!8. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Translated by Rodney Merrill

8. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo

Translated by Rodney Merrill

Translator’s Note

My main aims in translating this hymn are similar to those I have set forth at some length in the translator’s introduction to my version of the Odyssey (Ann Arbor, 2002, 64–85), and more briefly in the introduction to my version of the Iliad (Ann Arbor, 2007, 1–22). They have to do with conveying the formal, one should even say musical, aspects of the work, which seem to me to have a direct and profound bearing on its overall significance. These hymns, whether considered as independent works or as proems to a recitation of epic, seem to require such understanding at least as much as the epic itself, for their ritual qualities, explicit or implicit, underlie their narratives and qualify both their drama and their humor. From the translator’s point of view it does not greatly matter whether those qualities derive from actual performance as ritual, or whether they constitute a literary convention. By the same token, we do not need to decide conclusively whether these poems began existence as oral poems—“composition in performance”—or as literate derivatives of the great tradition of oral epic. In either case what we have are poems in which, as in Homeric oral epic, repetition plays an important part; repetition, moreover, that is given life and validated by a specific insistent meter, so that the aural music of the poem plays a crucial role both in its meaning and in its reception by the audience.
My use of an English accentual version of the dactylic hexameter meter, therefore, is far from arbitrary or decorative. Whatever the merits of my particular realization may be, it seems essential to make the reader aware of the musical power of the repeated elements on every level, whether of particular words, formulaic phrases, whole lines, or even passages. This has two dimensions: one, internal, relates to the coherence of this particular poem; the other, external, relates this poem to the whole corpus of Homeric poetry, with which it shares a large proportion of the formulaic phrasing as well as more extensive passages. Both qualities are immediately evident to anyone who reads the poem in the original. To begin with the most obvious aspects of the external dimension, the epithets applied to people, places, and things are often the same as those that occur in the epics—e.g. “far-shooting Apollo,” “Hera of white arms,” “sandy-soiled Pylos,” “sea-faring galleys.” The catalogs of places in lines 30–44, 216–244, and 409–429 recall those of the Iliad and the Odyssey not merely in describing journeys around various places but in some of their particular phrasing. Then there are lines and even passages that echo those of an epic. Perhaps the most striking occurs when Apollo, in the form of a youth, questions the merchants from Crete whom he intends to make his priests—he “quotes” four lines (452–455) that occur twice in the Odyssey.

“Strangers, who are you? And whence do you sail on the watery pathways?
Have you affairs in trading, or do you recklessly wander
over the seas in the manner of pirates who wander at random
putting their lives in danger and visiting evil on strangers?”
In one of the Odyssean passages (iii 71–74), Nestor questions Telémachos and Athena (disguised as Mentor) when they arrive in Pylos; in the other (ix 252–255), Polyphemos interrogates Odysseus and his companions as soon as he catches sight of them in his cave. Nestor’s inquiry comes only after his visitors have received a meal, as the culmination of the elaborate ritual of hospitality (xenía) so important in the moral universe of Homeric epic. Then when Polyphemos uses the same lines, the extensive repetition reminds us how completely both sides are ignoring that ritual, Odysseus and his men by invading and robbing their host’s dwelling, Polyphemos by launching his inquiry before any welcome has been given. In the Hymn, Apollo’s abrupt questioning, though disingenuous—he knows quite well who they are—resembles Polyphemos’ far more than Nestor’s. So if this extended quotation can be taken as an allusion, it might well add to our sense of how forcibly the god has abducted these merchants, playing the very pirate he speaks of. The allusive contrast with the courteous hospitality of Nestor might also be underlined by the fact, twice mentioned (398–399, 470; the name “Pylos” occurs twice in 424 as well) that these Cretans were bound for Pylos when Apollo co-opted them into his service.
Whether such echoes in oral epic should be read as allusions may remain a matter for discussion, but their overall importance in integrating this hymn with the large corpus of Homeric poetry can hardly be doubted. For this reason, I have used the formulaic phrasing of my translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey in all places, brief or extended, where the context allows it. My hope is that readers of the three translations will be able to grasp this relationship almost as immediately and as musically as would the audience of the original works. I readily admit that sheer economy of effort makes this an attractive proceeding, as it surely did for the original poets; but beyond that, one of the important pleasures of this large literary corpus derives from coming across a familiar phrase or passage in a different setting—“repetition” on a grand cultural scale, both synchronic—in many places at the same moment—and diachronic—a literary impulse flourishing across generations, even centuries.
