1 APPROACHING PINDAR THE POET’S ACCESS TO THE GREEKTEXT Pythian 8 William Harris Prof

1
APPROACHING PINDAR
THE POET’S ACCESS
TO THE
GREEKTEXT
Pythian 8
William Harris
Prof. Em. Classics
Middlebury College

2
PREFACE
Of all the literature which we have from the world of Ancient Classical
Greece, nothing is more brilliant and more astounding than the great
Epinician odes of Pindar. The greater part of the early thrust of Greek lyric
and choral poetry through the 6th century has been lost. We have mere
chips and fragments of a host of major figures which were still in the col-
lections of Alexandrian libraries in the 4th c. BC. But in the case of Pindar,
we have two hundred text pages of poems keyed to the Olympian, Pythian,
Nemean and Isthmian games. This is by no means a major portion of
Pindar’s original poetic output, but a welcome treasury when compared to
Sappho’s precious but moth-eaten papyri or Archilochus’ scrappy citations
from the grammarians.
We do have complete poems, but they are unusually difficult to read in
terms of their words and their sub-meanings, especially in the complex web
of ideas on which the poet weaves the fabric of his poetry. It is not surpris-
ing that so difficult a poet as Pindar would have fared badly with the me-
dieval copyists from whom our editions draw their text. There are passages
where words are missing or garbled, lines which have puzzled our scholars
for centuries . But beyond problems with the actual text, there are problems
with the words themselves and the way they are woven together, questions
about what the poet is actually trying to say. Add to this the complex refer-
ences to a mythology already fading from the society, at a time when the
Mysteries occupied the populace more and more as the real religion of
Greece. Pindar continues to use the ancient myths as a system to weld to-
gether the historic identity of states and places which were losing their his-
torical pedigree in the face of an oncoming Peloponnesian War.
The Festivals which mark the Greek system of dating as far back as the
time of the First Messenian War in the 8th c. BC had become a pan-
Hellenic summertime competition which took place every fourth year, and
became the standard system of Greek historical dating for the future cen-

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3 turies, with the title of “Olympiad” and a number. This may seem a loose
dating system when compared with the astronomical accuracy of the Incas
and Aztecs, especially in Hellenistic time when astronomical studies could
have fixed dates with reasonable accuracy. Olympiadic dating for the birth
of Pindar is more reasonable than our dating of Greek history by an annual
backward count from the birth date of a Jewish quasi-Messiah who wasn’t to
be born for some five hundred years.
Writing Odes in commemoration of winning athletes in the series of annual
competitions may seem far removed from the world of our modern
Olympic Games, where an “Ode” on the Gold Medal Cyclist or Shot-putter
would probably seem more comical than out of place. We have inherited
the idea of athletic Festivals from Greece, but little of the sense of brilliance
in the pursuit of arete which the 5th c. century Greeks found so important.
Greece in later centuries became commercial in the Games, much as we did
in this last century as our Olympic Games turned into big business with
contracts, rewards beyond the value of the medals, advertising of products,
media coverage, and eventually questions of bribes and corruption. But one
thing remained the same. Modern nations are as much concerned with their
athletic winners as a mark of national rank and identity, as the Greek city-
states were twenty five hundred years ago. Prestige and political rank now
as then tend to be defined most clearly in terms of special individuals and
their performance, which may be a basic trait of human competitiveness far
more humane than that other criterion for excellence, which is continually
resuscitated under the name of War.
Already in ancient times grammarians were trying to define Pindar’s diffi-
cult wording, his complicated system of metrics, and the meaning of his
mythologizing figures. Our texts come from Renaissance copies of MSS
with various connections back to reading copies of the late Hellenistic pe-
riod, accompanied by scholiasts’ marginal glosses and comments, at times
reinforced by passages in the more readable segments of papyri. Since
Boeckh’s great edition of Pindar at the start of the 19th century, there has
been a constant flow of philological and scholarly interest in the Odes,
which has extended beyond books and monographs to the vast world of
Journals in a dozen assorted languages worldwide.

4 Assembling everything written on Pindar and his poetry since l800 would
take the shelving of a modest size academic library, as each generation pro-
duces in turn a staff of scholars who are able to master, control and am-
plify the accumulated materials on this quizzical poet. Pindar does require
interpretation, but when the interpretation becomes so complex that a liter-
ary reader of Greek poetry is all but excluded from the table of the
Philologists, we run the danger of losing the Poet in the paperwork.
The purpose of this paper is to “approach” the poetry of Pindar with intent
to elucidate the soluble problems of interpretation, while setting aside for
the time being the accumulations of speculation and problem-solving which
stand between the intelligent interested reader and the words of the Greek
text he is reading. Comment is often needed for sensible interpretations,
sometimes for any interpretation at all, but our eye must be on the words
and the base meaning of the poetry first and last. This is not an easy task
with a poet far removed in time, in culture and even in textual authenticity,
but if we are interested in the Epinician Odes as literature, as poetry and as
very curious personal expression from one of the great poetic minds of the
West, we must travel light and go on the narrowest pathway which will lead
us to the poems.
In the interpretation of Pindar, there are three factors to consider: First
there is the Text as it stands, with needed corrections and some patchwork
included. Second there must be sufficient comment to draw out meaning
from groups of words which have interior and inter-twined associations, or
we will simply pass over deep meanings with a quick glance. The third el-
ement in this association is Ourselves, as persons of the twenty-sixth century
or the seventy-fifth generation distant from Pindar’s world, living in a very
different time-space and an even more different social culture. We do not
lose our own sense of personal perspective when we look outside our im-
mediate social world. We can try to think as ancient Greeks or as modern
Japanese, and can learn a great deal about an “other” world which interests
us. But we are rooted in our society by our years of growth, and when we
try to understand a foreign experience, we load it unconsciously with our
own perceptions, along with much of our own psychological and linguistic
baggage.

