To Abaris

Hail holy Abaris, son of Seuthes the sage ruler
of the long-lived Hyperboreans who have their
dwelling at the headwaters of starry Eridanos,
and one of the Swan Maidens, priestesses who serve
the Archer God in his circular temple while Parnassos
is covered in snow and Pytho’s oracular tripod has fallen silent;
that temple where the arrow of Apollon was stored,
double of the constellation Oistos which was put in the sky
to commemorate the time when Leto’s son slew the Kyklopes,
fashioners of Zeus’ fiery bolts, and was exiled from heaven for it.
Apollon wandered far and wide until he had left behind
even the mighty sons of the North Wind, and arrived
in the land of Gryphons and birch forests and the Midnight Sun.
Covered in dust from the road, blood of the One-Eyed smiths,
ash that was all that remained of his son Asklepios,
and the tears he’d shed for him, Apollon waded into
Eridanos’ swiftly-rushing current and cleansed himself,
reducing everything to nothing in the white-capped waves
except his tears which became lovely honey-gold amber,
most prized among men. On the spot where Apollon’s
sandaled feet first stepped ashore after his cleansing,
your tribe built for him the great circular temple,
and he left his arrow in the custody of those who were chosen
as Neokoroi. Though Seuthes desired for you to follow
in his footsteps it was clear to see, Abaris, that even as a child
your religious vocation was deep and true, and so with his blessing
you began your studies with the Neokoroi, becoming
expert in the sacred lore, healing songs, divination
by weather and the entrails of sacrificial animals,
dream interpretation, purifications and all manner of cures.
You became a confidant of Apollon, a Nympholept,
a prophet, a philosopher, and an ascetic with unshorn hair
who could spend days in meditation without breaking
and shunned all mortal food, including alcohol, dairy,
and produce of the fields and wilds. Never had the Neokoroi
and Swan Maidens seen your like before, nor had anyone else
among your tribe – and you Hyperboreans are famed
throughout the world for your exceptional piety.
In such labor would you have gladly spent the remainder
of your days if the Archineokoros had not dreamed
that Apollon visited him and handed him the arrow from the temple,
saying that a great plague was about to befall mankind,
and he was sending you forth as his representative
to bring healing and cleansing to the world.
Humbly did you refuse at first, O Abaris, for you
did not think yourself deserving of such attention, but then
the Archineokoros bid you enter the adyton of the temple
and take up the arrow as a token of your office.
Obediently you did as he requested of you
and no sooner had your hand touched the shaft
then you were lifted up into the clouds. Hanging on
for dear life you were speedily conveyed over mountains
and steppes, across lakes and rivers, on through the territory
of the Kimmerians, Skythians, Thrakians and Keltoi
until you reached the borders of the Greek lands.
You drove out the plague, performed city-wide purifications,
discovered previously unknown Gods and Heroes
and instituted cults for them, reformed laws and customs,
conversed with wise men such as Pythagoras and Phalaris,
and after constructing the temple of Persephone at Sparta,
you straddled the arrow and rode off to share your teachings
and wonders with the Barbarian races, never to be seen
by a Greek again. Hail to you Abaris, best of the Hyperboreans,
and may you come visit our country too, for never has a people
been more in need of moral correction, pious instruction,
cures for countless ailments, and the blessings of Apollon
the Archer which you administer, than we are
in this time and place, O Abaris, the man of holiness.

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