The other, internal, dimension, is equally important but harder to characterize briefly; and only for purposes of analysis can it be separated from our overriding sense of epic diction. To make a beginning, however, both the meter and the repetition founded on that meter give the poem a stylistic coherence and intensity appropriate to the invocation of a god. For example, we hear the phrases “far-shooting Apollo” or “the Far-shooter” many times, some of them in quick succession, as we do “Phoibos Apollo” and “far-working Apollo”—never do we forget the central subject of the hymn. Even when the action is swift, as in line 440, when Apollo leaps from the Cretans’ ship, we get the full phrase, “the lord far-working Apollo.” Other such formulaic phrases also recur, especially in relation to the other gods and goddesses—Zeus, Leto, Helios. Longer passages as well both unify and ritualize the poem. One of the most notable is lines 22–23, characterizing Apollo’s wide-spread predominance in song, repeated exactly only 120 lines later, at 144–145. Another is the question at line 19—“How shall I sing of you who are in all ways worthy of singing?”—repeated in the second part of the poem, at line 207; in both cases the answer leads to the narratives that form the bulk of the hymn. (Without going into the question, I simply note that the hymn as we have it can best be regarded as one poem in two parts of unequal length, the shorter first part celebrating the birth of Apollo on Delos, the second the foundation of his oracle at Delphi.) Evidently the exact repetition of the line is far from casual; in both places the ritual requires the recognition of the god’s greatness, a corresponding expression of the singer’s humble stance before a plethora of possibilities, and an eventual choice of the most significant among them. For this reason it is important to accentuate musically the quasi-ritual nature of the question and its poetic consequences. Much the same thing holds for other places in the poem. One important example is the extensive repetition in the passages relating Apollo’s intentions for his projected temples, first at Telphoúsa, where the spring, wanting to keep the place for her own glory, causes him to abandon the project, and then in Krisa, where he achieves it (247–255; cf. 287–295). How better to dramatize the ritual of this foundation than to show it in the same lines, first frustrated and then carried to fulfillment?
Beyond the repetition itself, the strict yet flexible meter in which it is couched conveys the sort of decorum, the satisfaction in traditional expectations fulfilled, that characterizes all ritual. This is true throughout the hymn, even in non-repetitive passages—the musical rhythm deeply conditions the poem’s overall significance as a work of archaic Greek art. I hope that this English version, however much it falls short of the original, will help contemporary readers grasp that significance.
I have relied mainly on the text published in the edition of T. W. Allen, W. R. Halliday, and E. E. Sikes, 2nd. ed. (Oxford, 1963), 20–42, with commentary. The four lines in square brackets (81a, 317a, 539a–b) are based on no textual authority; the Greek lines were suggested, mainly by Allen, to fill lacunae in the manuscripts and are printed in the text of the older Loeb edition, ed. and trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White (London and Cambridge, MA, 1914). Line 325a is so numbered because it occurs only in one group of manuscripts and was omitted from early editions. I have also consulted the more recent Loeb edition, ed. and trans. Martin L. West (Cambridge, MA, 2003). West characterizes lines 211–213 as “deeply obscure”; corrupt might be a better word—the sense of the original is as unclear as that of my rendering. The diacritical marks over some Greek names are intended, as in my translations of the epics, to help readers pronounce these names with correct accentuation and thereby maintain the dactylic meter. They appear only on names whose pronunciation might not be clear to some readers of English—Apollo, Athena, Artemis, etc., have no marks. The first syllable of two-syllable names always receives the stress. The acute accent (´) indicates stress; a few names have two such accents. The grave accent (`) appears over final –e to indicate that it is pronounced. The diaeresis (¨) over the second of two contiguous vowels indicates that it is to be pronounced separately.


I will remember, nor could I forget, far-shooting Apollo,
whom gods tremble before as in Zeus’s abode he is striding—
then as he comes up close to the place they are sitting, they leap up,
all of them, out of their seats, as he stretches his glittering bow back.
5        Leto alone stays there beside Zeus the great thunderbolt-hurler;
she unloosens the bowstring and closes the lid on his quiver;
taking his arrows and bow in her hands from his powerful shoulders,
she hangs them on the pillar by which his father is sitting,
high on a gold-wrought hook; to a chair she guides him and seats him.
10      Then, in a goblet of gold, sweet nectar his father presents him,
making his dear son welcome; and straightway the other immortals
sit down there in assembly, and Leto the lady is gladdened,
seeing that she has brought forth so mighty a son and an archer.
Hail and rejoice then, Leto the blessèd, for glorious children
15      you bore, lordly Apollo and Artemis shooter of arrows,
her in Ortygia, him brought forth in Delos the rocky,
while you reclined on a great tall peak of the Kynthian highland,
close to a date-palm tree by the streams of the River Inópos.
How shall I sing of you who are in all ways worthy of singing?
20      For to you, Phoibos, melodious songs are intoned the world over,
both on the mainland, nurturing heifers, and over the islands;
all of the crags are delightful to you, and the sharp promontories
jutting from steep high mountains, and rivers that flow to the seabrine,
beaches that slope down into the water, and deep sea harbors.
25     Shall it be how first Leto delivered you, gladdening mortals,
when by the mountain of Kynthos she lay, on the rock-strewn island
Delos begirt by the sea, with a black wave surging on either
hand to the dry land under the shrill sharp breath of the stormwinds?
