Homeric Hymn to Dionysos VII

About Dionysos, the son of famed Semele, I shall tell of his
coming to the barren sea's shore, on a headland, in the likeness
of a young man in his first youth. Beautiful tresses waved about
him, dark-hued and he wore on his strong shoulders a cloak,

5 of purple. Soon men from a well-trimmed ship, pirates, came
quickly over the wine-dark sea, Tyrsenians. An evil fate brought
them. They saw him, nodded to each other, jumped quickly, seized
him and took him to the ship, rejoicing in their hearts.

10 They thought he was a son of the god-born kings and wished
to bind him with harsh bonds. But the bonds did not hold him
and the ropes fell from his hands and feet. He sat down smiling
from his dark eyes. The helmsmen knew him

15 and called to his companions and said: "Are you so mad that
you seized and bound some god of power? Not even a well-made
ship can hold him. This man is Zeus or Apollo of the silver
arrows or Poseidaon, since not to mortal men

20 is he like but to the gods who have Olympian palaces. Come
now, send him away onto the dark shore at once. Do not lay
hands on him lest in his anger he raise up fierce winds and heavy
storms". So he spoke but the captain gave him an evil answer.

25 "Madman, watch the wind and haul up the ship's sail, grasping all
the yards. The men will deal with this man. I suspect he is going
to Egypt or to Cyprus or to the Hyperborean or even further.
In the end he will tell us his friends and all their wealth

30 and his brothers, since a god has sent him to us." Speaking thus
he set up the mast and sail of the ship. A wind filled the sail
and on each side the tackle they stretched out but soon marvelous
deeds occurred. First, wine through the swift black ship

35 trickled, sweet to drink and fragrant; a scent spread, ambrosial.
Awe seized all the watching sailors. Then over the topmost sail was
spread out a vine on all sides and there hung down many grape-bunches.
Along the mast a black creeper curled,

40 heavy with flowers and rich fruit grew on it. All the rowing-pins
were garlanded. When they saw this, they ordered the helmsman the
ship to bring to land. He [FN 1] became a lion in the ship,
fearsome in the bow, roaring loudly and amidships

45 he revealed marvels and created a shaggy bear which stood hunting
while the lion on the prow's top glared around fiercely. The men
cowered in the stern and around the helmsman who had a prudent heart
they gathered in panic. Suddenly he rushed forward

50 and seized the captain and to escape evil fate outside they all
at once jumped into the shiny sea, seeing this, and become dolphins.
He pitied the helmsman and held him back and gave him good fortune,
saying: "Do not worry, you who have pleased my heart.

55 I am loud-crying Dionysos, whom my mother bore, Semele, daughter
of Kadmos, because of the love of Zeus".

Hail, son of fair-faced Semele. It is not possible for one who neglects you to compose a pleasing song. [FN 2]

Niall McCloskey, translator

Greek text in Homeri Opera, tomus V, pp.76-78, edited by Thomas W. Allen, Oxford, 1946
(Oxford Classical Texts).
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