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Whatever monster it might be
That made these marks, good care took he To make them large and busily."
Then Phoebus hasten'd farther still, To deep-embower'd Cyllene's hill, And reach'd the cave of Maia, where Th' ambrosial Nymph to mighty Jove Bore the sly infant of their love, Far in amid deep-shaded rocks: O'er all the hill the scented air Breathed sweetness round, and many flocks Bit close the tender herbage there.
Down to the cavernous chamber stepp'd Apollo, the far-darting god;
The threshold in his wrath he trode.
Him Hermes saw, duck'd down, and crept
Under his cradle-clothes, hands, feet, and all,
Huddled up close together, like a ball,
Or smouldering fagot underneath its heap
Of ashes; thus lay Hermes in his nest,
As 'twere a new-wash'd baby mass of sleep,
Yet therewithal his tortoise-shell he press'd,
Tenderly under his infant arms caress'd.
But now Latona's son knew well
That in this stony mansion dwelt
Maia and Hermes; every cell,
Corner, and hole, he search'd, and felt,
Look'd well about him, opening three
Large cupboards with a polish'd key-
Three cupboards with ambrosia stored,
And nectar for their daily board,
And gold and silver too, no little hoard;
Then Maia's millinery, white
And purple robes, all exquisite,
And fit for sacred houses, turn'd he over
And ransack'd, the thief Hermes to discover,
And found him cradled as he lay—
Then thus-" You little urchin, say,
Where are my cows you stole away?
This instant speak, or you and I
Must have a quarrel presently;
I'll hurl thee, too, young mischievous,
Down to the dismal Tartarus,
And its inextricable night;
Nor shall thy mother-no, nor thy father,
E'er help thee back again to light;
Left there to perish, or say rather
To live, and rule forlorn, the head
And leader of the
Hermes, with cunning speech, replied"Hard words are these, Latona's son, That a poor babe have vilified.
What makes thee hither angry run
To seek thy cows?-I've seen them not;
If thieves there be, I am not in their plot.
Nor would my conscience, should you offer
Handsome rewards for information,
Allow me to accept the offer.
And, so far for my abnegation,
Nor thief am I, nor thief's conniver.
Am I like a stout cattle-driver?
I, such a puny thing as I,
That have not aught to do but lie
Nestled up warm, to suck and sleep
On my own mother's breast, and creep
Under my cradle-clothes, be kiss'd, And wash'd in nice warm water every - night!
I steal your cows!-how could the thought exist?
Th' Olympian gods would laugh outright,
Should you in such a charge persist,
That a young thing as I should out
A-cattle-driving!-I, so stout !—
Born yesterday!-And my poor feet-
Look at them they are soft enough;
For roads, so very hard and rough,
You must confess them most unmeet.
"Now, would you like an oath, I'll swear
A great one. By my father's head-
A monstrous oath-I know not where
Your cows are, nor have e'er heard said;
Nor cows, nor thieves, have met my eye;
In no wise will I bear the blame.
And what are cows? I know not, I,
What things they are, except by name.
Pray, tell me, sir, what things are cows?"
This Hermes said, wrinkled his brows,
And cast his winking eyes about;
And one long wheugh, half-whistled out,
That meant to say, was ever heard
An accusation so absurd?.
Phoebus, in pleasant humour, laugh'd;
Quoth he, "Thou quintessence of craft,
Henceforth I prophesy of thee
The prince of housebreakers to be;
How many that bear purse and scrip,
Shall walk with thee, and shortly miss it;
And houses rue thy noiseless trip,
And domiciliary visit,
And find their masters penniless!
What herdsmen rue thy knavishness,
And diminution of their stocks,
When thou, with thoughts of future savour,
Shalt take the choice of herds and flocks
Unto thy more especial favour!
Out of thy cradle-up, boy, leap,
Or thou shalt sleep thy latest sleep,
Thou lover of dark nights; but go
Up to the gods; thy wit achieves
The glorious boon they shall bestow,
The title of the King of Thieves."
