To Apollo


Mighty Apollo, Latona’s son, your rage

Taught Niobe’s dying children how to pay

For Niobe’s motherly boasting, and your rage

Taught Tityos in Hades

The price for his offense against Latona.

Achilles came to know it, too, when almost

Having achieved the victory over Troy,

Achilles, the son of Thetis-

Achilles who shook the towers because of the deeds

Of his spear that loved the battle with such passion,

Achilles stronger than others but nothing like

A match for you, Apollo-

Fell like a pine tree when the ax has struck it

Or like a cypress brought down by the wind.

He lay full length and ate the dust of Troy.

Achilles never would

Have hidden himself within the horse, the Trick,

Sent in while the Trojans danced in celebration.

Achilles would have come (alas! the horror!)

In honest fury raging,

Putting into the fire the little children

Unable yet to speak, not sparing even

The unborn in the womb, if Jupiter hadn’t

Listened to Apollo

And listened to the pleas of charming Venus,

And so been brought to promise to Aeneas

And promise to his descendants luckier walls

Than those of fallen Troy.

O Phoebus Apollo, divine musician, teacher

Who taught the melodious Muse her music, you

Who bathed in Xanthus’ stream, beardless Agyieus,

Protector of the city,

Befriend me now and my Apulian Muse,

Phoebus Apollo who taught me the rules of the art

And gave me the name of poet. You excellent children

Of excellent fathers, wards

Of Diana the huntress, whose arrow never fails

To slay the lynx and roebuck as they flee,

Observe the measure I keep to my finger’s beat

As you sing the ritual hymn

To Latona’s son and Diana the light of the moon

That prospers the crops as they grow and governs the months

Of the year in their regular turning. The bride, someday,

On her wedding day, will say:

“Ten times eleven years brought round the time

To sing the saecular hymn to please the gods

And I was one of the children chosen to sing,

Taught by the poet Horace.”



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