Odes of Pindar (Myers)/Olympian Odes/7

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The Extant Odes of Pindar, translated into English  (1874)  by Pindar, translated by Ernest Myers
Olympian Ode VII.




Rhodes is said to have been colonised at the time of the Dorian migrations by Argive Dorians from Epidauros, who were Herakleidai of of the family of Tlepolemos. They founded a confederacy of three cities, Kameiros, Lindos, and Ialysos. Ialysos was then ruled by the dynasty of the Eratidai. Their kingly power had now been extinct two hundred years, but the family was still pre-eminent in the state. Of this family was Diagoras, and probably the ode was sung at a family festival; but it commemorates the glories of the island generally. The Rhodians caused it to be engraved in letters of gold in the temple of Athene at Lindos.

There is a noteworthy incident of the Peloponnesian war which should be remembered in connection with this ode. In the year 406, fifty-eight years after this victory of Diagoras, during the final and most embittering agony of Athens, one Dorieus, a son of Diagoras, and himself a famous athlete, was captured by the Athenians in a sea-fight. It was then the custom either to release prisoners of war for a ransom or else to put them to death. The Athenians asked no ransom of Dorieus, but set him free on the spot. It is said that he was afterwards put to death by the Lakedaimonians.

As when from a wealthy hand one lifting a cup, made glad within with the dew of the vine, maketh gift thereof to a youth his daughter's spouse, a largess of the feast from home to home, an all-golden choicest treasure, that the banquet may have grace, and that he may glorify his kin; and therewith he maketh him envied in the eyes of the friends around him for a wedlock wherein hearts are wed—

So also I, my liquid nectar sending, the Muses' gift, the sweet fruit of my soul, to men that are winners in the games at Pytho or Olympia make holy oflfering. Happy is he whom good report encompasseth; now on one man, now on another doth the Grace that quickeneth look favourably, and tune for him the lyre and the pipe's stops of music manifold.

Thus to the sound of the twain am I come with Diagoras sailing home, to sing the sea-girt Rhodes, child of Aphrodite and bride of Helios, that to a mighty and fair-fighting man, who by Alpheos' stream and by Kastalia's hath won him crowns, I may for his boxing make award of glory, and to his father Demegetos in whom Justice hath her delight, dwellers in the isle of three cities with an Argive host, nigh to a promontory of spacious Asia.

Fain would I truly tell from the beginning from Tlepolemos the message of my word, the common right of this puissant seed of Herakles. For on the father's side they claim from Zeus, and on the mother's from Astydameia, sons of Amyntor.

Now round the minds of men hang follies unnumbered—this is the unachievable thing, to find what shall be best hap for a man both presently and also at the last. Yea for the very founder[1] of this country once on a time struck with his staff of tough wild-olive-wood Alkmene's bastard brother Likymnios in Tiryns as he came forth from Midea's chamber, and slew him in the kindling of his wrath. So even the wise man's feet are turned astray by tumult of the soul.

Then he came to enquire of the oracle of God. And he of the golden hair from his sweet-incensed shrine spake unto him of a sailing of ships that should be from the shore of Lerna unto a pasture ringed with sea, where sometime the great king of gods rained on the city golden snow, what time by Hephaistos' handicraft beneath the bronze-wrought axe from the crown of her father's head Athene leapt to light and cried aloud with an exceeding cry; and Heaven trembled at her coming, and Earth, the Mother.

Then also the god who giveth light to men, Hyperion, bade his beloved sons see that they guard the payment of the debt, that they should build first for the goddess an altar in the sight of all men, and laying thereon a holy offering they should make glad the hearts of the father and of his daughter of the sounding spear. Now Reverence, Forethought's child, putteth valour and the joy of battle into the hearts of men; yet withal there cometh upon them bafflingly the cloud of forgetfulness and maketh the mind to swerve from the straight path of action. For they though they had brands burning yet kindled not the seed of flame, but with fireless rites they made a grove on the hill of the citadel. For them Zeus brought a yellow cloud into the sky and rained much gold upon the land; and Glaukopis herself gave them to excel the dwellers upon earth in every art of handicraft. For on their roads ran the semblances of beasts and creeping things: whereof they have great glory, for to him that hath knowledge the subtlety that is without deceit[2] is the greater altogether.

Now the ancient story of men saith that when Zeus and the other gods made division of the earth among them, not yet was island Rhodes apparent in the open sea, but in the briny depths lay hid. And for that Helios was otherwhere, none drew a lot for him; so they left him portionless of land, that holy god. And when he spake thereof Zeus would cast lots afresh; but he suffered him not, for that he said that beneath the hoary sea he saw a certain land waxing from its root in earth, that should bring forth food for many men, and rejoice in flocks. And straightway he bade her of the golden fillet, Lachesis, to stretch her hands on high, nor violate the gods' great oath, but with the son of Kronos promise him that the isle sent up to the light of heaven should be thenceforth a title of himself alone.

And in the end of the matter his speech had fulfilment; there sprang up from the watery main an island, and the father who begetteth the keen rays of day hath the dominion thereof, even the lord of fire-breathing steeds. There sometime having lain with Rhodos he begat seven sons, who had of him minds wiser than any among the men of old; and one begat Kameiros, and Ialysos his eldest, and Lindos: and they held each apart their shares of cities, making threefold division of their father's land, and these men call their dwelling-places. There is a sweet amends for his piteous ill-hap, ordained for Tlepolemos leader of the Tirynthians at the beginning, as for a god, even the leading thither of sheep for a savoury burnt-offering, and the award of honour in games[3].

Of garlands from these games hath Diagoras twice won him crowns, and four times he had good luck at famous Isthmos and twice following at Nemea, and twice at rocky Athens. And at Argos the bronze shield knoweth him, and the deeds of Arcadia and of Thebes and the yearly games Bœotian, and Pellene and Aigina where six times he won; and the pillar of stone at Megara hath the same tale to tell.

But do thou, O Father Zeus, who holdest sway on the mountain-ridges of Atabyrios glorify the accustomed Olympian winner's hymn, and the man who hath done valiantly with his fists: give him honour at the hands of citizens and of strangers; for he walketh in the straight way that abhorreth insolence, having learnt well the lessons his true soul hath taught him, which hath come to him from his noble sires. Darken not thou the light of one who springeth from the same stock of Kallianax. Surely with the joys of Eratidai the whole city maketh mirth. But the varying breezes even at the same point of time speed each upon their various ways.

  1. Tlepolemos.
  2. That is, probably, without magic, or the pretence of being anything but machines. This is considered an allusion to the Telchines who lived before the Heliadai in Rhodes, and were magicians as well as craftsmen. For illustrations of Rhodian art at various times the British Museum may be consulted, which is particularly rich in vases from Kameiros and Ialysos.
  3. That is, he presides over the celebration of games, as tutelar hero of the island.