Hymn to Zeus
(c. 300 – 220 B.C.)
O God most glorious, called by many a name,
Nature’s great King, through endless years the same;
Omnipotence, who by your just decree
Controls all, hail, Zeus, for unto you
Must your creatures in all lands call.
We are your children, we alone, of all
On earth’s broad ways that wander to and fro,
Bearing your image wheresoever we go.
Wherefore with songs of praise your power I will proclaim.
Look! yonder Heaven, that round the earth is wheeled,
Follows your guidance, still to you does yield
Glad homage; your unconquerable hand
Such flaming minister, the heftless brand,
Wields, a sword two-edged, whose deathless might
Pulsates through all that Nature brings to light;
Vehicle of the universal word, that flows
Through all, and in the light celestial glows
Of stars both great and small. A King of Kings
Through ceaseless ages, God, whose purpose brings
To birth, whatever on land or in the sea
Is wrought, or in high heaven’s immensity;
Save what the sinner works infatuate.
No, but you know how to make the crooked straight:
Chaos to you is order; in your eyes
The unloved is lovely, who did harmonize
Things evil with things good, that there should be
One word through all things everlastingly.
One word – whose voice alas! the wicked spurn;
Insatiate for the good their spirits yearn:
Yet seeing see not, neither hearing hear
God’s universal law, which those revere,
by reason guided, happiness who win.
The rest, unreasoning, diverse shapes of sin
Self-prompted follow: for an idle name
Vainly they wrestle in the contests of fame:
Others inordinately riches court,
Or dissolute, the joys of flesh pursue.
Now here, now there they wander, fruitless still,
For ever seeking good and finding ill.
Zeus the all-bountiful, whom darkness shrouds,
Whose lightning lightens in the thunder-clouds;
Your children save from error’s deadly sway;
Turn you the darkness from their souls away:
Vouchsafe that unto knowledge they attain;
For you by knowledge are made strong to reign
Over all, and all things rule righteously.
So by you honored, we will honor thee,
Praising your works continually with songs,
As mortals should; nor higher reward belongs
Even to the gods, than justly to adore
The universal law for evermore.