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Muse, sing of Hermes, the son of Zeus and Maia , lord of Cyllene and Arcadia rich in flocks, the luck-bringing messenger of the immortals whom Maia bare, the rich-tressed nymph, when she was joined in love with Zeus,
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—a shy goddess, for she avoided the company of the blessed gods, and lived within a deep, shady cave. There the son of Cronos used to lie with the rich-tressed nymph, unseen by deathless gods and mortal men, at dead of night while sweet sleep should hold white-armed Hera fast.
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And when the purpose of great Zeus was fulfilled, and the tenth moon with her was fixed in heaven, she was delivered and a notable thing was come to pass. For then she bare a son, of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams,
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a watcher by night, a thief at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful deeds among the deathless gods. Born with the dawning, at mid-day he played on the lyre, and in the evening he stole the cattle of far-shooting Apollo on the fourth day of the month; for on that day queenly Maia bare him.
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So soon as he had leaped from his mother's heavenly womb, he lay not long waiting in his holy cradle, but he sprang up and sought the oxen of Apollo. But as he stepped over the threshold of the high-roofed cave, he found a tortoise there and gained endless delight.
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For it was Hermes who first made the tortoise a singer. The creature fell in his way at the courtyard gate, where it was feeding on the rich grass before the dwelling, waddling along. When he saw it, the luck-bringing son of Zeus laughed and said:
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“An omen of great luck for me so soon! I do not slight it. Hail, comrade of the feast, lovely in shape, sounding at the dance! With joy I meet you! Where got you that rich gaud for covering, that spangled shell —a tortoise living in the mountains? But I will take and carry you within: you shall help me
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and I will do you no disgrace, though first of all you must profit me. It is better to be at home: harm may come out of doors. Living, you shall be a spell against mischievous witchcraft Pliny notices the efficacy of the flesh of a tortoise against witchcraft. In Geoponica i. 14. 8 the living tortoise is prescribed as a charm to preserve vineyards from hail. ; but if you die, then you shall make sweetest song.” Thus speaking, he took up the tortoise in both hands
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and went back into the house carrying his charming toy. Then he cut off its limbs and scooped out the marrow of the mountain-tortoise with a scoop of grey iron. As a swift thought darts through the heart of a man when thronging cares haunt him,
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or as bright glances flash from the eye, so glorious Hermes planned both thought and deed at once. He cut stalks of reed to measure and fixed them, fastening their ends across the back and through the shell of the tortoise, and then stretched ox hide all over it by his skill.
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Also he put in the horns and fitted a cross-piece upon the two of them, and stretched seven strings of sheep-gut. But when he had made it he proved each string in turn with the key, as he held the lovely thing.
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At the touch of his hand it sounded marvelously; and, as he tried it, the god sang sweet random snatches, even as youths bandy taunts at festivals. He sang of Zeus the son of Cronos and neat-shod Maia , the converse which they had before in the comradeship of love, telling all the glorious tale of his own begetting.
