Hermes II

Hermes, cunning, the trickster god supreme,
Making suppositions, serpentine, to seem
As truth, and traveling to the underworld,
The knowledge cloaked in darkness is unfurled.
You pierce illusions, friend to man, and guide
To esoteric secrets, which you hide
From souls unworthy of the sacred arts,
But showering guile on deserving hearts.
By this are riches, seen and unseen, won.
Your skill with words sees stories charming spun.
Your sandals speeding through the Aether bright,
To Earth descending from Olympus’ height,
You herald all that Zeus would bid you say,
But many secrets still you store away.
Through traps guide all suppliants who embark
Into the underworld: steer them through the dark.


How Hermes the herald hearkens with haste;
How before Zeus he is humble and chaste,
He is his messenger, at his command,
To serve and to sit at heaven’s king’s hand.
But who are his foes, take heed and beware!
From rapine, from theft, of such he won’t spare.
For even Apollo, he tricked and deceived;
Apollo was wroth, and his soul was grieved:
His oxen were missing, and some were dead,
And Hermes the thief had speedily fled;
He found him and railed, threatening to destroy
The newborn Hermes, who was Maia’s boy:
But Hermes with words, both skillful and smooth,
And with a gift, the same Phoebus did soothe;
The lute he had fashioned, he gave to the sun,
After his tale, like a spider, he’d spun.
He fathered a son named Autolycus;
From him was descended Odysseus:
From Hermes he got his cunning and wit,
And so many bold tricks did he commit;
He never spoke truth to his enemies,
And only himself did he seek to please.
Also, like Hermes, he was changeable
(In this he was truly commendable);
When Ajax had slain the flocks and the herds,
Bewailing his state with lamentable words,
Odysseus marked him as his enemy:
But after Ajax had set himself free
From all of life’s toils by a sword in his breast,
Then Odysseus put hatred to rest;
Persuaded he Agamemnon to let
The body be buried – without regret,
He turned and was merciful, that some day
When he was dead, he’d be interred the same way.
And this polarity, Hermes possesses;
For change, to the god, never distresses;
He travels with ease, with fleetness of foot,
From heaven’s height to the underworld’s root;
For Hermes conducts the dead to the same
(All mortals go thence, no matter their fame);
He came from the deep; he was born in a cave:
No wonder that he conducts man to the grave.
One finds him in commerce, the province of thieves,
Which often, unchecked, devours and bereaves.
Who can understand all of Hermes’ ways?
The same shall, in wisdom, prolong his days.