-plucker of grassy Onchestus,
I come from Pieria looking for my cows.
All the ones from my herd have curling horns.
A blue-black bull was grazing apart from the others.
Fierce-eyed hounds were chasing behind — four of them.
All of one mind.
Like men.
The hounds and the bull stayed back.
This in itself is a marvel.
But yesterday, when the sun was just going down,
apart from the sweet pasture
out of the gentle meadow
the cattle vanished.
So tell me, good fellow, born long ago,
if perhaps you have seen
a man
following along
behind those cows."

The old man replied:

"My boy, it is difficult to put into words all that the eye sees.
Many sorts of travelers pass by here,
some bent on mischief, some intent on good —
and it's tough to speak for each one.
But it seemed to me I saw a child — I think I did —
following along behind
a herd of long-horned cattle.
He was walking from side to side with a sort of staff,
driving them backwards,
keeping their heads facing toward him."

So the old man spoke.

And when Apollo heard him, he sped at once on his way,
and recognized an omen
in a long-winged bird:
the thief of the cattle was the child of Zeus, son of Kronos,
so the son of Zeus, Lord Apollo, headed toward to Pylos
to find his slow-footed cows,
having shrouded his broad shoulders
in a purple cloud.

And when Apollo who shoots from afar
actually saw the cattle-tracks, he exclaimed:

"Amazing!
                     These over here,
indeed are the tracks of straight-horned oxen,
but they're heading back to the meadow.
And these other ones cannot belong to man or woman,
to lion, gray wolf, or to bear, or shaggy centaur either.
What kind of beast's swift feet
leave such extraordinary footprints?
Astonishing are the tracks
on this side of the path,
but even more astonishing
are those left on the other."

So speaking, Lord Apollo, son of Zeus, took off again,
and came to the ever-wooded mountain of Kyllene,
to the deeply shaded cavern in the rock
where our ambrosial nymph had given birth
to the child of Zeus, son of Kronos.
A pleasant odor perfumed the pleasant hillside
and many thin-ankled sheep were grazing on the grass.
And Apollo, who shoots from afar, himself stepped down
over the stony threshold
into the dark cave.

And when the son of Zeus and Maia became aware
that Apollo, who shoots from afar,
was in a rage over his cattle,
he sank into his fragrant blanket.
Just as wood ash
conceals the ember of a wood fire,
so Hermes concealed himself when he caught a glimpse
of that god, who acts from afar.
He contracted head, hands, and feet within small compass,
like an infant falling into slumber.
In fact he was wide awake,
with his turtle stashed under his armpit.

But the Son of Zeus and Leto
was perfectly aware and wary
of the beautiful mountain nymph and her dear son—
that little child, tucked-in and so deviously swaddled.
Apollo inspected every nook and cranny of the nymph's great house
and unlocked her three closets with a shining key.
They were full of nectar and ambrosia,
great caches of silver and gold
and Maia's sumptuous wardrobe, garments
of silver white and Phoenician purple,
such as sacred dwellings of the blessèd gods store inside them.
And when he'd flushed out every corner of the house
the Son of Leto addressed illustrious Hermes:

"O  child, who lies in cradle,
put me in mind of my cows without delay
since otherwise we two will fall out quite indecorously.
For I will seize and toss you
into misty Tartaros,
into darkness, numinous, hopeless,
and neither your father nor mother will be able
to release you up into the light,
but under earth you'll wander
and be the mighty hegemon of dead children."

Hermes responded with tricky discourse:

"Son of Leto, such intemperate speech!
You come here seeking field cows?
I haven't seen, I haven't heard, I haven't heard from another
anything about them,
so I cannot put you in mind of them
or claim reward for so doing.
Do I look like a cattle-rustler — some kind of muscle man?
This is hardly my business — other matters concern me:
sleep concerns me, and milk from my mother's teats,
and to have warm blankets wrapped around my shoulders
and nice hot baths. And I hope that no one will wonder
from what our dispute arises.
'Twould be a great marvel among the immortals
that a new-born child should come into the front of the house
with field cows. You deal in impossibilities.
I was just born yesterday.
My feet are tender and the ground is rough.
If you wish, I'll swear a great oath on the head of my father
that I am not myself nor have I seen another
who is the thief of your cows — whatever cows are —
their very existence is but a rumor to me!"

