To the Sicilian Muse


O Muse of Sicily with strong Doric voice
sing to me a song of the land of my people,
the thrice–holy island of the Maid who weaves an image of the world
as she waits for the embrace of her serpent–tongued father,
the land which saw the gentle one–eyed shepherd go mad
for love of the white–armed Nymph of the windswept waves
so that he, with sharp rock, dashed out the brains
of the unkissed youth whose blood became a lovely river,
the land which saw the flowering of fair Naxos rich in grapes,
first colony of the wandering Greeks,
land which saw Bacchic women dance spider–mad
in forests nourished by the ash of Etna,
land to which the doves of Venus always return,
land of flame–haired Adranos and his hundred dogs
who was driven out by Vulcan when he fell
howling in rage from Olympos,
land of the Palikoi, testers of men’s heart and word,
whose breath smells of sulfur, whose hair drips with lake–water,
land where Daidalos fled, seeking asylum with just Kokalos,
who had his daughters drown the pursuing Cretan king in his bath
so that the rites of hospitality might duly be observed,
land of these and a thousand other fables and tragedies—
O Ivy–crowned Muse of Sicily, sing to me a new song,
a song worthy of my ancestors, my audience.