Pindar and Anacreon/Pindar/Nemean Odes/1

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THE FIRST NEMEAN ODE.


TO CHROMIUS, THE ÆTNÆAN, ON HIS VICTORY IN THE CHARIOT RACE.[1]


ARGUMENT.

The poet begins this ode with an address to Ortygia, an island in the bay of Syracuse, which anciently formed one of the four quarters of that city: with this he connects the praises of the victor, and the celebration of his virtues, particularly his hospitality.—He then digresses to the story of Hercules, from his birth to his apotheosis and marriage with Hebe, with which he concludes the ode.




From noble Syracuse, Ortygia, sprung,
Where breathes again Alpheus' long-lost head,
Sister of Delos, Dian's natal bed,
From thee the sweet-toned hymn is sung,
To praise the steeds whose feet like tempests move,
By favour of Ætnæan Jove.6
Me Chromius' car excites on Nemea's plain
With his proud deeds to join th' encomiastic strain.

 

From the great gods to man arise
The springs of valorous enterprise.10
Success affords the brightest meed
Of every great and glorious deed:
Such contests as on lyric string
The mindful muse delights to sing.
Now to the isle some tribute raise,15
Which Jove, Olympus' sovereign lord,
Pledged with a nod his sacred word
(When to Persephone's command
Was given Sicilia's fertile land)
To gild with wealthy cities' towering praise. 20


To her, besides, Saturnius gave21
A people arm'd, equestrian, brave;
And oft encircled with th' Olympic crown.
The olive wreath that victory weaves
Resplendent with its golden leaves,25
Full many a time I've aim'd, nor e'er at random thrown.
Now at the hospitable gate
Chanting the hero's deeds I wait,
Where for his poet spread, the feast
Adorns the hall that never wants a guest. 3430


As water drowns th' opposing flame,[2]
So shall thy virtues' constant ray
Chase the calumnious mists away
That vainly would obscure thy fame.
Mankind by various arts ascend35
The paths to eminence that tend—
In action, manly strength is shown;
In counsel, the reflecting mind;
To whose sagacious foresight known,
Lies the dark future unconfined.40
Son of Agesidamus! thee
To crown both might and skill agree.
A hidden and superfluous store
Of wealth I wish not to possess;
But while they sing my praises o'er,45
With ready hand my friends to bless; 47


Since men to arduous deeds who soar
Hope the same glory and success.
When valour's lofty arts are sung,
Alcides prompts my willing tongue,50
Rehearsing ancient fame.
The hero whom in radiance bright
Maternal throes sent forth to light,
With his twin brother came.
Him Juno on her golden throne survey'd,55
In swaddling clothes of saffron hue array'd. 58


Then quickly raging at the view,
The gods' bright queen her dragons sent;
And they, the open portals through,
Deep in the spacious chamber went;60
Eager the infants to compress
Within their rapid jaws' caress.
But he, with head in proud array
Stretch'd forth, began the deadly fray;
Daring the double snake to clasp65
In his inevitable grasp;
And soon compress'd, the spirit flies
Their members of gigantic size.
Struck with intolerable dread,
The women trembled round Alcmena's bed:70
While she with naked foot arose,
Prompt to repel the rage of her tremendous foes. 76


The chiefs of the Cadmæan band
In brazen arms tumultuous went,
And bold Amphitryon in his hand75
Quick vibrating the unsheath'd brand,
Thither his sorrowing footsteps bent.
Since with an equal weight on all
Calamities domestic fall,
How soon soe'er from foreign grief80
The heart uninjured finds relief. 84


By admiration's power subdued,
Though mingled with concern, he stood;
When his son's fearless pride he saw,
Exceeding moderation's law.85
But as declared the immortal train,
The messenger's report was vain.
Then, straight he call'd Tiresias near,
Jove's truest, most illustrious seer;
Who to the chief of all the host90
Show'd by what adverse fortunes cross'd,
How many ravening monsters slain
By land or on the trackless main;
And him that with unhallow'd pride [3]
Should turn from virtue's path aside,95
Alcides by a hateful doom,
He said, should hurry to the tomb. 99


And when the gods on Phlegra's plain
Wage combat with the giant train,
These monsters of terrestrial birth100
Would soil their splendid locks with earth;
While he, his mighty labours past,
Quiet and peace should gain at last;
Enjoying in the mansions bless'd
A long eternity of rest;105
Receiving to his godlike side
Hebe, his ever-blooming bride;
And seated near Saturnian Jove,
The nuptials o'er, his dome approve. 112

 



  1. Chromius, whose victory is here celebrated, was the son of Agesidamus, and married a sister of Gelon. Virgil appears to have imitated this passage, where he describes the situation of Ortygia and the reappearance of Alpheus after his subterranean wanderings at the mouth of the fountain Arethusa, hence called by Pindar αμπνευμα σεμνον Αλφεου, which Cowley translates inaccurately, the first breathing place.

    "Sicanio prætenta sinu jacet insula contra
    Plemmyrium undosum; nomen dixere priores
    Ortygiam. Alpheum fama est huc Elidis amnem
    Occultas egisse vias subter mare; qui nunc
    Ore, Arethusa, tuo Siculis confunditur undis."
    Æn., iii., 692.

    Ortygia is called the sister of Delos, as having originally been known by the same appellation.

  2. This passage is rather obscure, although it appears to me that the general sense of it can be only that which is given in the translation. Λελογχε, placed absolutely, must denote the natural property which water possesses of extinguishing fire.
  3. Antæus or Busiris, who for their arrogance and violent disposition were both punished with death by Hercules.