Hymne Homérique à Aphrodite

V. TO APHRODITE (293 lines)

(ll. 1-6) Muse, tell me the deeds of golden Aphrodite the
Cyprian, who stirs up sweet passion in the gods and subdues the
tribes of mortal men and birds that fly in air and all the many
creatures that the dry land rears, and all the sea: all these
love the deeds of rich-crowned Cytherea.

(ll. 7-32) Yet there are three hearts that she cannot bend nor
yet ensnare. First is the daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis,
bright-eyed Athene; for she has no pleasure in the deeds of
golden Aphrodite, but delights in wars and in the work of Ares,
in strifes and battles and in preparing famous crafts. She first
taught earthly craftsmen to make chariots of war and cars
variously wrought with bronze, and she, too, teaches tender
maidens in the house and puts knowledge of goodly arts in each
one’s mind. Nor does laughter-loving Aphrodite ever tame in love
Artemis, the huntress with shafts of gold; for she loves archery
and the slaying of wild beasts in the mountains, the lyre also
and dancing and thrilling cries and shady woods and the cities of
upright men. Nor yet does the pure maiden Hestia love
Aphrodite’s works. She was the first-born child of wily Cronos
and youngest too (24), by will of Zeus who holds the aegis, — a
queenly maid whom both Poseidon and Apollo sought to wed. But
she was wholly unwilling, nay, stubbornly refused; and touching
the head of father Zeus who holds the aegis, she, that fair
goddess, sware a great oath which has in truth been fulfilled,
that she would be a maiden all her days. So Zeus the Father gave
her an high honour instead of marriage, and she has her place in
the midst of the house and has the richest portion. In all the
temples of the gods she has a share of honour, and among all
mortal men she is chief of the goddesses.

(ll. 33-44) Of these three Aphrodite cannot bend or ensnare the
hearts. But of all others there is nothing among the blessed
gods or among mortal men that has escaped Aphrodite. Even the
heart of Zeus, who delights in thunder, is led astray by her;
though he is greatest of all and has the lot of highest majesty,
she beguiles even his wise heart whensoever she pleases, and
mates him with mortal women, unknown to Hera, his sister and his
wife, the grandest far in beauty among the deathless goddesses —
most glorious is she whom wily Cronos with her mother Rhea did
beget: and Zeus, whose wisdom is everlasting, made her his chaste
and careful wife.

(ll. 45-52) But upon Aphrodite herself Zeus cast sweet desire to
be joined in love with a mortal man, to the end that, very soon,
not even she should be innocent of a mortal’s love; lest
laughter-loving Aphrodite should one day softly smile and say
mockingly among all the gods that she had joined the gods in love
with mortal women who bare sons of death to the deathless gods,
and had mated the goddesses with mortal men.

(ll. 53-74) And so he put in her heart sweet desire for Anchises
who was tending cattle at that time among the steep hills of
many-fountained Ida, and in shape was like the immortal gods.
Therefore, when laughter-loving Aphrodite saw him, she loved him,
and terribly desire seized her in her heart. She went to Cyprus,
to Paphos, where her precinct is and fragrant altar, and passed
into her sweet-smelling temple. There she went in and put to the
glittering doors, and there the Graces bathed her with heavenly
oil such as blooms upon the bodies of the eternal gods — oil
divinely sweet, which she had by her, filled with fragrance. And
laughter-loving Aphrodite put on all her rich clothes, and when
she had decked herself with gold, she left sweet-smelling Cyprus
and went in haste towards Troy, swiftly travelling high up among
the clouds. So she came to many-fountained Ida, the mother of
wild creatures and went straight to the homestead across the
mountains. After her came grey wolves, fawning on her, and grim-
eyed lions, and bears, and fleet leopards, ravenous for deer: and
she was glad in heart to see them, and put desire in their
breasts, so that they all mated, two together, about the shadowy
coombes.

(ll. 75-88) (25) But she herself came to the neat-built shelters,
and him she found left quite alone in the homestead — the hero
Anchises who was comely as the gods. All the others were
following the herds over the grassy pastures, and he, left quite
alone in the homestead, was roaming hither and thither and
playing thrillingly upon the lyre. And Aphrodite, the daughter
of Zeus stood before him, being like a pure maiden in height and
mien, that he should not be frightened when he took heed of her
with his eyes. Now when Anchises saw her, he marked her well and
wondered at her mien and height and shining garments. For she
was clad in a robe out-shining the brightness of fire, a splendid
robe of gold, enriched with all manner of needlework, which
shimmered like the moon over her tender breasts, a marvel to see.

Also she wore twisted brooches and shining earrings in the form
of flowers; and round her soft throat were lovely necklaces.

