Callimachus, Hymn to DelosHymn to Delos, Callimachus, Hymns, translated by Alexander William Mair (1875-1928), from the Loeb edition of 1921, now in the public domain, with thanks to www.theoi.com for making the text available on line. This text has 113 tagged references to 83 ancient places.
CTS URN: urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0533.tlg018; Wikidata ID: Q19739358; Trismegistos: authorwork/11668 [Open Greek text in new tab]
§ 1 HYMN IV. TO DELOS
What time or when, O my soul, wilt thou sing of holy Delos, nurse of Apollo? Surely all the Cyclades most holy of the isles that lie in the sea, are goodly theme of song. But Delos would win the foremost guerdon from the Muses, since she it was that bathed Apollo, the lord of minstrels, and swaddled him, and was the first to accept him for a god. Even as the Muses abhor him who sings not of Pimpleia so Phoebus abhors him who forgets Delos. To Delos no will I give her share of song,
§ 10 so that Cynthian Apollo may praise me for taking thought of his dear nurse.
Wind-swept and stern is she set in the sea, and, wave-beaten as she is, is fitter haunt for gulls than course for horses. The sea, rolling greatly round her, casts off on her much spindrift of the Icarian water. Wherefore also sea-roaming fishermen have made her their home. But none need grudge that she be named among the first, whensoever unto Oceanus and unto Titan Tethys the islands gather and she ever leads the way. Behind her footsteps follow Phoenician Cyrnus, no mean isle,
§ 20 and Abantian Macris of the Ellopians, and delectable Sardo, and the isle whereto Cypris first swam from the water and for fee of her landing she keeps safe. They are strong by reason of sheltering towers, but Delos is strong by aid of Apollo. What defence is there more steadfast? Walls and stones may fall before the blast of Strymonian Boreas; but a god is unshaken for ever. Delos beloved, such is the champion that encompasses thee about!
Now if songs full many circle about thee, with what song shall I entwine thee? What is that which is pleasing unto thee to hear? Is it the tale
§ 30 how at the very first the mighty god smote the mountains with the three-forked sword which the Telchines fashioned for him, and wrought the islands in the sea, and from their lowest foundations lifted them all as with a lever and rolled them into the sea? And them in the depths he rooted from their foundations that they might forget the mainland. But no constraint afflicted thee, but free upon the open sea thou didst float; and thy name of old was Asteria, since like a star thou didst leap from heaven into the deep moat, fleeing wedlock with Zeus. Until then golden Leto consorted not with thee:
§ 40 then thou wert still Asteria and wert not yet called Delos. Oft-times did sailors coming from the town of fair-haired Troezen unto Ephyra within the Saronic gulf descry thee, and on their way back from Ephyra saw thee no more there, but thou hadst run to the swift straits of the narrow Euripus with its sounding stream. And the same day, turning thy back on the waters of the sea of Chalcis, thou didst swim to the Sunian headland of the Athenians or to Chios or to the wave-washed breast of the Maiden's Isle, not yet called Samos — where the nymphs of Mycalessos, neighbours of Ancaeus, entertained thee.
§ 51 But when thou gavest thy soil to be birthplace of Apollo, seafaring men gave thee this name in exchange, since no more didst thou float obscure (adelos) upon the water, but amid the waves of the Aegean sea didst plant the roots of thy feet.
And thou didst not tremble before the anger of Hera, who murmured terribly against all child-bearing women that bare children to Zeus, but especially against Leto, for that she only was to bear to Zeus a son dearer even than Ares. Wherefore also she herself kept watch within the sky, angered in her heart
§ 60 greatly and beyond telling, and she prevented Leto who was holden in the pangs of childbirth. And she had two look-outs set to keep watch upon the earth. The space of the continent did bold Ares watch, sitting armed on the high top of Thracian Haemus, and his horses were stalled by the seven-chambered cave of Boreas. And the other kept watch over the far-flung islands, even the daughter of Thaumas seated on Mimas, whither she had sped. There they sat and threatened all the cities which Leto approached and prevented them from receiving her.
