(310/305 BC / Cyrene, Ancient Libya)

Hymn to Delos - Poem by Callimachus

O when, my soul, wilt thou resound the praise
Of Delos, nurse to Phoebus' infant-days,
Or of the Cyclades. Most sacred these
Of isles, that rise amid surrounding seas;
And fame and hymns divine to them belong:
But Delos chief demands the Muse's song.
For there the God, who leads the vocal train,
Was swath'd around; and on the Delian plain
His infant-limbs were wash'd: the sacred lay
Triumphant rose to hail the God of day.
As who forgets, Pimplea the divine,
Is soon forsaken by the tuneful Nine;
Thus on the bard, neglecting Cynthus shores,
Avenging Phoebus all his fury pours:
To Delos then let votive lays belong,
And Cynthian Phoebus will approve my song.
Tho' beat by billows, and tho' vex'd with storms,
The sacred isle its deep foundations forms
Unshook by winds, uninjur'd by the deep.
High o'er the waves appears the Cynthian steep;
And from the flood the sea-mew bends his course
O'er cliffs impervious to the swiftest horse:
Around the rocks th' Icarian surges roar,
Collect new foam, and whiten all the shore
Beneath the lonely caves, and breezy plain
Where fishers dwelt of old above the main.
No wonder Delos, first in rank, is plac'd
Amid the sister isles on ocean's breast;
For when the sea-Gods o'er the liquid plains,
Seek these dark cells where hoary Tethys reigns,
Majestic Delos leads beneath the deeps
The wat'ry train; close foll'wing Cyrnus keeps
Her steady course; Eubæa floats along,
And fair Sardinia glides amid the throng.
Last, o'er the main, see flow'ry Cyprus move,
That from the waves receiv'd the queen of love;
And in return the Nymph, with fav'ring smile,
Blest the bright shores, and guards the sacred isle.

Tho' tow'rs in these and lofty bulwarks stand,
Apollo still defends the Delian land,
A stronger fortress, and a surer trust:
Strymonian Boreas levels with the durst
The work of human hands; but Delos' God
Stands unremov'd, and guards his lov'd abode.
Hail! favour'd isle, where walls nor tow'rs arise,
A stronger pow'r defends you from the skies.

O sacred Cynthus, much in song renown'd,
What theme delights. What shall the muse resound
To thee most pleasing. Wilt thou bend thine ear
The mighty sea-God's glorious acts to hear.
With those dread weapons, which the Telchins form,
He shook the mountains, like a bursting storm,
In times of old; from their foundations hurl'd
Rocks, hills and vales amid the wat'ry world:
In rush the seas, and from the land divide
The num'rous isles now rising from the tide,
And fix'd for ever in the boundless main.
But Delos isle along the liquid plain
Still floated uncontroll'd; her sacred name
Asteria then; to her immortal fame,
She shot from heav'n like a descending star,
Amid the roaring deeps and wat'ry war,
To shun th' embrace of Jove. Asteria fair
She still was call'd; till, bright with golden hair,
Distress'd Latona fought the shady shore,
Hence Delos nam'd, Asteria now no more.

Oft sailors wand'ring o'er the briny main
From Lycian Xanthus, or Troezene's plain
Stood for the Ephyrian coast, and there descry'd
Asteria floating on Saronia's tide:
But when returning to their native shore,
Wide o'er the main the rolling isle no more
Appear'd in view; but held its rapid course,
Driv'n by th' impetuous flood's resistless force,
Where black Euripus' gulphs tempestuous roar,
And dash the whit'ning waves on Chalcis shore,
Then mounting o'er the surging billows, bounds
From Sunium's rocks to Chios' flow'ry grounds,
Or softly seeks Parthenia's fruitful soil,
Not Samos yet; and from the virgin isle
The Mycalesian nymphs rejoicing pour,
And hail thee to the hospitable shore
Of kind Ancæus. But thy sacred earth
Supplied a place for great Apollo's birth,
Hence thy new name the grateful sailor's gave
And Delos call'd along the trackless wave
And undistinguished course no more you keep,
But fix'd and rooted in the Ægean deep.