(ll. 91-105) And Anchises was seized with love, and said to her:
`Hail, lady, whoever of the blessed ones you are that are come to
this house, whether Artemis, or Leto, or golden Aphrodite, or
high-born Themis, or bright-eyed Athene. Or, maybe, you are one
of the Graces come hither, who bear the gods company and are
called immortal, or else one of those who inhabit this lovely
mountain and the springs of rivers and grassy meads. I will make
you an altar upon a high peak in a far seen place, and will
sacrifice rich offerings to you at all seasons. And do you feel
kindly towards me and grant that I may become a man very eminent
among the Trojans, and give me strong offspring for the time to
come. As for my own self, let me live long and happily, seeing
the light of the sun, and come to the threshold of old age, a man
prosperous among the people.’

(ll. 106-142) Thereupon Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus answered
him: `Anchises, most glorious of all men born on earth, know that
I am no goddess: why do you liken me to the deathless ones? Nay,
I am but a mortal, and a woman was the mother that bare me.
Otreus of famous name is my father, if so be you have heard of
him, and he reigns over all Phrygia rich in fortresses. But I
know your speech well beside my own, for a Trojan nurse brought
me up at home: she took me from my dear mother and reared me
thenceforth when I was a little child. So comes it, then, that I
well know you tongue also. And now the Slayer of Argus with the
golden wand has caught me up from the dance of huntress Artemis,
her with the golden arrows. For there were many of us, nymphs
and marriageable (26) maidens, playing together; and an
innumerable company encircled us: from these the Slayer of Argus
with the golden wand rapt me away. He carried me over many
fields of mortal men and over much land untilled and unpossessed,
where savage wild-beasts roam through shady coombes, until I
thought never again to touch the life-giving earth with my feet.
And he said that I should be called the wedded wife of Anchises,
and should bear you goodly children. But when he had told and
advised me, he, the strong Slayer of Argos, went back to the
families of the deathless gods, while I am now come to you: for
unbending necessity is upon me. But I beseech you by Zeus and by
your noble parents — for no base folk could get such a son as
you — take me now, stainless and unproved in love, and show me
to your father and careful mother and to your brothers sprung
from the same stock. I shall be no ill-liking daughter for them,
but a likely. Moreover, send a messenger quickly to the swift-
horsed Phrygians, to tell my father and my sorrowing mother; and
they will send you gold in plenty and woven stuffs, many splendid
gifts; take these as bride-piece. So do, and then prepare the
sweet marriage that is honourable in the eyes of men and
deathless gods.’

(ll. 143-144) When she had so spoken, the goddess put sweet
desire in his heart. And Anchises was seized with love, so that
he opened his mouth and said:

(ll. 145-154) `If you are a mortal and a woman was the mother who
bare you, and Otreus of famous name is your father as you say,
and if you are come here by the will of Hermes the immortal
Guide, and are to be called my wife always, then neither god nor
mortal man shall here restrain me till I have lain with you in
love right now; no, not even if far-shooting Apollo himself
should launch grievous shafts from his silver bow. Willingly
would I go down into the house of Hades, O lady, beautiful as the
goddesses, once I had gone up to your bed.’

(ll. 155-167) So speaking, he caught her by the hand. And
laughter-loving Aphrodite, with face turned away and lovely eyes
downcast, crept to the well-spread couch which was already laid
with soft coverings for the hero; and upon it lay skins of bears
and deep-roaring lions which he himself had slain in the high
mountains. And when they had gone up upon the well-fitted bed,
first Anchises took off her bright jewelry of pins and twisted
brooches and earrings and necklaces, and loosed her girdle and
stripped off her bright garments and laid them down upon a
silver-studded seat. Then by the will of the gods and destiny he
lay with her, a mortal man with an immortal goddess, not clearly
knowing what he did.

(ll. 168-176) But at the time when the herdsmen driver their oxen
and hardy sheep back to the fold from the flowery pastures, even
then Aphrodite poured soft sleep upon Anchises, but herself put
on her rich raiment. And when the bright goddess had fully
clothed herself, she stood by the couch, and her head reached to
the well-hewn roof-tree; from her cheeks shone unearthly beauty
such as belongs to rich-crowned Cytherea. Then she aroused him
from sleep and opened her mouth and said:

(ll. 177-179) `Up, son of Dardanus! — why sleep you so heavily?
— and consider whether I look as I did when first you saw me
with your eyes.’

(ll. 180-184) So she spake. And he awoke in a moment and obeyed
her. But when he saw the neck and lovely eyes of Aphrodite, he
was afraid and turned his eyes aside another way, hiding his
comely face with his cloak. Then he uttered winged words and
entreated her:

(ll. 185-190) `So soon as ever I saw you with my eyes, goddess, I
knew that you were divine; but you did not tell me truly. Yet by
Zeus who holds the aegis I beseech you, leave me not to lead a
palsied life among men, but have pity on me; for he who lies with
a deathless goddess is no hale man afterwards.’

