To Apollo

(Third Century B.C.)

Look, how have Apollo's bay-boughs shaken stormily!
How has his whole sanctuary shivered! Far away, you unhallowed ones, flee!
Look, clashes the door at the coming of Phoebus' radiant feet --
Do you not notice? The Delian palm breathed sudden odors sweet!
O listen! -- the swan in the clear air ravishingly does sing!
O bolts, by no hands touched do you suddenly backward spring,
And you, O locks! Full near in this hour is the God, I trust.
O youthful choir, for the song and the dance make ready now!

Apollo appears not to all, to the good alone and the brave.
Who has seen him, great man is he; who has seen not, to sin is he slave.
We will look upon you, Far-worker, to sin will we never be in bondage.
Never hushed be the voice of your lyre, nor unheard be your footstep's fall.
When Phoebus descends in the midst of his children awhile to abide,
When they gladly would accomplish a wedding, or mourn for the old which have died,
Or establish on ancient foundations a city's ramparts strong,
Happy I count them. The lyre for your sons is not silent long.

Break forth into praise, you who hear them acclaim Apollo in song.
Yes, the sea breaks forth into praise, when minstrels of the God's lyre sing
Or the bow, which Lycorean Phoebus about his shoulders does sling.
Yes, Thetis forbears her woeful wail for Achilles slain
When she hears 'Yay Paieon!' the chanted Paean's refrain.
Yes, and the Crag of Weeping the load of its anguish does cast,
The tear-streaming rock that in Phrygia-land is established fast,
The woman made into marble [Niobe], whose parted lips from lament never rest --
Sing loud the refrain of the Paean! -- Unfortunate is it to strive with the Blest!

Whoso fights against the Blessed, against my king let him fight:
Whoso fights against my king, let him brave Apollo's might!
Apollo shall honor his chorus, for sweet to his soul is their strain,
And he can, for throned on high at Zeus' right hand does he reign.
Nor the chorus shall sing the praises of Phoebus one only day;
It has a wealth of hymns. Who would not chant gladly to Phoebus the lay?
Of gold is Apollo's vesture, the brooch whereby it is upcaught,
His lyre, and his Lyctian bow, and his quiver arrow-freighted;
And of gold be his sandals; for gold-abounding Apollo is,
And exceedingly wealthy: from Pytho you might divine all this.

Ever lovely he is, ever young: his cheeks as a woman's are fair
And smooth; never came the down, not in smallest measure, there.
The oil from his tresses that streams, the plain with its fragrance fills:
No earthly unguent is that from Apollo's locks that distills,
But the true Panacea it is. In the city whose ways are besprayed
With its dew-drops as earthward they fall, incorruptible all things are made.

He is lord over many a craft -- there is none like Apollo the King --
His vassal the archer is, he inspires the poet to sing,
For Phoebus' prerogative is it the bow and the song to teach:
Of him divination and prophecy are: from Phoebus the physician
Learns the lore of healing and holding death at bay.
The Lord of the Pastures we name him besides; they are his for ever
Since the days when he nurtured the yoke-bearing steeds on Amphrysia's plain,
What time for the love of Admetus the young his spirit was inclined.

Ah, well might it prosper, the feeding of cattle: and multiplied fast
Were the offspring of bleating goats, over which Apollo cast
His glance as they pastured, nor ever the fountains of milk would run
Dry in the udders of ewes, and barren among them was none;
But she that had borne one lamb was suddenly mother of two.
By Phoebus' guidance the builders drew the lines of their town-walls;
For Phoebus delights ever the cities of men to raise.
Like the webs of a weaver, himself their broad foundations lays.

He established a city's foundations first in the God's fourth year
In Ortygia the lovely: it stands yet night to the rounded lake.
The heads of Cynthian goats the Huntress Artemis brought
To her brother in plenty: an altar therewith Apollo wrought;
For he builded its base with their horns, and he fashioned the altar throughout
Of horns, and with walls of horns did he compass his altar about.
Thus Phoebus devised how the first foundations of cities should stand:
By him taught, Battus founded my city amid fertile land.

As they entered Libya, in form as a raven at his right hand
Was he guide to his people and founder; and unto our kings he swore
To give walled cities: Apollo keeps his oaths evermore.
O Apollo, many there be that name you the Driver of Kine,
And the Clarian many: in all lands many a name is yours.
But I -- the Carneian I call you; my ancestors so named you.
Sparta is yours, O Carneian; by you first founded was she,
The second was Thera, the third was Cyrene. The sixth in descent
Of Oedipus' line with you at his side from Sparta went
Forth to the founding of Thera. From Thera the vehement-souled
Aristoteles brought to Asbystian soil your image of gold.

And a royal temple and fair did he rear you and there did ordain
In the city a yearly feast where bulls full many are slain
In this the latest of your abodes, O Archer-king.
'Yay!' Carneian of many a prayer! Your altars in spring
Bear burdens of garlanded flowers, all flowers of manifold hue
That the Hours lure forth into bloom when the West-wind breathes dew,
And in winter the crocus sweet. The fire thereon burns ever,
And never the ashes smother the brands of yesterday.

Greatly did Phoebus rejoice when the War-queen's belted band
Danced with the daughters golden-haired of Libya-land,
When the feast Carneian returned in the season due of the year.
Not then to the Fountain of Cyre could Dorian men draw near,
But these in Azilis with glens deep-furrowed were dwelling then;
And my King in Cyrene beheld them, and showed to its Nymph the men
As he stood on Myrtusa's horn-crest, where towering full-height he had slain
The lion that long had been of Eurypylus' oxen the destruction.

No better dance than that had Apollo looked upon.
On no city he showered such constant blessings as Cyrene won,
For he ever remembered that woodland spoil; and of Battus' line
Was none more honored than Phoebus of all the Powers divine.
"Yay! Yay! Paion!" -- we hear it, the hymnal shout
Which first unto thee from the lips of the Delphian folk rang out
When you showed forth the far-flying range of your golden bow.

At your coming to Pytho there met you the monster, the Gods' grim foe,
The terrible serpent. You slew him: shaft upon keen shaft came
From your bowstring raining on him, and the people raised the acclaim --
"Yay Paieon! Speed you the arrow! Your mother bore
Truly a Helper in you!" So hymned are you since evermore.
In the ears of Apollo Envy murmured secretly:
"I admire not the poet who can sing not myriad-voiced as the sea."

With his foot did the God spurn Envy away, and thus he replied:
"Great is the flood of Assyria's river, but bears on its tide
Many of earth's pollutions, and much foul wreckage is there.
But not from all sources the Bee-nymphs to Deo their water bear,
But such as is pure; and, albeit it steals scantily
From its holy foundation, is taintless, quintessence of purity."
Hail, King! To destruction's lair let Censure return from you!

Holy, Holy, HolyThe Philo LibraryHypatia's Bookshelf