Callimachus

(310/305 BC / Cyrene, Ancient Libya)

The Bathing of Pallas - Poem by Callimachus

Come forth, come forth, ye virgins, and prepare
The bath for Pallas with assiduous care:
The Goddess comes; from yon' ætherial meads
I hear the snorting of her fiery steeds.
Come forth, come forth, ye brown Pelasgian maids;
For bright Minerva never seeks the shades,
Nor bathes her limbs in the refreshing flood,
Till from her steeds she wash the dust and blood:
Not tho' th' immortal arms, as once before,
Were stain'd with slaughter'd giants reeking gore.
Nor till, unloosing from the car, she lave
The courser's panting side in ocean's wave,
And cleanse their mouths that gather'd foam distains,
When bounding swift, they shake the flowing reins.
Come forth, ye nymphs; no precious ointments bring
(I hear the wheels around her axles ring)
Nor oils, in alabaster smooth, prepare;
Nor oils, nor unguents are Minerva's care;
She needs no glass; her eyes are ever bright,
Nor when the Phrygian youth on Ida's height,
Misjudg'd the strife, did mighty Pallas gaze
On polish'd brass, or Simois' wat'ry maze;
Nor Jove's imperial queen: but Venus fair
Fond seiz'd the charm, and oft replac'd her hair.
Whilst Pallas drove around, and urg'd her steeds,
Like Leda's offspring on Eurotas' meads;
Then o'er her limbs she pour'd ambrosial oil,
The produce of her garden's fertile soil.

Behold, ye nymphs, the blushing morn arise
More bright than roses' or pomegranates' dyes;
Bring forth the sacred oil that Castor us'd,
And o'er Alcides manly strength diffus'd:
Bring forth the comb, that shines with yellow gold,
To smooth her hairs, and curl each beauteous fold.

Come forth, Minerva; lo! thy virgins wait;
Acestor's offspring stand before the gate,
And bear Tydicles' shield with holy hands,
As once the good Eumedes gave commands,
Thy favour'd priest; for when bad men combin'd
Against his life, he fled, nor left behind
Thy sacred image, which, with pious toil,
He plac'd on lofty Creon's rocky foil;
On Creon's pointed cliffs, renown'd in fame,
And call'd Palladian from thy sacred name.

Come forth, Minerva; from whose golden helm
Red lightning glances on th' unhallow'd realm:
Come forth, Minerva; pleas'd with wars' alarms,
The bounding courser, and the clang of arms.
This day, ye maids, the cleansing water bring,
Not from the river, but the crystal spring.
This day, ye maids, at Physadea fill
The brazen urn, or Amymone's rill:
For Inachus, from yon' lgreen mountain pours
His waters, bright with gold, and gay with flow'rs
To fill the bath. Pelasgian! fly from harms,
Nor unpermitted view Minerva's charms,
Left, from your blind-struck eyes, the snatch away
The tow'rs of Argos, and the golden day.
Come forth, Minerva; while to nymphs I sing
A tale renown'd, and strike the vocal string.

Attend, ye maids. A nymph of Thebæ's town,
Tiresias' mother, from Minerva won
Distinguish'd love. The sacred pair were join'd
In friendship sweet, the union of the mind.
And, when the pow'r to Thespis urg'd her steeds,
To Haliartus, o'er Boeotias meads,
Or Coronea, by Curalius' flood,
Where, near a breathing grove, her altar stood;
Still in the car the nymph attending rode.
Nor dance, nor social converse pleas'd the God,
Unless her dear Chariclo led the way:
But she, with many tears, must shortly pay
For Pallas' love, and woes attend behind.
For when the pair their shining veils unbind
To bathe their limbs in Hippocrene's rills
(That softly flow from Heliconian hills)
At mid-day, when no breath was heard around,
Nor from the mountain came the stillest found.
At mid-day bathing, when the sun was bright,
And silence reign'd, as at the noon of night.
The first soft down just rising on his face,
Tiresias then with hounds approach'd the place,
To quench his thirst in the refreshing streams,
And undesign'd beheld their naked limbs:
Ah! luckless youth; for thus Minerva spoke,
Tho' soft'ning pity smooth'd her angry look.