Thence indeed having risen, you rule over all of us mortals,
30     over the people who dwell in Crete and the district of Athens,
also the isle of Aigína and galley-renownèd Euboía,
Aigai, Eíresiaí, and Pepárethos, close to the sea-brine,
also Thracian Athos and Pelion’s towering summits,
Thracian Samos as well, and the shadowy highlands of Ida,
35     Skyros as well as Phokaía, the highland of steep Autokánè
also, and firm-set Imbros and inhospitable Lemnos,
sacred Lesbos, the dwelling of Makar, Aíolos’ scion,
also Chios, the brightest of islands that lie in the sea-brine,
Mimas, rugged and rocky, and Kórykos’ towering summits,
40     shimmering Klaros as well, and the highland of steep Aisagéa,
also watery Samos and Mýkalè’s steep high headland,
then Milétos and Kos, that town of Meropian people,
then too steep high Knidos and wind-blown Kárpathos island,
Naxos and Paros as well, and the rock-strewn isle of Rhenaía—
45     even so far did Leto, in birth-pangs with the Far-shooter,
wander to seek a land willing to serve as a home for her dear son.
They were all dreadfully trembling and fearful, and none of them dared to
take in Phoibos the lord, not even the richest among them,
not until finally Leto the lady, arriving on Delos,
50     made inquiry of her, as in these winged words she addressed her:
“Delos, if you would be willing to be the abode of my dear son
Phoibos Apollo, and here to establish for him a great sumptuous temple—
since no other will touch you; of that you will not be unmindful,
nor, I believe, will you be at all wealthy in cattle and sheep flocks,
55     nor will you bring forth grapes or produce an abundance of produce—
if you contain, however, the shrine of far-shooting Apollo,
people will all be bringing to you their hecatombs hither,
when they gather together; the measureless savor of fat will
always rise from the fires—your inhabitants you will be feeding
60     out of those foreigners’ hands, for in truth your soil is not fertile.”
So did she say; then Delos was gladdened and made her an answer:
“Leto, the greatly illustrious daughter of powerful Koios,
gladly indeed to your offspring, the lord far-shooting, would I grant
welcome, because it is terribly true that of evil repute I
65     am among men—thus I would become universally honored.
But this saying I tremble at, Leto, and I will not hide it:
for they say that Apollo will be of a haughty and reckless
temper, and greatly will he dominate both among the immortals
and among men who are mortal upon these grain-giving plowlands.
70     Therefore am I most terribly fearful in mind and in spirit,
lest as he looks for the very first time on Helios’ sunlight,
he will dishonor the island because I am rugged and rocky,
overturn me with his feet, thrust me to the depths of the seabrine;
there will the great high billows forever be breaking above me,
75     over my head; he will go to another land, one that will please him,
there to erect his temple and found his forested woodland.
Sea-polypuses will build upon me their bedrooms, and black seals
also will make me their carefree dwelling, because I lack people.
Yet if you deign now, goddess, to swear me an oath of the strongest—
80     it will be here that he first will erect a most beautiful temple
which will for all mankind be an oracle—afterward, surely,
81a   [let him erect more temples and found more forested woodlands]
widely among all men, for in many a name will he glory.”
So she spoke; the great oath of the gods did Leto then swear her:
“Now Earth witness to this, and the wide sky stretching above us,
85     so too the water of Styx, down-flowing; for this is the greatest
oath and the oath most dreadful among us blessèd immortals:
surely forever will be right here on this island the fragrant
altar and precinct of Phoibos; and you above all will he honor.”
But then, when she had sworn and had brought her oath to completion,
90     Delos was gladdened indeed at the birth of the lord, the Far-shooter;
Leto was yet nine days and as well nine nights by unwonted
birth-pangs pierced to the core; and the goddesses were on the isle with
her, all those who were noblest, as were Diónè and Rhea,
Themis of Ichnai also and thunderous Ámphitrítè,
95     all of the rest of the goddesses too, save Hera of white arms,
for she sat in the halls of the great cloud-gathering god Zeus;
Eíleithýia the goddess of childbirth alone did not know it,
for she sat in the gold clouds high on the peak of Olympos
by the contrivance of Hera of white arms, who out of envy
100    kept her away from the place: to a son both faultless and mighty
Leto of beautiful tresses was just then going to give birth.
Then from the firm-set island the goddesses sent away Iris,
Eíleithýia to fetch by promising her a great necklace
fastened together with gold-spun threads, nine cubits extended,
105   bade her deliver the summons apart from Hera of white arms,
lest with her words that goddess should afterwards turn her from coming.
But then, when to these things swift wind-footed Iris had listened,
she began running, so quickly accomplishing all of the distance.
But then, when she arrived at the seat of the gods, steep Olympos,
110   straightway Eíleithýia away from the chamber she summoned
out of the door, and in winged words there she spoke and addressed her
all that the goddesses having their homes on Olympos had ordered.
In this way she persuaded the heart in the breast of the goddess;
then they departed on foot, in their steps like timorous pigeons.
115   Soon as had set foot there on Delos the goddess of childbirth
Eíleithýia, the pangs seized Leto, who yearned to deliver.