§ 70 Fled Arcadia, fled Auge's holy hill Parthenium, fled after her aged Pheneius, fled all the land of Pelops that lies beside the Isthmus, save only Aegialos and Argos. For on those ways she set not her feet, since Inachus belonged unto Hera. Fled, too, Aonia on the same course, and Dirce and Strophia, holding the hands of their sire, dark-pebbled Ismenus; far behind followed Asopus, heavy-kneed, for he was marred by a thunderbolt.
§ 80 And the earth-born nymph Melia wheeled about thereat and ceased from the dance and her cheek paled as she panted for her coeval oak, when she saw the locks of Helicon tremble. Goddesses mine, ye Muses, say did the oaks come into being at the same time as the Nymphs? The nymphs rejoice when the rain makes the oaks grow; and again the Nymphs weep when there are no longer leaves upon the oaks. And Apollo, yet in his mother's womb, was sore angered against them and he uttered against Thebe no ineffectual threat: "Thebe, wherefore, wretched one, dost thou ask the doom that shall be thine anon? Force me not yet to prophesy against my will.
§ 90 Not yet is the tripod seat at Pytho my care; not yet is the great serpent dead, but still that beast of awful jaws, creeping down from Pleistus, wreathes snowy Parnassus with his nine coils. Nevertheless I will speak unto thee a word more clear than shall be spoken from laurel branch.. Flee on! Swiftly shall I overtake thee and wash my bow in blood. Thou hast in thy keeping the children of a slanderous woman. Not thou shalt be my dear nurse, nor Cithaeron. Pure am I and may I be the care of them that are pure." So he spake. And Leto turned and went back.
§ 100 But when the Achaean cities refused her as she came — Helice, the companion of Poseidon, and Bura, the steading of Dexamenus, the son of Oiceus — she turned her feet back to Thessaly. And Anaurus fled and great Larisa and the cliffs of Cheiron; fled, too, Peneius, coiling through Tempe.
But thy heart, Hera, was even then still pitiless and thou wert not broken down nor didst have compassion, when she stretched forth both her arms and spake in vain:
§ 109 "Ye nymphs of Thessaly, offspring of a river, tell your sire to hush his great stream. Entwine your hands about his beard and entreat him that the children of Zeus be born in his waters. Phthiotian Peneius, why dost thou now vie with the winds? O sire, thou dost not bestride a racing horse. Are they feet always thus swift, or are they swift only for me, and hast thou today been suddenly made to fly?" But he heard her not. "O burden mine, whither shall I carry thee? The hapless sinews of my feet are outworn. O Pelion, bridal chamber of Philyra, do thou stay, O stay, since on thy hills even the wild lionesses oftentimes lay down their travail of untimely birth."
§ 121 Then shedding tears, Peneius answered her: "Leto, Necessity is a great goddess. It is not I who refuse, O Lady, they travail; for I know of others who have washed the soilure of birth in me — but Hera hath largely threatened me. Behold what manner of watcher keeps vigil on the mountain top, who would lightly drag me forth from the depths. What shall I devise? Or is it a pleasant thing to thee that Peneius should perish? Let my destined day take its course. I will endure for thy sake, even if I must wander evermore with ebbing flood and thirsty,
§ 131 and alone be called of least honour among rivers. Here am I! What needeth more? Do thou but call upon Eileithyia." He spake and stayed his great stream. But Ares was about to lift the peaks of Pangaion from their base and hurl them in his eddying waters and hide his streams. And from on high he made a din as of thunder and smote his shield with the point of his spear, and it rang with a warlike noise. And the hills of Ossa trembled and the plain of Crannon, and the windswept skirts of Pindus, and all Thessaly danced for fear: such echoing din rang from his shield.
§ 141 And even as when the mount Aetna smoulders with fire and all its secret depths are shaken as the giant under earth, even Briares, shifts to his other shoulder, and with the tongs of Hephaestus roar furnaces and handiwork withal; and fire-wrought basins and tripods ring terribly as the fall one upon the other: such in that hour was the rattle of the fair-rounded shield. But Peneius retired not back, but abode his ground, steadfast even as before, and stayed his swift-eddying streams, until the daughter of Coeus called to him: "Save thyself, farewell! Save thyself; do not for my sake suffer evil for this thy compassion; thy favour shall be rewarded."
§ 153 So she spake and after much toil came unto the isles of the sea. But they received her not when she came — not the Echinades with their smooth anchorage for ships, not Cercyra which is of all other islands most hospitable, since Iris on lofty Mimas was wroth with them all and utterly prevented them. And at her rebuke they fled all together, every one that she came to, along the waters.
