The First Nemean Ode of Pindar

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The First Nemeæan Ode of Pindar
by Pindar, translated by Abraham Cowley

1.
Beauteous Ortygia, the first breathing place
     Of great Alpheus' close and amorous race!
Fair Delos' Sister, the child-bed
     Of bright Latona, where she bred
     The original new-moon,
Who saw'st her tender forehead e're the horns were grown!
Who like a gentle scion, newly started out,
     From Syracusa's side dost sprout.
          Thee first my song does greet
          With numbers smooth and fleet,
          As thine own horses' airy feet,
     When they young Chromius chariot drew,
And o'er the Nemeæan race triumphant flew.
     Jove will approve my song and me;
Jove is concern'd in Nemea, and in thee.

2.
     With Jove, my song; this happy man,
          Young Chromius, too, with Jove began;
          From hence came his success,
     Nor ought he therefore like it less,
Since the best fame is that of happiness;
     For whom should we esteem above
     The men whom Gods do love.
'Tis them alone the Muse too does approve.
     Lo! how it makes this victory shine
O'er all the fruitful isle of Proserpine!
     The torches which the mother brought
          When the ravish'd maid she sought,
          Appear'd not half so bright,
          But cast a weaker light,
Through earth, and ayr, and seas, and up to th' heavenly vault.

3.
"To thee, O Proserpine, this isle I give,"
     Said Jove, and as he said,
     Smil'd, and bent his gracious head.
"And thou, O isle!" said he, "for ever thrive,
And keep the value of our gift alive!
          As Heaven with stars, so let
          The country thick with towns be set,
          And numberless as stars
          Let all the towns be then
          Replenish'd thick with men,
          Wise in Peace, and Bold in Wars!
     Of thousand glorious towns the nation,
Of thousand glorious men each town a constellation!
     Nor let their warlike lawrel scorn,
With the Olympique olive to be worn,
Whose gentler honors do so well the brows of peace adorn!"

4.
Go to great Syracuse, my Muse, and wait
     At Chromius' hospitable gate;
     'Twill open wide to let thee in,
     When thy lyres voyce shall but begin;
Joy, plenty, and free welcome, dwells within.
The Tyrian beds thou shalt find ready drest,
The ivory table crowded with a feast.
The table which is free for every guest,
     No doubt will thee admit,
And feast more upon thee, then thou on it.
     Chromius and thou art met aright,
     For as by nature thou dost write,
So he by nature loves, and does by nature fight.

5.
Nature herself, whilst in the womb he was,
Sow'd strength and beauty through the forming mass,
They mov'ed the vital lump in every part,
And carv'ed the members out with wondrous art.
She fill'd his mind with courage, and with wit,
     And a vast bounty, apt and fit
For the great dowre which Fortune made to it.
     'Tis madness sure treasures to hoard,
And make them useless, as in mines, remain,
To lose th' occasion Fortune does afford
     Fame and publick love to gain:
     Even for self-concerning ends,
     'Tis wiser much to hoard up Friends.
Though happy men the present goods possess,
Th' unhappy have their share in future hopes no less.

6.
How early has young Chromius begun
The race of virtue, and how swiftly run,
     And born the noble prize away,
Whilst other youths yet at the barriere stay?
None but Alcides e'er set earlier forth then he;
The God, his father's, blood nought could restrain,
     'Twas ripe at first, and did disdain
The slow advance of dull humanity,
The big-limb'd babe in his huge cradle lay,
Too weighty to be rock'd by nurses hands,
     Wrapt in purple swadling-bands.
When, Lo! by jealous Juno's fierce commands,
     Two dreadful serpents come,
Rowling and hissing loud into the room;
To the bold babe they trace their bidden way;
Forth from their flaming eyes dread lightnings went,
Their gaping mouths did forked tongues like thunderbolts present.

7.
Some of th' amazed Women dropt down dead
     With fear, some wildly fled
About the room, some into corners crept,
     Where silently they shook and wept.
All naked from her bed the passionate mother lept
     To save or perish with her child,
She trembled, and she cry'd, the mighty infant smil'd.
     The mighty infant seem'd well pleas'd
          At his gay gilded foes,
And as their spotted necks up to the cradle rose,
With his young warlike hands on both he seiz'd;
          In vain they rag'd, in vain they hiss'd,
          In vain their armed tails they twist,
     And angry circles cast about,
Black blood, and fiery breath, and pois'nous soul he squeezes out!

8.
     With their drawn Swords
In ran Amphitryo, and the Theban lords,
With doubting wonder, and with troubled joy,
          They saw the conquering boy
     Laugh, and point downwards to his prey,
Where in deaths pangs, and their own gore they folding lay.
When wise Tiresias this beginning knew,
     He told with ease the things t' ensue,
          From what monsters he should free
          The earth, the air, and sea,
          What mighty tyrants he should slay,
          Greater monsters far then they.
How much at Phlægras field the distrest Gods should ow
          To their great off-spring here below;
     And how his club should there outdo,
Apollos silver bow, and his own father's thunder too.

9.
     And that the grateful Gods, at last,
The race of his laborious Virtue past,
     Heaven, which he sav'ed, should to him give;
Where marry'd to eternal youth, he should for ever live;
Drink nectar with the Gods, and all his senses please
In their harmonious, golden palaces;
     Walk with ineffable delight
Through the thick groves of never-withering light,
          And, as he walks, affright
          The Lyon and the Bear,
Bull, centaur, scorpion, all the radiant monsters there.