Nor didst thou dread imperial Juno's ire,
That burst impetuous, like the force of fire,
On ev'ry goddess, from whose secret love
A rising offspring crown'd th' embrace of Jove,
But chief pursu'd Latona; well she knew
That from Latona's bed would rise to view
The brightest pow'r in heav'n, and dearer far
To thund'ring Jove than the stern God of war.
Amid the skies th' observing Goddess sat,
And brooded dire revenge, and furious hate
Unutterable; watch'd the painful hour
Of labour, and detain'd the struggling pow'r:
Then sent two faithful messengers on earth
To guard the shores and wait th' approaching birth.
Bright in immortal arms stern Mars appears
On Hæmus' hills; o'er their proud summits rears
His tow'ring head, and from the mountain's height
Wide o'er the continent directs his fight:
Th' immortal steeds meanwhile stood far behind
In sev'n recesses of the northern wind.
Next Iris fierce descends on Mima's brows,
And o'er the scatter'd isles observing throws
Her careful eyes; with inauspicious threats
Denounces vengeance on the pitying states,
Where bright Latona turns distress'd with grief;
She bars access, and still denies relief.

Before the dreadful voice Arcadia fled,
And high Parthenius bow'd his rocky head
(Fair Auge's sacred hill) Phenæus bends
His ages steps, and close behind attends;
And all the climes of Pelop's isle, that lie
Along the northern isthmus, swiftly fly,
Save Argos and Ægiale: but there
All entrance is deny'd by Juno's care,
To whom the realms of Inachus belong.
Aonia frighted holds her course along
The self-same path; and Dirce swift succeeds,
And Strophie wat'ring green Boeotia's meads,
Upon whose hands their sire Ifmenus hung,
As black with mossy stones he roll'd along.
And sore disabled by the lightnings blast,
Slow moves Asopus, with inactive haste;
But native Dryads, pale with sacred awe
Swift from the dance their trembling feet withdraw,
And shriek and sigh, when oaks coeval bend
Their green heads, and from Helicon descend.
Ye fav'ring Pow'rs, immortal Muses say,
Do nymphs with oaks exist, with oaks decay?
The nymphs rejoice, when oaks refresh'd with dew
Put forth their leaves, and spread their arms anew,
The nymphs lament, when winter black with storms,
Sweeps off the leaves, and the green boughs deforms.

Apollo heard, and from his mother's womb
Furious denounc'd th' unalterable doom
On Thebæ's guilty realms, unhappy state!
Why thus provoke thy swift-approaching fate?
Why tempt the God unwilling, to declare
The woes ungrateful Thebes is doom'd to bear?
For tho' no priestess on the tripod feels
Inspiring pow'r, nor thence our will reveals;
Nor yet, by darts divine, has Python bled
Slow moving on from Plistus' oozy bed,
Hideous and huge he rears his shaggy chest,
Black with infernal hairs (tremendous pest!)
Ascends Parnassus' hill, and dreadful throws
Nine sable volumes round his hoary brows.
Yet hear thy doom; more awful the decree
Than e'er the laurel shall pronounce by me:
Fly hence; but Fate pursues: my burning darts
Shall soon be quench'd in blood of Theban hearts.
Since thou retain'st the guilty race that sprung
From that vile woman with blasphemous tongue;
Apollo's hallow'd birth shall never crown
Cithæron's hill, nor Thebæ's impious town.
The God is good, and only will bestow
Distinguish'd blessings on good men below.