This said, Apollo seized the urchin,
Who, finding himself roughly handled,
Not like a petted baby dandled,
But grasp'd and lifted up aloft,
With fingers, too, not over soft,
His wit's invention keenly searching,
In quick return for his caressing,
Bethought him of an infant's blessing.
Upon the ground Apollo threw Young Hermes, and apart withdrew; Sat down before him, first to scoff, Though much in hurry to be off. "By this good omen, then," quoth he, "We now shall go on swimmingly, Especially with such a guide;
So, up--begone." But Hermes plied
His busy steps, and to both ears
Lifting his hands, about him wrapp'd
His cradle clothes, and answer'd apt,-
"What would you do with me, or where
Take me, of all the gods that are,
O you most savage, to torment
And tease one 'bout your horrid cattle so?
'Would the whole race of them were shent !
What things cows are I do not know;
I'm sure I stole them not, nor saw
The thief who did-In court of law,
The court above, our cause be tried,
And Justice Jove himself decide."
Thus long, with various expression, Discuss'd Childe Hermes and Apollo ; One mostly bent to force confession, (Not likely, as it seem'd, to follow,) The other, Hermes, on denying, Deceit, cajoling, cunning, lying: He, finding his prevarication Was met with equal ready wit And better ratiocination, And knowing he must needs submit, Trudged off to make the best of it, Over the sands his way to wind, And Phoebus follow'd close behind.
THUS fared they, nor did either stop,
Until they reach'd the Olympian top
Fragrant, both sons of Jove, for there
The fated scales of justice were.
But Rumour had before them sped,
And had the immortals gathered
Round Jove's eternal judgment-seat;
When both arrived; and at his feet,
Apollo and sly Hermes stood.
Quoth Phoebus, "nor the gods mislead
With this reproof of piracy.
No kidnapper of infants I.
And though you scarcely would believe
A thing so young as this would thieve,
I speak in simple verity.
You know Cyllene's mountain well;
'Tis there this pilferer I caught:
This rogue, this crafty miracle,
With cunning skill and knavery fraught.
With reverence to your honours due,
There's not a god in this divan,
Or mortal rogue on earth, e'er knew
To use his tongue and calling too,
As this small simple urchin can.
'Twas evening when he stole my kine
From their green pastures; near the brine
On the resounding shore he drove
The cattle in strange wise: great Jove,
You would have wonder'd had you seen
The hoof-marks and the monstrous prints
Not from, but towards the pastures leading,
Whence they were stolen ; in fact, receding;
As was discernible upon the sands.
But how he walk'd (nor feet nor hands,
'Tis plain, convey'd him) who can say?
In unknown guise he scratch'd his way,
As if his feet had been young oaks,
Tops downwards; the prodigious strokes,
That brush'd the sands on the moist shore,
Were plain enough; but that pass'd o'er,
All trace was lost, nor would have been re-
But that a man by the way side,
As the thief pass'd towards Pylos, spied
Him and his booty, and to me discover'd.
Now when at leisure he had slain,
And cook'd his meat, and fire put out,
And thrown the ashes all about,
Not to be seen, he crept again
Into his cradle, stealthily
Like night, within Nymph Maia's cave,
Nor might an eagle's searching eye
Have seen the slyly cradled knave;
And there he lay, and rubb'd his eyes,
And stretch'd, and feign'd him just awake,
Poor baby-ruminating lies
The while, and what false pleadings he might make,
As thus Why question me, good now,
Either about your cows or cow?
I've neither seen, nor heard about 'em,
And though you give me worlds to tell,
In truth I've not one syllable
To say, and fear you'll go without 'em.'"