5 At the start of the l8th century Richard Bentley said that he thought he
knew about as much about ancient Greek as an Athenian blacksmith, some-
thing which we may easily forget while perusing the shelves of scholarship
in the dark library stacks. There are many places in Greek literature and
culture where we can only estimate how much we do not know.
But in certain realms of human behavior, we often feel a confidence of
communication, and sense that we and the ancient Greeks may not be so
distant. We represent moments at the far end of the long trail of human ex-
perience, but we live our lives on the same human pathway. Love, morality,
national identity, pride and humility, a longing for achievement in the face
of possible failure and sure death —- these are matters which tend to recur
in the passage of the ages. They make take different forms and appear at
time in unrecognizable formats, but these elements seems to be human
durables and probably part of our psychological and social givens. Reaching
across time to Pindar we have links which can help us connect, if we un-
derstand that what we find will be less in the order of identities, than pos-
sible parallels.
Pindar’s choral Odes were group-sung, the words were one part of a
Performance from which the musical part which has totally disappeared, but
for the performance the music was clearly essential. We cannot go far in re-
constructing Greek music, but when we read Pindar as a literary document
with correct attention to the syllable durations and pitches, we do have the
rhythmic or metrical score fairly intact. The Durations of the syllables is
built into the way in which Greek is written, with long and short syllables
clearly marked out. In Homer the system of versification is fairly easy to
master since it is based on just two cadences of “feet” as “finger = dactyl”
with a long bone and two shorts, and “thumb = spondee?” with two long
bones. Much of the Aeolic lyric poetry of Sappho and Alcaeus tends to use
repeated cadencing lines in stanzas, so we can read these poems with some
ease.

6 But Pindar has a much more complex sense of metrics. We, on the other
hand, schooled as we are in Western musical tradition where regularity of
the “beat” and the measured cadences of time signatures are a needed part of
instrumental composition and group performance, have a very poor sense of
complex rhythms. Indian music with rhythmic series of 17 / 19 are beyond
our grasp, and the African drum and dance sequences are even further re-
moved from our society’s learning experience. With the rhyming couplet of
our traditional Western poetry using even-syllable measured lines, we stand
at the low end of the global scale of metric possibilities.
But Pindar is at the high end. When we try to read his lines, looking back
and forth to the pre-scanned pattern at the head of the poem and painfully
adjusting our durations to this abstracted schematic, we quickly recognize
that for sensitive reading of poetry, we are simply out of our league. Pindar
must be approached by another path. To read Pindar rightly, we must
memorize the rhythmic beats of a line until they are an automatic part of
our memory, and only then can we proceed to read the Greek aloud with
the rhythm intact. Then we must do the next line, and then very painfully
the next. This is slow and very inconvenient, but it is the only way to make
up for the rhythmic insufficiencies of our Western world.
We will speak of this later in this study, where I maintain that if you do not
take the trouble to expand your sense of rhythmics sufficiently to encom-
pass the wording of the Odes, proceeding line by line before trying to get
the overall rhythmic patterns of a single strophe, you are immeasurably far
from understanding the forms, the sound and basic construction of Pindar’s
poetry.
But there is another level. The usual “accent” diacritics which are always
printed with Greek texts are NOT stresses as we learn them in our Attic
Introductions, but musical pitch indicators. This requires further explana-
tion and discussion, but I state here that only when you have mastered the
Rhythmics as discussed in the previous paragraph, will you be ready to
place pitch changes of a musical fifth or so on top of the syllable durations,
as a tone based part of the musical score. This will have to come later.

7 .
This is all quite difficult for us, as rhythmically unsophisticated English
speakers, often musically monotone in ordinary speech especially as
American speakers. It will take a special effort to do all this while reading
the actual words of the Greek text. For this I suspect the only reasonable
approach will be through a conventional modern music scoring, with the
Staff Score (which most of us can read ) visually representing both
Durations in “timed notes” as well as pitches by vertical placement of
“pitched notes” in the staff. The Greek can be written with syllables spaced
properly for the notes on the score, and read off directly by anyone who can
read a church hymn or a popular song from sheet music.
But for a start, we can use a simpler system of measuring out the metrics,
which I will discuss below. I only want to state at the start what this study is
about, and where it will be going on what pathways. After some necessary
introductions, we can examine the Greek text of Pythian 8, which is the last
poem Pindar wrote in his extreme old age, his farewell Ode as it seems, and
get the meaning of the words and the phrasing of his constructions firmly in
mind. This is a serious undertaking in itself, and will constitute the first part
of this paper, as Part I.
In the process we cam examine Pindaric rhythmics and try to find ways to
extend our experience reading aloud varied sequences of ten to twenty
syllables. There is no easy way into this matter, here we can outline the
basics and the rest is up for long hours of private practice.
Later is should be possible to try super-superimposing Pitches, and even
construct musical lines experimentally with “passing tones” between the
raised Acutes and melismatic Circumflexes. Putting together the Greek
words, the syllable metrics and the tone pitches on a music score, we will
have something which we can realistically deal with in real-time reading.
This will take some time and practice, but it can be done, and then we will
be much nearer the sound and general effect of Pindar’s original choral
Odes as performance based poetic compositions. But this is something
which extends beyond the scope of this study, which we may be able to go
into at another time in a separate article.

8 All good things require time and effort. Now even intentionally mis-
quoting Pindar I would like to note that:
” if a man would say he could reach high excellence with
long drawn effort, we would call him a fool among wise men….”
Pyth. 8, 73-4
So let it be in this case, and with the words of Aeschylus, with a good wind
favoring, let the good win out in the end.
________________________

9
Chapter I: Biography and History
Little is known about the biography of most classical authors, but in the
case of Pindar we know more than we might expect. He was born about 520
BC at a town near Thebes, from the stock of a noble Spartan family of the
Aegidae as he states in Pythian 5. Starting life from a local aristocracy with
a strong Doric cast, both culturally and linguistically, he went to Athens at
an early age to study music and poetry and found acceptance in the intel-
lectual circles of the Peisistrian dynasty, very possibly becoming acquainted
with Aeschylus who came out of a similar aristocratic and traditional back-
ground. During the Persian Wars of 480-79 BC he appeared to back the
position of Thebes which was unfortunately pro-Persian, and when Thebes
fined him for his praise of Athens, the Athenians generously paid his fine in
respect for his early poetic reputation. In his middle years he was invited to
Syracuse in Sicily where he stayed for several years and wrote several of his
mature Odes. He is reported to have lived to the age of eighty, which would
place his death at Argos around 440 BC, just before the serious start of the
Peloponnesian War. The great ode Pythian 8, which is the example of
interpretation in this study, was his last poem and reflects the thoughts of
his old age, in thoughtful contrast to the brilliant early style and language of
Olympian I.
The four series of Festival Odes, the Olympian, Pythian, Nemean and
Isthmian, represent his best known choral poetry, but his total output was
much larger and many times the two hundred pages of the athletic Odes.
He wrote in the modified literary Doric dialect shared by Aeschylus and
retained in the choral passages of the later Greek drama, based on the south-
ern Greek speech sounds which share many features with the lyric Aeolic as
against the Ionic of Homer.