So spake the pow'r unseen: Latona mourn'd,
And to th' Achaian states again return'd.
But these, against her tender suit combine,
Nor grant admission to the Pow'r divine;
Not ev'n high Helice, wose blooming charms
Won mighty Neptune to her tender arms;
Nor humble Bura, rising near the flood,
Where great Dexamenus his oxen stood
In lofty stalls. Latona turns with sighs
To bleak Thessalia's realms and colder skies.
But there Larissa flies th' approaching God,
Anaurus' waves, and all the rocks that nod
On Pelion's brows; nor Peneus dares abide,
But rolls thro' Tempe's vale a swifter tide.
And thou, fierce Juno, still with rage possest,
Remain'st unmov'd; no pity touch'd thy breast,
When thus the Goddess mourn'd with plaintive sighs,
With out-stretch'd arms, and with heart-rending cries.

Ye daughters of Thessalian floods entreat
Your aged Sire, low bending at his feet,
To stop the mighty wave; O grasp with care
His hoary beard, and urge him to prepare
His water to receive th' immortal son
Of thund'ring Jove. Ah! why should Peneus run
More swift than win'try winds? Thy flight is vain;
Nor canst thou here a glorious prize obtain,
As in th' Equestrian strife. O father say,
Have thy swift streams thus ever roll'd away?
Or does Latona's pangs increase thy speed
To fly from her distress? In time of need,
Alas! he hears me not. Where shall I turn?
And where, unhappy! shall thy son be born?
My strength decays; to Pelion I'll repair,
The bridal bed of Philyre the fair.
Stay, Pelion, stay. A Goddess asks no more
Than to the lioness you gave before;
Oft on thy cliffs she bears her savage young
With dreadful yells, and with fierce anguish stung.

Sad Peneus wept, and answered thus with sighs:
A mightier God, Necessity denies
Thy pray'r; O pow'r distress'd, else soon should I
Relieve thy woes, with thy request comply,
And grant the boon to other births I gave,
That oft were wash'd in my refreshing wave.
The queen of heav'n on Peneus bends her eyes,
And utters furious threats amid the skies;
Lo! from yon hill a champion fierce and dread
Frowns stern destruction on my wretched head;
And could with ease my fable deeps o'erturn,
Subvert my streams, and dry my fruitful urn.
All strife is vain; say will it please thy soul,
That Peneus perish, and no longer roll
His swelling streams? Th' avenging hour may come;
But, in thy cause, I'll brave the dreadful doom;
Tho' my shrunk waves for ever cease to flow,
And I be nam'd the meanest flood below;
Behold, approach, Ilythia's aid invoke.
He stopt his rapid current as he spoke.
But Mars perceiv'd; from their foundations tore
Pangæus' hills, and in his arms upbore
The rocky mountain, an enormous load!
To choak the fountains, and o'erwhelm the flood.
His voice like thunder sounds; the spear and shield,
Together struck, more dreadful murmurs yield:
When trembling Ossa heard, strange horrors fill
Cranonia's field, high Pindus' distant hill,
And shook Thessalia to her farthest bound.
As Ætna's inmost caverns under-ground
Roar horrible with floods of rolling fire,
And to the centre shake; when fierce with ire,
Briareus turns beneath the mountain's height,
And from his shoulders heaves th' incumbent weight;
Forge, tripods, tongs, the caldron's mighty round,
And all the works of Vulcan strike the ground
With mingled clash: such and more hoarse alarms
Sprung from th' immortal powres' discordant arms.

But Peneus, unappall'd retires no more,
Collects his rolling waters, as before,
And stands unmov'd; till thus Latona spoke:
Retire in peace, nor yon fierce Gods provoke:
Thou shalt not suffer, tho' my lot be hard;
Nor thy compassion want its due reward.

Then, o'er the main to distant isles she goes,
Struck with new pangs, inextricable woes,
But still without success; nor aid is found
Among the Echinades for ports renown'd;
Nor dares Corcyra's hospitable coast
Receive the pow'r, along the billows tost.
For Iris dreadful stands in open fight,
And pours her threats from Mima's lofty height:
Before her wrath the crowding islands fled,
And fought the nearest rivers friendly bed.
Latona turns to Merop's ancient feat,
The Coan isle, Chalciope's retreat;
But Phoebus stops her course, and thus relates,
With awful voice, th' irrevocable fates.

