Pindar and Anacreon/Pindar/Nemean Odes/4

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In this ode the sweetness and soothing effects of encomiastic poetry are beautifully described.—It is dedicated by the poet to the praise of the victor, his native island, and to the memory of his father, Timocritus.—Then follows a digression to the heroes of Ægina—Telamon, Alcyoneus, and especially Hercules.—Here he recalls his wandering muse, from fear of being reprehended by envious tongues, and indulges himself in anticipations of future excellence which shall be matured by time.—Nevertheless he returns to his digression, and describes the extent of dominion possessed by other heroes of Ægina.—Teucer, Ajax, Achilles, Neoptolemus, and Peleus.—Recalls a second time his digressing strain, which he expresses metaphorically by bringing back his vessel from the darkness of Gades to the continent of Europe; since to relate the whole story of the Æacidæ were a fruitless endeavour.—He therefore enters on the praises of the tribe of Theandridæ, to which the victor belonged; of his maternal uncle Callicles; his grandfather Euphanes; and his alipta, or preceptor, Melesias, with whom he concludes the ode.

Hilarity, thou sovereign balm
And remedy of labours o'er,
Whose pain by arts untried before
The muses' vocal daughters calm—
What time they wake the lyric string, 5
Not such delight the tepid wave
Can to the soften'd members bring,
As praise, the meed of efforts have,
Which poets to the harp symphonious sing—
Beyond events of transient worth 10
Long their recorded acts shall live—
Drawn from the mind's deep treasures forth,
Such as the favouring Graces give. 13


Oh! may it be my happy fate
To Nemea and Saturnian Jove 15
Where wrestling Timasarchus strove,
The prelude hymn to consecrate.
May Æacus' well-guarded seat
With candid mind this tribute greet,
Where Justice rears her sheltering arm 20
Of power to save each guest from harm.
Were still Timocritus thy sire
Warm'd by the genial solar ray,
Intent upon the varied lyre
He oft had framed the victor's lay, 25
That should his numerous wreaths proclaim
Won in the Cleonæan game,
In Athens, rich with fair renown,
And the seven-portall'd Theban town. 31

When near Amphitryo's splendid tomb 30
For him with no unwilling hand
Their chaplets the Cadmæan band
Gave for Ægina's sake to bloom;
As to his kindred city's walls
With hasty steps the hero went, 35
Seeking the bless'd Herculean halls,
On amicable purpose bent. 39

With him to aid, in days of yore
Troy the bold Telamon o'erthrew,
Invaded Merops' Coan shore, 40
And the stupendous warrior slew
Alcyoneus—but first he broke
With a huge stone's vindictive stroke
Twelve chariots by four coursers whirl'd,
And heroes to destruction hurl'd 45
Who tamed the steed and urged the car
Of twice that number to the war.
Unskill'd in fight must he appear
To whom the moral is not clear;
Since he that can in aught prevail 50
Must in his turn expect to fail. 52

But the strict law that rules my song
And hours which urge their course along,
This thought prohibit, and restrain
Within just bounds the wandering strain. 55
Though fond desire my heart impel
Such tales at the new moon to tell;
Thee though the deep sea wave convey
Adventurous on thy middle way;
Yet, mind, resist the snare; 60
Then far superior shall we rise
To all our slandering enemies,
And walk in splendour fair;
While they of envious eye and soul
On earth their empty purpose roll. 66 65

To me what energetic power
Fate gave me in my natal hour,
Full well I know advancing time
Shall ripen to its destined prime.
Then haste, sweet lyre, the lay to weave 70
With Lydian melody combined,
Such as Œnone shall receive,
And Cyprus with enraptured mind;
Where, banish'd from his own domains,
The Telamonian Teucer reigns. 75
But Ajax his paternal soil
Yet holds—the Salaminian isle. 78

