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When he had said this much, he hurried the strong cattle on together: [95] through many shadowy mountains and echoing gorges and flowery plains glorious Hermes drove them. And now the divine night, his dark ally, was mostly passed, and dawn that sets folk to work was quickly coming on, while bright Selene, [100] daughter of the lord Pallas, Megamedes' son, had just climbed her watch-post, when the strong Son of Zeus drove the wide-browed cattle of Phoebus Apollo to the river Alpheus. And they came unwearied to the high-roofed byres and the drinking-troughs that were before the noble meadow. [105] Then, after he had well-fed the loud-bellowing cattle with fodder and driven them into the byre, close-packed and chewing lotus and dewy galingal, he gathered a pile of wood and began to seek the art of fire. He chose a stout laurel branch and trimmed it with the knife ...

1 [110] held firmly in his hand: and the hot smoke rose up. For it was Hermes who first invented fire-sticks and fire. Next he took many dried sticks and piled them thick and plenty in a sunken trench: and flame began to glow, spreading afar the blast of fierce-burning fire.

[115] And while the strength of glorious Hephaestus was beginning to kindle the fire, he dragged out two lowing, horned cows close to the fire; for great strength was with him. He threw them both panting upon their backs on the ground, and rolled them on their sides, bending their necks over,2 and pierced their vital chord. [120] Then he went on from task to task: first he cut up the rich, fatted meat, and pierced it with wooden spits, and roasted flesh and the honorable chine and the paunch full of dark blood all together. He laid them there upon the ground, and spread out the hides on a rugged rock: [125] and so they are still there many ages afterwards, a long, long time after all this, and are continually3. Next glad-hearted Hermes dragged the rich meats he had prepared and put them on a smooth, flat stone, and divided them into twelve portions distributed by lot, making each portion wholly honorable. [130] Then glorious Hermes longed for the sacrificial meat, for the sweet savour wearied him, god though he was; nevertheless his proud heart was not prevailed upon to devour the flesh, although he greatly desired.

1 Kuhn points out that there is a lacuna here. In 1. 109 the borer is described, but the friction of this upon the fire-block (to which the phrase “held firmly” clearly belongs) must also have been mentioned.

2 The cows being on their sides on the ground, Hermes bends their heads back towards their flanks and so can reach their backbones.

3 O. Muller thinks the “hides” were a stalactite formation in the “Cave of Nestor” near Messenian Pylos, —though the cave of Hermes is near the Alpheus (1. 139). Others suggest that actual skins were shown as relics before some cave near Triphylian Pylos.

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