O Goddess, I nor envy nor disdain
These flow'ry shores, and yonder fertile plain,
But here thou bear'st me not; Apollo sees
A future God appear by Fate's decrees,
The mightiest prince of Soter's royal race,
To rule this favour'd isle, his native place.
To him the willing world shall tribute bring;
Green isles and inland states obey the King,
And bow before him in succeeding times;
His pow'r extending from yon' eastern climes,
To distant shores, where Sol descending leads
Beneath the western waves his weary'd steeds.
From Macedonia comes the man divine,
And in the son the father's virtues shine.
The glorious prince shall be my future care,
And I the great companion of his war,
When o'er the Celtic shores, with wild alarms,
Gigantic nations clash barbarian arms.
The last of Titan's sons, a furious throng!
From th' utmost West shall swiftly pour along,
And, rushing dreadful, Grecian plains o'erflow,
Thick as the driving rain, or falling snow;
Or num'rous as yon' silver lamps of night,
That fill their urns with Jove's ætherial light.
From Locrian forts and undefended towns,
From Delphic mountains, and Crissæan downs,
From all the midland cities far around,
Deep groans shall issue; when along the ground,
Wide wasting flames devour the rip'ning grain,
And all the labours of th' adjoining swain.
Nor these shall hear alone the fierce alarms
Of hostile armies, sheath'd in shining arms
Around my temple; but with terror view
Th' impetuous Gauls their impious course pursue,
With bloody faulchions, belts and bucklers stain
My holy tripods, and my cave profane,
For which fierce war shall rage, at my command,
And wreck my vengeance on th' unhallow'd band.
Of conguer'd armour, half shall deck my shrine,
And half, the prize of valour, shall be thine,
Illustrious prince! when midst attacks and fire,
On Nilus banks the vanquished hosts expire.
Thus fate foretells the glory thou shalt gain,
O Philadelphus! in thy wondrous reign,
For which, immortal King, thou still shalt pay
Unceasing honours to the God of day;
And future ages to the stars shall raise
Apollo's name, and Philadelphus' praise,
Both yet unborn; thy pow'r, O mother join,
Fulfil the Fates, and aid my great design.
An isle there is yet unconfined and free,
With feet unfix'd amid the rolling sea,
To mariners well-known; it wanders wide,
Now here, now there, before the driving tide,
And yields, and shakes, like pliant Asphodel,
As east or western winds the floods impel:
There shall thy labours end. The sacred earth
Will grant relief, and aid my glorious birth.

As Phoebus spoke, th' obedient isles gave way,
Forsook the shores, and floated o'er the sea,
Returning to their seats. Not long before
Th' Asterian isle had left Eubæa's shore,
And, at the voice divine, came slowly down,
To view the Cyclades of great renown,
Encumber'd oft by dank sea-weeds, that sprung
From rough Geræstus, and around her hung.
Full in the midst she stood; beheld with grief
Latona's dreadful pangs, and no relief.
At her command a fiery torrent roar'd
Around the shores, the crackling weeds devour'd,
Prepar'd the sacred isle, and clear'd the skies;
While thus imperial Juno she defies.

Discharge thy vengeance on Asteria's head;
Thy frowns I reck not, nor thy threatnings dread;
Come, Goddess, come; my fav'ring shores ascend:
She heard, obey'd, and there her wand'rings end.
By deep Inopus (whose dark fountains boil
Still most impetuous, when th' o'erflowing Nile
From Æthiopia's rocks descends amain,
And spreads a sudden deluge o'er the plain)
Soft she reclin'd the crowded zone unbound,
And dropt her fainting limbs along the ground.
Against a shading palm her shoulders rest;
But racking pangs distend her lab'ring breast;
Her body bath'd in sweat, with deep'ning groans,
And painful sobbings, thus she pour'd her moans.

Why, why, my Son, dost thou with anguish fill
My tortur'd heart with pangs increasing still?
For thee, for thee, I fought the wat'ry plain;
For thee, this isle receiv'd me from the main:
Hast thou no pity for heart-rending throes?
O spring to light, and ease thy mother's woes!