Eurus' son! what unpropitious God
Has led thy steps to this retired abode?
Some dæmon urg'd thee, this unhappy day;
Doom'd hence no more to bear thy fight away.

She said: thick darkness instant veil'd his eyes;
Amaz'd he stood, and speechless with surprize:
Black horror chill'd his limbs: his mother mourn'd
With rage and grief, and furious thus return'd.

What hast thou done? Is this Minerva's love?
And this the kindness of the God's above?
My Son's bright eyes thou hast for ever clos'd,
Because he saw thy beauteous limbs expos'd.
Since he no more beholds ætherial day,
No more my feet on yonder mountain stray;
Since he no more this happy scene shall view,
Ye pendant rocks! Ye falling rills adeau!
Ah! wretched mother; more unhappy son!
Revengeful Goddess! What could he have done?
Thy worthless goats and hinds were once his prize;
For which, unpitying pow'r, you seiz'd his eyes!

She said: with circling arms embrac'd her son,
And pour'd her sorrows, helpless and undone,
As for her young sad Philomel complains,
In mournful notes, and melancholy strains.
As her distress Minerva's eyes o'erflow,
And thus she sooth'd her lov'd Companion's woe.

Recal these hasty words, O Nymph divine;
Thy son is blind, but not by my design.
The pow'rs of heav'n delight not to destroy,
Nor snatch the light from ev'ry beauteous boy:
Charge not, my friend, this dire mischance on me;
For ev'ry man, by Saturn's stern decree,
That, unpermitted, views the pow'rs divine,
Still makes atonement with an ample fine.
Before his birth, bright Nymph, the Parcæ spurs
This fatal thread for thy much-favour'd Son.
Mourn not, Tiresias, tho' thy lot be hard,
But for the deed receive a great reward.
What Hecatombs would fair Cadmeïs burn?
Nor more would wretched Aristæus mourn
In after-times, when young Actæon dies;
Could he return with only loss of eyes.
For tho' Diana's fav'rite in the chase,
And skill'd, with her, to hunt a savage race;
Yet when the Youth, unwilling, tempts her wrath,
And undesign'd beholds her in her bath,
Nor chase nor sports avail: She gives the word,
And his fierce dogs devour their former Lord.
Thro' lonesome woods the Mother then shall rove,
Collecting his white bones from ev'ry grove,
And call thee blest, and not like her undone,
That from the hills, receives thy sightless son.
Then weep no more, O most belov'd of friends;
A gift more glorious on that Son attends,
For great Minerva, from this happy hour,
His breast irradiates with prophetic pow'r,
Illumes his mind, and grants him greater praise,
Than e'er shall crown the Seers of future days.
For he shall mark the wand'ring birds that fly
To right, to left, along th' ætherial sky,
Shall read their motions, as they swiftly spring,
Observe the flight of each unprosp'rous wing,
And utter sacred truths, in after-times,
To Cadmus, Thebes, and fam'd Boeotia's climes.
A mystic staff shall guide his steps, and he
Long life and honour'd age obtains from me.
And when he dies, from him alone shall flow
Prophetic truths in dismal realms below;
While, still-inspir'd, he walks among the dead,
And Pluto's self reveres the mighty shade.

She spoke, and bow'd her beauteous head, that still
Confirms her vows: for by Jove's awful will,
Of all his daughters, Goddesses in heav'n,
This honour only was to Pallas giv'n;
That she, with him, might equal glory gain.
No mother bore her with a mother's pain,
But her great Father's head; and hence the God
Still gives, like him, th' irrevocable nod.

But now Minerva comes, nor comes unseen;
Prepare, ye virgins, to receive your Queen
With acclamations, in this blissful hour,
With vows and songs receive th' approaching pow'r.
Hail! guardian Goddess, still let Argos claim
Thy kind protection, and adore thy name.
Whether, bright Queen, thou leadst thy fiery steeds
From Argos tow'rs along the verdant meads,
Or back to yonder walls thy chariot runs,
Still, still, defend old Aanaus' mighty sons.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 14, 2016



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