Throwing her arms then around a date-palm, she fell to her knees right
there on the soft meadowland, and the earth began smiling beneath her;
he leapt forth to the light; all the goddesses cried out rejoicing.
120   Thereupon, glorious Phoibos, the goddesses purely and cleanly
bathed you in beautiful water and swathed you in whitest apparel,
delicate, recently woven, and fastened about you a gold band.
Nor was Apollo the god of the gold sword nursed by his mother;
rather, of nectar and lovely ambrosia Themis provided
125   him a due share with her deathless hands; then Leto was gladdened,
seeing that she had brought forth so mighty a son and an archer.
But then, Phoibos, as soon as you ate the ambrosial victuals,
then no longer the gold cords held you, panting and struggling,
nor did the bonds restrain you, but all their knots were unloosened.
130   Then to the deathless goddesses spoke forth Phoibos Apollo:
“Ever belovèd to me may the kithara be, and the curved bow;
I will declare to mankind great Zeus’s infallible purpose.”
So having spoken began to go forth on the earth of the wide ways
Phoibos of hair unshorn who shoots from afar; and at him then
135   marveled the goddesses all; and with gold all Delos was heavy
laden as she caught sight of the offspring of Zeus and of Leto,
gladdened because it was she that the god had chosen as dwelling,
over the islands and mainland—she loved him the more in her spirit,
blooming, as when with its woodland flowers a mountain-top blossoms.
140   You then, silvery-bowed far-shooter, the lordly Apollo,
sometimes strode on your way over Kynthos, rugged and rocky,
sometimes you would go roaming about among islands and peoples.
Many indeed are your temples and many the forested woodlands;
all of the crags are belovèd to you, and the sharp promontories
145   jutting from steep high mountains, and rivers that flow to the sea-brine;
but in your heart by Delos especially you are delighted,
Phoibos, for there long-robed Ionians gather together,
they themselves and as well their children and virtuous bedmates.
There in remembrance of you they give you delight with their boxing
150   matches and dancing and singing, whenever they set competitions.
One would suppose them immortal and ageless forever and ever,
he who had come upon those Ionians meeting together;
he on beholding the grace of them all would delight in his spirit,
as at the men he gazed, and the women with beautiful girdles,
155   and at the ships, swift-sailing, as well as their many possessions.
Then there is this great marvel, of fame which never will perish—
it is the Delian girls, handmaids of the great Far-shooter;
these, whenever at first in a hymn they have lauded Apollo
also Leto the goddess and Artemis shooter of arrows,
160   calling to memory tales of the men and the women of old times,
straightway a hymn they sing, enchanting the nations of mankind.
They know how to impersonate all men’s voices and all their
musical vocalizations, and each would imagine himself as
sounding the words—so suited to them is their beautiful singing.
165   But come, be you propitious, Apollo, and Artemis also;
farewell, all of you maidens; and me then, even hereafter,
call to your memory, when someone among men on the earth, some
much-tried suffering stranger, arrives here making inquiry:
“Maidens, for you which singer is it of men wandering hither
170   who is the sweetest in song, and by whom you most are delighted?”
Then do you all, each one, make answer and tell him about me:
“It is a blind man dwelling in Chios, rugged and rocky,
whose songs, every one, are the best both now and hereafter.”
Yours is a fame, in turn, I will carry around as I wander
175   over the earth to the well-inhabited cities of mankind;
they will indeed be persuaded, for this is the truth of the matter.
Never will I cease lauding in hymns far-shooting Apollo,
god of the silvery bow, whom Leto of beautiful hair bore.


Oh Lord, you possess Lykia, lovely Maionia also,
180   then Miletos, delectable city that borders the seabrine,
but over wave-washed Delos yourself you splendidly govern.
Glorious Leto’s son, as he plays a refrain on his hollow
lyre, sets forth on his journey to go toward Pytho the rocky,
clad in ambrosial fragrant apparel; and under the golden
185   plectrum the lyre in his hands sends forth a delectable clangor.
Thence from the earth he departs to Olympos as speedy as thought and
goes to the palace of Zeus and the rest of the gods in assembly;
straightway to the immortals the lyre and the song are enthralling;
all of the Muses together in lovely antiphonal voices
190   hymn the ambrosial gifts that the gods enjoy, and the sorrows
which men under the hands of the deathless gods ever suffer,
living without understanding and helpless, nor are they ever
able to find any cure for their death or defense against old age.
Meanwhile the Graces with beautiful hair and the jovial Seasons,
195   Hebè, Harmonia too, and the daughter of Zeus, Aphrodítè,
enter the dance—by the wrists of their hands they hold one another;
singing and dancing with them is a maid not ugly or little,
rather indeed very tall to behold, and of wondrous appearance,
Artemis shooter of arrows, the maid brought up with Apollo;
200   Ares among them too, and the keen-eyed slayer of Argos,
frolic, the while on his lyre Lord Phoibos Apollo is playing,
high and resplendently stepping, with radiance shining around him,
glittering bright from his feet and his skillfully woven apparel.
