Pindar and Anacreon/Pindar/Isthmian Odes/2

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THE SECOND ISTHMIAN ODE.


TO XENOCRATES OF AGRIGENTUM, SON OF ARCESILAUS, VICTOR IN THE HORSE RACE.


ARGUMENT.

Pindar addresses this ode to Thrasybulus, son of the conqueror Xenocrates.—This he professes to do after the example of the old poets, who did not write, as was now done, urged by the sordid incitement of gain.—The triumphs of Xenocrates, his ancestor Ænesidamus, and his charioteer Nicomachus are sung, and Nicasippus is charged with the safe conveyance of this ode, sent in the form of an epistle.




Oft have the men of other days
From the gold-netted muses' car,
Oh Thrasybulus! hurl'd afar
The lyre's soft-sounding notes, to praise
Youth's ardent prime, that harbinger most sweet 5
Of Venus throned upon her lofty seat.
For then, not amorous of gain,
The muse sent forth no venal strain—
The honey'd lays not then, as now,
From sweet Terpsichore that flow, 10
Upon the shining front display'd
The silver emblem of their trade. 14


Now she suggests with heedful care
The Argive's words in mind to bear; [1]
Who with loud speech to truth allied, 15
Importunate for money cried,
Bereft of all his wealth and friends,
I sing to one who comprehends.
To him when on the Isthmian field
Neptune the triumph deign'd to yield, 20
And bound his coursers' flowing mane
With Doric parsley's verdant chain,
In his victorious chariot bright
He honour'd Agrigentum's light. 25


Him too, engaged in Crisa's fray, 25
Beheld the potent god of day,
And gave him glory there;
While old Erectheus' noble race
Adorn'd his brow with verdant grace
In Athens' city fair. 30
Nor would he blame the proud career
Of his steed-urging charioteer,
Nicomachus, whose hands control
The reins that guide him to the goal. 33


Him too supreme in conquering pow'r, 35
The heralds of th' Olympic hour,
Priests who to Jove libations bring,
(Elean and Saturnian king,)
Sharing the hospitable feast,
With gratulating voice address'd; 40
As he fell prostrate at the knee [2]
Of golden-imaged Victory.
Around their land, which they the grove
Designate of Olympian Jove; 41


There, with immortal honours crown'd, 45
Ænesidamus' offspring shone;
For in thy halls the revel's sound,
Oh Thrasybulus! oft is found,
And all the pomp's enlivening tone;
Since no steep hill, no rugged way 50
Rears its opposing front on high,
Where bards to noble mansions stray,
The honour'd guerdons to convey
Of Heliconian poesy.
Far must my venturous javelin move 55
Ere I could reach the height of fame,
Where soars Xenocrates above
The rest in nature as in name. 54


View'd by the citizens with awe,
He train'd his coursers by the Grecian law; 60
Frequenting at each solemn feast
The liberal tables of the bless'd.
Nor ever has the flagging gale
Straiten'd his hospitable sail,
That pass'd in summer hour to Phasis o'er, [3] 65
In winter veer'd to Nilus' southern shore. 62


Not now, when thoughts with envy blind,
Hang darkling o'er the mortal mind,
His father's valour let him hide,
Nor pass these hymns in silent pride; 70
Since, unrecited to remain,
I framed not the triumphant strain.
Such, Nicasippus, be thine errand home,
When thou to my familiar host art come. 69

 



  1. These words are attributed by the scholiast to Aristodemus the Lacedæmonian, whose constant doctrine it was that wealth was always to be sought, and that poverty could never be honourable. This saying afterward passed into a proverb, like Horace's

    "O cives, cives, quærenda pecunia primum,
    Virtus post nummos."

  2. We may imagine an image of Victory in a sitting posture to be placed at the extremity of the goal, into whose bosom, as it were, the victor would rush after having completed his course. (See Nem., v., 81, &c.)
  3. These lines are explained by the scholiast as a figurative description of the unbounded hospitality of Xenocrates, which afforded a shelter to guests of the most remote regions.