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The Homeric Hymns A New Prose translation and Essays, Literary and Mythological

Page: 50

Now the daughters of Celeus beheld her as they came to fetch the fair-flowing water, to carry thereof in bronze vessels to their father’s home. Four were they, like unto goddesses, all in the bloom of youth, Callidice, and Cleisidice, and winsome Demo, and Callithoe the eldest of them all, nor did they know her, for the Gods are hard to be known by mortals, but they stood near her and spake winged words:

“Who art thou and whence, old woman, of ancient folk, and why wert thou wandering p. 190apart from the town, nor dost draw nigh to the houses where are women of thine own age, in the shadowy halls, even such as thou, and younger women, too, who may kindly entreat thee in word and deed?”

So spake they, and the lady Goddess answered:

“Dear children, whoever ye be, of womankind I bid you hail, and I will tell you my story. Seemly it is to answer your questions truly. Deo is my name that my lady mother gave me; but now, look you, from Crete am I come hither over the wide ridges of the sea, by no will of my own, nay, by violence have sea-rovers brought me hither under duress, who thereafter touched with their swift ship at Thoricos where the women and they themselves embarked on land. Then were they busy about supper beside the hawsers of the ship, but my heart heeded not delight of supper; no, stealthily setting forth through the dark land I fled from these overweening masters, that they might not sell me whom they had never bought p. 191and gain my price. Thus hither have I come in my wandering, nor know I at all what land is this, nor who they be that dwell therein. But to you may all they that hold mansions in Olympus give husbands and lords, and such children to bear as parents desire; but me do ye maidens pity in your kindness, till I come to the house of woman or of man, that there I may work zealously for them in such tasks as fit a woman of my years. I could carry in mine arms a new-born babe, and nurse it well, and keep the house, and strew my master’s bed within the well-builded chambers, and teach the maids their tasks.”

So spake the Goddess, and straightway answered her the maid unwed, Callidice, the fairest of the daughters of Celeus:

“Mother, what things soever the Gods do give must men, though sorrowing, endure, for the Gods are far stronger than we; but this will I tell thee clearly and soothly, namely, what men they are who here have most honour, and who lead the people, and by p. 192their counsels and just dooms do safeguard the bulwarks of the city. Such are wise Triptolemus, Diocles, Polyxenus, and noble Eumolpus, and Dolichus, and our lordly father. All their wives keep their houses, and not one of them would at first sight contemn thee and thrust thee from their halls, but gladly they will receive thee: for thine aspect is divine. So, if thou wilt, abide here, that we may go to the house of my father, and tell out all this tale to my mother, the deep-bosomed Metaneira, if perchance she will bid thee come to our house and not seek the homes of others. A dear son born in her later years is nurtured in the well-builded hall, a child of many prayers and a welcome. If thou wouldst nurse him till he comes to the measure of youth, then whatsoever woman saw thee should envy thee; such gifts of fosterage would my mother give thee.”


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