Deep in their great hearts then as they look upon him are his mother,
205   Leto with tresses of gold, and his sire, Zeus counselor, gladdened,
watching their much-loved son as with deathless gods he is sporting.
How shall I sing of you who are in all ways worthy of singing?
Shall I sing about you as a wooer, in loving liaisons,
how you would go forth courting the daughter of Azan along with
210   godlike Ischys, the well horsed son of Elátios, or with
Phorbas, a scion of Triops’ lineage, or with Ereútheus,
or else along with Leukíppos, to Daphne the wife of Leukíppos …
you on foot, he in chariot, nor did he come short of Triops.
Or about how at the first all over the earth you were ranging,
215   seeking an oracle-place for mankind, far-shooting Apollo?
Then to Piéria first you went, straight down from Olympos,
striding along beside sand-strewn Lectos and through Ainiénai
and the Perrhaibians’ country; and swiftly you came to Iólkos,
set foot then on Kenaíon in galley-renownèd Euboía,
220   stood on the Lélantine plain—but it did not please you in spirit
there to erect your temple and found your forested woodland.
Over the Eúripos thence you crossed, far-shooting Apollo,
then climbed up the divine green mountain; and swiftly from there you
journeyed, and reached Mykaléssos and then Teuméssos the grassy.
225   Next you arrived in Thebè’s abode, all covered in forests,
since no one among men yet dwelt in Thebè the holy,
nor at the time were as yet any footpaths nor any roadways
there across Thebè’s wheat-bearing plain—it was covered in forest.
Now yet farther from there you went, far-shooting Apollo,
230   coming to Onchestos, the resplendent grove of Poseidon;
there where a colt, new-broken, recovers his breath from the pain of
drawing a beautiful chariot; though he is skillful, the driver
leaps from the car-box and goes on his journey; and meanwhile the horses
rattle the empty conveyance, bereft of a master to guide them.
235   Should they shatter the chariot there in the forested woodland,
men take care of the horses, the car they tilt and abandon;
for it was so in the earliest ritual; then do the drivers
pray to the lord; as the share of the god is the chariot guarded.
Now yet farther from there you went, far-shooting Apollo;
240   then you arrived at the beautiful stream of the River Kephísos,
which pours out of Lilaía its beautiful current of water.
Stepping across, Far-worker, you passed Okaléa of many
towers; proceeding from there you reached Haliártos the grassy.
Toward Telphoúsa you went; it was pleasing to you, a propitious
245   place to erect your temple and found your forested woodland;
close to her side you stood, and in these words spoke and addressed her:
“Here, Telphoúsa, am I intending a beautiful temple
now to erect, to serve men as an oracle; then they will always
bring here honoring me their hecatombs full and effective—
250   both those having abodes in the fertile Péloponnésos,
and those dwelling in Europe and over the wave-washed islands—
looking for oracles; then it would be infallible counsel
I would deliver to all of them here in my sumptuous temple.”
So spoke Phoibos Apollo, and laid out there the foundations,
255   broad and exceedingly long throughout; Telphoúsa, observing
this, grew angry in spirit and spoke these words to Apollo:
“Phoibos the lord, Far-worker, advice for your mind will I give you,
since you intend to erect here now a most beautiful temple,
which is to serve all men as an oracle; always will they bring
260   hither in honor to you their hecatombs full and effective.
But I say to you plainly, and you keep this in your mind now—
always will cause you affliction the clattering of the swift horses
and of the mules which here at my sacred fountain are watered;
then anyone among men will prefer much more to observe those
265   well-made chariots here, and the swift-hoofed clattering horses,
than to observe the great shrine and the numerous treasures within it.
But if at all you will heed me—as far more mighty and potent,
Lord, you are than I am, yours surely the strength that is greatest—
do you in Krisa erect it, below a ravine of Parnassos.
270   There will no beautiful chariots ever be dashing, or swift-hoofed
horses be clattering loudly, surrounding your well-built altar;
rather, to you great gifts will the glorious nations of mankind
bring, as Ië́paíán, Hail Healer; delighting in mind you
then will receive fine victims from all of the neighboring peoples.”
275   Thus she persuaded the mind of the great Far-shooter, that fame might
be Telphoúsa’s alone in the country, and not the Far-shooter’s.
Now yet farther from there you went, far-shooting Apollo;
next you arrived at the city of arrogant Phlégyan people,
who, not caring at all about Zeus, inhabit the country
280   there quite near the Kephísian lake in a beautiful valley.
Thence you swiftly advanced, rushing up to the ridge of the mountain;
Krisa at last you reached, underneath snow-covered Parnassos;
it is a slope that is turned toward the west wind; high up above is
hanging a cliff overhead, and beneath it runs a deep valley,
285   hollow and rugged, and there then resolved Lord Phoibos Apollo
he would erect a delectable temple, and thus he asserted:
“Here is the place I intend to erect a most beautiful temple
now that will serve all men as an oracle; then they will always
bring here, honoring me, their hecatombs full and effective—
290   both those having abodes in the fertile Péloponnésos,
and those dwelling in Europe and over the wave-washed islands—
looking for oracles; then it will be infallible counsel
I will deliver to all of them here in my sumptuous temple.”
