THE EPIGRAMS OF HOMER (1)
Have reverence for him who needs a home and stranger's dole, all ye who dwell in the high city of Cyme, the lovely maiden, hard by the foothills of lofty Sardene, ye who drink the heavenly water of the divine stream, eddying Hermus, whom deathless Zeus begot.
Speedily may my feet bear me to some town of righteous men; for their hearts are generous and their wit is best.
I am a maiden of bronze and am set upon the tomb of Midas. While the waters flow and tall trees flourish, and the sun rises and shines and the bright moon also; while rivers run and the sea breaks on the shore, ever remaining on this mournful tomb, I tell the passer-by that Midas here lies buried.
To what a fate did Zeus the Father give me a prey even while he made me to grow, a babe at my mother's knee! By the will of Zeus who holds the aegis the people of Phricon, riders on wanton horses, more active than raging fire in the test of war, once built the towers of Aeolian Smyrna, wave-shaken neighbour to the sea, through which glides the pleasant stream of sacred Meles; thence (2) arose the daughters of Zeus, glorious children, and would fain have made famous that fair country and the city of its people. But in their folly those men scorned the divine voice and renown of song, and in trouble shall one of them remember this hereafter -- he who with scornful words to them (3) contrived my fate. Yet I will endure the lot which heaven gave me even at my birth, bearing my disappointment with a patient heart. My dear limbs yearn not to stay in the sacred streets of Cyme, but rather my great heart urges me to go unto another country, small though I am.
Thestorides, full many things there are that mortals cannot sound; but there is nothing more unfathomable than the heart of man.
Hear me, Poseidon, strong shaker of the earth, ruler of wide-spread, tawny Helicon! Give a fair wind and sight of safe return to the shipmen who speed and govern this ship. And grant that when I come to the nether slopes of towering Mimas I may find honourable, god-fearing men. Also may I avenge me on the wretch who deceived me and grieved Zeus the lord of guests and his own guest-table.
Queen Earth, all bounteous giver of honey-hearted wealth, how kindly, it seems, you are to some, and how intractable and rough for those with whom you are angry.
Sailors, who rove the seas and whom a hateful fate has made as the shy sea-fowl, living an unenviable life, observe the reverence due to Zeus who rules on high, the god of strangers; for terrible is the vengeance of this god afterwards for whosoever has sinned.
Strangers, a contrary wind has caught you: but even now take me aboard and you shall make your voyage.
Another sort of pine shall bear a better fruit (4) than you upon the heights of furrowed, windy Ida. For there shall mortal men get the iron that Ares loves so soon as the Cebrenians shall hold the land.
Glaucus, watchman of flocks, a word will I put in your heart. First give the dogs their dinner at the courtyard gate, for this is well. The dog first hears a man approaching and the wild-beast coming to the fence.
Goddess-nurse of the young (5), give ear to my prayer, and grant that this woman may reject the love-embraces of youth and dote on grey-haired old men whose powers are dulled, but whose hearts still desire.
Children are a man's crown, towers of a city; horses are the glory of a plain, and so are ships of the sea; wealth will make a house great, and reverend princes seated in assembly are a goodly sight for the folk to see. But a blazing fire makes a house look more comely upon a winter's day, when the Son of Cronos sends down snow.
Potters, if you will give me a reward, I will sing for you. Come, then, Athena, with hand upraised (6) over the kiln. Let the pots and all the dishes turn out well and be well fired: let them fetch good prices and be sold in plenty in the market, and plenty in the streets. Grant that the potters may get great gain and grant me so to sing to them. But if you turn shameless and make false promises, then I call together the destroyers of kilns, Shatter and Smash and Charr and Crash and Crudebake who can work this craft much mischief. Come all of you and sack the kiln-yard and the buildings: let the whole kiln be shaken up to the potter's loud lament. As a horse's jaw grinds, so let the kiln grind to powder all the pots inside. And you, too, daughter of the Sun, Circe the witch, come and cast cruel spells; hurt both these men and their handiwork. Let Chiron also come and bring many Centaurs -- all that escaped the hands of Heracles and all that were destroyed: let them make sad havoc of the pots and overthrow the kiln, and let the potters see the mischief and be grieved; but I will gloat as I behold their luckless craft. And if anyone of them stoops to peer in, let all his face be burned up, that all men may learn to deal honestly.
Let us betake us to the house of some man of great power, -- one who bears great power and is greatly prosperous always. Open of yourselves, you doors, for mighty Wealth will enter in, and with Wealth comes jolly Mirth and gentle Peace. May all the corn-bins be full and the mass of dough always overflow the kneading-trough. Now (set before us) cheerful barley-pottage, full of sesame....
Your son's wife, driving to this house with strong- hoofed mules, shall dismount from her carriage to greet you; may she be shod with golden shoes as she stands weaving at the loom.
I come, and I come yearly, like the swallow that perches light-footed in the fore-part of your house. But quickly bring....
If you will give us anything (well). But if not, we will not wait, for we are not come here to dwell with you.
HOMER: Hunters of deep sea prey, have we caught anything?
FISHERMAN: All that we caught we left behind, and all that we did not catch we carry home. (8)
HOMER: Ay, for of such fathers you are sprung as neither hold rich lands nor tend countless sheep.
(1) "The Epigrams" are preserved in the pseudo-Herodotean "Life of Homer". Nos. III, XIII, and XVII are also found in the "Contest of Homer and Hesiod", and No. I is also extant at the end of some MSS. of the "Homeric Hymns".
(7) This song is called by pseudo-Herodotus EIRESIONE. The word properly indicates a garland wound with wool which was worn at harvest-festivals, but came to be applied first to the harvest song and then to any begging song. The present is akin the Swallow-Song (XELIDONISMA), sung at the beginning of spring, and answered to the still surviving English May- Day songs. Cp. Athenaeus, viii. 360 B.