But I will tell you another thing, Son of all-glorious Maia and Zeus who holds the aegis, luck-bringing genius of the gods. There are certain holy ones, sisters born —three virgins1
gifted with wings: their heads are besprinkled with white meal,
and they dwell under a ridge of Parnassus
. These are teachers of divination apart from me, the art which I practised while yet a boy following herds, though my father paid no heed to it. From their home they fly now here, now there, feeding on honey-comb and bringing all things to pass.
And when they are inspired through eating yellow honey, they are willing to speak truth; but if they be deprived of the gods' sweet food, then they speak falsely, as they swarm in and out together. These, then, I give you; enquire of them strictly
and delight your heart: and if you should teach any mortal so to do, often will he hear your response —if he have good fortune. Take these, Son of Maia, and tend the wild roving, horned oxen and horses and patient mules.”
So he spake. And from heaven father Zeus himself gave confirmation to his words,
and commanded that glorious Hermes should be lord over all birds of omen and grim-eyed lions, and boars with gleaming tusks,
and over dogs and all flocks that the wide earth nourishes, and over all sheep; also that he only should be the appointed messenger to Hades, who, though he takes no gift, shall give him no mean prize.
Thus the lord Apollo showed his kindness for the Son of Maia
by all manner of friendship: and the Son of Cronos gave him grace besides. He consorts with all mortals and immortals: a little he profits, but continually throughout the dark night he cozens the tribes of mortal men.
And so, farewell, Son of Zeus and Maia;
but I will remember you and another song also.