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In vain her hero father, Chiron, prayed
the glorious God, Apollo, her to aid.
He could not thwart the will of mighty Jove;
and if the power were his, far from the spot,
from thence afar his footsteps trod the fields
of Elis and Messenia, far from thence.


Now while Apollo wandered on those plains,—
his shoulders covered with a shepherd's skin,
his left hand holding his long shepherd's staff,
his right hand busied with the seven reeds
of seven sizes, brooding over the death
of Hymenaeus, lost from his delight;
while mournful ditties on the reeds were tuned,—
his kine, forgotten, strayed away to graze
over the plains of Pylos. Mercury
observed them, unattended, and from thence
drove them away and hid them in the forest.

So deftly did he steal them, no one knew
or noticed save an ancient forester,
well known to all the neighbor-folk, by them
called Battus. He was keeper of that wood,
and that green pasture where the blooded mares
of rich Neleus grazed.

As Mercury
distrusted him, he led him to one side
and said; “Good stranger, whosoever thou art,
if any one should haply question thee,
if thou hast seen these kine, deny it all;
and for thy good will, ere the deed is done,
I give as thy reward this handsome cow.”

Now when the gift was his, old Battus said,
“Go hence in safety, if it be thy will;
and should my tongue betray thee, let that stone
make mention of the theft.” And as he spoke,
he pointed to a stone.

The son of Jove
pretended to depart, but quickly changed
his voice and features, and retraced his steps,
and thus again addressed that ancient man;
“Kind sir, if thou wouldst earn a fair reward,
a heifer and a bull, if thou hast seen
some cattle pass, I pray thee give thy help,
and tell me of the theft.” So the reward
was doubled; and the old man answered him,
“Beyond those hills they be,” and so they were
‘Beyond those hills.’

And, laughing, Mercury said,
“Thou treacherous man to me dost thou betray
myself? Dost thou bewray me to myself?”
The god indignant turned his perjured breast
into a stone which even now is called
“The Spy of Pylos,” a disgraceful name,
derived from days of old, but undeserved.

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load focus Latin (Hugo Magnus, 1892)
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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Thomas W. Allen, E. E. Sikes, Commentary on the Homeric Hymns, HYMN TO HERMES
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