Pindar and Anacreon/Pindar/Nemean Odes/7

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THE SEVENTH NEMEAN ODE.


TO SOGENES OF ÆGINA, VICTOR WHEN A BOY IN THE PENTATHLIC GAMES.


ARGUMENT.

This ode opens with an address to Eilithyia, the goddess who presided at parturition, declaring that Sogenes, the son of Thearion, was at his birth gifted with so robust a frame as should enable him while yet a boy to conquer in the pentathlum.—The muses, by celebrating in song the glorious actions of heroes, confer on them a celebrity more than commensurate with their importance; nor would Ulysses have acquired such fame but for the praises of Homer.—To them is owing the renown of Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, one of the heroes of Ægina, to whose history the poet digresses.—Then checking himself, from the fear of exciting satiety in his hearers, he returns to Ægina, Thearion, and the victor Sogenes; invoking the continued favour of Jupiter, to whom the Nemean games were sacred, of Æacus, and especially of Hercules, whom he entreats to become an intercessor with Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, that they may grant their protection to the conqueror and to his latest posterity.—Concludes with declaring his intention not to insult the memory of Neoptolemus by renewing the story of his death; but deprecates repeated apologies to his adversaries.




Oh thou, to whom a seat is given
The deep-revolving Parcæ near,
Child of the potent queen of heav'n,
Prolific Eilithyia, hear! [1]
Without thine aid we ne'er should claim 5
In the clear day or sable night
To gaze upon the genial light,
And view thy sister Hebe's hardy frame.
Not subject ail to equal law,
The vital energy we draw. 10
But thou, as different fates prevail,
Urgest our ever-varying scale.
With thee his valiant arm to bless,
Young Sogenes, Theario's son,
Shines in renown and high success 15
Mid those who the pentatlilic wreath have won. 12


He in th' Æacidæ's fair city dwells,
Who shake the spear, and rouse with kindred flame
The sons to emulate their fathers' fame,
Where the song oft the pomp of triumph swells. 20
On him, whom fortune's smiles befriend,
The muses' honey'd streams descend;
While o'er the deeds that want their tale
Darkness extends her dusky veil.
We in what polish'd mirror know 25
Illustrious deeds reflected glow,
If with resplendent fillet bound
Mnemosyne permit to share
That sweet reward of toil and care,
The epic lay's illustrious sound. 30
Three days ere yet the tempest rise [2]
The skilful mariner descries.
Both rich and poor one common doom
Calls undistinguish'd to the tomb.
If right I deem, one ampler fame 35
Exalts the great Ulysses' name,
From Homer's sweet poetic song,
Than to his deeds could e'er belong. 31


Since genius' bright and airy vein
Hallows the fictions of his strain; 40
And wisdom in sweet fable dress'd
With potent charm allures the breast.
Meanwhile the crowd in error stray,
Darkness still brooding o'er their way;
For had their mind the truth perceived, 45
Brave Ajax, mad with anger's smart,
When of the arms by them bereaved,
Ne'er with smooth sword had pierced his heart.
Him, rivalling Achilles' might,
Chief of the Grecian host, in fight, 50
For bright-hair'd Menelaus' bride,
Propitious-breathing zephyrs bore
To Ilus' walls on Phrygia's shore,
In ships that swiftly plough'd the tide. 44


Gulf'd by the same infernal wave, 55
The bright and lowly seek the grave.
Yet heroes live beyond the tomb—
Whene'er the muse augments their fame.
To earth's deep-bosom'd centre came,
Soon as he wrought Troy's final doom, 60
Young Pyrrhus, with the Greeks to aid,
And in the Pythian plain was laid.
Destined to see his purpose fail,
From Scyros when he urged his sail;
Till wandering o'er the watery way, 65
To Ephyre the warriors stray. 55

 

Short time he in Molossia reign'd
Whose sceptre still his race retain'd;
And bearing from the conquer'd soil
The first fruits of the Trojan spoil, 70
Approach'd the god—but fell in deadly strife, [3]
Himself a victim to the hostile knife. 62


The Delphians mourn'd with heavy wo;
But fate in vengeance urged the blow,
By whose decree a king should come 75
Of Æacus' high line, to rest
Within the grove's time-hallow'd breast,
Near Phœbus' wall-encircled dome;
Where his presiding eye might still survey
Chiefs with heroic pomp the sacrifice display. 80


Three potent reasons will avail
To justify the murderous tale.
No fraudful witness he who claims
Dominion o'er the sacred games.
The race that springs from thee and Jove 85
Will by their virtues' shining beam,
Ægina, my bold speech approve,
And hallow the domestic theme. 76