Thus Phoebus, having made his charge,
Sat down, and on the other side
Stood Hermes, and replied at large;
But none save sovereign Jove he eyed,
As he were judge, and govern'd all beside :
"Good father, what I'm going to say
Shall all be truth; I scorn a lie,
I'm truth itself:-At break of day
Comes Phœbus, with a tale that I
Had stolen away his beastly cows;
Nor brought he witnesses, not one,
To prove the thing; but knit his brows,
And bullied me so loud, enough to stun
And shock one with vile oaths, swearing to
Me into some vile place called Tartarus.
He's in his prime, good Jove, and vigorous,
And lithe of limb-but I, poor thing,
Was born but yesterday; this too
He knows, and so makes this to do
With a weak infant.-Am I like
A cow-stealer, one stout to strike,
Yet for form's sake, and nothing loath,
I swear, and mighty is the oath
By this immortal vestibule-
And now I think on't, time will come,
Though now he domineer and rule,
I'll strike this proud accuser dumb-
Nor yet for means be far to seek ;
Meanwhile, great Jove, protect the weak!"
The way, and shew where he had hid them.
Jove nodded, and as most expedient
In such cases, Hermes march'd obedient.
The two illustrious brothers sped
Towards Pylos, and the pasturage
By the Alphæus' sandy bed,
And reach'd the stalls and courtelage,
Where all night long the beeves were fed:
There Hermes enter'd, and drove out
The noble kine, near fifty head:
Meanwhile Apollo search'd' about,
And saw the skins where they were spread
Upon the rock, with admiration
Accosting thus his new relation :
"How comes it now, young crafty Hermes,
That one a babe, an infant merely,
Whose sinew yet so little firm is,
Should slaughter two great cows? Full dearly
I think to pay for thy upgrowing,
If now thou art so strong and knowing."
This saying, the tenacious bine
Took Phoebus from a neighbouring vine,
And tied young Hermes' hands, and bound him,
Not long, for at his feet it fell,
And left him free as first it found him.
Loose flew the band, though twisted well,
Nor e'en could Phœbus' self divine
The cause, and own'd the miracle.
Then Hermes a few steps retreated,
And with fix'd countenance, moved his eye
Quickly about him, to descry
Close shelter-but he soon was seated,
And straight bethought him of a charm,
That might preserve his limbs from harm;
(Vocal the charm and instrumental:)
For this in his left hand he laid
His new-strung tortoise-shell, and play'd,
Variously striking on each string,
That from beneath his hands did fling
Such new-created melody,
Accompanied by vocal measure,
That Phoebus laugh'd for very pleasure
Under the thrilling poesy.
Now, reassured at this success,
On the left hand of Phoebus sitting,
New strains of lyric sprightliness
Chose Hermes; and with tone befit
Threw out his voice in trill and treble,
In sweetness link'd interminable.
He sang the everlasting story
Of the immortal gods in glory,
The shining heavens, and the dark earth,
How all things were, and had their birth,
How each god had allotted station,
And 'propriate administration;
But most he praised, with higher glee,
The heavenly Queen, Mnemosyne ;
To whom he Maia's son assign'd,
Her chief adopted favourite;
Then all the gods, and each one's might,
In strain and order exquisite.
The lyre upon his arm he rested,
Whose music took in easy capture
The soul of Phoebus, that attested
An unextinguishable rapture,
Who thus a compromise suggested:
"You little kill-cow, apt and clever,
Boon reveller of merry feasts,
Henceforth our quarrel rests for ever,
You've fairly won the fifty beasts
With thy most marvellous doings: come,
Cunning contriver, tell to me
Wert born with this fine minstrelsy,
Or was it the good gift of some
Ingenious god, or mortal man?
If either god or mortal can
Pour such delight into the ear,
As thy new voice so sweet to hear-
Thyself alone, young thief, art able
To sound such melody;-what skill!
What dext'rous touch! of every ill
On earth, howe'er inextricable,
The only cure and antidote,
That doth three choicest things promote,
Love, mirth, and sleep, together blended.
In blessed concord of sweet sounds.'