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He celebrated, too, the handmaids of the nymph, and her bright home, and the tripods all about the house, and the abundant cauldrons. But while he was singing of all these, his heart was bent on other matters. And he took the hollow lyre and laid it in his sacred cradle,
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and sprang from the sweet-smelling hall to a watch-place, pondering sheer trickery in his heart —deeds such as knavish folk pursue in the dark night-time; for he longed to taste flesh. The Sun was going down beneath the earth towards Ocean with his horses and chariot when Hermes
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came hurrying to the shadowy mountains of Pieria , where the divine cattle of the blessed gods had their steads and grazed the pleasant, unmown meadows. Of these the Son of Maia , the sharp-eyed slayer of Argus then cut off from the herd fifty loud-lowing kine,
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and drove them straggling-wise across a sandy place, turning their hoof-prints aside. Also, he bethought him of a crafty ruse and reversed the marks of their hoofs, making the front behind and the hind before, while he himself walked the other way. Hermes makes the cattle walk backwards way, so that they seem to be going towards the meadow instead of leaving it (cp. 1. 345); he himself walks in the normal manner, relying on his sandals as a disguise. Then he wove sandals with wicker-work by the sand of the sea,
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wonderful things, unthought of, unimagined; for he mixed together tamarisk and myrtle-twigs, fastening together an armful of their fresh, young wood, and tied them, leaves and all securely under his feet as light sandals. That brushwood the glorious Slayer of Argus
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plucked in Pieria as he was preparing for his journey, making shift Such seems to be the meaning indicated by the context, though the verb is taken by Allen and Sikes to mean, “to be like oneself,” and so “to be original.” as one making haste for a long journey. But an old man tilling his flowering vineyard saw him as he was hurrying down the plain through grassy Onchestus. So the Son of Maia began and said to him:
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“Old man, digging about your vines with bowed shoulders, surely you shall have much wine when all these bear fruit,
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if you obey me and strictly remember not to have seen what you have seen, and not to have heard what you have heard, and to keep silent when nothing of your own is harmed.” When he had said this much, he hurried the strong cattle on together:
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through many shadowy mountains and echoing gorges and flowery plains glorious Hermes drove them. And now the divine night, his dark ally, was mostly passed, and dawn that sets folk to work was quickly coming on, while bright Selene,
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daughter of the lord Pallas, Megamedes' son, had just climbed her watch-post, when the strong Son of Zeus drove the wide-browed cattle of Phoebus Apollo to the river Alpheus. And they came unwearied to the high-roofed byres and the drinking-troughs that were before the noble meadow.
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Then, after he had well-fed the loud-bellowing cattle with fodder and driven them into the byre, close-packed and chewing lotus and dewy galingal, he gathered a pile of wood and began to seek the art of fire. He chose a stout laurel branch and trimmed it with the knife Kuhn points out that there is a lacuna here. In 1. 109 the borer is described, but the friction of this upon the fire-block (to which the phrase “held firmly” clearly belongs) must also have been mentioned.
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held firmly in his hand: and the hot smoke rose up. For it was Hermes who first invented fire-sticks and fire. Next he took many dried sticks and piled them thick and plenty in a sunken trench: and flame began to glow, spreading afar the blast of fierce-burning fire.
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And while the strength of glorious Hephaestus was beginning to kindle the fire, he dragged out two lowing, horned cows close to the fire; for great strength was with him. He threw them both panting upon their backs on the ground, and rolled them on their sides, bending their necks over, The cows being on their sides on the ground, Hermes bends their heads back towards their flanks and so can reach their backbones. and pierced their vital chord.
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Then he went on from task to task: first he cut up the rich, fatted meat, and pierced it with wooden spits, and roasted flesh and the honorable chine and the paunch full of dark blood all together. He laid them there upon the ground, and spread out the hides on a rugged rock:
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and so they are still there many ages afterwards, a long, long time after all this, and are continually O. Muller thinks the “hides” were a stalactite formation in the “Cave of Nestor” near Messenian Pylos, —though the cave of Hermes is near the Alpheus (1. 139). Others suggest that actual skins were shown as relics before some cave near Triphylian Pylos. . Next glad-hearted Hermes dragged the rich meats he had prepared and put them on a smooth, flat stone, and divided them into twelve portions distributed by lot, making each portion wholly honorable.
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Then glorious Hermes longed for the sacrificial meat, for the sweet savour wearied him, god though he was; nevertheless his proud heart was not prevailed upon to devour the flesh, although he greatly desired. Gemoll explains that Hermes, having offered all the meat as sacrifice to the Twelve Gods, remembers that he himself as one of them must be content with the savour instead of the substance of the sacrifice. Can it be that by eating he would have forfeited the position he claimed as one of the Twelve Gods? But he put away in the high-roofed byre
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the fat and all the flesh, placing them high up to be a token of his youthful theft. And after that he gathered dry sticks and utterly destroyed with fire all the hoofs and all the heads. And when the god had duly finished all, he threw his sandals into deep-eddying Alpheus,
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and quenched the embers, covering the black ashes with sand, and so spent the night while Selene's soft light shone down. Then the god went straight back again at dawn to the bright crests of Cyllene, and no one met him on the long journey either of the blessed gods or mortal men,