Hymn to Apollo I
I will remember, nor could I forget, far-shooting Apollo,
whom gods tremble before as in Zeus’s abode he is striding—
then as he comes up close to the place they are sitting, they leap up,
all of them, out of their seats, as he stretches his glittering bow back.
5 Leto alone stays there beside Zeus the great thunderbolt-hurler;
she unloosens the bowstring and closes the lid on his quiver;
taking his arrows and bow in her hands from his powerful shoulders,
she hangs them on the pillar by which his father is sitting,
high on a gold-wrought hook; to a chair she guides him and seats him.
10 Then, in a goblet of gold, sweet nectar his father presents him,
making his dear son welcome; and straightway the other immortals
sit down there in assembly, and Leto the lady is gladdened,
seeing that she has brought forth so mighty a son and an archer.
Hail and rejoice then, Leto the blessèd, for glorious children
15 you bore, lordly Apollo and Artemis shooter of arrows,
her in Ortygia, him brought forth in Delos the rocky,
while you reclined on a great tall peak of the Kynthian highland,
close to a date-palm tree by the streams of the River Inópos.
How shall I sing of you who are in all ways worthy of singing?
20 For to you, Phoibos, melodious songs are intoned the world over,
both on the mainland, nurturing heifers, and over the islands;
all of the crags are delightful to you, and the sharp promontories
jutting from steep high mountains, and rivers that flow to the seabrine,
beaches that slope down into the water, and deep sea harbors.
25 Shall it be how first Leto delivered you, gladdening mortals,
when by the mountain of Kynthos she lay, on the rock-strewn island
Delos begirt by the sea, with a black wave surging on either
hand to the dry land under the shrill sharp breath of the stormwinds?
Thence indeed having risen, you rule over all of us mortals,
30 over the people who dwell in Crete and the district of Athens,
also the isle of Aigína and galley-renownèd Euboía,
Aigai, Eíresiaí, and Pepárethos, close to the sea-brine,
also Thracian Athos and Pelion’s towering summits,
Thracian Samos as well, and the shadowy highlands of Ida,
35 Skyros as well as Phokaía, the highland of steep Autokánè
also, and firm-set Imbros and inhospitable Lemnos,
sacred Lesbos, the dwelling of Makar, Aíolos’ scion,
also Chios, the brightest of islands that lie in the sea-brine,
Mimas, rugged and rocky, and Kórykos’ towering summits,
40 shimmering Klaros as well, and the highland of steep Aisagéa,
also watery Samos and Mýkalè’s steep high headland,
then Milétos and Kos, that town of Meropian people,
then too steep high Knidos and wind-blown Kárpathos island,
Naxos and Paros as well, and the rock-strewn isle of Rhenaía—
45 even so far did Leto, in birth-pangs with the Far-shooter,
wander to seek a land willing to serve as a home for her dear son.
They were all dreadfully trembling and fearful, and none of them dared to
take in Phoibos the lord, not even the richest among them,
not until finally Leto the lady, arriving on Delos,
50 made inquiry of her, as in these winged words she addressed her:
“Delos, if you would be willing to be the abode of my dear son
Phoibos Apollo, and here to establish for him a great sumptuous temple—
since no other will touch you; of that you will not be unmindful,
nor, I believe, will you be at all wealthy in cattle and sheep flocks,
55 nor will you bring forth grapes or produce an abundance of produce—
if you contain, however, the shrine of far-shooting Apollo,
people will all be bringing to you their hecatombs hither,
when they gather together; the measureless savor of fat will
always rise from the fires—your inhabitants you will be feeding
60 out of those foreigners’ hands, for in truth your soil is not fertile.”
So did she say; then Delos was gladdened and made her an answer:
“Leto, the greatly illustrious daughter of powerful Koios,
gladly indeed to your offspring, the lord far-shooting, would I grant
welcome, because it is terribly true that of evil repute I
65 am among men—thus I would become universally honored.
But this saying I tremble at, Leto, and I will not hide it:
for they say that Apollo will be of a haughty and reckless
temper, and greatly will he dominate both among the immortals
and among men who are mortal upon these grain-giving plowlands.
70 Therefore am I most terribly fearful in mind and in spirit,
lest as he looks for the very first time on Helios’ sunlight,
he will dishonor the island because I am rugged and rocky,
overturn me with his feet, thrust me to the depths of the seabrine;
there will the great high billows forever be breaking above me,
75 over my head; he will go to another land, one that will please him,
there to erect his temple and found his forested woodland.
Sea-polypuses will build upon me their bedrooms, and black seals
also will make me their carefree dwelling, because I lack people.
Yet if you deign now, goddess, to swear me an oath of the strongest—
80 it will be here that he first will erect a most beautiful temple
which will for all mankind be an oracle—afterward, surely,
81a [let him erect more temples and found more forested woodlands]
widely among all men, for in many a name will he glory.”
So she spoke; the great oath of the gods did Leto then swear her:
“Now Earth witness to this, and the wide sky stretching above us,
85 so too the water of Styx, down-flowing; for this is the greatest
oath and the oath most dreadful among us blessèd immortals:
surely forever will be right here on this island the fragrant
altar and precinct of Phoibos; and you above all will he honor.”
