§ 1 HYMN I. TO ZEUS
At libations to Zeus what else should rather be sung than the god himself, mighty forever, king for evermore, router of the Pelagonians, dealer of justice to the sons of Heaven?
How shall we sing of him — as lord of Dicte or of Lycaion? My soul is all in doubt, since debated is his birth. O Zeus, some say that thou wert born on the hills of Ida; others, O Zeus, say in Arcadia; did these or those, O Father, lie? "Cretans are ever liars." Yea, a tomb, O Lord, for thee the Cretans builded; but thou didst not die, for thou art for ever.
In Parrhasia it was that Rheia bare thee, where was a hill sheltered with thickest brush. Thence is the place holy, and no fourfooted thing that hath need of Eileithyia nor any woman approacheth thereto, but the Apidanians call it the primeval childbed of Rheia. There when thy mother had laid thee down from her mighty lap, straightway she sought a stream of water, wherewith she might purge her of the soilure of birth and wash thy body therein.
But mighty Ladon flowed not yet, nor Erymanthus, clearest of rivers; waterless was all Arcadia; yet was it anon to be called well-watered. For all that time when Rhea loosed her girdle, full many a hollow oak did watery Iaon bear aloft, and many a wain did Melas carry and many a serpent above Carnion, wet though it now be, cast its lair; and a man would fare on foot over Crathis and many-pebbled Metope, athirst: while that abundant water lay beneath his feet.
And holden in distress the lady Rheia said, "Dear Earth, give birth thou also! They birthpangs are light." So spake the goddess, and lifting her great arm aloft she smote the mountain with her staff; and it was greatly rent in twain for her and poured forth a mighty flood. Therein, O Lord, she cleansed they body; and swaddled thee, and gave thee to Neda to carry within the Cretan covert, that thou mightst be reared secretly: Neda, eldest of the nymphs who then were about her bed, earliest birth after Styx and Philyra. And no idle favour did the goddess repay her, but named that stream Neda; which, I ween, in great flood by the very city of the Cauconians, which is called Lepreion, mingles its stream with Nereus, and its primeval water do the son's son of the Bear, Lycaon's daughter, drink.
§ 42 When the nymph, carrying thee, O Father Zeus, towards Cnosus, was leaving Thenae — for Thenae as nigh to Cnosus — even then, O God, thy navel fell away: hence that plain the Cydonians call the Plain of the Navel. But thee, O Zeus, the companions of the Cyrbantes took to their arms, even the Dictaean Meliae, and Adrasteia laid thee to rest in a cradle of gold, and thou didst suck the rich teat of the she-goat Amaltheia, and thereto eat the sweet honey-comb. For suddenly on the hills of Ida, which men call Panacra, appeared the works of the Panacrian bee. And lustily round thee danced the Curetes a war-dance, beating their armour, that Cronus might hear with his ears the din of the shield, but not thine infant noise.
Fairly didst thou wax, O heavenly Zeus, and fairly wert thou nurtured, and swiftly thou didst grow to manhood, and speedily came the down upon thy cheek. But, while yet a child, thou didst devise all the deeds of perfect stature. Wherefore thy kindred, though an earlier generation, grudged not that thou shouldst have heaven for thine appointed habitation. For they said that the lot assigned to the sons of Cronus their three several abodes. But who would draw lots for Olympos and for Hades — save a very fool? For equal chances should one cast lots; but these are the wide world apart. When I speak fiction, be it such fiction as persuades the listener's ear! Thou wert made sovereign of the gods not by casting of lots by the deeds of thy hands, thy might and that strength which thou hast set beside thy throne. And the most excellent of birds didst thou make the messenger of thy sings; favourable to my friends be the sings thou showest! And thou didst choose that which is most excellent among men — not thou the skilled in ships, nor the wielder of the shield, nor the minstrel: these didst thou straightway renounce to lesser gods, other cares to others. But thou didst choose the rulers of cities themselves, beneath whose hand is the lord of the soil, the skilled in spearmanship, the oarsman, yea, all things that are: what is there that is not under the ruler's sway? Thus, smith, we say, belong to Hephaestus; to Ares, warriors; to Artemis of the Tunic, huntsmen; to Phoebus they that know well the strains of the lyre. But from Zeus come kings; for nothing is diviner than the kings of Zeus. Wherefore thou didst choose them for thine own lot, and gavest them cities to guard. And thou didst seat thyself in the high places of the cities, watching who rule their people with crooked judgements, and who rule otherwise. And thou hast bestowed upon them wealth and prosperity abundantly; unto all, but not in equal measure. One may well judge by our Ruler, for he hath clean outstripped all others. At evening he accomplisheth what whereon he thinketh in the morning; yea, at evening the greatest things, but the lesser soon as he thinketh on them. But the others accomplish some things in a year, and some things not in one; of others, again, thou thyself dost utterly frustrate the accomplishing and thwartest their desire.
Hail! greatly hail! most high Son of Cronus, giver of good things, giver of safety. Thy works who could sing? There hath not been, there shall not be, who shall sing the works of Zeus. Hail! Father, hail again! And grant us goodness and prosperity. Without goodness wealth cannot bless men, nor goodness without prosperity. Give us goodness and weal.