The First Hymn Of Callimachus. To Jupiter

A poem by Matthew Prior

While we to Jove select the holy victim
Whom apter shall we sing than Jove himself,
The god for ever great, for ever king,
Who slew the earthborn race, and measures right
To heaven's great 'habitants? Dictaean hear'st thou
More joyful, or Lycaean, long dispute
And various thought has traced. On Ida's mount,
Or Dictae, studious of his country's praise,
The Cretan boasts thy natal place; but oft
He meets reproof deserved; for he, presumptuous,
Has built a tomb for thee who never know'st
To die, but liv'st the same to-day and ever.
Arcadian therefore be thy birth: great Rhea,
Pregnant, to high Parrhasia's cliffs retired,
And wild Lycaeus, black with shading pines;
Holy retreat! sithence no female hither,
Conscious of social love and Nature's rites,
Must dare approach, from the inferior reptile
To woman, form divine. There the bless'd parent
Ungirt her spacious bosom, and discharged
The ponderous birth; she sought a neighbouring spring
To wash the recent babe: in vain: Arcadia,
(However streamy now) adust and dry,
Denied the goddess water: where deep Melas
And rocky Cratis flow, the chariot smoked
Obscure with rising dust: the thirsty traveller
In vain required the current, then imprison'd
In subterranean caverns: forests grew
Upon the barren hollows, high o'ershading
The haunts of savage beasts, where now Iaon,
And Erimanth incline their friendly urns.
Thou, too, O Earth, great Rhea said, bring forth,
And short shall be thy pangs. She said, and high
She rear'd her arm, and with her sceptre struck
The yawning cliff: from its disparted height
Adown the mount the gushing torrent ran,
And cheer'd the valleys: there the heavenly mother
Bathed, mighty King, thy tender limbs; she wrapp'd them
In purple bands; she gave the precious pledge
To prudent Neda, charging her to guard thee
Careful and secret: Neda, of the nymphs
That tended the great birth, next Philyre
And Styx, the eldest. Smiling, she received the
And, conscious of the grace, absolved her trust;
Not unrewarded, since the river bore
The favourite virgin's name; fair Neda rolls
By Lepricon's ancient walls, a fruitful stream:
Fast by her flowery bank the sons of Arcas,
Favourites of Heaven, with happy care protect
Their fleecy charge, and joyous drink her wave.

Thee, god, to Gnossus Neda brought: the Nymphs
And Corybantes thee, their sacred charge,
Received: Adraste rock'd thy golden cradle:
The Goat, now bright amidst her fellow stars,
Kind Amalthea, reach'd her teat, distent
With milk, thy early food: the sedulous bee
Distill'd her honey on thy purple lips.

Around, the fierce Curetes (order solemn
To thy foreknowing mother!) trod tumultuous
Their mystic dance, and clang'd their sounding arms,
Industrious with the warlike din to quell
Thy infant cries, and mock the ear of Saturn.

Swift growth and wondrous grace, O heavenly Jove,
Waited thy blooming years: inventive wit
And perfect judgment crown'd thy youthful act.
That Saturn's sons received the threefold empire
Of heaven, of ocean, and deep hell beneath,
As the dark urn and chance of lot determined,
Old poets mention fabling. Things of moment,
Well nigh equivalent and neighbouring value,
By lot are parted; but high heaven, thy share,
In equal balance laid 'gainst sea or hell,
Flings up the adverse scale, and shuns proportion:
Wherefore not Chance, but power above thy brethren,
Exalted thee their king. When thy great will
Commands thy chariot forth, impetuous strength
And fiery swiftness wing the rapid wheels
Incessant; high the eagle flies before thee.
And, oh! as I and mine consult thy augur,
Grant the glad omen; let thy favourite rise
Propitious, ever soaring from the right.

Thou to the lesser gods hast well assign'd
Their proper shares of power, thy own, great Jove,
Boundless and universal. Those who labour
The sweaty forge, who edge the crooked scythe,
Bend stubborn steel, and harden gleaming armour,
Acknowledge Vulcan's aid. The early hunter
Blesses Diana's hand, who leads him safe
O'er hanging cliffs, who spreads his net successful,
And guides the arrow through the panther's heart.
The soldier, from successful camps returning
With laurel wreath'd, and rich with hostile spoil,
Severs the bull to Mars. The skilful bard,
Striking the Thracian harp, invokes Apollo,
To make his hero and himself immortal.
Those, mighty Jove, meantime thy glorious care,
Who model nations, publish laws, announce
Or life or death, and found or change the empire.
Man owns the power of kings, and kings of Jove:
And as their actions tend subordinate
To what thy will designs, thou gav'st the means
Proportion'd to the work; these only have
To speak and be obey'd; to those are given
To some whole months; revolving years to some:
Others, ill-fated, are condemn'd to toil
Their tedious life, and mourn their purpose, blasted
With fruitless act and impotence of counsel.
Hail! greatest son of Saturn, wise disposer
Of every good; thy praise what man yet born
Has sung? or who that may be born shall sing?
Again, and often hail! indulge our prayer,
Great Father! grant us virtue, grant us wealth
For without virtue wealth to man avails not,
And virtue without wealth exerts less power,
And less diffuses good. Then grant us, Gracious,
Virtue and wealth, for both are of thy gift.

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