Odes of Pindar (Myers)/Pythian Odes/9

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




The Hellenic heavy-anned soldier was often called upon to advance at a run, as for instance in the charge at Marathon. With a view no doubt to such occasions this race in full armour had been instituted at Pytho in 498, and in 478 it was won by Telesikrates. The ode was probably sung in a procession at Thebes, before Telesikrates had gone back to Kyrene, but the legends related are mainly connected with Kyrene. Probably the commentators are right in supposing that Telesikrates was to take home with him a bride from the mother-country, a fact which makes the legends told specially appropriate.

I have desire to proclaim with aid of the deep-vested Graces a victory at Pytho of Telesikrates bearing the shield of bronze, and to speak aloud his name, for his fair fortune and the glory wherewith he hath crowned Kyrene, city of charioteers.

Kyrene[1] once from Pelion's wind-echoing dells Leto's son, the flowing-haired, caught up and in a golden car bore away the huntress-maiden to the place where he made her queen of a land rich in flocks, yea richest of all lands in the fruits of the field, that her home might be the third part[2] of the mainland of earth, a stock that should bear lovely bloom. And silver-foot Aphrodite awaited the Delian stranger issuing from his car divine, and lightly laid on him her hand: then over their sweet bridal-bed she cast the loveliness of maiden shame, and in a common wedlock joined the god and the daughter of wide-ruling Hypseus, who then was king of the haughty Lapithai, a hero whose father's father was the Ocean-god—for amid the famous mountain-dells of Pindos the Naiad Kreüsa bare him after she had delight in the bed of Peneus, Kreüsa, daughter of Earth.

Now the child he reared was Kyrene of the lovely arms: She was not one who loved the pacings to and fro before the loom, neither the delights of feastings with her fellows within the house, but with bronze javelins and a sword she fought against and slew wild beasts of prey; yea and much peace and sure she gave thereby to her father's herds, but for sleep, the sharer of her bed, short spent she it and sweet, descending on her eyelids as the dawn drew near.

Once as she struggled alone, without spear, with a terrible lion, he of the wide quiver, far-darting Apollo, found her: and straightway he called Cheiron from his hall and spake to him aloud: 'Son of Philyra, come forth from thy holy cave, and behold and wonder at the spirit of this woman, and her great might, what strife she wageth here with soul undaunted, a girl with heart too high for toil to quell; for her mind shaketh not in the storm of fear. What man begat her? From what tribe was she torn to dwell in the secret places of the shadowing hills? She hath assayed a struggle unachievable. Is it lawful openly to put forth my hand to her, or rather on a bridal-bed pluck the sweet flower?'

To him the Kentaur bold with a frank smile on his mild brow made answer straightway of his wisdom: 'Secret are wise Persuasion's keys unto love's sanctities, O Phoibos, and among gods and men alike all deem this shame, to have pleasure of marriage at the first openly. Now even thee, who mayest have no part in lies, thy soft desire hath led to dissemble in this thy speech. The maiden's lineage dost thou, O king, enquire of me—thou who knowest the certain end of all things, and all ways? How many leaves the earth sendeth forth in spring, how many grains of sand in sea and river are rolled by waves and the winds' stress, what shall come to pass, and whence it shall be, thou discernest perfectly. But if even against wisdom I must match myself, I will speak on. To wed this damsel camest thou unto this glen, and thou art destined to bear her beyond the sea to a chosen garden of Zeus, where thou shalt make her a city's queen, when thou hast gathered together an island-people to a hill in the plain's midst. And now shall queenly Libya of broad meadow-lands well-pleased receive for thee within a golden house thy glorious bride, and there make gift to her of a portion in the land, to be an inhabiter thereof with herself, neither shall it be lacking in tribute of plants bearing fruit after all kinds, neither a stranger to the beasts of chase. There shall she bring forth a son, whom glorious Hermes taking up from his mother's arms shall bear to the fair-throned Hours and to Earth: and they shall set the babe upon their knees, and nectar and ambrosia they shall distil upon his lips, and shall make him as an immortal, a Zeus or a holy Apollo, to men beloved of him a very present help, a tutelar of flocks, and to some Agreus and Nomios, but to others Aristaios shall be his name.'

