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

Page: 53

Therewith the Goddess changed her shape and height, and cast off old age, and beauty breathed about her, and the sweet scent was breathed from her fragrant robes, and afar p. 199shone the light from the deathless body of the Goddess, the yellow hair flowing about her shoulders, so that the goodly house was filled with the splendour as of levin fire, and forth from the halls went she.

But anon the knees of the woman were loosened, and for long time she was speechless, nay, nor did she even mind of the child, her best beloved, to lift him from the floor. But the sisters of the child heard his pitiful cry, and leapt from their fair-strewn beds; one of them, lifting the child in her hands, laid it in her bosom; and another lit fire, and the third ran with smooth feet to take her mother forth from the fragrant chamber. Then gathered they about the child, and bathed and clad him lovingly, yet his mood was not softened, for meaner nurses now and handmaids held him.

They the long night through were adoring the renowned Goddess, trembling with fear, but at the dawning they told truly to mighty Celeus all that the Goddess had commanded; p. 200even Demeter of the goodly garland. Thereon he called into the market-place the many people, and bade them make a rich temple, and an altar to fair-tressed Demeter, upon the jutting rock. Then anon they heard and obeyed his voice, and as he bade they builded. And the child increased in strength by the Goddess’s will.

Now when they had done their work, and rested from their labours, each man started for his home, but yellow-haired Demeter, sitting there apart from all the blessed Gods, abode, wasting away with desire for her deep-bosomed daughter. Then the most dread and terrible of years did the Goddess bring for mortals upon the fruitful earth, nor did the earth send up the seed, for Demeter of the goodly garland concealed it. Many crooked ploughs did the oxen drag through the furrows in vain, and much white barley fell fruitless upon the land. Now would the whole race of mortal men have perished utterly from the stress of famine, and the Gods that hold mansions in Olympus would p. 201have lost the share and renown of gift and sacrifice, if Zeus had not conceived a counsel within his heart.

First he roused Iris of the golden wings to speed forth and call the fair-tressed Demeter, the lovesome in beauty. So spake Zeus, and Iris obeyed Zeus, the son of Cronos, who hath dark clouds for his tabernacle, and swiftly she sped adown the space between heaven and earth. Then came she to the citadel of fragrant Eleusis, and in the temple she found Demeter clothed in dark raiment, and speaking wingèd words addressed her: “Demeter, Father Zeus, whose counsels are imperishable, bids thee back unto the tribes of the eternal Gods. Come thou, then, lest the word of Zeus be of no avail.” So spake she in her prayer, but the Goddess yielded not. Thereafter the Father sent forth all the blessed Gods, all of the Immortals, and coming one by one they bade Demeter return, and gave her many splendid gifts, and all honours that she might choose among the immortal Gods. p. 202 But none availed to persuade by turning her mind and her angry heart, so stubbornly she refused their sayings. For she deemed no more for ever to enter fragrant Olympus, and no more to allow the earth to bear her fruit, until her eyes should behold her fair-faced daughter.


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