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Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns, and Homerica

Page: 132

(ll. 1-8) Here I begin: and first I pray the choir of the Muses to come down from Helicon into my heart to aid the lay which I have newly written in tablets upon my knee. Fain would I sound in all men's ears that awful strife, that clamorous deed of war, and tell how the Mice proved their valour on the Frogs and rivalled the exploits of the Giants, those earth-born men, as the tale was told among mortals. Thus did the war begin.

(ll. 9-12) One day a thirsty Mouse who had escaped the ferret, dangerous foe, set his soft muzzle to the lake's brink and revelled in the sweet water. There a loud-voiced pond-larker spied him: and uttered such words as these.

(ll. 13-23) 'Stranger, who are you? Whence come you to this shore, and who is he who begot you? Tell me all this truly and let me not find you lying. For if I find you worthy to be my friend, I will take you to my house and give you many noble gifts such as men give to their guests. I am the king Puff-jaw, and am honoured in all the pond, being ruler of the Frogs continually. The father that brought me up was Mud-man who mated with Waterlady by the banks of Eridanus. I see, indeed, that you are well-looking and stouter than the ordinary, a sceptred king and a warrior in fight; but, come, make haste and tell me your descent.'

(ll. 24-55) Then Crumb-snatcher answered him and said: 'Why do you ask my race, which is well-known amongst all, both men and gods and the birds of heaven? Crumb-snatcher am I called, and I am the son of Bread-nibbler—he was my stout-hearted father—and my mother was Quern-licker, the daughter of Ham-gnawer the king: she bare me in the mouse-hole and nourished me with food, figs and nuts and dainties of all kinds. But how are you to make me your friend, who am altogether different in nature? For you get your living in the water, but I am used to each such foods as men have: I never miss the thrice-kneaded loaf in its neat, round basket, or the thin-wrapped cake full of sesame and cheese, or the slice of ham, or liver vested in white fat, or cheese just curdled from sweet milk, or delicious honey-cake which even the blessed gods long for, or any of all those cates which cooks make for the feasts of mortal men, larding their pots and pans with spices of all kinds. In battle I have never flinched from the cruel onset, but plunged straight into the fray and fought among the foremost. I fear not man though he has a big body, but run along his bed and bite the tip of his toe and nibble at his heel; and the man feels no hurt and his sweet sleep is not broken by my biting. But there are two things I fear above all else the whole world over, the hawk and the ferret—for these bring great grief on me—and the piteous trap wherein is treacherous death. Most of all I fear the ferret of the keener sort which follows you still even when you dive down your hole. 3601 I gnaw no radishes and cabbages and pumpkins, nor feed on green leeks and parsley; for these are food for you who live in the lake.'


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