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VIII.


FOR DEINIS OF AIGINA,


WINNER IN THE SHORT FOOT-RACE.




The date of this ode is unknown. It was probably sung before the shrine of Aiakos at Aigina.




Spirit of beautiful youth, thou herald of Aphrodite's loves ambrosial, who on the eyes of girl or boy alighting, with tenderly constraining hands dost handle one, but other otherwise—it is enough if one not swerving from the true aim, in his every act prevail to attain to the fulfilment of his worthier loves.

Such loves were they that waited on the bridal-bed of Zeus and Aigina, and were dispensers unto them of the Cyprian's[1] gifts: and thence sprang there a son[2] to be king of Oinone[3], in might of hand and in counsel excellent, and many a time did many pray that they might look on him: for the chosen among the heroes that dwelt around him were fain of their own will to submit them unto his sovereignty, both whoso in rocky Athens were leaders of the host, and at Sparta the children of Pelops.

So Aiakos' holy knees clasp I a suppliant for a city well-beloved and for these citizens, and I bear a Lydian crown wrought cunningly with the sound of song, a glory out of Nemea for two races run, of Deinis and of his father Meges.

Behold, the happiness that is planted with the favour of God is most abiding among men; even such as once in the isle of Cyprus loaded Kinyras with riches.

With poisëd feet I stand, and take breath for a little ere I speak. For much and in many ways hath been said ere now; and the contriving of new things and putting them to the touchstone to be tried is perilous altogether.

In words find the envious their dainties: envy fasteneth ever on the good, and careth not to strive against the base.

Yea thus did envy slay the son of Telamon, thrusting him through with his own sword. Verily if one be of stout heart but without gift of speech, such an one is a prey unto forgetfulness in a bitter strife, and to the shiftiness of lies is proffered the prize of the greatest. For in the secret giving of their votes the Danaoi courted Odysseus, and thus did Aias, robbed of the golden arms, wrestle in the grip of a bloody death.

Yet diverse verily were the strokes wherewith those twain had cloven the warm flesh of the foe, what time they bare up the war against the hedge of spears, whether about Achilles newly slain, or in whatsoever labours else of these wide-ruining days.

Thus was there even of old the treacherous speech of hate, that walketh with the subtleties of tales, intent on guile, slander that breedeth ill: so doth it violence on the thing that shineth, and uplifteth the rottenness of dim men's fame.

Never in me be this mind, O our father Zeus, but to the paths of simplicity let me cleave throughout my life, that being dead I may set upon my children a name that shall be of no ill report.

For gold some pray, and some for limitless lands: mine be it amid my townsfolk's love to shroud my limbs in earth, still honouring where honour is due, and sowing rebuke on the evildoers.

Thus groweth virtue greater, uplifted of the wise and just, as when a tree watered by fresh dew shooteth toward the moist air on high.

Manifold are the uses of friends, chiefest truly amid the press of toil, yet doth joy also desire to behold his own assurance.[4]

Ah Meges, to bring back thy spirit to earth is to me impossible, and of empty hopes the end is naught. Yet for thy house and the clan of Chariadai I can upraise a lofty column of song in honour of these two pairs of fortunate feet[5].

I have joy to utter praise meet for the act, for by such charms of song doth a man make even labour a painless thing. Yet surely was there a Komos-song even of old time, yea before strife began between Adrastos and the sons of Kadmos[6].




  1. Aphrodite.
  2. Aiakos.
  3. Aigina.
  4. Through celebration in song, which a friendly poet can give.
  5. Of Meges and Deinis.
  6. The invention of encomiastic hymns was attributed by legend to the time of the expedition of Adrastos and the other six against Thebes.