The Second Hymn Of Callimachus. To Apollo

A poem by Matthew Prior

Hah! how the laurel, great Apollo's tree,
And all the cavern shakes! Far off, far off,
The man that is unhallow'd: for the god,
The god approaches. Hark! he knocks; the gates
Feel the glad impulse, and the sever'd bars
Submissive clink against their brazen portals.
Why do the Delian palms incline their boughs,
Self-moved, and hovering swans, their throats released
From native silence, carol sounds harmonious?

Begin young men the hymn: let all your harps
Break their inglorious silence, and the dance,
In mystic numbers trod, explain the music,
But first by ardent prayer and clear lustration
Purge the contagious spots of human weakness:
Impure no mortal can behold Apollo.
So may ye flourish favour'd by the god,
In youth with happy nuptials, and in age
With silver hairs, and fair descent of children;
So lay foundations for aspiring cities,
And bless your spreading colonies' increase.

Pay sacred reverence to Apollo's song,
Lest wrathful the far-shooting god emit
His fatal arrows. Silent Nature stands,
And seas subside, obedient to the sound
Of Iö, Iö Pean! nor dares Thetis
Longer bewail her loved Achilles' death;
For Phoebus was his foe. Nor must sad Niobe
In fruitless sorrow persevere, or weep
E'en through the Phyrgian marble. Hapless mother!
Whose fondness could compare her mortal offspring
To those which fair Latona bore to Jove.
Iö! again repeat ye, Iö Pean!

Against the Deity 'tis hard to strive.
He that resists the power of Ptolemy
Resists the power of heaven; for power from heaven
Derives, and monarchs rule by gods appointed.

Recite Apollo's praise till night draws on,
The ditty still unfinish'd, and the day
Unequal to the godhead's attributes
Various, and matter copious of your songs.

Sublime at Jove's right hand Apollo sits,
And thence distributes honour, gracious king,
And thence of verse perpetual. From his robe
Flows light ineffable; his harp, his quiver,
And Lictian bow, are gold: with golden sandals
His feet are shod; how rich! how beautiful!
Beneath his steps the yellow mineral rises,
And earth reveals her treasures. Youth and beauty
Eternal deck his cheeks; from his fair head
Perfumes distil their sweets; and cheerful Health,
His duteous handmaid, through the air improved,
With lavish hand diffuses scents ambrosial.

The spearman's arm, by thee, great god, directed,
Sends forth a certain wound. The laurell'd bard,
Inspired by thee, composes verse immortal.
Taught by thy art divine, the sage physician
Eludes the urn, and chains or exiles Death.

Thee, Nomian, we adore, for that from heaven
Descending, thou on fair Amphyrsus' banks
Didst guard Admetus' herds. Sithence the vow
Produced an ampler store of milk; the she-goat,
Not without pain, dragg'd her distended udder;
And ewes, that erst brought forth but single lambs,
Now dropp'd their twofold burdens. Bless'd the cattle
On which Apollo cast his favouring eye!

But, Phoebus, thou to man beneficient
Delight'st in building cities. Bright Diana,
Kind sister to thy infant deity,
New-wean'd, and just arising from the cradle,
Brought hunted wild goats' heads and branching antlers
Of stags, the fruit and honour of her toil;
These with discerning hand thou knew'st to range,
(Young as thou wast) and in the well-framed models,
With emblematic skill and mystic order,
Thou show'dst where towers or battlements should rise,
Where gates should open, or where walls should compass;
While from thy childish pastime, man received
The future strength and ornament of nations.

Battus, our great progentior, now touch'd
The Libyan strand, when the foreboding crow
Flew on the right before the people, marking
The country destined the auspicious seat
Of future kings, and favour of the god,
Whose oath is sure, and promise stands eternal.

Or Boedromian hear'st thou pleased, or Clarian
Phoebus, great king? for different are thy names,
As thy kind hand has founded many cities,
Or dealt benign thy various gifts to man.
Carnean let me call thee, for my country
Calls thee Carnean: the fair colony
Thrice by thy gracious guidance was transported
Ere settled in Cyrene; there we appointed
Thy annual feasts, kind god, and bless'd thy altars,
Smoking with hecatombs of slaughter'd bulls,
As Carnus, thy high priest and favour'd friend,
Had erst ordain'd; and with mysterious rites
Our great forefathers taught their sons to worship,
Iö! Carnean Phoebus! Iö Pean!

The yellow crocus there, and fair narcissus,
Reserve the honours of their winter-store
To deck thy temple, till returning spring
Diffuses Nature's various pride, and flowers
Innumerable, by the soft south-west
Open'd, and gather'd by religious hands,
Rebound their sweets from th' odoriferous pavement.
Perpetual fires shine hallow'd on thy altars,
When annual the Carnean feast is held:
The warlike Libyans clad in armour lead
The dance; with clanging swords and shields they beat
The dreadful measure: in the chorus join
Their women, brown, but beautiful: such rites
To thee well pleasing. Nor had yet thy votaries,
From Greece transplanted, touch'd Cyrene's banks,
And lands determined for their last abodes,
But wander'd through Azilis' horrid forest
Dispersed, when from Myrtusa's craggy brow,
Fond of the maid, auspicious to the city
Which must hereafter bear her favour'd name,
Thou gracious deign'd'st to let the fair one view
Her typic people; thou with pleasure taught'st her
To draw the bow, to slay the shaggy lion,
And stop the spreading ruin of the plains.
Happy the nymph who, honour'd by thy passion,
Was aided by thy power! the monstrous Python
Durst tempt thy wrath in vain; for dead he fell,
To thy great strength and golden arms unequal.

Iö! while thy unerring hand elanced
Another, and another dart, the people
Joyful repeated Iö! Iö Pean!
Elance the dart, Apollo; for the safety
And health of man, gracious, thy mother bore thee.

Envy, thy latest foe, suggested thus:
Like thee I am a power immortal, therefore
To thee dare speak. How canst thou favour partial
Those poets who write little? vast and great
Is what I love: the far extended ocean
To a small rivulet I prefer. Apollo
Spurn'd Envy with his foot, and thus the god:
Daemon, the headlong current of Euphrates,
Assyrian river, copious runs, but muddy,
And carries forward with his stupid force
Polluting dirt, his torrent still augmenting,
His wave still more defiled; meanwhile the nymphs
Melissan, sacred and recluse to Ceres,
Studious to have their offerings well received,
And fit for heavenly use, from little urns
Pour streams select and purity of waters.
Iö! Apollo, mighty king, let Envy,
Ill judging and verbose, from Lethe's lake
Draw tons unmeasurable, while thy favour
Administers to my ambitious thirst
The wholesome draught from Aganippe's spring
Genuine, and with soft murmurs gently rilling
Adown the mountains where thy daughters haunt.

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