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XII.


FOR MIDAS OF AKRAGAS,


WINNER IN THE FLUTE-PLAYING MATCH.




This is an early ode: the victory was won either in 494 or 490. It was to be sung, it would seem, at Akragas, and very probably in a procession to the shrine of the tutelar divinity of the city, with an address to whom it seemingly begins, though it is difficult to say what degree of personification is intended.




I pray thee, lover of splendour, most beautiful among the cities of men, haunt of Persephone, thou who by the banks of Akragas' stream that nourisheth thy flocks, inhabitest a citadel builded pleasantly—O queen, graciously and with goodwill of gods and men welcome this crown that is come forth from Pytho for Midas' fair renown; and him too welcome therewithal who hath overcome all Hellas in the art which once on a time Pallas Athene devised, when she made music of the fierce Gorgon's death-lament.

That heard she pouring from the maiden heads and heads of serpents unapproachable amidst the anguish of their pains, when Perseus had stricken the third sister, and to the isle Seriphos and its folk bare thence their doom.

Yea also he struck with blindness the wondrous brood of Phorkos[1], and to Polydektes' bridal brought a grievous gift, and grievous eternally he made for that man his mother's slavery and ravished bed: for this he won the fair-faced Medusa's head, he who was the son of Danaë, and sprung, they say, from a living stream of gold.

But the Maiden[2], when that she had delivered her well-beloved from these toils, contrived the manifold music of the flute, that with such instrument she might repeat the shrill lament that reached her from Euryale's[3] ravening jaws.

A goddess was the deviser thereof, but having created it for a possession of mortal men, she named that air she played the many-headed[4] air, that speaketh gloriously of folk-stirring games, as it issueth through the thin-beat bronze and the reeds which grow by the Graces' city of goodly dancing-ground in the precinct of Kephisos' nymph, the dancers' faithful witnesses.

But if there be any bliss among mortal men, without labour it is not made manifest: it may be that God will accomplish it even to-day, yet the thing ordained is not avoidable: yea, there shall be a time that shall lay hold on a man unaware, and shall give him one thing beyond his hope, but another it shall bestow not yet.




  1. The three Grey Sisters, whose one common eye Perseus stole,

    δηναιαὶ κόραι
    τρεῖς κυκνόμορφοι κοινὸν ὄμμ᾽ ἐκτημέναι
    μονόδοντες, ἃς οὔθ᾽ ἥλιος προσδέρκεται
    ἀκτῖσιν, οὔθ᾽ ἡ νύκτερος μήνη ποτέ
    Aesch. Prom. 813.

    If they lived in the dark they might perhaps spare their eye, unless indeed it was like the eyes of owls, cats, &c.

  2. Athene.
  3. One of the Gorgons.
  4. A certain νόμος αὐλητικός was known by this name.