So he spoke.

And casting glances sharply from his eyes,
he kept working his eyebrows and looking here and there
and whistling while list'ning to Apollo talk.

Apollo, who works from afar,
while laughing softly, said to him:

"You knavish pipsqueak — with mendacity and craft in your heart —
you speak so guilelessly I'm persuaded —
that tonight you've broken into
many-a-well-secured domicile
and fleeced more than one
unsuspecting wight
silently assembling pelf
form all over the messuages.
No doubt you'll be a plague
to many rustic herdsmen
in mountain glades
whenever you come upon cattle herds
or sheep with ample fleeces
and contrive a hankering for meat.
But come now, you companion of black night,
if you would not sleep your last —
get out of that cradle!
I concede you have earned the right among th'immortals
to be known as Prince of Felons, for all your days."

So spoke Apollo and grabbed the child
and picked him up,
but Strong Argeiphontes had his resources.
While still held in his arms,
he distracted Phoibos Apollo by issuing an omen:
A fat peasant appeared out of nowhere.
Then Hermes sneezed.
Apollo tuned into it and dropped the boy
and, though eager to get going, played along,
sitting right down on the ground with Illustrious Hermes.

"Fear not, little Hermes," he said, "Son of Zeus and Maia —
I'll find the strong cattle by means of these omens,
and you shall show me the way."

Kyllenian Hermes sprang up instantly
and pushed the blanket he'd wrapped about his shoulders up over his ears
and made this speech:

"Where are you taking me, Far-worker — most hasty of all the gods?
Is it because of your cows that you are angered
and so seek to provoke me?
Pfui! I'd let the whole species of cows go down to ruin!
For I did not steel your cows, nor see another do it —
whatever cows are: their very existence is but a rumor to me.
I demand Justice! Lets take our case
to Kronion Zeus!"

Hermes, the shepherd, and the Brilliant Son of Zeus
were both thus taking matters
very much to heart
contending explicitly for each point.
Apollo, speaking truthfully, not unjustly
would have seized Illustrious Hermes
had the Kyllenian not wished to make a fool
of the God of the Silver Bow
with stratagems and false flattering speeches.
But as soon as Hermes discovered that Apollo
was just as resourceful as he,
he urgently began to tramp across the sands,
himself in the lead,
the Son of Zeus and Leto following after.

The two fair off-spring of Kronion Zeus
quickly came up to their father
at the summit of fragrant Olympos,
for there the Scales of Justice were set for them both
and there, on snow-covered Olympos,
just after Dawn of the golden throne,
the indestructible, immortal gods were gathered.
Hermes and Apollo of the silver bow
stood at the knees of high-thund'ring Zeus,,
and Zeus inquired of his illustrious son,
putting this speech to him:

"Phoibos, whence did you pick up this plunder —
this new-born child,
who has the noble stature of a herald?
This matter that comes to the gods' assembly
seems to be quite grave."

Lord Apollo, who works from afar, answered thus:

"O Father, you shall hear forthwith a tale not easily trivialized,
though you jest that I myself am a lover of plunder.
Here indeed is a child — a manifest ravager — whom I found
at the end of a long journey
in the mountains of Kyllene.
I myself have never seen such a cozener
                                                      on earth among gods or humans.
Having stolen my cows from a meadow,
he drove them at dusk along
the beaches of the loud-roaring sea
straight toward Pylos.
There were two sets of tracks — extraordinary —
something to be wondered at —
the work of a marvelous daimon.
The black dust showed the hoof prints of the cows,
but heading back toward that flowering meadow,
while he himself — astonishing fellow —
seemed to have crossed the sand
off the path
by means of neither hands nor feet
but furnished with some other contrivance
— and this is the wonder of wonders —
as if he'd trudged along
mounted on oak trees!
Now, as long as he traveled along sandy places,
all the tracks appeared quite readily in the dirt,
but once he passed beyond the great stretch of sand,
the tracks of the cows
and his own footprints in the harder terrain
became indiscernible; though a mortal man discerned him
driving the wide-browed cows in the direction of Pylos.
And as soon as he'd bedded down the herd in stillness there,
he contrived a cunning, untraceable itinerary homeward.
Once home, he climbed into his cradle
under cover of black night
in the gloomy cave,
so that not even an eagle, keenly gazing,
could have spotted him.
He kept rubbing his eyes with his fingers
as he prepared his feast of falsehoods
and, without further ado,
let loose this proclamation:

'I have not seen, I have not ascertained,
I haven't heard from another,
and thus I can't inform you, a thing about them,
nor claim a reward for doing so.'"

When all this had been spoken,
Phoibos Apollo sat down,
but Hermes had something to say
and pointed his finger at Kronion Zeus,
commander of the gods.

"Father Zeus,
I'll speak to you without concealing anything,
for I am truthful
and do not think to make lies.
He came to us
looking for his slow-footed cows
on a new day
as the sun was urging its own arising.
He introduced no witnesses
from among the blessèd gods,
who had seen the business but, declaring his outrage,
gave me orders, with a threat of great constraint,
that he'd throw me into broad Tartaros,
which he well can do,
since he is in the flower of young manhood,
but I came into being only yesterday —
he knows this very well — I am no cattle rustler —
no manner of muscle man — just look at me.
Believe me — for you're supposed to be my father —
that I did not drive the cattle to my home (may I grow wealthy).
I crossed no threshold (I state this precisely).
I revere Helios particularly, and all the other gods.
I love you, and I dread him.
You yourself are cognizant
that I am not the cause —
I'll swear a great oath — or better —
by these well-decked porches of the immortals,
the day will come when I'll repay this god
though he be stronger than I am.
In the meantime,
you ought to help me because I am the younger."

Thus spake the slayer of Argus from Kyllene,
while slyly glancing about
and retaining his infant's blankets on his arm —
he hadn't got rid of them.

Zeus laughed out loud to observe
how effectively his wily-mind offspring
denied all culpability regarding the cows,
but he commanded the pair of them to seek accord
and together to find the animals, directing Hermes
to put aside his flummery
and lead the expedition
and show the place
where he'd hidden the strong cattle.
The Son of Kronos nodded and Hermes concurred,
for the mind of Zeus aegis-holder easily prevails.

The two fair offspring of Zeus
took off for sandy Pylos
and reached the crossing of the Alphaeus
coming to those fields and high-roofed stables
where strange beasts are cared for by night.

Now as Hermes went into the cave
to drive the strong cows
into the light,
the Son of Leto, looking aside, spotted the cow-hides
stretched on the steep rock
and put it to Hermes:

"How were you able, you subtle knave, being but a neonate,
to skin two cows? I myself am terrified
at the strength that eventually will belong to you.
No need for you to grow any further at all,
O Kyllenian, Son of Maia."

So he spoke, and twisted pliant withies with his fingers.
'Twas Apollo's intent to trap Hermes in a snare,
but the twigs refused to ensnare him —
they fell off and landed far away,
and from the spot where they landed, sprang up new
intertwining with one another
entangling instead of Hermes, the rambling cows,
according to Hermes' intent.
And Apollo marveled as he watched it. 

Then Strong Argeiphontes examined the locality
with a furtive flash in his eyes
and grew sure that he'd be able
to mollify the worthy Son of Leto,
though the latter was ever the stronger.
He set his lyre on his left arm.
He tried each string with the plectrum.
It sounded just fantastic under his fingers,
and Phoibos Apollo laughed for joy.
The lovely sound of the lyre ravished his heart
with ineffable music.
As he listened, sweet longing
arose in his soul.