§ 160 Then she came unto primeval Cos, the isle of Merops, the holy retreat of the heroine Chalciope, but the word of her son restrained her: "Bear me not, mother, here. I blame not the island nor have any grudge, since a bright isle it is and rich in pasture as any other. But there is due to her from the Fates another god, the most high lineage of the Saviours; beneath whose crown shall come — not loth to be ruled by a Macedonian — both continents and the lands which are set in the sea, far as where the end of the earth is and again whence his swift horses
§ 170 carry the sun. And he shall know the ways of his sire.
"Yea and one day hereafter thee shall come upon us a common struggle, when the Titans of a later day shall rouse up against the Hellenes barbarian sword and Celtic war, and from the furthest West rush on like snowflakes and in number as the stars when they flock most thickly in the sky; forts too (and the villages of the Locrians and Delphian heights) and Crisaean plains and (glens of the mainland) be thronged about and around, and shall behold the rich smoke
§ 180 of their burning neighbour, and no longer by hearsay only; but already beside the temple behold the ranks of the foemen, and already beside my tripods the swords and cruel belts and hateful shields, which shall cause an evil journey to the foolish tribe of the Galatians. Of these shields some shall be my guerdon; others, when they have seen the wearers perish amid fire, shall be set by the banks of Nile to be the prizes of a king who laboured much. O Ptolemy who art to be, these prophecies I declare for thee. Greatly shalt thou praise in all the days to be him that prophesied while yet in his mother's womb.
§ 190 "But mark thou, mother: there is to be seen in the water a tiny island, wandering over the seas. Her feet abide not in one place, but on the tide she swims even as stalks of asphodel, where the South wind or the East wind blows, withersoever the sea carried her. Thither do thou carry me. For she shall welcome thy coming."
When he had spoken thus much, the other islands in the sea ran away. But thou, Asteria, lover of song, didst come down from Euboea to visit the round Cyclades — not long ago, but still behind thee trailed the sea-weed of Geraistos . . . ((lacuna)) since they heart was kindled, seeing the unhappy lady in the grievous pangs of birth: "Hera, do to me what thou wilt. For I heed not they threats. Cross, cross over, Leto, unto me."
§ 205 So didst thou speak, and she gladly ceased from her grievous wandering and sat by the stream of Inopus, which the earth sends forth in deepest flood at the season when the Nile comes down in full torrent from the Aethiopian steep. And she loosed her girdle and leaned back her shoulders against the trunk of a palm-tree, oppressed by the grievous distress, and the sweat poured over her flesh like rain. And she spake in her weakness: "Why, child, dost thou weigh down thy mother? There, dear child, is thine island floating on the sea. Be born, be born, my child, and gently issue from the womb."
§ 215 O Spouse of Zeus, Lady of heavy anger, thou wert not to be for long without tidings thereof: so swift a messenger hastened to thee. And, still breathing heavily, she spake — and her speech was mingled with fear: "Honoured Hera, of goddesses most excellent far, thine am I, all things are thine, and thou sittest authentic queen of Olympus, and we fear no other female hand; and thou, O Queen wilt know who is the cause of thine anger. Leto is undoing her girdle within an island. All the others spurned her and received her not; but Asteria called her by name as she was passing by —
§ 225 Asteria that evil scum of the sea: thou knowest it thyself. But dear lady, — for thou canst — defend thy servants who tread the earth at thy behest."
So she spake and seated her beside the golden throne, even as a hunting hound of Artemis, which, when it hath ceased from the swift chase, sitteth by her feet, and its ears are erect, ever ready to receive the call of the goddess. Like thereto the daughter of Thaumas sat beside her throne. And she never forgetteth her seat, not even when sleep lays upon her his forgetful wing,
§ 235 but here by the edge of the great throne with head a little bent aslant she sleeps. Never does she unloose her girdle or her swift hunting-boots lest her mistress give her some sudden command. And Hera was grievously angered and spake to her: "So now, O shameful creatures of Zeus, may ye all wed in secret and bring forth in darkness, not even where the poor mill-women bring forth in difficult labour, but where the seals of the sea bring forth, amid the desolate rocks. But against Asteria am I no wise angered for this sin, nor can I do to her so unkindly as I should — for very wrongly has she done a favour to Leto. Howbeit I honour her exceedingly for that she did not desecrate my bed, but instead of Zeus preferred the sea."