10 For those of us who learned our Greek from textbooks based on the Attic
language, which for all intents and purposes became standard Greek after
the Peloponnesian Wars through the Hellenistic period, Homeric and Aeolic
and Doric will seem very different from the Attic grammar. This is a wrong
linguistic way to study Greek, especially nowadays since the dominant
position of Homer and the archaic poets has become clear. But we do the
same thing in English, teaching the modern language first and then reaching
back to the variations we find in Shakespeare and Chaucer.
From the other direction, if we learn Greek from Homer first, we can get a
much clearer sense of the development of the Greek language, as we see
with pellucid clarity the uncontracted forms of noun and verb before their
consolidation in Attic grammar.
The great Games as scheduled for every fourth year, were from the earliest
time the virtual Calendar of the Greek’s sense of history, and everything of
importance was dated with an Olympic year number. The Olympiad series
dated from its inception in 776 BC, and the first to use it for historical
dating and a check on chronology seems to have been the Sicilian historian
Timaeus (c. 356 – c.260 BC). But a listing of the names of victors was
compiled up through the 4th c. AD as preserved by Eusebius. The games
were apparently discontinued around the start of the fifth century AD.
A great deal of information can be garnered from the Olympiad lists, the
names of victors which in many cases can be identified with important rul-
ing families, and connections with various states since the games were in
essence designed to be pan-Hellenic as a unifying force among the many
city-states. There has been much historical investigation of the names of
victors and their countries in Pindar criticism, at times so much that the
poet seems to be more of an illustration to history, rather than a poet with
interesting historical associations. The historical use of the titling of the
Odes is important , but only indirectly valuable for appreciation of the po-
etry as poetry, and at times it seems to overshadow the poems in their artis-
tic and literary aspect.

11 Preoccupation with the historical associations of the Odes can get in the way
of perceiving them as poetry. Philology does have the unfortunate potential
of converting Poetry into its own style of scholarship. Samuel Johnson
remarked two centuries ago that:
“No man forgets his original trade: the rights of nations and of kings
sink into questions of grammar, if grammarians discuss them.”
Pindar’s poems, if they are studied by “grammarians” of any persuasion,
have the potential of becoming a sub-chapter in history, with minute inves-
tigations as the topics of small articles in the Journals. If we can hold in re-
spectful abeyance for a moment the scholarship which has settled down on
the Odes of Pindar, and make a fresh approach to understanding his poetry
as Poetry, as constructs of form and meaning which involve the configura-
tion of words with rhythms echoing behind the semantics, we may be able
to get a better sense of what this curiously difficult and unapproachable poet
has written.
Next we will see how an intelligent Greek critic of the Roman Augustan
period, who was still in the Hellenic language tradition, viewed Pindar’s
poetry as word-art, and this may be a first step toward a better understand-
ing of the poet.

12
Chapter II: Ancient Criticism
Dionysus of Halicarnassus, the critic and historian living in Rome around
26 BC in the Augustan literary age , wrote a number of books on literary
style, Greek language and literature in general. His work show taste, clear
appreciation of good writing, and his book “On Literary Composition” has
the special value of coming from a critic of sound judgment who was still
within the cultural earshot of the classic Greek literature of the past. His
four hundred year distance from the Fifth Century is about the same as the
time lapse between us and the Elizabethan writers. In both these cases there
have been changes in the language and of society, but the strain of linguistic
continuity remained uninterrupted. Dionysus is concerned with taste and
judgment, he is clearly not an Alexandrian grammarian or a library collec-
tor of literary curiosities. He examines the best examples of the ancient
Greek literary tradition and furnishes us with an authentic snapshot of how
an educated and critical Hellenistic writer approaches the literary master-
pieces of his past.
Dionysus is interested in the works and mechanics of writing, as well as the
effect on him and his readers, in a twofold sense. He examines sample texts
of authors with an eye to the actual sounds and their configurations and the
way the intimate fabric of the acoustic text is constructed, much as a mod-
ern phonetician would analyze a sound sample. But he also feels that “words
give a virtual image of each person’s soul/mind” (eikovna~ ei`nai th`~
eJkavstou yuch`~ tou~ lovgou~), and this balances the formal phonetic
side of his analysis well. All in all, Dionysus is a not only an interesting
critic of literature, but also in several ways a model for us in a confusing
post-Modernist era which continues to verge away from the actual words of
the text. Here we have an intelligent sweep of the critical eye, starting from
the vowels and consonants of a poem or piece of art-prose, moving on to
the impression which is makes on the reader’s mind, and finally recognizing
that writing is in fact an Image or Reflection of the author’s mind and per-

13 sonality (psyche). I find this kind of analysis unusually valuable because it
remains closely connected to the text at hand, prior to discussing meaning,
allusions or historical influences. It demands close reading first of all and
returns us coherent linguistic and literary information.
Add to this the living Hellenic tradition which Dionysus taps into as a na-
tive Greek speaker, and we have a guide to the interpretation of classic
Greek word-art as seen at near focus. His close analysis is a far cry from the
critic Longinus writing some two centuries later, who understood the ele-
ments of a writing as subservient parts contributing a main purpose, the
Overall Effect. It is the effect which commands his attention, not unlike the
attention to development and story-line which interest modern academic
readership. We academics are experts in the wide-angle view, bringing into
the picture myriad interests on the far intellectual horizon from sociology
and anthropology and psychology, while quickly passing over the actual
words and details of configuration which constitute the Microstructure of
written materials. Dionysus is therefore for us not only a peep-hole into the
mind of the ancient literary world, but perhaps a corrective to some of our
expanding critical peripheralism in the study of Literature.
The title of Dionysus’ book in English is usually translated as “On Literary
Composition”, as in Roberts’ excellent l910 edition of the Greek with an
English translation. But the Greek title is different: PERI SUNQESEQS
ONOMATWN which means literally “On the Assembly of Words”. The
close attention to Words and how they are assembled in a mosaic of sounds
on a papyrus sheet, is always on his mind, and although he is clearly an es-
thetic critic of the full range of meaning in words, he never forgets the
building blocks out of which word-art is formed.
Chapter XX is devoted to Pindar, and is titled “On the Austere Style” ,
employing the same adjective as the we have in English directly from the
Greek austhrov~. But the English word “austere”, clearly a borrowed word
from Greek, is quite different, with several non-Greek meanings: First
“austere” in English means ‘bare’ of ornaments, so we can speak of the
“economic austerity” of a country in recession, or of a room decorated in a