Full oft in their Olympian rounds
Have I the Muses nine attended,
In chorus, dance, and pleasant haunts,
And heard their pipes, and flutes, and chants,
In all variety of measure;
Yet ne'er so sensitive of pleasure,
As listening the coin'd fancies flung
From thy new instrument and tongue,
That would enchant the
I'm lost in wonder how 'tis so,
That one should be so young and wise,
And so adroitly lyricize.
And bid thy gentle mother know,
What good I mean thee, Hermes mine,
(And all is truth that I divine ;)
Nay, by this cornel wand, I'll place thee
Blest 'mid the glorious gods, and grace thee
With precious gifts, and learn Apollo
Ne'er proffers friendship false and hollow."
Then Hermes answer'd him as cunning: "Phœbus, you speak me fair, I wis, And knowing too, though somewhat running
Too much into periphrasis,
Whereof I know the meaning well,
For you are welcome to this shell,
Nor do I envy you the art ;-
Will teach it you this very day
In all simplicity of heart.
You've but to wish, I say not nay.
But, Phoebus, your capacious mind
Knows all things, both to come and pre
Jove loves you; hath to you assign'd
Honours nor small nor evanescent,
Amid th' immortal brotherhood!
Great are you, certes, and most good;
Nor have you more than is your due;
And Jove your sire hath favour'd you
Farther, 'tis said, by divination,
The conferr'd gift of prophecy :
Your opulence in full know I,
Nor needs there strict enumeration.
That you can learn whate'er you
I doubt not, and for this poor skill
In music, and this simple lyre,
'Tis but to wish them and acquire.
Sing, then, and play, and condescend
To learn of me-take all delight,
But recollect your words, requite,
Give me that glory you commend.
Now take it in your hands, and sing,
Make much of it, the gentle thing,
As 'twere a pleasant soft-toned friend,
And gay companion, brisk and clever,
To charm societies, whenever.
You visit feast, and hall, and ring,
Or any jovial revelling,
And would all day and night prolong
The merry pastime of sweet song.
Whoe'er this unconstrained shell,
As some fair mistress, shall entreat,
And question skilfully and well,
And kindly, to his bidding meet
Ever will it discourse most sweet
And excellent music, easy gliding
Into the soul, as it were part
And being of each hearer's heart;
But to rough hand, or peevish chiding,
Harsh grating discord and displeasure,
Or folly's mealy maudlin measure.
Here take it, son of Jove, Apollo,
And skill to use it soon will follow.
But let us to the pastures drive,
O'er hill and plain, the bulls and kine,
Together mix'd, that so will thrive
And multiply, good Phoebus mine,
As you may have small cause to waken
Your wrath 'gainst me (though too much
Excuse me, on emolument)
About the two poor cows I've taken."
Thus Hermes, and held out his gift;
Apollo took it, well contented,
And a smart whip in turn presented
To Hermes, with the pleasant drift,
Of urging him to instant thrift
Of tending the herds; Hermes consented,
Proud to be made his overseer.
In his left hand Latona's son
Then took the lyre, and one by one
He stirr'd the strings, till somewhat freer
He struck and sang-when from his hand
Uprose the music soft and bland.
The kine were to the pastures sent,
And the two sons of Jove retraced
To the Olympian tops snow-graced
Their steps, delighting as they went
Ever in minstrel merriment.
Joy took possession of wise Jove,
Commanding friendship to each other,
As brother should be link'd with brother;
Nor farther hint did it behove,
For Hermes towards Latona's son
Felt pure affection, love entire,
Both now and when he gave the lyre,
As he so willingly had done.
Light caroll'd Phoebus, well contented,
In bended arm his lyre caressing.
And Hermes, greater skill professing,
Another instrument invented,
The shrill pipe, sharper on the ear,
Contrived for distance, loud and clear.