§ 249 She spake: and with music the swans, the gods' own minstrels, left Maeonian Pactolus and circled seven times round Delos, and sang over the bed of child-birth, the Muses' birds, most musical of all birds that fly. Hence that child in after days strung the lyre with just so many strings — seven strings, since seven times the swans sang over the pangs of birth. No eighth time sang they: ere that the child leapt forth
§ 255 and the nymphs of Delos, offspring of an ancient river, sang with far-sounding voice the holy chant of Eileithyia. And straightway the brazen sky echoed back the far-reaching chant and Hera grudged it not, because Zeus had taken away her anger. In that hour, O Delos, all thy foundations became of gold: with gold thy round lake flowed all day, and golden foliage thy natal olive-tree put forth and with gold flowed coiled Inopus in deep flood.
§ 264 And thou thyself didst take up the child from the golden earth and lay him in thy lap and thou spakest saying: "O mighty and of many altars and many cities, bounteous earth! Rich continents and ye islands set around lo! I am as thou see'st — hard of tillage; yet from me shall Apollo be called 'Of Delos', and none other among all lands shall be so beloved by any other god: not Cerchnis so loved by Poseidon, lord of Lechaion, not Cyllene's hill by Hermes, not Crete by Zeus, as I by Apollo; and I shall no more be a wandering isle." Thus didst thou speak and the child drew the sweet breast.
§ 275 Wherefore from that day thou art famed as the most holy of islands, nurse of Apollo's youth. On thee treads not Enyo nor Hades nor the horses of Ares; but every year tithes of first-fruits are sent to thee: to thee all cities lead up choirs, both those cities which have cast their lots toward the East and those toward the West and those in the South, and the peoples which have their homes above the northern shore, a very long-lived race.
§ 283 These first bring thee cornstalks and holy sheaves of corn-ears, which the Pelasgians of Dodona, who couch upon the ground, servants of the caldron which is never silent — far first receive, as these offerings enter their country from afar. Next they come to the Holy city (ieron asty) and mountains of the Malian land; and thence they sail across to the goodly Lelantian plain of the Abantes; and then not long
§ 290 is the voyage from Euboea, since thy havens are nigh thereto. The first to bring thee these offerings fro the fair-haired Arimaspi were Upis and Loxo and happy Hecaerge, daughters of Boreas, and those who then were the best of the young men. And they returned no home again, but a happy fate was theirs, and they shall never be without their glory. Verily the girls of Delos, when the sweet-sounded marriage hymn affrights the maidens' quarters, bring offerings of their maiden hair to the maidens, while the boys offer to the young men the first harvest of the down upon their cheeks.
§ 300 Asteria, island of incense, around and about thee the isles have made a circle and set themselves about thee as a choir. Not silent art thou nor noiseless when Hesperus of the curling locks looks down on thee, but ringing evermore with sound. The men sing the song of the old man of Lycia — the very song which the seer Olen brought thee from Xanthos: the maidens of the choir beat with their feet the steadfast ground. Then, too, is the holy image laden with garlands, the famous image of ancient Cypris whom of old Theseus with the youths established when he was sailing back from Crete.
§ 310 Having escaped the cruel bellowing and the wild son of Pasiphae and the coiled habitation of the crooked labyrinth, about thine altar, O lady, they raised the music of the lute and danced the round dance, and Theseus led the choir.
§ 314 Hence the ever-living offerings of the Pilgrim Ship do the sons of Cecrops send to Phoebus, the gear of that vessel.
Asteria of many altars and many prayers, what merchant mariner of the Aegean passes by thee with speeding ship? Never do such mighty winds as that blow upon him, but though need urges the swiftest voyage that may be, yet they speedily furl their sails and go not on board again,
§ 321 ere they have circled they great altar buffeted with blows and bitten the sacred trunk of the olive, their hands tied behind their backs. These things did the nymph of Delos devise for sport and laughter to young Apollo. O happy hearth of islands, hail to thyself! Hail also to Apollo and to her whom Leto bare!