But Iris mounts, all trembling to reveal
The fatal news, she could no more conceal;
To wrathful Juno told the tale with tears,
With broken accents and uneasy fears.
Majestic Juno, spouse of thund'ring Jove,
Great Queen of heav'n, and mightiest Pow'r above;
Thy faithful Iris, all the Gods are thine,
Nor dread the wrath of other hands divine;
But one presumptuous isle resists thy pow'r,
And aids Latona in the dang'rous hour.
From her approach the rest abhorrent turn'd,
Nor durst receive her when thy fury burn'd.
But vile Asteria, whom the surges sweep
Around the shores, invited from the deep
Thy hated foe. Her crimes I thus make known;
But still, blest Goddess, be the favour shown
T' obedient pow'rs, that from these fields of air
Walk o'er the world, and thy dread mandates bear.

She said, and hasty sunk beneath the throne,
That bright with radiant gold resplendant shone:
As at Diana's feet a fav'rite hound
In silence listens to the distant sound
Of passing game; and tho' soft slumbers creep
O'er his keen senses, only seems to sleep,
Impatient waits the whispers of her voice,
Erects his ears, and starts at every noise,
So sat Thaumantia, fill'd with deep regret,
Nor left her place beneath the sacred feat;
And ev'n when sleep, on downy pinions, came
To shed soft dews o'er all her weary'd frame,
On Juno's throne her beauteous head reclin'd,
And scarcely slumb'ring, wak'd with ev'ry wind;
Nor loos'd the winged sandals, nor unbrac'd
The circling zone that bound her tender waist;
Left some unthought of message, giv'n in haste,
Might claim her speed. But other cares engage
Th' imperial Queen, and thus she vents her rage.

Ye secret paramours, that bring disgrace
On faithless Jove! bear your detested race
For ever thus, on barren rocks reclin'd,
More wretched than the worst of human-kind;
Or like the unwieldy whale in wat'ry caves;
Or spawn your brood amid the whelming waves.
But this contents; nor let Asteria dread
My sudden wrath on her offending head;
For these unfertile shores can only shew
Poor entertainment to my hated foe,
Her pangs to soften, and her grief t' assuage.
Asteria's virtue has disarm'd my rage;
She fought the seas to shun th' embrace of Jove,
Refus'd my bed, and hence enjoys my love.
Scarce had she spoke when Phoebus tuneful swans,
From rich Pactolus, and Mæonia's plains,
Sev'n times, on snowy pinions, circle round
The Delian shores, and skim along the ground:
The vocal birds, the fav'rites of the Nine,
In strains melodious, hail the birth divine.
Oft as they carol on resounding wings,
To sooth Latona's pangs; as many strings
Apollo fitted to the warbling lyre,
In after-times; but e'er the sacred choir
Of circling swans another concert sung
In melting notes, the pow'r immortal sprung
To glorious birth. The Delian nymphs around
Rife from the flood, in strains divine resound
Ilythia's praise; triumphant songs aspire,
And the rejoicing Æther seems on fire.
Jove sooth'd his angry queen; she dropt her scorn,
And felt the gen'ral joy when Sol was born.

Then, happy Delos! thy foundations chang'd
To golden columns in bright order rang'd;
On that blest day thy circling lake became
Of liquid gold, and seem'd a moving flame:
On golden branches golden olives roll'd,
And deep Inopus flow'd in waves of gold.
Then lifting from the shining soil you prest
With arms encircling, to your snowy breast
The new-born God, and thus with pleasure spoke:
On thee, proud earth, unnumber'd altars smoke;
On thee fair cities, mighty states are seen;
Thy shores are fertile, and thy fields are green:
Thy thronging islands countless numbers yield,
Whilst I lie waste with all my plains untill'd.
But since Apollo deigns to take my name,
The pow'r will bless, and grant me greater fame
Than all the world receives from Gods beside:
More than from Neptune the Cenchræan tide;
More than Cyllene's hill, or Creta's plains,
From Hermes one, and one from Jove obtains.
By Phoebus lov'd, my station here I'll keep,
And float no more amid the stormy deep.

