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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

First Pythian Ode

By Pindar (c. 522–433 B.C.)

Translation of Alphonso Gerald Newcomer

O GOLDEN lyre,

Apollo’s, dark-haired Muses’ joint heirloom,

Alert for whom

The dancer’s footstep listens, and the choir

Of singers wait the sound,

Beginning of the round

Of festal joy, whene’er thy quivering strings

Strike up a prelude to their carolings:

Thou slakest the lancèd bolt of quenchless fire;

Yea, drooped each wing that through the æther sweeps,

Upon his sceptre Zeus’s eagle sleeps,

The bird-king crowned!

The while thou sheddest o’er his beaked head bowed

A darkling cloud,

Sweet seal of the eyelids,—and in dreamful swound

His rippling back and sides

Heave with thy music’s tides;

Thou bidst impetuous Ares lay apart

His keen-edged spear, and soothe with sleep his heart;

Thou launchest at the breasts of gods, and bound

As by a spell, they own thy lulling power,

Latoides’s and the deep-zoned Muses’ dower.

But all the unloved of Zeus, far otherwise,

Hearing the voice of the Pierides,

Or on the earth or on the restless seas,

Flee panic-stricken. One in Tartaros lies,

Typhon, the gods’ great hundred-headed foe.

The famed Kilikian cavern cradled him;

But now the hill-crags, lo,

O’er Kymè, towering from their ocean-rim,

And Sicily press upon his shaggy breast;

Adds to the rest

The frost-crowned prop of heaven her weight of woe;

Aitna, the yearlong nurse of biting snow,

Whose founts of fire

Gush from her caves, most pure, untamable:

And all day well

The rivers, and the gleaming smoke-wreath’s spire;

And in the gloom of night—

A lurid-purple light—

The flame upheaves vast rocks, and with a roar

Whirls them far out upon the ocean-floor.

It is yon monster makes outpour these dire

Volcanic torrents: wondrous to behold,

A wonder e’en to hear by others told

How, pinionèd

’Neath dark-leaved heights of Aitna and the plain,

He writhes in pain,

His back all grided by his craggy bed.

Thine, thine the grace we implore,

O Zeus, that rulest o’er

This mountain, forehead of the fruitful land,

Over whose namesake city near at hand

Her illustrious founder hath a glory shed,

Her name proclaiming in the herald’s cries

What time his car at Pytho won the prize,

The car of Hieron. By sailors bound

On outward voyage is a favoring breeze

Held first of blessings, bearing prophecies

Of fair beginning with fair ending crowned.

Auspicious falls her fortune by that word,

For conquering steeds ordained to future fame,

And to an honored name

In many a song of festal joyance heard.

O Phoibos, Lykian and Delian king

That lovest the spring

Kastalian of Parnasos, hold this fast,

Make her a nurse of heroes to the last.

For lo, god-sprung

Are all the means to human high emprise:

Men are born wise,

And strong of hand and eloquent of tongue.

And fain to praise, I trust

I fling not as in joust

One whirls and hurls the bronze-cheeked javelin

Without the lists, yet, hurling far, to win

Over my rivals. Ah (the wish hath clung),

If Hieron’s days but wealth and bliss bestow

As now, and add forgetfulness of woe,—

How they would lead

Back crowding memories of battles old

Wherein, stern-souled,

He stood what time the gods gave them a meed

Of honor such as ne’er

Hath fallen to Hellene’s share,

Wealth’s lordly crown. Yea, late he went to war

Like Philoktetes, while one fawned before—

A proud-souled suitor for a friend in need.

Well known is the old story how men came

To bear from Lemnos a sore-wounded frame,

E’en godlike heroes Poias’s archer-son;

Who, sacking Priam’s city, brought to close

The Danaoi’s toils, himself still in the throes

Of body-sickness. But by fate ’twas done.

And such to Hieron be God’s decrees,

Granting in season, as the years creep by,

All things wherefor he sigh.

Nor, Muse, shalt thou forget Deinomenes,

Chanting the four-horsed chariot’s reward.

Hath he not shared

The triumph of his father? Up then, sing

A song out of our love to Aitna’s king.

Hieron bestowed

On him that city, built on freedom’s base

By the gods’ grace

After the canons of the Hyllid code.

Glad are Pamphylos’s seed,

And the Herakleidan breed

Beneath Taÿgetos, Dorians to remain

And keep the laws Aigimios did ordain,

Rich and renowned. Once Pindos their abode;

Amyklai then, where, the Tyndárids near

Of the white horses, flourished still their spear.

O Zeus supreme,

Such lot may human tongues fore’er award

In true accord,

Swayer and swayed by Amenanos’s stream.

Beneath thy blessing hand

A hero in command,

Transmitting through his son his wise decrees,

Shall lead a people on the paths of peace.

Keep hushed at home, I pray, the battle scream

Of the Phœnician and Tyrrhenian host

Whose insolent ships went down off Kyme’s coast:

Such fate they suffered at the conquering hands

Of Syracuse’s lord, who plunged the pride

Of their swift galleys in the whelming tide,

Rescuing Hellas from her grievous bands.

For Athens’s favor song of Salamis pleads,

In Sparta let me linger o’er the fight

Beneath Kithairon’s height,—

Disastrous both unto the crooked-bow Medes;

And where the Himeras rolls his flood along,

Bides theme for song

Of triumph in Deinomenes’s children’s praise,

Whose valorous deeds cut short their foemen’s days.

Time well thy rede.

Gather the many strands that loosely run,

And twist in one:

Less will the noise of censuring tongues succeed.

Once surfeit slips between,

Dulled are hope’s edges keen.

And much do words in others’ praise oppress

The souls of men in secret. Ne’ertheless,

Since envy better is than pity, speed

On thy fair course; be helmsman just among

Thy people; on truth’s anvil forge thy tongue.

The slightest spark

Thy stroke sends glimmering past falls lustrous now:

High steward thou;

And many eyes thine every action mark.

But in thy spirit’s flower

Biding from hour to hour,

If honeyed speech of men may gladden thee,

Count not the cost. Let thy sail belly free

Unto the wind, as master of a bark.

No juggling gains allure thee, O my friend!

The voice of fame, that outlives this life’s end,

Alone reveals the lives of men that pass,

To song and story. Kroisos’s kindly heart

Dies not; but Phalaris, that with cruel art

Burned men alive inside the bull of brass,

A hated bruit weighs down. Nor will the lyres,

Filling the vaulted halls with unison

Of sweet strains, make him one

Among names warbled in the young men’s choirs.

Prosperity is first of fortune’s meeds;

Glory succeeds.

Who hath won both and kept, wealth and renown

He hath attained unto the supreme crown.