Odes of Pindar (Myers)/Olympian Odes/9

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Extant Odes of Pindar, translated into English  (1874)  by Pindar, translated by Ernest Myers
Olympian Ode IX.




The date of this ode is uncertain. Its last line seems to imply that it was sung at a banquet at Opons, after crowning the altar of Aias Oïleus, tutelar hero of the Lokrians. From the beginning we gather that on the night of the victory at Olympia Epharmostos' friends had sung in his honour the conventional triple strain of Archilochos—

(ὦ καλλίνικε χαῖρ᾽ ἄναξ Ἡρακλέης
αὐτός τε κ᾽ Ἰολαὸς, αἰχμητὰ δύο.
τήνελλα καλλίνικε)

to which perhaps some slight additions had been made, but not by Pindar.

The strain of Archilochos sung without music at Olympia, the triple resonant psalm of victory, sufficed to lead to the hill of Kronos Epharmostos triumphing with his comrade friends: but now with darts of other sort, shot from the Muses' far-delivering bow, praise Zeus of the red lightning, and Elis' holy headland, which on a time Pelops the Lydian hero chose to be Hippodameia's goodly dower.

And shoot a feathered arrow of sweet song Pythowards, for thy words shall not fall to the ground when thou tunest the throbbing lyre to the praise of the wrestlings of a man from famous Opous, and celebratest her and her son. For Themis and her noble daughter Eunomia the Preserver have made her their own, and she flourisheth in excellent deeds both at Kastalia and beside Alpheos' stream: whence come the choicest of all crowns to glorify the mother city of Lokrians, the city of beautiful trees.

I, to illuminate the city of my friends with eager blaze of song, swifter than high-bred steed or winged ship will send everywhere these tidings, so be it that my hand is blessed at all in labouring in the choice garden of the Graces; for they give all pleasant things to men.

By fate divine receive men also valour and wisdom: how else[1] might the hands of Herakles have wielded his club against the trident, when at Pylos Poseidon took his stand and prest hard on him, ay, and there prest him hard embattled Phoibos[errata 1] with his silver bow, neither would Hades keep his staff unraised, wherewith he leadeth down to ways beneath the hollow earth the bodies of men that die?

O my mouth, fling this tale from thee, for to speak evil of gods is a hateful wisdom, and loud and unmeasured words strike a note that trembleth upon madness. Of such things talk thou not; leave war of immortals and all strife aside; and bring thy words to the city of Protogeneia, where by decree of Zeus of the bickering lightning-flash Pyrrha and Deukalion coming down from Parnassos first fixed their home, and without bed of marriage made out of stones a race to be one folk: and hence cometh the name of peoples[2]. Awake for them the clear-toned gale of song, and if old wine be best, yet among songs prefer the newer flowers.

Truly men say that once a mighty water swept over the dark earth, but by the craft of Zeus an ebb suddenly drew off the flood. From these first men came anciently your ancestors of the brazen shields, sons of the women of the stock of Iapetos and of the mighty Kronidai, Kings that dwelt in the land continually; until the Olympian Lord caught up the daughter[3] of Opöeis from the land of the Epeians, and lay with her in a silent place among the ridges of Mainalos; and afterward brought her unto Lokros, that age might not bring him[4] low beneath the burden of childlessness. But the wife bare within her the seed of the Mightiest, and the hero saw the bastard born and rejoiced, and called him by the name of his mother's father, and he became a man pre-eminent in beauty and great deeds: and his father gave unto him a city and a people to rule over.

Then there came unto him strangers, from Argos and from Thebes, and from Arcadia others, and from Pisa. But the son of Aktor and Aigina, Menoitios, he honoured above all settlers, him whose son[5] went with the Atreidai to the plain of Teuthras and stood alone beside Achilles, when Telephos had turned the valiant Danaoi to flight, and drave them into the sterns of their sea-ships; so proved he to them that had understanding that Patroklos' soul was strong. And thenceforward the son of Thetis persuaded him that he should never in murderous battle take his post far from his friend's conquering spear.

Fit speech may I find for my journey in the Muses' car; and let me therewith have daring and powers of ample scope. To back the prowess of a friend I came, when Lampromachos won his Isthmian crown, when on the same day both he and his brother overcame. And afterward at the gates[6] of Corinth two triumphs again befell Epharmostos, and more in the valleys of Nemea. At Argos he triumphed over men, as over boys at Athens. And I might tell how at Marathon he stole from among the beardless and confronted the full-grown for the prize of silver vessels, how without a fall he threw his men with swift and cunning shock, and how loud the shouting pealed when round the ring he ran, in the beauty of his youth and his fair form and fresh from fairest deeds.

Also before the Parrhasian host was he glorified, at the assembly of Lykaian Zeus, and again when at Pellene he bare away a warm antidote of cold winds[7]. And the tomb of Iolaos, and Eleusis by the sea, are just witnesses to his honours.

The natural is ever best: yet many men by learning of prowess essay to achieve fame. The thing done without God is better kept in silence. For some ways lead further than do others, but one practice will not train us all alike. Skill of all kinds is hard to attain unto: but when thou bringest forth this prize, proclaim aloud with a good courage that by fate divine this man at least was born deft-handed, nimble-limbed, with the light of valour in his eyes, and that now being victorious he hath crowned at the feast Oilean Aias' altar.

  1. This is the common interpretation, implying that Herakles in contending with the gods here mentioned must have been helped by other gods. But perhaps it might also be translated 'therefore how could the hands, &c.,' meaning that since valour, as has just been said, comes from a divine source, it could not be used against gods, and that thus the story ought to be rejected.
  2. Perhaps the story of the stones arose from the like sound of λαός and λᾶας, words here regarded in the inverse relation to each other.
  3. Protogeneia.
  4. Lokros.
  5. Patroklos.
  6. The Isthmus, the gate between the two seas.
  7. A cloak, the prize.


  1. Original: Phoebus was amended to Phoibos: detail