So spoke Phoibos Apollo, and laid out there the foundations,
295   broad and exceedingly long throughout; and upon them a stony
footing was solidly laid by Trophónios and Agamédes,
who were the sons of Ergínos and dear to the gods undying.
Then out of well-wrought stones did the numberless nations of mankind
raise that temple entire, to be always a subject for singing.
300   Near that spot was a spring, fair-flowing, and there with his mighty
bow by the lord, that scion of Zeus, was slaughtered a dragon,
bloated, enormous, a terrible monster that many an evil
wrought to the people who lived on the earth, to themselves very many,
many to long-shanked sheep, since she was a bloody affliction.
305   She once, receiving the infant from gold-throned Hera, had brought up
dreadful and cruel Typháön to be an affliction for mankind;
him once Hera had borne, in her anger at Zeus the great father,
when by the scion of Kronos was brought forth honored Athena
out of his head; then straightway Hera the lady was angry,
310   so that among the assembled immortals she spoke, and addressed them:
“All of the gods and the goddesses all, now listen and heed me,
how dishonored I am by the great cloud-gathering god Zeus
first, even after he made me his bedmate skillful in virtue;
separate now from myself he has brought forth bright-eyed Athena,
315   who is to be outstanding among all the blessèd immortals;
meanwhile indeed, disabled and weak among all of the gods that
child of my own is, Hephaistos, the cripple-foot creature I brought forth,
317a [who is a shame and disgrace in heaven to me, so that straightway,]
picking him up in my hands, I hurled him into the broad sea;
but by Thetis of silvery feet, great Nereus’ daughter,
320   he was received; then she with her sisters provided his nurture.
Would that in some other fashion the gods in bliss she had pleasured!
Mischievous, sly in devices! What else will you now be devising?
How by yourself did you dare it, to bring forth bright-eyed Athena?
Would not I have brought forth? Yet nevertheless I am called your
325   consort among the immortals, the gods who hold the broad heaven.
325a Take heed now, lest for you I devise some evil hereafter.
Yes, it is true: now I will contrive that a child of my own be
born who will be outstanding among these gods, the immortals;
I will not shame the divine bed-covenant you and I plighted,
neither will I climb into the bed with you, rather will stay far
330   distant from you and abiding among these gods, the immortals.”
So having said, from the gods she departed, enraged in her spirit.
Then straightway began praying the ox-eyed queen, lady Hera,
striking the ground with her hand flatwise and in these words speaking:
“Listen to me now, Earth, and the broad Sky stretching above us,
335   Titans as well, you gods who beneath earth have habitation
there about huge Tartaros, and from whom both mortals and gods are!
All of you, listen and hear what I say now: grant that a child be
mine without Zeus, nor at all in his might any weaker than he, but
let him be stronger, as much as wide-thundering Zeus is than Kronos.”
340   These words when she had spoken, the ground she lashed with her stout hand;
then was the life-bearing Earth agitated; and when she observed it,
she in her spirit rejoiced, for she thought that it would be accomplished.
Then in fact from that time for a year’s full circle of seasons,
never at all she came to the bed of great Zeus of the counsels,
345   never at all she took the elaborate throne where aforetimes
she had been seated, devising for him grave counsels of prudence;
rather indeed in her temples, in which pray many to her, kept
staying, by offerings gladdened, the ox-eyed queen, lady Hera.
But when finally all of the months and the days were completed,
350   after the year had revolved and the seasons again were returning,
then did she bring forth one like neither to gods nor to mortals,
fearful and cruel Typháön, to be an affliction to mortals.
Straightway taking the creature the ox-eyed queen, lady Hera,
carried and gave to one evil another: the dragon received him.
355   Many the evils she wrought on the glorious nations of mankind;
he who encountered the dragon, the day of his doom would remove him
always, until a strong arrow the lord far-working Apollo
shot at the dragon; and there by her horrible agony shattered
she lay wretchedly gasping and rolling about all over.
360   Then was the noise unspeakable, wondrous, as she in the woodland
hither and thither was writhing incessantly: life she abandoned,
breathing it bloodily forth; thus triumphed Phoibos Apollo:
“Now then, putrefy here on the earth which nourishes people!
Nor will you live any more as an evil affliction to mortals,
365   those who, eating the fruit of the earth’s all-nurturing bounty,
hither will carry to me their hecatombs full and effective;
nor any way against death most cursèd will either Typhóeus
be of avail, or Chimaíra so evil of name, but on this spot
you will be putrefied by the black Earth and the radiant High Lord.”
370   So triumphing he spoke, and her eyes were both covered in darkness.
Her did the sacred power of Helios cause putrefaction,
wherefore Pytho the place is now called, and the lord himself they
call by another cognomen, the Pythian, since it was there that
monster was putrified then by Helios’ penetrant power.