14 stiff style. But the word also has a moral connotation, which calls up the
image of a row of robed judged, of moral stiffness and stern disapproval.
This is quite different from the Greek word, which starts etymologically
with the adjective a’uo~ “dry” to which is added the comparative extension
-teros “rather, more”. The adjective a’uo~ itself has Aeolic smooth breath-
ing while the Attic form is aspirated as a result of disappearance of initial
sigma, so English ‘sere’ should be connected. Also note the Hesychian gloss
of a’uw as xhrainw “dry out”. Greek use points less to dryness than to
roughness of texture, harshness of sound and bitterness of taste, but it is also
used for excessive moral rigorousness. Etymologies often throw light on the
inner meaning of words, here the light is somewhat cloudy, but the overall
sense of dry harshness, roughness and crabbed tightness does dominate.
This “harsh austerity” may come as a surprise to those of us who first read
Pindar in Lattimore’s little l941 booklet from New Directions, where high
soaring thought, bold figures, and the elegance of finely wrought English
verse left us with the grand impression of glorious poetry. That is certainly
the way Lattimore’s Pythian 8 speaks out in translation, which evinces a
reminder that poetry does not translate at all well, that the inner meanings
of words do no transplant to another country’s gardens. Let us go back and
see Dionysus description of Pindar the Doric poet from the ancient critic
Dionysus’ point of view:
“The characteristic feature of the austere arrangement is this: It re-
quires that the words should be like columns firmly planted and
placed in strong positions, so that each word should be seen on every
side, and that the parts should be at appreciable distances from each
other, being separated by perceptible intervals. It does not shrink
from using frequently harsh sound-clashes which jar on the ear. It is
like blocks of building stone that are laid together unworked, blocks
that are not square and smooth, but preserve their natural roughness
and irregularity. It is prone to expansion for the most part by means
of using spacious words. It objects to being confined by short sylla-
bles, except under occasional need.

15 “In its clauses it pursues these objects but also impressive and stately
rhythms. and tries to make its clauses non-parallel in structure or
sound, not slaves to a rigid sequence but noble, brilliant and free. It
wishes to suggest nature rather than art, to stir emotion rather than
delineate character.
“And as to sentences, its does not generally even attempt to compose
them in such a way that each is complete in itself. If it falls into this
by accident, it tries to show its own simple and unstudied character. It
does not use descriptive words to round out and complete the sense,
cares not for show or smoothness, nor sets clauses for the speaker’s
breath or any such minor matters.
“Arrangement is marked by flexibility of the cases, variety in the use
of figures, with few connectives, lacking articles, and often disre-
garding natural sequence. It is the opposite of “florid” it is aristo-
cratic, plain speaking, unvarnished, with an old-style mellowness
which constitutes it beauty.”
With this as preface to “The Austere Style”, Dionysus proceeds to discuss
authors who use this style, and he cites Pindar first as the example for lyric
poetry (melopoiiva), with Antiphon and Thucydides as prose parallels in
this class. Surely Dionysus would be content to mention the Roman histo-
rian Sallust who was certainly trying for the same effect in recreating a
stern and old-fashioned mode of writing as suitable for a Roman’s writing
of history.
We can amplify these comments with the words of Horace who was writing
in Rome at the same time and certainly knew Dionysus’ work if not the
author personally.

16 Pindarum quisquis studet aemulari,
Iulle, ceratis ope Daedalea
nititur pinnis, uitreo daturus
nomina ponto.
Monte decurrens uelut amnis, imbres
quem super notas aluere ripas,
feruet inmensusque ruit profundo
Pindarus ore,
laurea donandus Apollinari,
seu per audacis noua dithyrambos
uerba deuoluit numerisque fertur
lege solutis,
Horace stresses the difficulty of “imitating” Pindar”, that is writing new
poetry in his style (which is what Horace was doing with Greek verse) with
the graphically portrayed dangers of falling short, a la Icarus. As nature
based parallels, we have the rushing springtime floods, rivers running over
their banks as the Great Poet rages on with his grand voiced sounds, his new
poetic devices (dithyrambos) and the freedom of his verse which reaches
away from metrical exactness even toward prose (numeris solutis). Horace
continues the poem with mention of myths and the storyline of the gods,
much as a modern teacher of poetry would do. But as the well versed and
polished poet Horace was, he was completely aware of the finish and mi-
crostructure of Pindar’s form. Everything Horace did was filed and polished
with ultimate care, down to the shape and contours of the words, much in
the spirit of Dionysus’ practice.
These citations from the ancient tradition leave us much to consider when
we approach the poetry of Pindar. We will want to keep in mind several of
Dionysus’ characteristics to watch for in reading the Odes. First in impor-
tance will be the architectural stateliness of the “columns” which support his
roof of his poetry, the open spacing and measured distancing of the parts
which we find in architecture in the proportions and parts of the Parthenon.
Dionysus clearly has architecture in mind with these comments, and living

17 in Augustan Rome he would have been as aware of Agrippa’s domed
Pantheon and Vitruvius’ new book De Architectura from 28 BC, as well as
of Iktinus and the classic structure of the Parthenon.
Next would come his insistence on the rough texture of the poetry , the un-
polished stonework and “art-no-art” positioning of the blocks as if partly by
chance and nature, rather than contrived by great refinement and care. If
there is a conflict between naturalness and force, between art of nature and
artiness of man, and too much attention to details, Pindar is always on the
side of the rough and the “austere”.
In language too, Dionysus notes the lack of connectives, of unnecessary
amplifications and modifiers, even of grammatical order in the construction
of sentences. All must be done with great and strong force, all must dash
with vigor even at the expense of clarity and meaning. The “article” which
is so important to the style of later Greek writing, is avoided. Parts of a
sentence can be widely dispersed, not by inattention but as a mark of a ner-
vous grandeur of speaking.
The metrics will be a part of this grandeur, strong and solid, but not regular
marching beats at all. The later Greek metrical writers have much detail on
Pindar’s metrical patterning, some of it probably much more refined and
analytical than the author’s intention, and based on paper scoring of the
durations rather than metrical memorization of long rhythmic cadences
which Doric choral artists had mastered. Later we can discuss the matter of
Metrics in more detail, in a new and more musical manner than the gram-
mar books maintain. Musical metrics is a matter for musical artists, not for
word grammarians in the final tally.
When Dionysus speaks of the old-world plainness of speech, the measured
cadencing of the sounds and the dignity of Pindar’s style, he brings us back
to the Doric and Spartan source of these characteristics, which certainly
come from Pindar’s early life and upbringing .His family came from a
Spartan stock which can explain part of his sense of plainness of talk, verbal
conciseness, and avoidance of verbal fancification. Brought up at pro-
Persian Thebes, but appreciated as a young man at Athens, he faced the

18 hard risk of confining his poetry to one geographical area, which he seemed
to have conquered by becoming a pan-Hellenist in word and spirit with the
Epinician Odes .
The aristocratic tone of his language, combining the poetic language of his
time with the ancient myths and rituals of the ancient traditions, became a
mark of his style and cast of mind, which at that early 5th c. point in time,
had wide appeal throughout Hellas. He and Aeschylus are our indicators of
the manner of the old-guard Doric poets, rich in their embrocade of verbal
tradition, defiant of the democratic simplification which would end up with
Euripides and lead to a kind of poetic New Comic Drama. If there was a
time to be high-minded and aristocratically noble in the world of poetry,
this conservative Persian War generation would find that the ripe time for
their art.
There are two sides to Pindar’s artistry. On the one hand we see clearly the
weaving of complex myth into poems of standing majesty, rich in complex
metrical intonations housing remarkable phrases which at times defy under-
standing in their trail of words. This is the upper surface of Pindar’s art,
which the English Pindaric poets of the 17th century admired and sought to
bring into a crabby English tradition. But there is a second side, the one
which Dionysus outlines so clearly, with its verbal elements standing like
columns in a great spacious temple, its bases still rough with unfinished al-
most Cyclopean rock-work, while the pediments are block-outlined and
mythically suggestive, unlike the delicate and finished artwork of the mid-
century Parthenon. This is characterized by verbal surprises and non-se-
quiturs. “Sudden flashes of lightning against black velvet” was the way John
Finley described these momentary effects. Brilliance combined with an
aristocratic verbal archness, this is no easy for us to imagine in our very dif-
ferent style of living, where poetry has become quiet reading for armchair
relaxation, while blockbuster cinema with overdone effects beyond the cope
of imagination may be the nearest thing we have to parallel the rush of the
Pindaric Odes.

19 We should keep some of these impressions in mind as we proceed on our
approach to examine in detail one poem of Pindar, his last Ode Pythian 8,
written in his extreme old age,. If we can interleave these comments with
our reading of the words of the Greek text, we may be somewhat nearer to
the sense and power of the ancient poet. Pindar’s myths and the his mythic
involvements have been studied and unraveled in such detail for two cen-
turies now, that these aspects of the Odes need be discussed only in outline
here. Modern historically oriented criticism has found a host of political and
social concatenations in the workings of the myths, which can become a
sub-texture in the poems, and can lead us away from the sound and rhythms
of the Poetry into a world of ill-understood religious themes. Cross culture
study of religion and myth is one of the best traps for the incautious mind.
Reading Pindar with a manual of Classical Mythology at hand, one can put
the ends of various mythic references together, but this must be done while
firmly gripping the words of the text, to provide a deeper enrichment and
enlightenment for the poems. But we can not reconstruct the religious
atmosphere of the Greek mythic tradition. That is first of all because that
tradition is not the daily religion of the Hellenes who understood the
Mysteries (themselves in small part still a mystery to us) as their real
Religion. And second, the myths early became the property of city-states
and ancient families, thus acquiring a social and historical status quite apart
from a seriously religious “religion”. Furthermore we have inherited since
the days of the Renaissance another path into the Greek Myths, with those
popular stories which have enchanted Western readers for centuries,
stemming from the collections of Apollodorus’ 1st c AD cataloging
“Bibliotheca of Myths”.
Here we find the shell of a once alive mythopoeia, reduced to library
curiosities in Hellenistic times, and waiting to be reborn in the Eighteenth
Century as a classical themes of antique value. But this is a long distance
from the mythic mind of Pindar in his time. Time has changed the nature,
the use and sense of the myths, and the overcrusting of the original forms
now obstructs our sense of what Myth originally was, and what is may have
meant to Pindar’s generation.

20
Chapter III: Metrics and Rhythm
Dionysus has one remark about the text and how it should be approached,
which involves special important metrical considerations. Speaking in an
example of the roughness of the words en coron (nasal and aspirated gut-
tural !) in the first “clause” of a passage he cites for examination, he men-
tion almost as an aside a consideration about Clauses:
You must understand me to mean when I say “clauses” or kw`la
not those which Aristophanes Byzantinus or other metricists used for
their odes but those which Nature or fuvsi~ uses for dividing up the
passage, and by which the disciples of the Rhetoricians divide up
their sentences.
This casual remark has far reaching meanings. It was only earlier in the 1st
c. BC that the Alexandrian scholars had divided the Odes of Pindar into the
lines which we now use, basing this arrangements on their interpretation of
the metrics of the poems. Dionysus pointedly remarks on the validity of this
kind of metricization of the lines, which he feels are not suitable to the
austere style of Pindar although natural for the highly refined metrics of the
lyrics of the Lyric poets. He is concerned with clause-sense, and states
bluntly that we should be reading Pindar by clauses so defined, not by the
“lines” of the Alexandrian text editors. Horace must have had something of
the sort in mind when he said of Pindar’s poems “with relaxed metrics” as
numeris solutis.
From this it would seem that there is a clause-based quasi-prose proclivity
in Pindar, according to which, as Dionysus warns us, we must read the text,
not worrying ourselves about the identity of individual lines or even the
enjambment of strophe and antistrophe. For a sensitive reader, this makes a
great deal of difference in the way we read Pindar. If the poems were com-
posed with clause consciousness, then they must be read with the same

21 spirit, and part of our trouble with the “difficult” language of the poet may
be due to an error in the way we are reading the text. These “clauses” or
kola would be as important to the interpretation of the poems as the phras-
ing is to Western music, which often goes to the trouble of putting an arc
over a phrase in order to make it clear to the performer that at this place
there must be a beginning and an end, however slight. If we are attuned to
the idea of a verse line in Greek poetry, and read verses intuitively as
phrases, we will of course miss the individuality of the poetic Clause.
What is worse, when the meaning runs over from one verse line to another,
we may be inclined to think of this as a special kind of emphasis. In Homer
where the lines are clearly demarcated, an over-the-line written word is
clearly emphatic and special. But Homer and Pindar are worlds apart, not
only in terms of historical time but also in style and verse technique.
Analyzing Homeric lines in terms of “feet” is reasonable, since in epic verse
are only two kind of feet, the dactyl with its three segments not unlike the
bone length of the human finger, and the spondee which might have been
better named the “thumb” with its two long bones. There are pattern varia-
tions and some substitutions, but an acoustic awareness of these two rhyth-
mic patterns will surface as soon as one reads Homeric lines with attention
to the long / short syllabification. (The diacritic marked pitches are another
property of the syllables of a word, one which is musical, rather than the
usual incorrect stress pronunciations ).
But when one turns to Pindar, everything metrical seem to be going awry.
If we follow the metricist writers who reflect Alexandrian scholarship of
the 2nd c. BC, we would have to say that Pindar does use dactyls in some
places but unevenly accompanied with epitrites, and he can easily employ
pure Aeolian metrics where suitable. This means to the orderly ear of a
modern Western poet or musician, that the rhythmics of Pindaric composi-
tion will be infinitely more complicated in metrics than what we have in
our poetry, and also in our music well along until the 20th century musical
reforms.

