Odes of Pindar (Myers)/Pythian Odes/8

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




The precise date of this ode is uncertain, but there is strong internal evidence of its having been written soon after the battle of Salamis, after which, as is well known, the ἀριστεῖα, or first honours for valour, were awarded to Aigina. The insolence of the barbarian despot seems to be symbolized by that of the giants Typhon and Porphyrion.

The ode was apparently to be sung on the winner's return to Aigina. No less than eleven of the extant odes were written for winners from that island.

O kindly Peace, daughter of Righteousness, thou that makest cities great, and boldest the supreme keys of counsels and of wars, welcome thou this honour to Aristomenes, won in the Pythian games.

Thou knowest how alike to give and take gentleness in due season: thou also, if any have moved thy heart unto relentless wrath, dost terribly confront the enemy's might, and sinkest Insolence in the sea.

Thus did Porphyrion provoke thee unaware. Now precious is the gain that one beareth away from the house of a willing giver. But violence shall ruin a man at the last, boast he never so loudly. He of Kilikia, Typhon of the hundred heads, escaped not this, neither yet the king of giants[1]: but by the thunderbolt they fell and by the bow of Apollo, who with kind intent hath welcomed Xenarches home from Kirrha, crowned with Parnassian wreaths and Dorian song.

Not far from the Graces' ken falleth the lot of this righteous island-commonwealth, that hath attained unto the glorious deeds of the sons of Aiakos[2]: from the beginning is her fame perfect, for she is sung of as the nurse of heroes foremost in many games and in violent fights: and in her mortal men also is she pre-eminent.

But my time faileth me to offer her all I might tell at length by lute and softer voice of man, so that satiety vex not.

So let that which lieth in my path, my debt to thee, O boy, the youngest of thy country's glories, run on apace, winged by my art.

For in wrestlings thou art following the footsteps of thy uncles, and shamest neither Theognetos at Olympia, nor the victory that at Isthmos was won by Kleitomachos' stalwart limbs.

And in that thou makest great the clan of the Midylidai thou attainest unto the very praise which on a time the son of Oikleus spake in a riddle, when he saw at seven-gated Thebes the sons of the Seven standing to their spears, what time from Argos came the second race on their new enterprise[3]. Thus spake he while they fought: 'By nature, son, the noble temper of thy sires shineth forth in thee. I see clearly the speckled dragon that Alkmaion weareth on his bright shield, foremost at the Kadmean gates.

And he who in the former fight fared ill, hero Adrastos, is now endowed with tidings of a better omen. Yet in his own house his fortune shall be contrariwise: for he alone of all the Danaan host, after that he shall have gathered up the bones of his dead son, shall by favour of the gods come back with unharmed folk to the wide streets of Abas[4].'

On this wise spake Amphiaraos. Yea and with joy I too myself throw garlands on Alkmaion's grave, and shower it withal with songs, for that being my neighbour and guardian of my possessions[5] he met me as I went up to the earth's centre-stone, renowned in song, and showed forth the gift of prophecy which belongeth unto his house[6].

But thou, far-darter, ruler of the glorious temple whereto all men go up, amid the glens of Pytho didst there grant this the greatest of joys: and at home before didst thou bring to him at the season of thy feast the keen-sought prize of the pentathlon. My king, with willing heart I make avowal that through thee is harmony before mine eyes in all that I sing of every conqueror.

By the side of our sweet-voiced song of triumph hath Righteousness taken her stand, and I pray, O Xenarches[7], that the favour of God be unfailing toward the fortune of thee and thine. For if one hath good things to his lot without long toil, to many he seemeth therefore to be wise among fools and to be crowning his life by right devising of the means. But these things lie not with men: it is God that ordereth them, who setteth up one and putteth down another, so that he is bound beneath the hands of the adversary.

Now at Megara also hast thou won a prize, and in secluded Marathon, and in the games of Hera in thine own land, three times, Aristomenes, hast thou overcome.

And now on the bodies of four others[8] hast thou hurled thyself with fierce intent, to whom the Pythian feast might not award, as unto thee, the glad return, nor the sweet smile that welcometh thee to thy mother's side; nay but by secret ways they shrink from meeting their enemies, stricken down by their evil hap.

Now he that hath lately won glory in the time of his sweet youth is lifted on the wings of his strong hope and soaring valour, for his thoughts are above riches.

In a little moment groweth up the delight of men; yea and in like sort falleth it to the ground, when a doom adverse hath shaken it.

Things of a day—what are we, and what not? Man is a dream of shadows.

Nevertheless when a glory from God hath shined on them, a clear light abideth upon men, and serene life.

Aigina[9], mother dear, this city in her march among the free, with Zeus and lordly Aiakos, with Peleus and valiant Telamon and with Achilles, guard thou well.

  1. Porphyrion
  2. Aiakos and his descendants, especially Aias, were the chief national heroes of Aigina.
  3. It seems doubtful what this legend exactly was. Either Amphiaraos, during the attack of the first Seven against Thebes, saw by prophetic vision the future battle of the second Seven, the Epigonoi, among whom were his own son Alkmaion, and Adrastos, the sole survivor of the first Seven; or else these are the words of his oracle after his death, spoken when the battle of the Epigonoi had begun but was not yet ended.
  4. Abas was an ancient king of Argos.
  5. Probably there was a shrine of Alkmaion near Pindar's house at Thebes, so that he considered his household to be under the hero's protection: perhaps he had deposited money in the shrine, for temples were often used as treasuries.
  6. Probably in some vision seen by Pindar on his journey to Delphi.
  7. Father of Aristomenes.
  8. His competitors in four ties of the wrestling-match.
  9. The nymph, protectress of the island.