FOR HIPPOKLEAS OF THESSALY,
WINNER IN THE TWO-STADION FOOT-RACE OF BOYS.
The only reason we know for the digression about Perseus which occupies great part of this ode seems to be that Thorax, who engaged Pindar to write it for Hippokleas, and perhaps Hippokleas himself, belonged to the family of the Aleuadai, who were descended through Herakles from Perseus.
This ode is the earliest entire poem of Pindar's which survives. He wrote it when he was twenty years old. The simplicity of the style and manner of composition are significant of this. But there can scarcely be said to be traces here of Pindar's early tendency in dealing with mythological allusions to 'sow not with the hand but with the whole sack,' which Korinna advised him to correct, and which is conspicuous in a fragment remaining to us of one of his Hymns.
Happy is Lakedaimon, blessed is Thessaly: in both there reigneth a race sprung from one sire, from Herakles bravest in the fight. What vaunt is this unseasonable? Nay, now, but Pytho calleth me, and Pelinnaion and the sons of Aleuas who would fain lead forth the loud voices of a choir of men in honour of Hippokleas.
For now hath he tasted the joy of games, and to the host of the dwellers round about hath the valley beneath Parnassos proclaimed him best among the boys who ran the double race.
O Apollo sweet is the end when men attain thereto, and the beginning availeth more when it is speeded of a god. Surely of thy devising were his deeds: and this his inborn valour hath trodden in the footsteps of his father twice victor at Olympia in panoply of war-affronting arms: moreover the games in the deep meadow beneath Kirrha's cliff gave victory to the fleet feet of Phrikias.
May good luck follow them, so that even in after days the splendour of their wealth shall bloom. Of the pleasant things of Hellas they have no scanty portion to their lot; may they happen on no envious repentings of the gods. A god's heart, it may be, is painless ever; but happy and a theme of poet's song is that man who for his valiance of hands or feet the chiefest prizes hath by strength and courage won, and in his life-time seen his young son by good hap attaining to the Pythian crown. Never indeed shall he climb the brazen heaven, but whatsoever splendours we of mortal race may reach, through such he hath free course even to the utmost harbourage. But neither by taking ship, neither by any travel on foot, to the Hyperborean folk shalt thou find the wondrous way.
Yet of old the chieftain Perseus entered into their houses and feasted among them, when that he had lighted on them as they were sacrificing ample hecatombs of asses to their god. For ever in their feasts and hymns hath Apollo especial joy, and laugheth to see the braying ramp of the strange beasts. Nor is the Muse a stranger to their lives, but everywhere are stirring to and fro dances of maidens and shrill noise of pipes: and binding golden bay-leaves in their hair they make them merry cheer. Nor pestilence nor wasting eld approach that hallowed race: they toil not neither do they fight, and dwell unharmed of cruel Nemesis.
In the eagerness of his valiant heart went of old the son of Danaë, for that Athene led him on his way, unto the company of that blessed folk. Also he slew the Gorgon and bare home her head with serpent tresses decked, to the island folk a stony death. I ween there is no marvel impossible if gods have wrought thereto.
Let go the oar, and quickly drive into the earth an anchor from the prow, to save us from the rocky reef, for the glory of my song of praise flitteth like a honey-bee from tale to tale.
I have hope that when the folk of Ephyra pour forth my sweet strains by Peneus' side, yet more glorious shall I make their Hippokleas for his crowns and by my songs among his fellows and his elders, and I will make him possess the minds of the young maidens.
For various longings stir secretly the minds of various men; yet each if he attain to the thing he striveth for will hold his eager desire for the time present to him, but what a year shall bring forth, none shall foreknow by any sign.
My trust is in the kindly courtesy of my host Thorax, of him who to speed my fortune hath yoked this four-horse car of the Pierides, as friend for friend, and willing guide for guide.
As gold to him that trieth it by a touch-stone, so is a true soul known.
His noble brethren also will we praise, for that they exalt and make great the Thessalians' commonwealth. For in the hands of good men lieth the good piloting of the cities wherein their fathers ruled.
- Hippokleas' birth-place.
- Down the stadion (220 yards) and back.
- I. e. in the race run in full armour, like that at Pytho which Telesikrates of Kyrene won, celebrated in the fore-going ode.
- Probably a horse with which Hippokleas' father won a race at Pytho.