By these words he made him ready for the bridal's sweet fulfilment. And swift the act and short the ways of gods who are eager to an end. That same day made accomplishment of the matter, and in a golden chamber of Libya they lay together; where now she haunteth a city excellent in beauty and glorious in the games.

And now at sacred Pytho hath the son of Karneadas wedded that city to the fair flower of good luck: for by his victory there he hath proclaimed Kyrene's name, even her's who shall receive him with glad welcome home, to the country of fair women bringing precious honour out of Delphi.

Great merits stir to many words: yet to be brief and skilful on long themes is a good hearing for bards: for fitness of times is in everything alike of chief import.

That Iolaos had respect thereto[3] seven-gated Thebes knoweth well, for when he had stricken down the head of Eurystheus beneath the edge of the sword, she buried the slayer beneath the earth in the tomb of Amphitryon the charioteer, where his father's father was laid, a guest of the Spartoi, who had left his home to dwell among the streets of the sons of Kadmos who drave white horses. To him and to Zeus at once did wise Alkmene bear the strength of twin sons prevailing in battle.

Dull is that man who lendeth not his voice to Herakles, nor hath in remembrance continually the waters of Dirke that nurtured him and Iphikles. To them will I raise a song of triumph for that I have received good at their hands, after that I had prayed to them that the pure light of the voiceful Graces might not forsake me. For at Aigina and on the hill of Nisos twice ere now I say that I have sung Kyrene's praise, and by my act have shunned the reproach of helpless dumbness.

Wherefore if any of the citizens be our friend, yea even if he be against us, let him not seek to hide the thing that hath been well done in the common cause, and so despise the word of the old god of the sea[4]. He biddeth one give praise with the whole heart to noble deeds, yea even to an enemy, so be it that justice be on his side.

Full many times at the yearly feast of Pallas have the maidens seen thee winner, and silently they prayed each for herself that such an one as thou, O Telesikrates, might be her beloved husband or her son; and thus also was it at the games of Olympia and of ample-bosomed Earth[5], and at all in thine own land.

Me anywise to slake my thirst for song the ancient glory of thy forefathers summoneth to pay its due and rouse it yet again—to tell how that for love of a Libyan woman there went up suitors to the city of Irasa to woo Antaios' lovely-haired daughter of great renown; whom many chiefs of men, her kinsmen, sought to wed, and many strangers also; for the beauty of her was marvellous, and they were fain to cull the fruit whereto her gold-crowned youth had bloomed.

But her father gained for his daughter a marriage more glorious still. Now he had heard how sometime Danaos at Argos devised for his forty and eight maiden daughters, ere mid-day was upon them, a wedding of utmost speed—for he straightway set the whole company at the race-course end, and bade determine by a foot-race which maiden each hero should have, of all the suitors that had come.

Even on this wise gave the Libyan a bridegroom to his daughter, and joined the twain. At the line he set the damsel, having arrayed her splendidly, to be the goal and prize, and proclaimed in the midst that he should lead her thence to be his bride who, dashing to the front, should first touch the robes she wore.

Thereon Alexidamos, when that he had sped through the swift course, took by her hand the noble maiden, and led her through the troops of Nomad horsemen. Many the leaves and wreaths they showered on him; yea and of former days many plumes of victories had he won.

  1. A Thessalian maiden, from whom, according to this legend, the colony of Kyrene in Africa took its name.
  2. I.e. Libya, the continent which we now call Africa.
  3. I.e. by seizing the moment left to him before it should be too late to act. Thebes and Kyrene were connected by the fact that members of the Aigid family lived at both places.
  4. Nereus. Powers of divination and wisdom generally are often attributed to sea-deities.
  5. I. e. at Delphi or Pytho. As being the supposed centre of the Earth it was the place of the worship of the Earth-goddess.