Then the son of Maia, playing sweetly on his instrument
made bold to stand at the left of Phoibos Apollo
and started to sing —
and the voice that came out was a good voice,
singing of th'immortal gods,
how they came into being,
how each was allotted its portion.
First among the deities
he honored in song Mnemosyne,
the Mother of the Muses,
for the Son of Maia was of her lineage.
Then, according to their ages, the rest of the gods,
how each came into being,
striking the lyre on his arm.

But in his heart an unappeasable longing
overcame Apollo
and he gave voice to winged words:

"Slayer of Oxen, Trickster, ever at your work, feast companion,
your music is worth the price of fifty cows,
therefore I think our litigation should be settled peacefully.
Do tell me, though, O ever-resourceful Son of Zeus and Maia,
did this magical activity of yours
belong to you from birth,
or did some god or human
bestow so wonderfully worthy a gift upon you
imparting god-like song,
for marvelous is this
newly-manifested sonic phenomenon I hear
which, I say, no mortal or immortal
has ever experienced before, except for you,
O Felon, Son of Maia. What skill is this?
What cure for incurable cares? What sort of practice?
For particularly there are implicit in this music
three things from which to choose:
good cheer, good sex, sweet slumber.
I myself am partial to the Olympian Muses —
music for choral dancing, brilliant song, flourishing sounds,
and the resounding thrill of flutes.
But I've never been moved by the spectacular agilities of performers
at young people's parties
as I have by this music now.
I marvel, Son of Zeus, at your lovely playing.
Though you are but a little one, you know such glorious skill.
So come, dear fellow, and respect the word of your elders,
for you'll be renowned among th'immortal gods
both you and your mother.
By this javelin of cornel wood, I'll make you a leader
fortunate and famous among the gods,
and give you bright gifts
and not deceive you ever. "

Hermes responded to Apollo
still with cunning discourse:

"You question me, O One-Who-Acts-From-A-Distance, circumspectly,
but I do not in any way deny you
access to my art.
Indeed, I wish to be compliant in thought and word.
You already know all things
very well in your heart,
for you are situated first among the immortals, noble and strong.
Wise Zeus appropriately loves you, has given you bright gifts.
They say that from his words, O Distant-Doer, you have learned
the prerogatives of the deities and Zeus's oracles to boot;
and indeed the entirety of his divine pronunciamentos.
I myself have gleaned that you've acquired
great wealth in such matters.
So you can learn what you choose, whatever you long for.
Since apparently your heart is set on the lyre,
go ahead — sing! play on it!
Receive it as a gift from me! Strike up the splendor!
(But remember, to give proper credit for it to me.)
Sing well while holding this clear-voiced friend in your hands --
you are already quite capable of uttering
all that is beautiful and well-composed in words.
Hereafter, with confidence, take it to young people's parties,
to splendid revels, to lovely choral dances,
spreading joy by night and day.
Whomever dexterously inquires
with art and wisdom of it,
it will instruct with its utterance
in all manner of things delightful to the mind.
It is easily played, with gentle familiarities, but it flees
the miseries of technical toil.
Whoever inquires of it, however, in artless fury,
will find it to respond
with lofty sounding airy fluctuations,
vain expressions,
and just plain wrong notes.
But you can learn what you choose, whatever you long for,
so I will give you this lyre, O Son of Zeus,
and I, for my part, will go out and work in the pasture
with wild-ranging cattle
on hills or horse-fostering meadows.
There the cows and bulls will bring forth promiscuously, abundantly,
females and males,
nor will it be necessary for you to hold onto your anger."

So speaking, he held out the lyre
and Phoebus Apollo took it
and freely gave the shining whip to Hermes in exchange
and dubbed him a herdsman.
The Son of Maia happily accepted it.
And now the Son of Leto, Lord Apollo Who Shoots from Afar,
setting the lyre on his left arm,
tried each string with the pick
and it sounded just fantastic under his fingers
and the god sang very beautifully to its notes.

