XXXIII. TO THE DIOSCURI (19 lines)
(ll. 1-17) Bright-eyed Muses, tell of the Tyndaridae, the Sons of Zeus, glorious children of neat-ankled Leda, Castor the tamer of horses, and blameless Polydeuces. When Leda had lain with the dark-clouded Son of Cronos, she bare them beneath the peak of the great hill Taygetus, -- children who are delivers of men on earth and of swift-going ships when stormy gales rage over the ruthless sea. Then the shipmen call upon the sons of great Zeus with vows of white lambs, going to the forepart of the prow; but the strong wind and the waves of the sea lay the ship under water, until suddenly these two are seen darting through the air on tawny wings. Forthwith they allay the blasts of the cruel winds and still the waves upon the surface of the white sea: fair signs are they and deliverance from toil. And when the shipmen see them they are glad and have rest from their pain and labour.
(ll. 18-19) Hail, Tyndaridae, riders upon swift horses! Now I will remember you and another song also.
(1) ll. 1-9 are preserved by Diodorus Siculus iii. 66. 3; ll. 10-21 are extant only in M. (2) Dionysus, after his untimely birth from Semele, was sewn into the thigh of Zeus. (3) sc. Semele. Zeus is here speaking. (4) The reference is apparently to something in the body of the hymn, now lost. (5) The Greeks feared to name Pluto directly and mentioned him by one of many descriptive titles, such as `Host of Many': compare the Christian use of O DIABOLOS or our `Evil One'. (6) Demeter chooses the lowlier seat, supposedly as being more suitable to her assumed condition, but really because in her sorrow she refuses all comforts. (7) An act of communion -- the drinking of the potion here described -- was one of the most important pieces of ritual in the Eleusinian mysteries, as commemorating the sorrows of the goddess. (8) Undercutter and Woodcutter are probably popular names (after the style of Hesiod's `Boneless One') for the worm thought to be the cause of teething and toothache. (9) The list of names is taken -- with five additions -- from Hesiod, "Theogony" 349 ff.: for their general significance see note on that passage. (10) Inscriptions show that there was a temple of Apollo Delphinius (cp. ii. 495-6) at Cnossus and a Cretan month bearing the same name. (11) sc. that the dolphin was really Apollo. (12) The epithets are transferred from the god to his altar `Overlooking' is especially an epithet of Zeus, as in Apollonius Rhodius ii. 1124. (13) Pliny notices the efficacy of the flesh of a tortoise against withcraft. In "Geoponica" i. 14. 8 the living tortoise is prescribed as a charm to preserve vineyards from hail. (14) Hermes makes the cattle walk backwards way, so that they seem to be going towards the meadow instead of leaving it (cp. l. 345); he himself walks in the normal manner, relying on his sandals as a disguise. (15) Such seems to be the meaning indicated by the context, though the verb is taken by Allen and Sikes to mean, `to be like oneself', and so `to be original'. (16) Kuhn points out that there is a lacuna here. In l. 109 the borer is described, but the friction of this upon the fireblock (to which the phrase `held firmly' clearly belongs) must also have been mentioned. (17) The cows being on their sides on the ground, Hermes bends their heads back towards their flanks and so can reach their backbones. (18) O. Muller thinks the `hides' were a stalactite formation in the `Cave of Nestor' near Messenian Pylos, -- though the cave of Hermes is near the Alpheus (l. 139). Others suggest that actual skins were shown as relics before some cave near Triphylian Pylos. (19) Gemoll explains that Hermes, having offered all the meat as sacrifice to the Twelve Gods, remembers that he himself as one of them must be content with the savour instead of the substance of the sacrifice. Can it be that by eating he would have forfeited the position he claimed as one of the Twelve Gods? (20) Lit. `thorn-plucker'. (21) Hermes is ambitious (l. 175), but if he is cast into Hades he will have to be content with the leadership of mere babies like himself, since those in Hades retain the state of growth -- whether childhood or manhood -- in which they are at the moment of leaving the upper world. (22) Literally, `you have made him sit on the floor', i.e. `you have stolen everything down to his last chair.' (23) The Thriae, who practised divination by means of pebbles (also called THRIAE). In this hymn they are represented as aged maidens (ll. 553-4), but are closely associated with bees (ll. 559-563) and possibly are here conceived as having human heads and breasts with the bodies and wings of bees. See the edition of Allen and Sikes, Appendix III. (24) Cronos swallowed each of his children the moment that they were born, but ultimately was forced to disgorge them. Hestia, being the first to be swallowed, was the last to be disgorged, and so was at once the first and latest born of the children of Cronos. Cp. Hesiod "Theogony", ll. 495-7. (25) Mr. Evelyn-White prefers a different order for lines #87-90 than that preserved in the MSS. This translation is based upon the following sequence: ll. 89,90,87,88. -- DBK. (26) `Cattle-earning', because an accepted suitor paid for his bride in cattle. (27) The name Aeneas is here connected with the epithet AIEOS (awful): similarly the name Odysseus is derived (in "Odyssey" i.62) from ODYSSMAI (I grieve). (28) Aphrodite extenuates her disgrace by claiming that the race of Anchises is almost divine, as is shown in the persons of Ganymedes and Tithonus. (29) So Christ connecting the word with OMOS. L. and S. give = OMOIOS, `common to all'. (30) Probably not Etruscans, but the non-Hellenic peoples of Thrace and (according to Thucydides) of Lemnos and Athens. Cp. Herodotus i. 57; Thucydides iv. 109. (31) This line appears to be an alternative to ll. 10-11. (32) The name Pan is here derived from PANTES, `all'. Cp. Hesiod, "Works and Days" ll. 80-82, "Hymn to Aphrodite" (v) l. 198. for the significance of personal names. (33) Mr. Evelyn-White prefers to switch l. 10 and 11, reading 11 first then 10. -- DBK. (34) An extra line is inserted in some MSS. after l. 15. -- DBK. (35) The epithet is a usual one for birds, cp. Hesiod, "Works and Days", l. 210; as applied to Selene it may merely indicate her passage, like a bird, through the air, or mean `far flying'.Next