(ll. 191-201) Then Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus answered him:
`Anchises, most glorious of mortal men, take courage and be not
too fearful in your heart. You need fear no harm from me nor
from the other blessed ones, for you are dear to the gods: and
you shall have a dear son who shall reign among the Trojans, and
children’s children after him, springing up continually. His
name shall be Aeneas (27), because I felt awful grief in that I
laid me in the bed of mortal man: yet are those of your race
always the most like to gods of all mortal men in beauty and in
stature (28).

(ll. 202-217) `Verily wise Zeus carried off golden-haired
Ganymedes because of his beauty, to be amongst the Deathless Ones
and pour drink for the gods in the house of Zeus — a wonder to
see — honoured by all the immortals as he draws the red nectar
from the golden bowl. But grief that could not be soothed filled
the heart of Tros; for he knew not whither the heaven-sent
whirlwind had caught up his dear son, so that he mourned him
always, unceasingly, until Zeus pitied him and gave him high-
stepping horses such as carry the immortals as recompense for his
son. These he gave him as a gift. And at the command of Zeus,
the Guide, the slayer of Argus, told him all, and how his son
would be deathless and unageing, even as the gods. So when Tros
heard these tidings from Zeus, he no longer kept mourning but
rejoiced in his heart and rode joyfully with his storm-footed
horses.

(ll. 218-238) `So also golden-throned Eos rapt away Tithonus who
was of your race and like the deathless gods. And she went to
ask the dark-clouded Son of Cronos that he should be deathless
and live eternally; and Zeus bowed his head to her prayer and
fulfilled her desire. Too simply was queenly Eos: she thought
not in her heart to ask youth for him and to strip him of the
slough of deadly age. So while he enjoyed the sweet flower of
life he lived rapturously with golden-throned Eos, the early-
born, by the streams of Ocean, at the ends of the earth; but when
the first grey hairs began to ripple from his comely head and
noble chin, queenly Eos kept away from his bed, though she
cherished him in her house and nourished him with food and
ambrosia and gave him rich clothing. But when loathsome old age
pressed full upon him, and he could not move nor lift his limbs,
this seemed to her in her heart the best counsel: she laid him in
a room and put to the shining doors. There he babbles endlessly,
and no more has strength at all, such as once he had in his
supple limbs.

(ll. 239-246) `I would not have you be deathless among the
deathless gods and live continually after such sort. Yet if you
could live on such as now you are in look and in form, and be
called my husband, sorrow would not then enfold my careful heart.

But, as it is, harsh (29) old age will soon enshroud you —
ruthless age which stands someday at the side of every man,
deadly, wearying, dreaded even by the gods.

(ll. 247-290) `And now because of you I shall have great shame
among the deathless gods henceforth, continually. For until now
they feared my jibes and the wiles by which, or soon or late, I
mated all the immortals with mortal women, making them all
subject to my will. But now my mouth shall no more have this
power among the gods; for very great has been my madness, my
miserable and dreadful madness, and I went astray out of my mind
who have gotten a child beneath my girdle, mating with a mortal
man. As for the child, as soon as he sees the light of the sun,
the deep-breasted mountain Nymphs who inhabit this great and holy
mountain shall bring him up. They rank neither with mortals nor
with immortals: long indeed do they live, eating heavenly food
and treading the lovely dance among the immortals, and with them
the Sileni and the sharp-eyed Slayer of Argus mate in the depths
of pleasant caves; but at their birth pines or high-topped oaks
spring up with them upon the fruitful earth, beautiful,
flourishing trees, towering high upon the lofty mountains (and
men call them holy places of the immortals, and never mortal lops
them with the axe); but when the fate of death is near at hand,
first those lovely trees wither where they stand, and the bark
shrivels away about them, and the twigs fall down, and at last
the life of the Nymph and of the tree leave the light of the sun
together. These Nymphs shall keep my son with them and rear him,
and as soon as he is come to lovely boyhood, the goddesses will
bring him here to you and show you your child. But, that I may
tell you all that I have in mind, I will come here again towards
the fifth year and bring you my son. So soon as ever you have
seen him — a scion to delight the eyes — you will rejoice in
beholding him; for he shall be most godlike: then bring him at
once to windy Ilion. And if any mortal man ask you who got your
dear son beneath her girdle, remember to tell him as I bid you:
say he is the offspring of one of the flower-like Nymphs who
inhabit this forest-clad hill. But if you tell all and foolishly
boast that you lay with rich-crowned Aphrodite, Zeus will smite
you in his anger with a smoking thunderbolt. Now I have told you
all. Take heed: refrain and name me not, but have regard to the
anger of the gods.’

(l. 291) When the goddess had so spoken, she soared up to windy
heaven.

(ll. 292-293) Hail, goddess, queen of well-builded Cyprus! With
you have I begun; now I will turn me to another hymn.

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