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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Ion’s Song

By Euripides (c. 480–406 B.C.)

  • Translation of Henry Hart Milman
  • [The boy Ion is in charge of the temple at Delphi, and his duties include driving away the birds.]

  • BEHOLD! behold!

    Now they come, they quit the nest

    On Parnassus’s topmost crest.

    Hence! away! I warn ye all!

    Light not on our hallowed wall!

    From eave and cornice keep aloof,

    And from the golden gleaming roof!

    Herald of Jove! of birds the king!

    Fierce of talon, strong of wing,—

    Hence! begone! or thou shalt know

    The terrors of this deadly bow.

    Lo! where rich the altar fumes,

    Soars yon swan on oary plumes.

    Hence, and quiver in thy flight

    Thy foot that gleams with purple light,

    Even though Phœbus’s harp rejoice

    To mingle with thy tuneful voice;

    Far away thy white wings shake

    O’er the silver Delian lake.

    Hence! obey! or end in blood

    The music of thy sweet-voiced ode.

    Away! away! another stoops!

    Down his flagging pinion droops;

    Shall our marble eaves be hung

    With straw nests for your callow young?

    Hence, or dread this twanging bow,

    Hence, where Alpheus’s waters flow;

    Or the Isthmian groves among

    Go and rear your nestling young.

    Hence, nor dare pollute or stain

    Phœbus’s offerings, Phœbus’s fane.

    Yet I feel a sacred dread,

    Lest your scattered plumes I shed;

    Holy birds! ’tis yours to show

    Heaven’s auguries to men below.