Achilles rules the shining land [1]
Whose splendour gems the Euxine deep.
Phthia owns Thetis' high command: 80
While each sublime and beaked steep
That rises eminently o'er
Epirus' wide-extended shore,
And from Dodona lifts the brow
To where the Ionian waters flow, 85
Giving in numerous herds to graze,
Young Neoptolemus obeys.
Iolcos, fair Thessalian town,
Which Pelion's woody summits crown,
Attack'd by hostile hand, a slave 90
Peleus to his Hæmonians gave. 91

He whom Acastus' crafty dame,
Hippolyta, by guile o'ercame;
While Pelias' son's Dædalian blade [2]
For him the fatal ambush laid. 95
But Chiron far the peril drove,
Fulfilling the decrees of Jove. 100

He the dread fire's all-potent might,
The terrors of the sharpened claws
And teeth that arm the direful jaws 100
Of lions raging for the fight,
Subdued, and to his humbler bed
A lofty-throned Nereid led.
His eye beheld th' assembled train
Who rule in heaven and in the main, 105
Seated on high, and bless his race
With the rich gifts of power and grace. 111

To Gades none can urge his sail, [3]
Which clouds and western darkness veil.
Approaching that most distant strand, 110
Return the bark to Europe's land;
For never can my tongue avail
To sing, Æacidæ, your lengthen'd tale.
But faithful to my compact, I
Hither a ready herald came, 115
To celebrate those triumphs high
In sports that knit the hardy frame;
Which Isthmus and Olympia's field
To the Theandridæ with Nemea's yield. 117

There having made a first essay, 120
Homeward again they bend their way,
But not without the frequent crown
That bears the fruit of high renown.
Thy tribe on thee we hear in solemn state
With songs of triumph, Timasarchus, wait. 129 125

If whiter than the Parian stone
A monument thou bid me raise
To Callicles thine uncle's praise—
As fires that sparkling gold refine
Give all its purest beams to shine— 130
So shall the hymn's triumphant tone
The hero's glorious deeds that sings
Exalt him to the rank of kings.
Though now by Acheron he dwell,
Yet shall my tongue his conquests tell; 135
When Corinth round the victor's brow
In thund'ring Neptune's game her parsley bade to glow. 142

He by thy willing grandsire's tongue,
Old Euphanes, has erst been sung,
Coevals, youth, in other days; 140
For best, as in heroic deeds,
By Fortune aided, each succeeds,
Each his bright eloquence displays;
As he Melesias who commends
At once the doubtful strife suspends: 145
Weaving the melodies of song,
Unconquer'd in the wrestler's toil,
Mild to the good and friendly throng,
But rough his enemies to foil. 156


  1. I. e., the island Leuce, or white, so named from the abundance of herons with which it appears to glitter from afar. The poets describe it as an Elysium where the souls of deceased heroes enjoy perpetual repose. In the celebrated scholion of Callistratus, (εν μυρτω κλαδι, &c.,) Harmodius is addressed as dwelling in the islands of happy spirits with Diomed and the swift-footed Achilles.
  2. The obscurity of this passage has greatly embarrassed the commentators. By the sword of Dædalus the scholiast simply understands a fraudulent design, sharpened for the destruction of its victim. The poet must be understood to institute a comparison between the craft of Acastus and that of Dædalus, who slew Minos by pouring on him a stream of boiling water with the co-operation of the daughters of Cocalus, king of Sicily. In like manner Peleus was subdued by stratagem, and his country Magnesia made subject to the Thessalians, through the treacherous instrumentality of Cretheis, daughter of Hippolytus, and wife to Acastus. The following lines allude to the various shapes of fire, lion, &c., into which Thetis is said to have transformed herself, with the vain hope of avoiding the matrimonial affinity of Peleus. Pindar relates the story again in Nem., v., 53, et seq., more at large and with greater clearness.
  3. Sudorius thus paraphrases the original expression, which is very peculiar:—

    "Sufficit nautas penitus remotas
    Visere Gades,
    Cæca nox ultra est, tenebræque densæ—
    Quas licet nuilis penetrare remis."