But sweet the moment of repose
That brings each labour to its close; 90
Since e'en excess of honey cloys,
And flow'r of Aphrodisian joys.
By nature various lots are thrown,
But perfect happiness to none.
Nor can I tell whose prosperous state 95
On constant height is raised by fate:
That, bless'd Thearion, gives to thee
Due portion of felicity. 87


Since prudence ne'er deserts thy mind,
With glorious hardihood combined, 100
May I, a stranger, still be pure
From reprehension's tale obscure!
As rills convey'd into the field
Their fructifying moisture yield,
So I with just and liberal praise 105
The friendly hero's name will raise.
Such is the guerdon of the brave. 93


Nor let a Greek attack my name,
Approaching near, with voice of blame,
Who dwells beyond th' Ionian wave. 95 110


Trusting their hospitable love,
Among the townsmen's social throng
With look serene and bright I move,
And foot estranged from force or wrong.
Advancing time new bliss convey! 115
And let the man who knows me say
If to the strain my tongue impart
The slanders of a rancorous heart. 102


Oh Sogenes! who from the tribe art sprung
Of brave Euxenidæ, (I swear 120
That like the brass-tipp'd javelin, ne'er
I sent beyond the mark my rapid tongue,)
Who carriedst from the wrestler's toil
A sinewy neck and corporal might
Which labour's dew could never soil, 125
Nor sun oppress with noonday light.
And though full arduous were the deed,
More sweet succeeding triumph's meed,
Permit me for the victor's sake
A strain of louder note to wake. 130
No churlish bard sings thy renown.
'Twere easy for the victor's brow
To twine a leafy wreath—but thou
Expect the muse's golden crown;
Who plucks the flower of ivory hue, 135
And coral steep'd in ocean dew. [4] 117


But, tranquil mind, a bolder lay
Must hymn great Jove and Nemea's fray;
Since on this soil the heavenly king
'Tis fit with voice divine to sing; 140
For, Hercules, thy brother guest, [5]
Whose mild sway rules my country bless'd,
From him and the maternal seed
By fame is stated to proceed, 127


If man to man assistance lend, 145
What joy so grateful shall we find
As that of neighbour and of friend
Who loves us with a constant mind?
And if the gods are prone to feel
The same desire for others' weal, 150
Near thee, who couldst the giants quell,
Securely Sogenes might dwell,
Tending his sire with pious care
In his forefathers' city fair. 136


For as the doubly yoked steed 155
Urges the rapid chariot's speed,
On either hand thy neighb'ring dome,
Alcides, guards his humbler home.
'Tis thine, bless'd hero, to persuade
Jove, Juno, and the blue-eyed maid. 160
Thou oft in troubles canst impart
Strength to the fainting mortal heart.
Oh! may their lives thy care engage
In shining youth and hoary age,
That present honour and more bright success 165
Henceforth his children's children may possess!


Never my tongue with bitter sound
Brave Neoptolemus shall wound. [6]
But to repeat this thrice-told truth
Can want of language only prove; 170
As babbling sires instruct their youth,
"Corinthus was the son of Jove." 155

 



  1. The precise object of Pindar in this opening address to the goddess of parturition has been variously explained by different ancient commentators. It has been suggested by some, with a great appearance of probability, that Thearion, the father of Sogenes, was in the habit of sacrificing to Eilithyia, to whom a temple was erected near his residence. Callimachus (hymn, ad Del. 257) speaks of a lay peculiar to this divinity:—

    ειπαν Ελειθυιης ἱερον μελος.

    The reciting of which is noticed by Madame Dacier as a very unusual circumstance, but is not commented on by Spanheim. In the Iliad, (xi., 348,) the Eilithyia are mentioned in the plural, as daughters of Juno Lucino, in which passage Pope takes no inconsiderable liberty both with the quality and orthography of this venerable sisterhood, by calling them the fierce Ilythiæ.

  2. Pliny in his Natural History (lib. iii.) relates that the inhabitants of the island of Lipara can foretel from the course of the smoke which ascends from it what will be the direction of the wind three days afterward. It is probable that Pindar here alludes to some such tradition.
  3. According to the scholiast, it is related of Neoptolemus that while sacrificing at Delphi, and endeavouring to prevent the people from snatching away the offerings, according to their custom, he was slain by them in a tumult of indignation. Virgil (Æn., iii., 330) relates that Neoptolemus was slain by Orestes, in revenge for the loss of his kingdom and affianced bride Hermione.
  4. For as the brightness and warmth of the sun bring the vegetable coral to its matured state of hardness, so does the muse bestow on the victor his best reward in her perfect strain of encomiastic melody.
  5. Æacus was the son of Jove and the nymph Ægina, and brother to Hercules.
  6. Pindar's reverence for Neoptolemus was strengthened by the constant sight of the altar raised at Delphi to that hero, near to which was placed the seat whence the poet chanted his hymns in honour of Apollo.