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Hymn To Mercury. Translated From The Greek Of Homer
by [?]


[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. This alone of the “Translations” is included in the Harvard manuscript book. ‘Fragments of the drafts of this and the other Hymns of Homer exist among the Boscombe manuscripts’ (Forman).]

Sing, Muse, the son of Maia and of Jove,
The Herald-child, king of Arcadia
And all its pastoral hills, whom in sweet love
Having been interwoven, modest May
Bore Heaven's dread Supreme. An antique grove 5
Shadowed the cavern where the lovers lay
In the deep night, unseen by Gods or Men,
And white-armed Juno slumbered sweetly then.

Now, when the joy of Jove had its fulfilling,
And Heaven’s tenth moon chronicled her relief, 10
She gave to light a babe all babes excelling,
A schemer subtle beyond all belief;
A shepherd of thin dreams, a cow-stealing,
A night-watching, and door-waylaying thief,
Who ‘mongst the Gods was soon about to thieve, 15
And other glorious actions to achieve.

The babe was born at the first peep of day;
He began playing on the lyre at noon,
And the same evening did he steal away
Apollo’s herds;–the fourth day of the moon 20
On which him bore the venerable May,
From her immortal limbs he leaped full soon,
Nor long could in the sacred cradle keep,
But out to seek Apollo’s herds would creep.

Out of the lofty cavern wandering 25
He found a tortoise, and cried out–‘A treasure!’
(For Mercury first made the tortoise sing)
The beast before the portal at his leisure
The flowery herbage was depasturing,
Moving his feet in a deliberate measure 30
Over the turf. Jove’s profitable son
Eying him laughed, and laughing thus begun:–

‘A useful godsend are you to me now,
King of the dance, companion of the feast,
Lovely in all your nature! Welcome, you 35
Excellent plaything! Where, sweet mountain-beast,
Got you that speckled shell? Thus much I know,
You must come home with me and be my guest;
You will give joy to me, and I will do
All that is in my power to honour you. 40

‘Better to be at home than out of door,
So come with me; and though it has been said
That you alive defend from magic power,
I know you will sing sweetly when you’re dead.’
Thus having spoken, the quaint infant bore, 45
Lifting it from the grass on which it fed
And grasping it in his delighted hold,
His treasured prize into the cavern old.

Then scooping with a chisel of gray steel,
He bored the life and soul out of the beast.– 50
Not swifter a swift thought of woe or weal
Darts through the tumult of a human breast
Which thronging cares annoy–not swifter wheel
The flashes of its torture and unrest
Out of the dizzy eyes–than Maia’s son 55
All that he did devise hath featly done.