A Lyric Hymn to Mercury
Horace, Odes 1.10
Mercury, Atlas’ eloquent grandson,
You who in your cunning shaped
The savage ways of primitive man
With language and the customs of
The comely wrestling-ground,
I shall sing of you- the messenger
Of great Jove and of all the gods,
Creator of the curving lyre,
Cunning at hiding in joking theft
Whatever’s caught your fancy.
Once, when Apollo, with threatening voice,
Was terrifying you, still a boy,
If you did not return his cattle
Stolen through a trick, he saw
His quiver gone, and laughed.
And, too, it was with you as guide
That wealthy Priam left Ilium
And slipped past Atreus’ haughty sons,
Thessalian watch-fires too, and the camp
Pitched to level Troy.
You set pious souls in their happy seat
And with your golden wand corral
The insubstantial throng of dead;
You please not only the gods above
But those below as well.
Mercuri, facunde nepos Atlantis,
qui feros cultus hominum recentum
voce formasti catus et decorae
te canam, magni Iovis et deorum
nuntium curvaeque lyrae parentem,
callidum quicquid placuit iocoso
Te, boves olim nisi reddidisses
per dolum amotas, puerum minaci
voce dum terret, viduus pharetra
Quin et Atridas duce te superbos
Ilio dives Priamus relicto
Thessalosque ignis et iniqua Troiae
Tu pias laetis animas reponis
sedibus virgaque levem coerces
aurea turbam, superis deorum
gratus et imis.
Bronze statuette of the god Mercury, holding a money-purse in his right hand; his left hand originally held a caduceus. Artist unknown; 1st or 2nd cent. CE. Now in the Louvre. Photo credit: © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons.