Poetry Corner – Pindar, 4th Olympian Ode

Chariot racing on a black-figure hydria from Attica, ca. 510 BC

Chariot racing on a black-figure hydria from Attica, ca. 510 BC photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen (Wikipedia)

The 5th-century BCE Greek poet Pindar is best known for his victory odes, written for champions of the Olympic and Pythian Games. As we are in the thick of our 2016 Olympic Games, I submit Pindar’s 4th Olympian victory ode, written for Psaumis of Camarina, chariot race winner in 452 BCE.

For Psaumis of Camarina
Charioteer of the thundercloud with untiring feet, highest Zeus!
Your Seasons, whirling to the embroidered notes of the lyre’s song,
sent me as a witness of the most lofty games.

When friends are successful, the noble immediately smile on the sweet announcement. Son of Cronus, you who hold Aetna, the wind-swept weight on terrible hundred-headed Typhon, receive, for the sake of the Graces, this Olympic victory-procession, this most enduring light of widely powerful excellence.

For the procession comes in honor of Psaumis’ chariot; Psaumis, who, crowned with the olive of Pisa, hurries to rouse glory for Camarina. May the god be gracious to his future prayers, since I praise a man who is most eager in the raising of horses, who rejoices in being hospitable to all guests, and whose pure thoughts are turned towards city-loving peace.

I will not stain my words with lies. Perseverance is what puts men to the test, and what saved the son of Clymenus from the contempt of the Lemnian women. He won the foot race in bronze armor, and said to Hypsipyle as he went to take the garland: “Such is my swiftness; and I have hands and heart to match. Even on young men gray hair often grows, even before the expected age.”

Poetry Corner – Pindar, Wherefore, O Light of the Sun…

The Ancient Greek poet Pindar has been revered for his lyric verse pretty much continuously since his lifetime, in the 5th century BCE. He was a noble son of Thebes, a city in the Boeotia region on the eastern side of the Gulf of Corinth. Pindar is best known for his victory odes, written for champions of the Olympic and Pythian Games. We’ll revisit Pindar and his victory odes come Olympics season. In the meantime, please enjoy this fragment of a poem inspired by a solar eclipse, possibly that of April 30, 463 BCE:

Wherefore, O Light of the Sun, thou that seest all things and givest bounds unto the sight of mine eyes—wherefore O star supreme hast thou in the daytime hidden thyself, and made useless unto men the wings of their strength and the paths that wisdom findeth, and hastest along a way of darkness to bring on us some strange thing?

Now in the name of Zeus I pray unto thee, O holy Light, that by thy swift steeds thou turn this marvel in the sight of all men to be for the unimpaired good hap of Thebes.
Yet if the sign which thou showest us be of some war, or destruction of harvest, or an exceeding storm of snow, or ruinous civil strife, or emptying of the sea upon the earth, or freezing of the soil, or summer rains pouring in vehement flood, or whether thou wilt drown the earth and make anew another race of men, then will I suffer it amid the common woe of all…