22 Since the Middle Ages music in the West has been regularized in rhythmics,
possibly because of the requirements demanded by multi-voice and multi-
instrument performance. Baroque composition only with difficulty breaks
out of the standard bar-delimited measure, becoming really free only when
the music follows a sacred text line in non-secular musical pieces.
To say we are rhythmically deprived in our musical and poetic performance
may seem harsh, but compared with the complexities of music in other parts
of the world, we are indeed restricted. The rhymed and metrically perfect
couplet which persisted in English well into the l9th century as the domi-
nant verse form, is parallel in its rigidity to the four segment development
of a basic musical theme in composition, where a melodic segment is
played, repeated, repeated again with a variation, and concluded as a reflec-
tion of the original musical thought. This musical pre-set format is regu-
larly found in song, in sonata, in concerto and symphony until the changes
of taste in the early 20th century, and still dominates the world of popular
Western music.
Ancient Greece lies outside any such set of simple metric parameters. We
like to point to Greece, usually meaning no more than Athens, as a source
of our ideas of art, architecture, democracy and philosophy, but looking
deeper we find much which does not fit the neat academic pattern we teach
as Cultural Inheritance. We are adept at documenting the social and psycho-
logical parallels between us and the Greeks., but here in the matter of
Rhythmics and musical sensibility we find the Greeks much more varied
and sophisticated than we are.
Pindar shows a range of rhythmics which is virtually beyond our perception
and performance. He can throw out a pattern of some eighteen syllable in
the first two lines ( or first kolon) of Pyth. VIII which is the poem we will
use as a study, and have it so perfectly encoded in his memory that eight
lines down he can read a new set of words with virtually the same rhythmic
cadencing running through it, although it can be entirely different in tone,
style and meaning. This is something which can easily floor the aspiring
graduate student of Greek, who has in his experience heard nothing of this
sort before.

23 Look at the schematic of the rhythmics of Pythean VIII which Snell com-
piled. This poem is in Aeolic meters, and the marginal notes at the right are
a (vain) attempt to explain the passages in terms of traditional Greek
prosodic description. This can be done with great effort, as Rosenmeyer
shows in his practical study of Greek Rhythms (Halporn, Ostwald,
Rosenmeyer:The Meters of Greek and Latin Poetry, l963, p. 41 ff.), in fact
with undue effort as he admits, noting that the person reading Pindar Ol. I
we will probably have to go another way to make sense out of Pindaric
metrics. In Snell’s layout traditional feet simply do not appear, and many
critics believe that for the Aeolic passages the individual lines must be taken
as composite parts of the strophe, which is the only level on which sense
can me made of Pindar’s metrical sense.
Sturtevant had remarked in the l920’s with great good sense that the doc-
trine of the caesura was in effect a “philological ghost”, by which is meant
that it was an academic distinction which was not based in the Greek lan-
guage or the poetic structure of Greek poetry. One might go further with
the metrical “feet” of Pindar, and even state that there are no actual Feet in

24 the above schema line by line, nor even a distinct separate of lines of verse
(periods marked here by || ). The structural unit can be better taken as the
Strophe, which has a distinctive metrical feel to it as reflected closely in the
Antistrophe, and then contrasted with the arrangements of syllables in the
Epode. Thus Snell’s traditional use of markings like “|| finis periodi”, and
the “| finis verbi per totum carmen” can be seen as unnecessary, wince
they refer to foot and verse/period “ghosts” which stem from the
Alexandrian academicians of the 2nd c BC.
What is essential is developing an acoustic grasp of the Strophe as a coher-
ent metrical unit, which it certain was when sung to the lost music of
Pindar’s performance, by a trained choral group of singers. Reading the
words we have only one element of the performance to observe. Staying
close to that preserved area, we have to note the long and short syllables and
read the lines aloud until we have a section sufficiently memorized, to
speak it out as a single continuous run of concatenated speech sounds.
There will be arbitrary breaks, as Dionysus has warned us, writing over the
lines too, and emphatic surprises of the sort which Pindar loves. Reading
Pythian 8 there will be logical places to pause, some of which are obviously
demanded by the texts. Changes of pace and meaning need musical “rests”,
and the original musical part of an Ode was certainly performed with
spaces, shadings of tempo and dynamics. Lacking the music, we have to
make full use of our imagination in expanding the “reading” from what is
after all a very bare text-scoring of the poem.
Can we remember the metrics of a hundred syllables, noting long and short
durations, perhaps even adding pitches as our diacritic “accents” define
them, and do this all with some sense of expression? From the modern
trained music reader or singer’s point of view, this should not be hard to
grasp, since in the Western common system of music scoring the rhymthics
are written in the staff so as to correlate with the syllables of the words as
written below the staff matching the notes. In reading or singing a line of
Pindar as scored in modern music style, the rhythmics will come out auto-
matically from the musical score, and will also be aligned with the text syl-
lable by syllable.

