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

Page: 52

Then answered her again Demeter of the fair garland:

“And mayst thou too, lady, fare well, and p. 196the Gods give thee all things good. Gladly will I receive thy child that thou biddest me nurse. Never, methinks, by the folly of his nurse shall charm or sorcery harm him; for I know an antidote stronger than the wild wood herb, and a goodly salve I know for the venomed spells.”

So spake she, and with her immortal hands she placed the child on her fragrant breast, and the mother was glad at heart. So in the halls she nursed the goodly son of wise Celeus, even Demophoon, whom deep-breasted Metaneira bare, and he grew like a god, upon no mortal food, nor on no mother’s milk. For Demeter anointed him with ambrosia as though he had been a son of a God, breathing sweetness over him, and keeping him in her bosom. So wrought she by day, but at night she was wont to hide him in the force of fire like a brand, his dear parents knowing it not. {196} Nay, to p. 197them it was great marvel how flourished he and grew like the Gods to look upon. And, verily, she would have made him exempt from eld and death for ever, had not fair-girdled Metaneira, in her witlessness, spied on her in the night from her fragrant chamber. Then wailed she, and smote both her thighs, in terror for her child, and in anguish of heart, and lamenting she spake wingèd words: “My child Demophoon, the stranger is concealing thee in the heart of the fire; bitter sorrow for me and lamentation.”

So spake she, wailing, and the lady Goddess heard her. Then in wrath did the fair-garlanded Demeter snatch out of the fire with her immortal hands and cast upon the ground that woman’s dear son, whom beyond all hope she had borne in the halls. Dread was the wrath of Demeter, and anon she spake to fair-girdled Metaneira. “Oh redeless and uncounselled race of men, that know not beforehand the fate of coming good or coming evil. For, lo, thou hast wrought upon thyself a bane incurable, by p. 198thine own witlessness; for by the oath of the Gods, the relentless water of Styx, I would have made thy dear child deathless and exempt from age for ever, and would have given him glory imperishable. But now in nowise may he escape the Fates and death, yet glory imperishable will ever be his, since he has lain on my knees and slept within my arms; [but as the years go round, and in his day, the sons of the Eleusinians will ever wage war and dreadful strife one upon the other.] Now I am the honoured Demeter, the greatest good and gain of the Immortals to deathly men. But, come now, let all the people build me a great temple and an altar thereby, below the town, and the steep wall, above Callichorus on the jutting rock. But the rites I myself will prescribe, that in time to come ye may pay them duly and appease my power.”


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