Pindar, Olympian, 1.1-64
read in the restored pronunciation of classical Greek
by William Mullen, Bard College.
(Text followed by translation)
Water is the finest of all, while gold, like a lambent fire,
Shines through the night in pre-eminence of superb wealth.
And if, my heart, you wish to tell
Of prizes won in trials of strength,
Seek no radiant start whose beams
Have keener power to warm, in all the wastes of upper air, than the sun's
Nor let us sing a place of games to surpass the Olympian.
It is from there that the song of praise, plaited of many voices,
Is woven into a crown by the subtle thoughts of poets,
So that they chant the praises of Kronos' son
As they make their way to Hieron's rich hearth,
Who wields his lawful scepter in Sicily's orchard lands,
Culling the crests of every kind of excellence.
The man is brilliant, above all,
In blossomings of the Muses' matters,
At which we poets often vie
In friendly company around his board. So take from its peg your Dorian lyre,
If victor's Grace at Pisa, of Victory Bearer there,
Set your mind that day on the sweetest trains of thought,
When the courser flaunted, hurtling down his lane of the tracks,
A mettle that needed no touch of the lash,
And twined his master thus into power's embrace,
The kind of Syracuse, a passionate horseman. His fame blazes
In the man-proud daughter-city of Lydian Pelops -
That youth with whom the mighty Poseidon fell in love,
Because, as a babe, the goddess of fate had drawn him forth from the cleansing
With a gleaming shoulder, wrought of ivory.
Oh there is many a marvel, and doubtless often; the reports of men
Are tricked beyond the just account by lying tales of cunning workmanship.
And Grace, that shapes for mortals everything that soothes them,
Can render believable something better never believed,
All by the sweet esteem it brings.
The truest of all witnesses
Is borne by days that are yet to come.
Seemlier for a man to speak well of the gods. You are less to blame.
I shall speak against what earlier poets assert of you -
Shall sing how when, in return to his former hosts on high,
Your father invited the gods to his home at Sipylos,
To a friendly banquet, all decorum,
The god of the radiant trident snatched you away,
His mind wild with desire, and on golden horses bore you
To the high halls of Zeus, who is worshipped far and wide -
To whom, on a second such occasion,
Ganymede was made to come,
For service every bit the same.
And when you were not to be seen - were not returned to you mother by men
searching high and low -
Why then, some envious neighbor, in secret, framed the tale
That you had been chopped up by the gods with a cleaver, limb by limb,
Then had been plunged into a pot they brought to the boil on the fire,
And that they sliced you out, for the dessert course,
Set you forth on the board, and ate you up!
There is no way I will say that a god's belly could be thus crazed.
I recoil. Profit is rarely the slanderer's lot.
If ever mortal was honored by the gods who look down from Olympus,
Tantalus was that man. But his great good fortune he could not digest,
And surfeiting, he brought down a great curse,
In the form of a hideous stone the father of the gods hung just above him -
All ease of mind eludes him, in his vain incessant straining to get out from
under its shade.
trans. William Mullen
For further information on Olympian 1, see W. Mullen, Choreia, Princeton University Press, 1999.
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