25 We may later have to write out Western style score of an Ode to get
everything in order for a serious performance, but in the meantime we can
approach the syllable-metrics as the reader’s first duty owed to this poet’s
texts.
When we find ourselves stopping short with Pindar, looking first at the text
words and then at Snell’s syllabic layout above as the metrical schema of the
strophe, we show the results of our own bad practice. First of all because of
the way Greek is taught, we have been learning Greek with stress on the
(unrelated) diacritics, and have got the wrong pronunciation of every word
into our Greek vocabulary. The nature of the Greek language involves Long
and Short syllables, some marked over-long incidentally by the circumflex.
So a Greek chorus member who was practicing the performance of an Ode
could simply memorize the words, and then be automatically using the cor-
rect syllable lengths, which are in musical terms the Durations. Reading
Greek poetry we pay the price of our misunderstanding every time we face
a new poem, switching from stressed Prose Pronunciation of prose to the
durative syllabification of Verse.
Homeric dactyls have an average syllable count of from 14-18. I find that
many of the Pindaric clauses (not the verse lines! ) have a similar count, but
some especially in the Epodes may be longer. If we can extend our mental
grasp of rhythmic patterns to something around the count of twenty, we
should be in a good position to continue with our approach to Pindar’s
rhythmical patterning. This does not come easily and may take some
practice, but with practice it can be done and become an automatic process.
Without an ability to read Greek verse at a real-time rate with the syllable
metrics sounding strong and natural, we are missing the whole purpose of
reading the poetry of the ancient Greeks.
______________________

26
Chapter IV: Metrics and the Text
Pythian VIII is classed as Aeolic in metrical terms. Keeping this in mind we
will expect a freedom of expressions which some of the more formal Odes
will not have. But whatever freedom we find in the first two lines, will be
almost perfectly reproduced in the antistrophe, so we see that are dealing
with a special kind of freedom, one free in the individual lines but tightly
bound in the repeating antistrophe. This is consciously designed and not
what we mean by free verse at all.
filovfron JHsuciva Divka”
w` megistov poli quv gater
or perhaps we should be reading it as one clause thus:
filov fron J Hsuciv a Div ka” w` megistov poli quv gater
_ . . _ . . _ . _ _ . . . . . . . _
( I am using this metric notation as an alternative to the usual
diacritics which are readable signs rather than sounds; but also
because this font does not support these diacritics!)
Diacritics are in a sense our metrical enemy here, since they are reading
signs not sounds. In order to establish the rhythmics of this segment, we
will want to sound it out acoustically, since it will be used half a dozen
times again in this poem. So we will go to a system we are all familiar with
in sounding vocally out tympany parts, as follows:
DA da da DA da da DA da DA DA da da da da da da DA

27 After memorizing this pattern until it is something we can recite without the
text, we can go on to fuse it with the text of strophe A this way:
filov fron J Hsuciv a Div ka” w` megistov poli quv gater
DA da da DA da da DA da DA DA da da da da da da DA
If this seems loose, rather than the well planned acoustic pattern of an artis-
tic verse system, consider how perfectly the pattern applies to the first seg-
ment (again with two lines conflated) of the antistrophe:
 tu dæ opov tan ti” ameiv licon kardiv a/ kov ton enelav sh/
DA da da DA da da DA da DA DA da da da da da da DA
and the begiining of the second strophe, which by now you can recite on
your own from rhythmic memory:
 ev pese dæ ou Cariv twn eJ ka” aJ dikaiov poli” aretai’ ”
and its antistrophe:
ta de kai andrav sin emprev pei. eimi dæ av scolo” anaqev men
The ancient performers had no problem with this, since when they memo-
rized the words which the poet provided, they could chant them rhythmi-
cally since the rhythms are built into the syllabification of the Greek. The
real question is this: How did the poet manage to write new material in
strophe after strophe, with the same rhythmic patterns falling perfectly into
place, while the words and their denotated meanings are wandering through
a maze of entirely different topography?

28 This complex rhythmical echoing of a dominant verse pattern is the essence
of the Greek choral poet’s craft. This is what Pindar went to Athens to
study, and this is what many other poetry craftsmen learned all over Europe
in that ancient world which stretches poetically from the complexities of the
Vedas to the remarkable poetic composition of the ancient Irish poet-seers.
This was not something a poet learned from a manual, it was a matter of
years of study by those who had talent, not unlike the apprenticeship of
young poets to a master in modern classic Indian verbal art. What Pindar
learned as a young man was a serious study of a great art, and when he was
accredited as a real Poet, he became the voice of the pan-Hellenic world.
What we miss reading the Epinician Odes in a modern printed text, is the
intense background of years of training which was need to produce such
verse. We also lack the understanding of what this art-form was, as a sung
performance art, written by a master poet with rhythms which were under-
sung to the words as chanted by a trained choral group.
Reading ancient Poetry of such sort today, we must retrace the stages of this
kind of composition, which can be done by learning the sounds of a number
of clauses of verse so thoroughly that we can repeat them metrically in our
sleep. Then and only then are we ready to read aloud the words of the Odes.
Without that we are as devoid of the total art of the Odes as if we were
reading the text of a Mozart opera as a book of quasi-verse called “Figaro”,
with no sense of the music, the setting, the rhythmics and the art of the
theater setting.
Recreating the extravagant art of a Pindaric performance is probably
impossible by now, but we can with imagination and some toil perform in
our private readings some sense of what it may have been like. Without this
labor and this difficult re-creation, it is hardly worth trying to read the
complex and puzzling Greek of Pindar at all.

29
Chapter V: A Modern Parallel
What is important to recognize at this point is the ultimate rhythmic mas-
tery of the Poet who can extend his memory span to a segment of a hundred
syllables, and then recreate the same pattern in another segment with differ-
ent words and meanings. How this was done by Pindar is much of a mys-
tery to us, since we have no training and little experience in this kind of
venture. But the Greeks came into their homeland with a long poetic tradi-
tion which apparently goes back to the period before the Indo-European
migrations had spread divergent peoples throughout the ancient world. The
work of Calvert Watkins and others makes it clear than the Greek had be-
hind them a long poetic tradition, much longer and older than the depth of
their artistic tradition in sculpture and architecture, which had to be im-
ported for development from Egypt and the Near East after the 8th century.
If this discussion of a super-poet’s metrical mastership seems impossible of
achievement, let me turn to a modern counterpart which was in part based
on the Welsh poetic tradition. I am going to discuss a poem by Dylan
Thomas, not himself a scholar of ancient Celtic poetry, but a 20th c. poet
from Wales who had in mind the tradition of his ancestral bards. The poem
“Lament” which he was finishing in the spring of l951, is written in what
some modern critics have called a modular mode of composition, since this
is based on the exact parallelism of the elements of meaning in the five
stanzas of twelve lines each. The poem is arranged to summarize the five
stages of a man’s life from boyhood to extreme old age, and each stanza
represents a stage in life with subtle changes in energy, tone and references.
Behind the meaning there lies a subtle use of varied metrical devices.
English verse is based on Stressed as against Unstressed or passing syllables,
which seems different from the length-based organization of Greek poetry.
In fact the Greek lengths eventually turned into stresses somewhere in the
late Hellenistic period, and may have done so much earlier in popular
speech.

