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For I will take and cast you into dusky Tartarus and awful hopeless darkness, and neither your mother nor your father shall free you or bring you up again to the light, but you will wander under the earth and be the leader amongst little folk.”1

[260] Then Hermes answered him with crafty words: “Son of Leto, what harsh words are these you have spoken? And is it cattle of the field you are come here to seek? I have not seen them: I have not heard of them: no one has told me of them. I cannot give news of them, nor win the reward for news. [265] Am I like a cattle-lifter, a stalwart person? This is no task for me: rather I care for other things: I care for sleep, and milk of my mother's breast, and wrappings round my shoulders, and warm baths. Let no one hear the cause of this dispute; [270] for this would be a great marvel indeed among the deathless gods, that a child newly born should pass in through the forepart of the house with cattle of the field: herein you speak extravagantly. I was born yesterday, and my feet are soft and the ground beneath is rough; nevertheless, if you will have it so, I will swear a great oath by my father's head and vow that [275] neither am I guilty myself, neither have I seen any other who stole your cows —whatever cows may be; for I know them only by hearsay.”

So, then, said Hermes, shooting quick glances from his eyes: and he kept raising his brows and looking this way and that, [280] whistling long and listening to Apollo's story as to an idle tale.

But far-working Apollo laughed softly and said to him: “O rogue, deceiver, crafty in heart, you talk so innocently that I most surely believe that you have broken into many a well-built house and stripped more than one poor wretch bare this night, [285] 2 gathering his goods together all over the house without noise. You will plague many a lonely herdsman in mountain glades, when you come on herds and thick-fleeced sheep, and have a hankering after flesh. But come now, if you would not sleep your last and latest sleep, [290] get out of your cradle, you comrade of dark night. Surely hereafter this shall be your title amongst the deathless gods, to be called the prince of robbers continually.”

So said Phoebus Apollo, and took the child and began to carry him. But at that moment the strong Slayer of Argus [295] had his plan, and, while Apollo held him in his hands, sent forth an omen, a hard-worked belly-serf, a rude messenger,

1 Hermes is ambitious (1.175), but if he is cast into Hades he will have to be content with the leadership of mere babies like himself, since those in Hades retain the state of growth —whether childhood or manhood —in which they are at the moment of leaving the upper world.

2 Literally, “you have made him sit on the floor,” i.e. “you have stolen everything down to his last chair.”

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