So saying, she display'd her sacred breast,
Which, with his lips, the smiling infant prest,
And suck'd ambrosial juice; from whence the name
Of isle most holy consecrates thy fame,
O glorious nurse! and hence thou ne'er shalt feel
The force of stern Belona's vengeful steel;
Nor here shall Pluto spread his dark domain,
Nor Mars impetuous thunder o'er thy plain.
But tithes, and first-fruits each revolving year,
From distant climes shall on thy shores appear,
And ev'ry state beneath the morning ray,
The star of ev'ning, or meridian day,
Shall join the mystic dance; ev'n those renown'd
For length of days, shall tread the hallow'd ground
From Hyperborean shores; by whom are born
The first ripe ears and sheaves of yellow corn.
And the Pelasgi, from Dodona's shores,
Shall first receive the consecrated stores;
The race, that nightly rest along the ground,
Attentive to the caldron's mystic sound;
Consign'd by them the grateful off'rings fill
The Melian city, and the sacred hill:
From whence they pass to fair Lilantia's land,
And from Euboea reach thy neighbouring strand.
But Upis bright, and Hecaërge kind,
And Loxo daughters of the Northern wind,
With pious hands the first ripe off'rings bore
To Delos' isle, from th' Arimaspian shore
Fair youths attending, that return'd no more,
But here were bless'd; and hence each hallow'd name
Shall ever flourish in immortal fame.
For when the Delian nymphs, a beauteous throng!
With am'rous throbbings hear the nuptial song;
The joyful bridegroom hails the blissful morn,
Whilst from his face the virgin down is shorn;
The blushing bride, with equal speed, prepares,
And from her head divides the votive hairs;
The first is sacred to the youths divine,
The beauteous locks adorn the virgin's shrine.

From thee, fair Delos, sweet perfumes ascend;
Still, at thy feet, encircling islands bend;
To solemn songs their verdant heads advance,
And seem to move, as in the mazy dance;
When ev'ning Hesper darts his rays around
Thy flow'ry shores; and brightens at the sound.
By chosen youths the lofty lays are sung
The flow'd from Lycian Olens tuneful tongue,
An ancient seer; fair virgins dance around,
And shake, with choral feet, the solid ground.
Bright Venus, list'ning to the hymns divine,
The nymphs with garlands deck her ancient shrine,
By Theseus rais'd; when with the songs of Greece
From Cretan plains he gain'd the shores in peace;
Return'd in triumph o'er the briny main,
From fell Pasiphaës monstrous offspring slain;
For Venus guided thro' the maze beneath,
The winding lab'rinth, and the den of death.
Hence beauteous Queen, he led the choir around
Thy sacred altars, to the solemn sound
Of melting lyres; and here the Athenians sent,
In grateful memo'ry of this fam'd event,
The shrouds and tackling to the God of day,
That still remain, nor shall with time decay.

And since, Asteria, thy bright shores are crown'd
With smoking altars, and with hymns resound,
What mariners, when swift-wing'd vessels keep
Their course by thee, along th' Ægean deep,
But here shall stop, and furl their swelling sails,
Tho' bent on speed, and borne by driving gales?
Nor shall return, till circling o'er the ground,
They shape the maze, and the struck altar found
With mystic blows, nor till at they command,
With arms averted, as the rites demand,
They bite the sacred olive. Thus the god,
O Nymph of Delos, in thy bright abode,
Was entertain'd; and thus Apollo spent
His infant-years in mirth and sweet content.

Hail! fair Asteria, girt with isles around,
Like Vesta stationed, and for peace renown'd;
Hail Phoebus! Guardian of thy sacred shore;
And hail the Goddess, whom Latona bore!

Comments about Hymn to Delos by Callimachus

There is no comment submitted by members..

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 14, 2016

Poem Edited: Thursday, January 14, 2016

[Report Error]