375   Straightway then in his mind it was known by Phoibos Apollo
how that spring with its beautiful stream had entirely beguiled him;
so in his wrath he approached Telphoúsa, and quickly arriving,
stood very close to her there, and in these words spoke and addressed her:
“Not by beguiling my mind, Telphoúsa, were you to reserve so
380   lovely a place for yourself, your fair-flowing water to pour forth.
This spot also for me will be glorious, not for you only.”
Thus, and upon her a crag did the lord, far-working Apollo,
thrust in a rocky deposit, her streams entirely concealing,
there too, an altar he made for himself in the forested woodland
385   close to the beautiful stream of the spring; there now to the lord do
all men pray, and exalt the Telphoúsian god, as they call him,
since it was there he humbled the streams of the holy Telphoúsa.
Straightway then in his heart began pondering Phoibos Apollo
who were the men he should bring in there to be priests of the temple,
390   making oblations and doing him service in Pytho the rocky.
As he revolved these things, he perceived a swift ship on the wine-dark
seaway and saw inside of her men both many and noble,
Cretans from Knossos the city of Minos, who for the lord make
sacred oblations, and also as messengers bring the decrees of
395   Phoibos Apollo the god of the gold sword, which he declares as
oracles out of the laurel below the ravines of Parnassos.
These, pursuing their commerce and profit, were now in a black ship
making a voyage to sandy-soiled Pylos and seeking the people
native to Pylos; but they were encountered by Phoibos Apollo;
400   down on the sea he suddenly leapt, in his shape like a dolphin,
on the swift galley, and lay there, a monster enormous and fearful;
then whoever of them took thought in his mind to observe it,
every way it shook him about as it rattled the ship-beams.
Silently there on the ship they sat, all quaking in terror,
405   nor did they loosen the tackle throughout their black hollow galley,
nor in the dark-prowed ship did they slacken and lower the canvas,
but in the way they had rigged it first with the cables of ox-hide,
so they sailed, and behind the swift ship the impetuous south wind
hurried it onward; and first they coasted the Máleian headland,
410   passed the Lakonian country, and to the sea-garlanded town on
Taínaron’s cape and the country of Helios who delights mortals
they came, where there are always deep-fleeced sheep of the lordly
Helios browsing for forage—they have a delectable country.
There they wanted to haul in the galley, and then, disembarking,
415   ponder upon the great marvel, and also observe with their own eyes
whether the monster would stay on the deck of the hollow galley,
or leap away, back into the waves of the fish-thronged sea-brine.
But to the tiller the well-built galley would not be responsive,
rather she kept to the side of the fertile Péloponnésos
420   taking her way; and with breezes the lord far-shooting Apollo
easily guided her onward; advancing her journey the galley
came to Arena and to the delectable town Argyphéa,
Thryon, the ford of the Álpheios River, and well-built Aipy,
sandy-soiled Pylos as well, and the men who are native to Pylos.
425   Next past Krounoi she went, then Chalkis as well, and past Dýmè,
then by illustrious Elis, in which the Epeíans are rulers.
When toward Pherai she headed, exulting in Zeus-sent breezes,
under the clouds the steep mountain of Ithaka showed to the sailors,
then Doulíchion, Samè, and also wooded Zakýnthos.
430   Finally, when they had passed the whole coast of the Péloponnésos,
then, toward Krisa, the measureless gulf came into their vision,
that which cuts from the mainland the fertile Péloponnésos;
then behind them by the order of Zeus came a strong clear west wind,
rushing along through the air in a blustery gale, so that swiftly
435   running the ship would accomplish her course on the salt seawater.
Finally they went back once more toward dawn and the sunrise,
voyaging; leading the way was the lord, Zeus’ scion Apollo;
then they arrived in Krisa the sun-bright, wealthy in vineyards;
there on the sands in the harbor was grounded the sea-faring galley.
440   Thereupon leapt from the galley the lord far-shooting Apollo
much like a star in the midst of the daylight: many the flashing
sparks which flew from him then, and the radiance rose to the heavens.
Into his shrine he entered between two valuable tripods.
Thereon a blaze he kindled, revealing his shafts in their splendor;
445   Krisa entire was replete with the radiance; then ululated
all the Krisaíans’ bedmates and daughters with beautiful girdles
under the impulse of Phoibos, for he upon each threw a great fear.
Swift as a thought he thence leapt speeding again to the galley,
seeming in likeness a man of enormous vigor and power
450   just in his prime—with his hair were his broad young shoulders enveloped;
raising his voice he spoke, and in these winged words he addressed them:
“Strangers, who are you? And whence do you sail on the watery pathways?
Have you affairs in trading, or do you recklessly wander
over the seas in the manner of pirates who wander at random
455   putting their lives in danger and visiting evil on strangers?
Why do you sit thus feeling so timorous, not on the land yet
disembarking, and not in the black ship stowing the tackle?
This indeed is the custom among all grain-eating mortals,
that whenever they come in a black ship out of the seaway
460   onto the land, worn out with their labor, at once in their spirits
does a desire for delectable food take hold of their senses.”
