Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns, and Homerica

Page: 139

'Homer, son of Meles, inspired with wisdom from heaven, come, tell me first what is best for mortal man?'

HOMER: 'For men on earth 'tis best never to be born at all; or being born, to pass through the gates of Hades with all speed.'

Hesiod then asked again:

'Come, tell me now this also, godlike Homer: what think you in your heart is most delightsome to men?'

Homer answered:

'When mirth reigns throughout the town, and feasters about the house, sitting in order, listen to a minstrel; when the tables beside them are laden with bread and meat, and a wine-bearer draws sweet drink from the mixing-bowl and fills the cups: this I think in my heart to be most delightsome.'

It is said that when Homer had recited these verses, they were so admired by the Greeks as to be called golden by them, and that even now at public sacrifices all the guests solemnly recite them before feasts and libations. Hesiod, however, was annoyed by Homer's felicity and hurried on to pose him with hard questions. He therefore began with the following lines:

'Come, Muse; sing not to me of things that are, or that shall be, or that were of old; but think of another song.'

Then Homer, wishing to escape from the impasse by an apt answer, replied:—

'Never shall horses with clattering hoofs break chariots, striving for victory about the tomb of Zeus.'

Here again Homer had fairly met Hesiod, and so the latter turned to sentences of doubtful meaning 3702: he recited many lines and required Homer to complete the sense of each appropriately. The first of the following verses is Hesiod's and the next Homer's: but sometimes Hesiod puts his question in two lines.

HESIOD: 'Then they dined on the flesh of oxen and their horses' necks—'

HOMER: 'They unyoked dripping with sweat, when they had had enough of war.'

HESIOD: 'And the Phrygians, who of all men are handiest at ships—'

HOMER: 'To filch their dinner from pirates on the beach.'

HESIOD: 'To shoot forth arrows against the tribes of cursed giants with his hands—'

HOMER: 'Heracles unslung his curved bow from his shoulders.'

HESIOD: 'This man is the son of a brave father and a weakling—'

HOMER: 'Mother; for war is too stern for any woman.'

HESIOD: 'But for you, your father and lady mother lay in love—'

HOMER: 'When they begot you by the aid of golden Aphrodite.'

HESIOD: 'But when she had been made subject in love, Artemis, who delights in arrows—'

HOMER: 'Slew Callisto with a shot of her silver bow.'

HESIOD: 'So they feasted all day long, taking nothing—'

HOMER: 'From their own houses; for Agamemnon, king of men, supplied them.'

HESIOD: 'When they had feasted, they gathered among the glowing ashes the bones of the dead Zeus—'