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Page:Pindar in English Verse (Way 1922).djvu/10

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INTRODUCTION

that of the state are interchangeable—Thebe, Aegina, Cyrene; or how its founders were demigods who settled there in obedience to divine commands? To subordinate this heavenly guardianship to other powers might well seem sacrilege. And the tradition of the sacredness of an independence thus hallowed, when once established, might well survive the age of unquestioning faith.

For the families of the aristocracy, to whom a thousand memories called far more powerfully and insistently than to any other order of nobility in the world's history, there were incentives to political exclusiveness whose cogency we cannot appreciate unless we take the Olympian hierarchy as seriously as Pindar did. The chronique scandaleuse of Olympus, which shocked Plato, inspired Pindar. While repudiating belief in anything derogatory to the Gods, he does not consider their amours with mortal women (or even their pæderasty) in that light. The men whose praises he sang had in their veins the blood of Gods: their human ancestors were half divine, and their achievements were worthy of their high descent. The sons of the great houses whose lineage was from Herakles, Aeacus, Perseus, counted themselves of different clay from the common herd: they recognised in their hearts that they owed no duty to a democratic constitution: they never ceased to chafe under the yoke of equality with beings whom they held scarce fit to be their servants, and to intrigue against a system which placed their personal liberty at the mercy of the caprice of the "base," and allowed their wealth to be exploited for purposes with which they had no sympathy. No wonder that they accepted with complacency the poet's digressions into the old heroic myths that to us are but fairy tales: for them these were unassailable fact. Their records in song were the charter of their superiority to the world around them, of their right divine to govern their fellow-men.