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III.


FOR ARISTOKLEIDES OF AIGINA,


WINNER IN THE PANKRATION.




The date of the victory is unknown: the ode seems to have been written long afterwards, probably for some anniversary celebration of the event.




O divine Muse, our mother, I pray thee come unto this Dorian isle Aigina stranger-thronged, for the sacred festival of the Nemean games[1]: for by the waters of Asopos[2] young men await thee, skilled to sing sweet songs of triumph, and desiring to hear thy call.

For various recompense are various acts athirst; but victory in the games above all loveth song, of crowns and valiant deeds the fittest follower. Thereof grant us large store for our skill, and to the king of heaven with its thronging clouds do thou who art his daughter begin a noble lay; and I will marry the same to the voices of singers and to the lyre.

A pleasant labour shall be mine in glorifying this land where of old the Myrmidons dwelt, whose ancient meeting-place Aristokleides through thy favour hath not sullied with reproach by any softness in the forceful strife of the pankration; but a healing remedy of wearying blows he hath won at least in this fair victory in the deep-lying plain of Nemea.

Now if this son of Aristophanes, being fair of form and achieving deeds as fair, hath thus attained unto the height of manly excellence, no further is it possible for him to sail untraversed sea beyond the pillars of Herakles, which the hero-god set to be wide-famed witnesses of the end of voyaging: for he had overcome enormous wild-beasts on the seas, and tracked the streams through marshes to where he came to the goal that turned him to go back homeward, and there did he mark out the ends of the earth.

But to what headland of a strange shore, O my soul, art thou carrying aside the course of my ship? To Aiakos and to his race I charge thee bring the Muse. Herein is perfect justice, to speak the praise of good men: neither are desires for things alien the best for men to cherish: search first at home: a fitting glory for thy sweet song hast thou gotten there in deeds of ancient valour.

Glad was King Peleus when he cut him his gigantic spear, he who took Iolkos by his single arm without help of any host, he who held firm in the struggle Thetis the daughter of the sea.

Also the city of Laomedon did mighty Telamon sack, when he fought with Iolaos by his side, and again to the war of the Amazons with brazen bows he followed him; neither at any time did man-subduing terror abate the vigour of his soul.

By inborn worth doth one prevail mightily; but whoso hath but precepts is a vain man and is fain now for this thing and now again for that, but a sure step planteth he not at any time, but handleth countless enterprises with a purpose that achieveth naught.

Now Achilles of the yellow hair, while he dwelt in the house of Philyra[3], being yet a child made mighty deeds his play; and brandishing many a time his little javelin in his hands, swift as the wind he dealt death to wild lions in the fight, and boars he slew also and dragged their heaving bodies to the Kentaur, son of Kronos, a six years' child when he began, and thenceforward continually. And Artemis marvelled at him, and brave Athene, when he slew deer without dogs or device of nets; for by fleetness of foot he overcame them.

This story also of the men of old have I heard: how within his cavern of stone did deep-counselled Cheiron rear Jason, and next Asklepios, whom he taught to apportion healing drugs with gentle hand: after this it was that he saw the espousals of Nereus' daughter of the shining wrists, and fondling nursed her son, strongest of men, rearing his soul in a life of harmony; until by blowing of sea winds wafted to Troy he should await the war-cry of the Lykians and of the Phrygians and of the Dardanians, cried to the clashing of spears; and joining in battle with the lancer Ethiops hand to hand should fix this purpose in his soul, that their chieftain Memnon, Helenos' fiery cousin, should go back again to his home no more.

Thenceforward burneth ever a far-shining light for the house of Aiakos; for thine O Zeus is their blood, even as thine also are the games whereat my song is aimed, by the voice of the young men of the land proclaiming aloud her joy. For victorious Aristokleides hath well earned a cheer, in that he hath brought new renown to this island, and to the Theoroi[4] of the Pythian god, by striving for glory in the games.

By trial is the issue manifest, wherein may one be more excellent than his fellows, whether among boys a boy, or among men a man, or in the third age among elders, according to the nature of our mortal race. Four virtues doth a long life bring, and biddeth one fit his thought to the things about him[5]. From such virtues this man is not far.

Friend, fare thee well: I send to thee this honey mingled with white milk, and the dew of the mixing hangeth round about it, to be a drink of minstrelsy distilled in breathings of Aiolian flutes; albeit it come full late.

Swift is the eagle among the birds of the air, who seizeth presently with his feet his speckled prey[6], seeking it from afar off; but in low places dwell the chattering daws. To thee at least, by the will of thronëd Kleio, for sake of thy zeal in the games, from Nemea and from Epidauros and from Megara hath a great light shined.




  1. I.e. commemorating the Nemean games and the victories obtained by citizens of Aigina there.
  2. There seems to have been a stream of this name in Aigina, as well as in Boeotia.
  3. Cheiron's mother.
  4. Sent from Aigina to Apollo's temple at Delphi.
  5. This is very obscure: Böckh said that the longer he considered it the more obscure it became to him. Donaldson 'is inclined to think that Pindar is speaking with reference to the Pythagorean division of virtue into four species, and that he assigns one virtue to each of the four ages of human life (on the same principle as that which Shakespeare has followed in his description of the seven ages) namely temperance as the virtue of youth, courage of early manhood, justice of mature age, and prudence of old age.'
  6. Snakes.