So did he utter, and into their breasts great courage he planted.
Then in return spoke, giving him answer, the chief of the Cretans:
“Stranger—although in no way you appear like men who are mortals
465   either in stature or form, but instead like gods, the immortals—
hail to you, greatly be glad, may the gods endow you with blessings.
Truthfully speak to me now about these things, so that I know well
what is this land, what country, and what men here are the natives,
since quite otherwise thinking did we set sail on the great gulf
470   going to Pylos from Crete, that country we claim as our birthplace;
now instead with the ship we have come here, not at all willing—
wanting to finish our journey—another way, different sea-paths;
but an immortal has guided us here, though we did not wish it.”
Speaking to them made answer the lord far-shooting Apollo:
475   “Strangers who had your dwellings about well-forested Knossos
earlier, but who will now no longer again be returning,
each of you, back to your loveable cities and beautiful houses,
or to your dear bedmates, but instead my sumptuous temple
here you will keep and attend, that among many people is honored.
480   I am the scion of Zeus, and the name I claim is Apollo;
now I have guided you hither across the great gulf of the deep sea,
not as intending you harm—instead, my sumptuous temple
here you will keep, that among all people so greatly is honored;
then you will know the immortals’ purposes; so at their pleasure
485   all of your days and forever, unceasingly, you will be honored.
But come, just as I say it to you, very swiftly obey me:
first now, lower the sails, untying the cables of ox-hide,
then drag out the swift galley and pull her up on the dry land,
take out all of your goods and the gear of the balanced galley;
490   there too, an altar erect on the tide-heaped sand of the seashore,
kindle a fire thereon, white barley-meal offer upon it,
pray then, standing beside each other, surrounding the altar;
then inasmuch as I first, on the seaway misty and murky
made my appearance and leapt on the swift ship shaped like a dolphin,
495   so do you pray to me here as Delphínios; so will the altar
also forever be called Delpheíos and Great Overseer.
Then, while eating a meal on the shore by the swift black galley,
pour out wine to the blessèd immortals who dwell on Olympos.
When you have quite satisfied your appetites, eating the sweet food,
500   follow me then as you sing “Ië́ Paíán, Hail to the Healer,”
till you arrive at the place you will keep my sumptuous temple.”
So did he say; they carefully listened to him and obeyed him.
First they lowered the sails, untying the cables of ox-hide,
let down the mast with the fore-stays, positioning it on the mast-crutch,
505   then themselves disembarked on the tide-heaped sand of the seashore.
Out of the seabrine onto the land they dragged the swift galley
high up onto the sand, and they fixed tall props underneath her;
there too, an altar they made on the tide-heaped sand of the seashore,
kindled a fire thereon, white barley-meal offered upon it,
510   praying as ordered, beside each other, surrounding the altar.
Thereupon, taking a meal by the side of the swift black galley,
they poured wine to the blessèd immortals who dwell on Olympos.
When they had quite satisfied their appetites, drinking and eating,
they set forth; they were led by the lord, Zeus’ scion Apollo,
515   who in his hands was holding a lyre and delightfully playing,
high and resplendently stepping; and marching in rhythm the Cretans
followed to Pytho and sang “Ië́ Paíán, Hail to the Healer,”
like those Cretans, the singers of paeans, in whom has the Muse put
into their breasts, that goddess, the honey-voiced talent of singing.
520   They on their feet, unwearied, advanced to the ridge, and Parnassos
rapidly reached, and as well the delectable place in which he was
going to dwell and be honored among such numerous peoples;
leading them there, he showed them his sanctum and sumptuous temple.
Then indeed in the breasts of the men their spirits were stirred up,
525   so that the chief of the Cretans addressed him, making inquiry:
“Lord, since far from our friends and the land of our fathers you now have
brought us—to you this seemed to be best somehow, in your spirit—
how shall we live here now? We urge you, consider the matter.
This is a land not pleasing for vineyards or good for its pastures,
530   so that from it we can live well here and do service for mankind.”
Smiling at them thus answered the lord, Zeus’ scion Apollo:
“Simpletons truly you are, most miserable, who desire such
troublesome cares in your heart, such difficult toils and restrictions!
Easily I will inform you of this, in your minds I will place it:
535   if in your right hands each of you taking a knife were to slaughter
sheep incessantly here, unstinted the victims would all yet
be, so many the glorious nations of mankind bring me;
you keep guarding the temple, receiving the nations of mankind
who come gathering hither, especially showing my guidance
539a  [clearly to mortals; and take to your hearts just customs.
539b  But if in mindlessness someone not obey but ignore me,]
540   or if at all some word or some action be idle and useless,
or an outrage, as is common among you men who are mortal,
then over you will there be other men as instructors and masters,
under whose forcible hands you will all of your days be subjected.
All these things have been told to you now: guard them in your spirits.”
545   So to you too farewell, great scion of Zeus and of Leto;
but about you and about some other song I will be thinking.