But then, when she had sworn and had brought her oath to completion,
90 Delos was gladdened indeed at the birth of the lord, the Far-shooter;
Leto was yet nine days and as well nine nights by unwonted
birth-pangs pierced to the core; and the goddesses were on the isle with
her, all those who were noblest, as were Diónè and Rhea,
Themis of Ichnai also and thunderous Ámphitrítè,
95 all of the rest of the goddesses too, save Hera of white arms,
for she sat in the halls of the great cloud-gathering god Zeus;
Eíleithýia the goddess of childbirth alone did not know it,
for she sat in the gold clouds high on the peak of Olympos
by the contrivance of Hera of white arms, who out of envy
100 kept her away from the place: to a son both faultless and mighty
Leto of beautiful tresses was just then going to give birth.
Then from the firm-set island the goddesses sent away Iris,
Eíleithýia to fetch by promising her a great necklace
fastened together with gold-spun threads, nine cubits extended,
105 bade her deliver the summons apart from Hera of white arms,
lest with her words that goddess should afterwards turn her from coming.
But then, when to these things swift wind-footed Iris had listened,
she began running, so quickly accomplishing all of the distance.
But then, when she arrived at the seat of the gods, steep Olympos,
110 straightway Eíleithýia away from the chamber she summoned
out of the door, and in winged words there she spoke and addressed her
all that the goddesses having their homes on Olympos had ordered.
In this way she persuaded the heart in the breast of the goddess;
then they departed on foot, in their steps like timorous pigeons.
115 Soon as had set foot there on Delos the goddess of childbirth
Eíleithýia, the pangs seized Leto, who yearned to deliver.
Throwing her arms then around a date-palm, she fell to her knees right
there on the soft meadowland, and the earth began smiling beneath her;
he leapt forth to the light; all the goddesses cried out rejoicing.
120 Thereupon, glorious Phoibos, the goddesses purely and cleanly
bathed you in beautiful water and swathed you in whitest apparel,
delicate, recently woven, and fastened about you a gold band.
Nor was Apollo the god of the gold sword nursed by his mother;
rather, of nectar and lovely ambrosia Themis provided
125 him a due share with her deathless hands; then Leto was gladdened,
seeing that she had brought forth so mighty a son and an archer.
But then, Phoibos, as soon as you ate the ambrosial victuals,
then no longer the gold cords held you, panting and struggling,
nor did the bonds restrain you, but all their knots were unloosened.
130 Then to the deathless goddesses spoke forth Phoibos Apollo:
“Ever belovèd to me may the kithara be, and the curved bow;
I will declare to mankind great Zeus’s infallible purpose.”
So having spoken began to go forth on the earth of the wide ways
Phoibos of hair unshorn who shoots from afar; and at him then
135 marveled the goddesses all; and with gold all Delos was heavy
laden as she caught sight of the offspring of Zeus and of Leto,
gladdened because it was she that the god had chosen as dwelling,
over the islands and mainland—she loved him the more in her spirit,
blooming, as when with its woodland flowers a mountain-top blossoms.
140 You then, silvery-bowed far-shooter, the lordly Apollo,
sometimes strode on your way over Kynthos, rugged and rocky,
sometimes you would go roaming about among islands and peoples.
Many indeed are your temples and many the forested woodlands;
all of the crags are belovèd to you, and the sharp promontories
145 jutting from steep high mountains, and rivers that flow to the sea-brine;
but in your heart by Delos especially you are delighted,
Phoibos, for there long-robed Ionians gather together,
they themselves and as well their children and virtuous bedmates.
There in remembrance of you they give you delight with their boxing
150 matches and dancing and singing, whenever they set competitions.
One would suppose them immortal and ageless forever and ever,
he who had come upon those Ionians meeting together;
he on beholding the grace of them all would delight in his spirit,
as at the men he gazed, and the women with beautiful girdles,
155 and at the ships, swift-sailing, as well as their many possessions.
Then there is this great marvel, of fame which never will perish—
it is the Delian girls, handmaids of the great Far-shooter;
these, whenever at first in a hymn they have lauded Apollo
also Leto the goddess and Artemis shooter of arrows,
160 calling to memory tales of the men and the women of old times,
straightway a hymn they sing, enchanting the nations of mankind.
They know how to impersonate all men’s voices and all their
musical vocalizations, and each would imagine himself as
sounding the words—so suited to them is their beautiful singing.
165 But come, be you propitious, Apollo, and Artemis also;
farewell, all of you maidens; and me then, even hereafter,
call to your memory, when someone among men on the earth, some
much-tried suffering stranger, arrives here making inquiry:
“Maidens, for you which singer is it of men wandering hither
170 who is the sweetest in song, and by whom you most are delighted?”
Then do you all, each one, make answer and tell him about me:
“It is a blind man dwelling in Chios, rugged and rocky,
whose songs, every one, are the best both now and hereafter.”
Yours is a fame, in turn, I will carry around as I wander
175 over the earth to the well-inhabited cities of mankind;
they will indeed be persuaded, for this is the truth of the matter.
Never will I cease lauding in hymns far-shooting Apollo,
god of the silvery bow, whom Leto of beautiful hair bore.