QUOTH Phœbus, "Though I'm loath to shew
Good Hermes needless apprehension,
I fain would guard my lyre and bow
From farther pilfering and pretension;
And you are now in Jove's good graces,
Of all the Gods, and shifting places
May be your office ordinary;
Therefore, to put on better basis
Our amity, I would be wary,
And beg your honour to affix
To this our truce, in confirmation,
A great oath-By the awful Styx!-
And nod, the Gods' asseveration,
That, without fraud, in all things duly
You mean to act sincerely-truly.”
The son of Maia bow'd assent;
For these at least I take, nor aught return.
Whate'er the Archer own'd, he nought But, son of Maia and of Jove,
Or seek in act or manner fraudulent;
For thievery, he was much above it;
Nor would he his rich temple e'er approach,
Much less upon his property encroach.
Apollo, too, the glorious son
Of fair Latona, gave the nod,
That or in heaven or earth, not one,
Or son of Jove, or man, or god,
Would he hold half so dear as Hermes;
And added, "Since our truth so firm is,
I mean in friendship to present you
A rod endued with charm to bless,
With riches and all happiness,
The master by whose hand 'tis holden;
(Where'er their godships shall have sent
Ensuring safety and success ;)
Beauteous the rod three-leaved and golden.
And whatsoe'er, by word or will,
Jove would command, it will express
And teach the duty to fulfil,
But for this art of divination,
That, my good son of Jove, forbear,
Nor further ask me to declare
Unlawful the communication
To thee or any other god;
It is the secret of Jove's mind, and I
Gave my most solemn oath and nod,
When first it pleased him to bestow
On me the gift, no deity
Beside myself should ever know
The counsels that in his deep bosom lie.
Ask then no further, brother gifted
With rod of gold-no tongue discloses
What Jove commands should ne'er be sift-
The future leave as he disposes;
While I alone in my vocation
Must traverse earth, in duty strict
Towards man of every tribe and nation,
This to delight and that afflict.
And mortals, whosoe'er consult
Th' appointed birds of augury,
Their notes and flight, these learn of me
And in my voice of truth exult;
But whatsoe'er of men below
More than the gods shall seek to know,
And question all false chattering birds,
Shall trust in idle sounds and words,
In error's paths go wide astray,
And throw their precious offerings all
Apparitor of gods above,
There somewhat yet remains for thee to learn
Far deep in their Parnassian bower,
Secluded virgin sisters three
Their dwelling hold; on swift wing free,
As busy bees from flower to flower
Pass ever the glad sisterhood,
Gathering sweet honey-such their food,
Whose heads are white, as if with meal
O'ersprinkled-These alone reveal
And teach their art of prophecy,
And singular the gift that I
Coveted from my early day,
When wont among the herds to stray;
Nor was my sire, great Jove, concern'd,
With what I did, or what I learn'd.
On this invigorating fare
Feeding, enthusiast, they declare,
With liberal speech, their art and truth
But, that denied, with little ruth,
Entice their scholars far away
To many a false and wildering way.
To these will I present you, well
To question them, and learn the spell,
And sacred mystery to foretell;
Perchance, then mortals may frequent
The shrine of Hermes eloquent.
Such is my promise, this my gift,
Fair son of Maia-now to thrift
And diligence, good herdsman's rules;
Tend you the herds, laborious mules,
Horses, and cloven-footed kine,
Grim gaping lions, white-tooth'd swine,
The howling wolves, and horrid leopards,
Dogs, sheep, and whatsoe'er the earth
In den or pasture brings to birth;
Hermes shall be the prince of shepherds
Hermes, the only true instructor,
To Pluto's realms the sole conductor,
Thus giving, though unapt to give,
The gift of death to all that live."
Thus King Apollo loved the son
Of Maia with all love; and grace,
And favour most especial, and good place
Amid th' immortal throng from Jove he won.
With gods and men hence Hermes tarries,
The last of whom he seldom pleases;
But oft'ner o' dark nights he harries,'
And by his thefts vexatious teases.
Yet, hail fair son of Maia, hail!
Or rather, since I needs must tell
Of other gods another tale,
Till in new rhymes I mention thee, farewell!