Then the two comely offspring of Zeus
returned the cattle to the sacred meadow,
and they themselves hastened
to the snowy peaks of Olympos
taking pleasure in the lyre as they sped.
Wise Zeus rejoiced and joined the two in friendship,
and Hermes loved the Son of Leto always
and does so even now
having given the lyre as token of friendship to the Far-Darter
who, setting it on his arm, plays it quite well.

Then Hermes himself invented another art —
he made the syrinx — that is, the panpipes
whose sound can be heard from afar.

But the Son of Leto said this to Hermes:

"I fear, O Son of Maia, you conductor, many-minded —
that you might steal the lyre back from me
and take my curved bow as well.
Remember that you've an assignment from Zeus
to establish the practice of exchange
among humans down on earth that nourishes many.
And if you take it upon yourself
to swear a great oath of the gods
on implacable Stygian waters
or just by nodding your head,
you would be doing all that you can
to please me and ease my heart."

Then the Son of Maia nodded his head
and took it upon himself never to burglarize
anything belonging to The One Who Shoots From Afar
and never to terrorize his shrewdly guarded domicile.
And Apollo Son of Leto nodded in return
that he'd never be a better friend to another among the immortals
or god sprung from Zeus or human either.

To seal the oaths, the Father sent out an eagle as an omen
and Apollo also swore :

"I will make of you a symbol before all th'immortals
of the trust and honor in my heart. Moreover,
I shall give you a beautiful wand-stick, tri-leaved and golden,
appertaining to boundless happiness and riches,
and to keep you inured against destiny.
It will achieve for you every accomplishment
of words and worthy acts
such as I say that I've learned directly
from the utterances of Zeus.
But as for prophecy itself, about which you ask,
though you are sprung from the divine,
it is not licit that you make inquiry into it
— nor any of the other gods either —
for only the mind of Zeus knows that.
And I myself have sworn a mighty oath
that apart from me not any of the gods
whose coming into being is forever
should know the wise-minded counsels of Father Zeus.
And you, my brother, of The Golden Wand-Stick,
do not demand that I declare the oracles
Wide-Watching Zeus devises.
And as regards the humans:
I'll do mischief to one and profit another
utterly twisting the minds of that unenviable species.
But whoever comes to me
guided by the call and flight
of proper omen birds,
shall enjoy my prophetic utterance
and I'll not deceive them.
But whoever, trusting idly twittering birds
inquires of my art against my own intent
or whoever seeks to know
more than the gods know —
I say that they shall have an errant journey—
though when they make their offerings, I'll still take the money!

But let me tell you another thing,
Illustrious Son of Maia and of Zeus Aegis-holder,
messenger, quick-as-death, daimon of the gods:
There exist three holy sisters,
three virgins who exult in their swift wings.
On their heads is a dust of white meal.
They dwell in houses under a ridge of Parnassus —
teachers of divination, independent of myself.
When I was a herds-lad,
I practiced their art
though my father considered it not worth his attention.
From their station they flit about, hither and yon,
feeding on honeycombs,
bringing each thing to pass.
Eating yellow honey stimulates them
so that when they consume it
they wish to speak the truth;
but withhold from them this sweet food of the gods,
and when they swarm together like raging maenads
they utter falsehoods only.
So I commend them to you.
Make particular inquiry of them
to your heart's delight,
and if you teach their art
to some mortal person,
your pupil will hear in their sound,
for the most part, your response
as fortune falls out."

So he spoke, and, from heaven, Father Zeus himself
sealed the intent with his words
and consigned to Hermes command over birds of omen,
glad-eyed lions, white-tusked wild pigs, dogs, sheep,
and all the flocking beasts that the broad earth nourishes.
And he commanded that only Hermes
should be appointed messenger to Hades,
who, though he takes no tribute,
will still give a boon not to be sniffed at.

Thus Lord Apollo favored the Son of Maia
with every token of friendship,
and the Kronion added graciousness besides.
Hermes is ever at hand for mortals and immortals,
taking but scant profit,
though still he is the cozener
who cons throughout the night
the species of mortal persons
without prejudice as to his target.

And so to you, this is farewell,
O Son of Zeus and Maia,
but I will be mindful of you
and make another song as well.

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