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III.


FOR HIERON OF SYRACUSE,


WINNER IN THE HORSE-RACE.




The dates both of the victory and of the ode are uncertain. But as Pherenikos, the horse that won this race at Pytho, is the same that won at Olympia B.C. 472, in honour of which event the First Olympian was written, the victory cannot have been very long before that date, though the language of the ode implies that it was written a good deal later, probably for an anniversary of the victory. It must at least have been written before Hieron's death in 467. It is much occupied with his illness.




Fain were I (if meet it be to utter from my mouth the prayer conceived of all) that Cheiron the son of Philyra were alive and had not perished among men, even the wide-ruling seed of Kronos the son of Ouranos; and that there still lorded it in Pelion's glens that Beast untamed, whose soul was loving unto men, even such as when of old he trained the gentle deviser of limb-saving anodynes, Asklepios, the hero that was a defence against all kind of bodily plague.

Of him was the daughter[1] of Phlegyas of goodly steeds not yet delivered by Eileithuia aid of mothers, ere by the golden bow she was slain at the hands of Artemis, and from her child-bed chamber went down into the house of Hades, by contriving of Apollo. Not idle is the wrath of sons of Zeus.

She in the folly of her heart had set Apollo at nought, and taken another spouse without knowledge of her sire, albeit ere then she had lain with Phoibos of the unshorn hair, and bare within her the seed of a very god.

Neither awaited she the marriage-tables nor the sound of many voices in hymeneal song, such as the bride's girl-mates are wont to sing at eventide with merry minstrelsy: but lo, she had longing for things otherwhere, even as many before and after. For a tribe there is most foolish among men, of such as scorn the things of home, and gaze on things that are afar off, and chase a cheating prey with hopes that shall never be fulfilled.

Of such sort was the frenzied strong desire fair-robed Koronis harboured in her heart, for she lay in the couch of a stranger that was come from Arcady.

But one that watched beheld her: for albeit he was at sheep-gathering Pytho, yet was the temple's king Loxias aware thereof, beside his unerring partner[2], for he gave heed to his own wisdom, his mind that knoweth all things; in lies it hath no part, neither in act or thought may god or man deceive him.

Therefore when he was aware of how she lay with the stranger Ischys son of Elatos, and of her guile unrighteous, he sent his sister fierce with terrible wrath to go to Lakereia—for by the steep shores of the Boibian lake was the home of her virginity—and thus a doom adverse blasted her life and smote her down: and of her neighbours many fared ill therefore and perished with her: so doth a fire that from one spark has leapt upon a mountain lay waste wide space of wood.

But when her kinsfolk had laid the damsel upon the pile of wood, and fierce brightness of Hephaistos ran around it, then said Apollo: 'Not any longer may I endure in my soul to slay mine own seed by a most cruel death in company with its mother's grievous fate.'

He said, and at the first stride he was there, and from the corpse caught up the child, and the blaze of the burning fiery pile was cloven before him asunder in the midst.

Then to the Kentaur of Magnes he bare the child, that he should teach him to be a healer of the many-plaguing maladies of men. And thus all that came unto him whether plagued with self-grown sores or with limbs wounded by the lustrous bronze or stone far-hurled, or marred by summer heat or winter cold—these he delivered, loosing each from his several infirmity, some with emollient spells and some by kindly potions, or else he hung their limbs with charms, or by surgery he raised them up to health.

Yet hath even wisdom been led captive of desire of gain. Even him did gold in his hands glittering beguile for a great reward to bring back from death a man already prisoner thereto: wherefore the hands of the son of Kronos smote the twain of them through the midst, and bereft their breasts of breath, and the bright lightning dealt them doom.

It behoveth to seek from gods things meet for mortal souls, knowing the things that are in our path and to what portion we are born. Desire not thou, dear my soul, a life immortal, but use the tools that are to thine hand.

Now were wise Cheiron in his cavern dwelling yet, and had our sweet-voiced songs laid haply some fair magic on his soul, then had I won him to grant to worthy men some healer of hot plagues, some offspring of Leto's son, or of her son's sire[3].

And then in a ship would I have sailed, cleaving the Ionian sea, to the fountain of Arethusa, to the home of my Aitnaian friend, who ruleth at Syracuse, a king of good will to the citizens, not envious of the good, to strangers wondrous fatherly. Had I but landed there and brought unto him a twofold joy, first golden health and next this my song of triumph to be a splendour in his Pythian crown, which of late Pherenikos[4] won by his victory at Kirrha—I say that then should I have come unto him, after that I had passed over the deep sea, a farther-shining light than any heavenly star.

But I am minded to pray to the Mother[5] for him, to the awful goddess unto whom, and unto Pan, before my door nightly the maidens move in dance and song.

Yet, O Hieron, if thou art skilled to apprehend the true meaning of sayings, thou hast learnt to know this from the men of old; The immortals deal to men two ill things for one good. The foolish cannot bear these with steadfastness but the good only, putting the fair side forward.

But thee a lot of happiness attendeth, for if on any man hath mighty Destiny looked favourably, surely it is on a chief and leader of a people.

A life untroubled abode not either with Peleus, son of Aiakos, or with godlike Kadmos: yet of all mortals these, they say, had highest bliss, who both erewhile listened to the singing of the Muses golden-filleted, the one in seven-gated Thebes, when he wedded large-eyed Harmonia, the other on the mountainside, when he took to him Thetis to be his wife, wise Nereus' glorious daughter. And with both of them gods sate at meat, and they beheld the sons of Kronos sitting as kings on thrones of gold, and they received from them gifts for their espousals; and by grace of Zeus they escaped out of their former toils and raised up their hearts to gladness.

Yet again in the after time the bitter anguish of those daughters[6] robbed Kadmos of a part of bliss: howbeit the Father Zeus came to white-armed Thyone's[7] longed-for couch.

And so did the son of Peleus whom Thetis bare at Phthia, her only son, die by an arrow in war, and moved the Danaoi to lament aloud, when his body was burning in fire.

Now if any by wisdom hath the way of truth he may yet lack good fortune, which cometh of the happy gods.

The blasts of soaring winds blow various ways at various times. Not for long cometh happiness to men, when it accompanieth them in exceeding weight.

Small will I be among the small, and great among the great. Whatever fortune follow me, I will work therewith, and wield it as my power shall suffice. If God should offer me wealth and ease, I have hope that I should first have won high honour to be in the times afar off.

Nestor and Lykian Sarpedon, who live in the speech of men, we know from tales of sounding song, built up by cunning builders.

By songs of glory hath virtue lasting life, but to achieve them is easy to but few.




  1. Koronis.
  2. His father, Zeus.
  3. Some Asklepios or Apollo.
  4. Hieron's horse.
  5. Rhea or Kybele, the mother of the gods. 'Next door to Pindar's house was a temple of the mother of the gods and of Pan, which he had built himself.' Scholiast.
  6. Ino, Agauë, and Autonoë.
  7. Semele.