Sunday, 26 April 2009


This is how Hesiod's Theogony opens:
μουσάων Ἑλικωνιάδων ἀρχώμεθ᾽ ἀείδειν,
αἵθ᾽ Ἑλικῶνος ἔχουσιν ὄρος μέγα τε ζάθεόν τε
καί τε περὶ κρήνην ἰοειδέα πόσς᾽ ἁπαλοῖσιν
ὀρχεῦνται καὶ βωμὸν ἐρισθενέος Κρονίωνος.
καί τε λοεσσάμεναι τέρενα χρόα Περμησσοῖο
ἢ Ἵππου κρήνης ἢ Ὀλμειοῦ ζαθέοιο
ἀκροτάτῳ Ἑλικῶνι χοροὺς ἐνεποιήσαντο
καλούς, ἱμερόεντας: ἐπερρώσαντο δὲ ποσσίν.
From the Heliconian Muses let us begin to sing, who hold the great and holy mount of Helicon, and dance on soft feet about the deep-blue spring and the altar of the almighty son of Cronos, and, when they have washed their tender bodies in Permessus or in the Horse's Spring or Olmeius, make their fair, lovely dances upon highest Helicon and move with vigorous feet.
Why are the muses' feet hapalos, soft? Because they hardly walk on them: because they are carried everywhere; because they fly; because they are aristocrats and don't have to work. But this isn't right! The muses are not idle ... on the contrary. Be careful; they will be angry if you imply they do nothing but lounge about all day. But Hesiod knows better than this. Their skin, he says, is tereen, smooth: but the word literally means rubbed smooth (perhaps with pumice) ... paned, sanded. Vigorous activity does not produce calluses on these beings; it only polished and tenderises their skin further.

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