Callimachus

(310/305 BC / Cyrene, Ancient Libya)

Hymn to Apollo - Poem by Callimachus

What force, what sudden impulse thus can make
The laurel-branch, and all the temple shake!
Depart ye souls profane; hence, hence! O fly
Far from this holy place! Apollo's nigh;
He knocks with gentle foot; The Delian palm
Submissive bends, and breathes a sweeter balm:
Soft swans, high hov'ring catch the auspicious sign,
Wave their white wings, and pour their notes divine.
Ye bolts fly back; ye brazen doors expand,
Leap from your hinges, Phoebus is at hand.

Begin, young men, begin the sacred song.
Wake all your lyres, and to the dances throng,
Rememb'ring still, the Pow'r is seen by none
Except the just and innocent alone;
Prepare your minds, and wash the spots away,
That hinder men to view th' all-piercing ray,
Lest ye provoke his fav'ring beams to bend
On happier climes, and happier skies ascend:
And lo! the pow'r, just op'ning on the fight,
Diffuses bliss, and shines with heav'nly light.
Nor should the youthful choir with silent feet,
Or harps unstrung, approaching Phoebus meet,
If soon they wish to mount the nuptial bed,
To deck with sweet perfumes, the hoary head,
On old foundations lofty walls to build,
Or raife new cities in some distant field.

Ye list'ning crowds, in awful silence, hear
Apollo's praises, and the song revere;
Even raging seas subside, when poets sing
The bow, the harp of the Lycorean king:
Nor Thetis, wretched mother, dares deplore
Her lov'd, her loft Achilles, now no more!
But thrill'd with awe, the cheeks her grief and pain
When Io Pæan sounds along the main.
The weeping rock, once Niobe, suspends
Its tears a while, and mute attention lends;
No more she seems a monument of woe,
Nor female sighs thro' Phrygian marble flow.
Sound Io! Io! such the dreadful end
Of impious mortals, that with Gods contend;
Who dares high heav'ns immortal pow'rs engage,
Against our king a rebel war would wage,
And who rebels against our sovereigns sway
Would brave the bright far-shooting God of day.
But rich rewards await the grateful choir
That still to Phoebus tune the living lyre;
From him all honour springs, and high above
He fits, in pow'r, at the right hand of Jove.
Beyond the day, beyond the night prolong
The sacred theme, to charm the God of song.
Let all resound his praise; behold how bright
Apollo shines in robes of golden light;
Gold are his quiver, harp and LYctian bow,
And his fair feet with golden sandals glow.
All-bright in gold appears the Pow'r divine,
And boundless wealth adorns in Delphic shrine.
Immortal youth and heav'nly beauty crown
His cheeks unshaded by the softest down,
But his fair tresses drop ambrosial dews,
Distill soft oils, and healing balm diffuse:
And on what favour'd city these shall fall,
Life, health and safety guard the sacred wall.

To great Apollo various arts belong,
The skill of archers and the pow'rs of song;
By him the sure events of lots are giv'n,
By him the prophet speaks the will of heav'n,
And wife physicians, taught by him delay
The stroke of fate, and turn disease away.

But we to Nomius, heav'nly shepherd, cry,
Since he, for young Admetus, left the sky;
When burning with desire, he deign'd to feed
A mortal's coursers on Amphrysus's mead.
His herds increas'd, and overspread the ground,
Kids leapt, and sportive lambkins frisk'd around,
Where'er Apollo bent his fav'ring eyes,
The flocks with milk abounded, grew in size,
And pregnant ewes, that brought one lamb before,
Now dropt a double offspring on the shore.
Ere towns are built, or new foundations laid,
We still invoke the great Apollo's aid,
And oracles explore; for with delight
He views new cities rising on the sight;
And Phoebus self the deep foundations lays.
The God, but four years old, in former days,
First rais'd a structure on th' Ortygian ground
Close by the lake that ever circles round;
When young Diana, skill'd in hunting, laid
Unnumber'd goats, on Cynthus' mountain, dead:
The careful Goddess brought their heads away,
And gave them to the glorious God of day;
He broke the horns, and rais'd with artful toil,
A wond'rous altar from the sylvan spoil,
Plac'd rows on rows, in order still dispos'd,
Which he with circling walls of horn enclos'd;
And from this model, just in ev'ry part,
Apollo taught mankind the builders art.

Besides Apollo shew'd my native place
To Battus, and the fam'd Theræan race,
A crow propitious sent, that flew before,
And led the wand'rers to the Lybian shore.
Apollo, marking from unclouded skies,
Beheld Cyrenè's lofty tow'rs arise,
And faithful swore, that Ægypt's king should gain
The new-built city and the fertile plain.

To tuneful Phoebus, sacred God of song,
In various nations, various names belong;
Some Boëdromius, Clarius some implore,
But nam'd Carneüs on my native shore.
Thee, great Carneüs! Sparta first posses'd,
Next Thera's isle was with thy presence bless'd;
You cross'd the swelling main from Thera's bow'rs,
And then resided in Cyrenè's tow'rs.
The sixth from Oedipus convey'd the God
From Lacedæmon o'er the wat'ry road
To Thera's isle; but brought from Thera's strand
By blameless Battus to Asbystis' land.
He rais'd a temple to record thy praise,
Appointed annual feasts, on solemn days,
In fair Cyrenè; sacred hymns resound,
And slaughter'd bulls lie bleeding on the ground.

Io! Carneän Phoebus! all must pay
Their vows to thee, and on thine altars lay
Green herbs and painted flow'rs, when genial spring
Diffuses sweetness from Favonius' wing;
But when stern winter his dark pow'r displays
With yellow crocus feed the rising blaze:
So flames unceasing deck thy hallow'd shrine,
And breathe sweet odours to thy pow'r divine.

With transport Phoebus views the warlike dance
When fierce Bellona's sons in arms advance,
And, with brown Lybian virgins, tread the ground,
When annual the Carnean feast comes round.
Nor yet Alcides sons had Cyrne seen,
Her crystal fountain and extended green,
But thro' Azilis' woods the wand'rers stray'd,
And hid their heads within the dusky shade,
When Phoebus standing on the horned hill
Beheld the forest and the murm'ring rill,
And shew'd the warriors to his lovely bride,
Cyrenè fair attending at his side,
Who kill'd the lion on Myrtusa's rocks,
That tore the good Eurypylus's flocks.
Apollo saw not from the realms above,
A city more deserving of his love;
No rising town, no mighty state obtain'd
Such gifts from Phoebus as Cyrenè gain'd,
In dear remembrance of the ravish'd dame,
That crown'd his love, and gave the city's name.
Nor were her sons ungrateful, but bestow'd
Superior honours on their guardian God.

Now Io! Io Pæan! rings around
As first from Delphi rose the sacred sound,
When Phoebus swift descending deign'd to shew
His heav'nly skill to draw the golden bow.
For when no mortal weapons could repel
Enormous Python horrible and fell,
From his bright bow incessant arrows flew,
And, as he rose, the hissing serpent flew.
Whilst Io! Io Pæan! numbers cry,
Haste launch thy darts, for surely from the sky,
Thou cam'st the great preserver of mankind,
As thy fair mother at thy birth design'd.

An equal foe, pale envy, late drew near,
And thus suggested in Apollo's ear;
I hate the bard, who pours not forth his song,
In swelling numbers, loud, sublime, and strong;
No lofty lay should in low murmurs glide,
But wild as waves, and sounding as the tide.
Fierce with his foot, indignant Phoebus spurn'd
Th' invidious monster, and in wrath return'd;
Wide rolls Euphrates' wave, but foil'd with mud,
And dust and slime pollute the swelling flood:
For Ceres still the fair Melissæ bring
The purest water from the smallest spring,
That softly murm'ring creeps along the plain,
And falls, with gentle cadence, to the main.

Propitious Phoebus! thus thy pow'r extend,
And soon shall envy to the shades descend.

Topic(s) of this poem: mythology


Comments about Hymn to Apollo by Callimachus

  • Chinedu Dike (12/24/2015 6:54:00 PM)


    Beautiful mythological piece of poetry, elegantly penned in heightened poetic diction and lovely rhyme scheme with conviction. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, December 10, 2015



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