30 Length of syllables was, of course, something basic to the ancient Greek
language and not a device used only in poetry, as modern study of ancient
Greek might seem to infer. Using the diacritic Pitch accents as Stresses in
reading prose, and then inexplicably shifting to Lengths when reading
poetry is irrational and nonsensical. This is the kind of error which once
introduced into a teaching system is very hard to eradicate. Reading Pindar’s
duration or length based syllabification correctly, we can make a reasonable
comparison of these metrics to the stress-based metrics of English in this
poem.
Let me give the first two stanzas of the Thomas poem :
When I was a windy boy and a bit
And the black spit of the chapel fold
(Sighed the old ramrod, dying of women)
I tiptoed shy in the gooseberry wood,
The rude owl cried like a telltale tit,
I skipped in a blush as the big girls rolled
Ninepin down on the donkey’s common,
And on seesaw sunday nights I wooed
Whoever I would with my wicked eyes,
The whole of the moon I could love and leave
All the green leaved little weddings’ wives
In the coal black bush and let them grieve.
When I was a gusty man and a half
And the black beast of the beetles’ pews
(Sighed the old ramrod dying of bitches)
Not a boy and a bit in the wick-
Dipping moon and drunk as a new dropped calf,
I whistled all night in the twisted flues,
Midwives grew in the midnight ditches,
And the sizzling beds of the town cried, Quick!-
Wherever I dove in a breast high shoal,
Wherever I ramped in the clover quilts,
Whatever I did in the coal-
Black night I left my quivering prints.

31 We note immediately the difference between the acoustically rich wording
of Thomas, with its highly worked threads of assonance, alliteration, sound
repetition in separate words and constant appeal to the ear. This is unlike
the dry and at times clashing sounds of Pindar which Dionysus had noted,
as phonetic details which were immediately apparent to his finely tuned
ear. Remember that Dionysus was still within the perimeter of the ancient
classical Greek pronunciation.. But if we by-pass the dynamics of the
sounds and focus solely on the rhythmics, we find a remarkable similarity
of the successions of sounds in Thomas’ poem..
Look at the start of the poem line by line, with a stress marked metrical
scheme for each line, starting with the first stanza:
When I was a windy boy and a bit
. / . . / / / . . .
And the black spit of the chapel fold
/ . . / . . / / /
Now compare these lines with the first two lines of the second stanza:
When I was a gusty man and a half
. / . . / / / . . .
And the black beast of the beetles’ pews
/ . . / . . / / /
The match is exact. Now take a pair of parallel lines further down:
Ninepin down on the donkey;s common,
/ . / . . / . / /
Midwives grew in the midnight ditches,
/ . / . . / . / /

32 The stolid heaviness of this pair of lines, is quite different from the follow-
ing ones which have an entirely different and much lighter metrical scheme:
Whoever I would with my wicked eyes,
. / . . / . . / . /
Wherever I dove in a breast high shoal,
. / . . / . . / . /
If we go through these two stanzas, we will find small variants but a re-
markable retention of the metrical layout of each line through these two
segments, and reading through the rest of the poem, we find the metrics
remarkably consistent throughout. In another modular of “strophic” poem,
“Sir John’s Hill” from the same later period of Thomas’ composition, we
find an even more metrical Pindaric parallel, since the verse lines are of
widely varying length, unlike the metrically even Lament.
“Over Sir John’s hill
The hawk on fire hangs still;
In a hoisted cloud, at drop of dusk, he pulls to his claws
And gallows, up the rays of his eyes the small birds of the bay
And the shrill child’s play
Wars
Of the sparrows and such who swansing dusk in wrangling hedges
And blithely they squawk……”
Behind these two parallel systems, viewed from a span of over two millen-
nia, lies the common inheritance from an Indo-European language source.
This is no more surprising than the parallel traits which we find in the de-
veloped Western musical systems, in folk tales and in the widespread char-
acteristics of folk beliefs and mythology. But what is surprising is the
complexity of the acoustic craft which both Thomas and Pindar exhibit.
They are both able to retain a pattern of metrical rhythms over a long
stretch of words, and then come back with an entirely different set of words
and match these with the previously established metrical pattern.

33 This cannot be done by a poet writing and noting out a metrical layout as I
have done above, and then selecting words to fit the pattern. That is simply
impossible, and no more feasible than our practice of trying to correlate a
long-short schematic layout with the words written out in a separate para-
graph below. What is important is the extended memory span of a poet
which is so developed in the loops of his memory, that he can speak out
new phrases and sentences within the actual limits and patterns of his pre-set
code.
Doing this requires talent of course, but also extensive training in a poetic
and artistic tradition. In the case of Dylan Thomas, whose lines have about
nine syllables each in stanzas of a dozen lines, we see that he is capable of
mentally processing a series of about a hundred syllables while composing a
full stanzic strophe. In Pindar’s case, the numbers are about the same, so I
believe the comparison of these two very different poets should turn out to
be enlightening for the reading of Pindaric verse.
In the 18th century Thomas Gray was called “the English Pindar” largely in
respect to his long and impressive poem “The Bard” . This poem is founded
on a Welsh tradition that under Edward I all bards were to be put to death.
Gray uses old Welsh history and myth, written into strophe-like paragraphs
with uneven lines a la Pindar, and creates a certain kind of gruff roughness
which would have pleased Dionysus well. At the same time the poem is ac-
companied by pages of footnoted references to Greek and Latin poetry,
with notes are as full of detailed scholarly allusions as the famous notes to
T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland. Combining these factors with Gray’s interest in pre-
Elizabethan English poetry, which was just then being unearthed by Bishop
Percy and others, we see some of the influences on F.A Wolf and the
German scholars, who soon recast Homer as an ancient “Bard”, ultimately
creating “The Homeric Problem”. Gray had many bardic notions available.
Writing in a bardic tone, with rough written stanzas of irregular lines while
suppressing most of the traditional English couplet rhymery, Gray does ini-
tially give a sense of Pindaric style poetry, which was certainly his inten-
tion. But when we look at the metrics of the lines, we find the iambic tex-
ture, which is so natural for English verse, to be dominant. In this area

34 Gray is the least Pindaric. In fact The Bard is a reading poem in the modern
sense of what private poetry is about, not in any way thought of as a group
chanted Ode performed at a British Poetry Festival. If the poetic text were
to be read in the background of a new UK historical action film, it would
have to be supported by strong musical track to supply rhythms to support
the driving action of the poem. Since Gray is little read today, let me give
one strophe as an example:
“Cold is Cadwallo’s tongue
That hushed the stormy main:
Brave Urion sleeps upon his craggy bed”
Mountains you mourn in vain.
Modred who magic song
Made huge Plinlimnon bow his cloud topt head
On dreary Arvon’s shore they lie
Smeared with gore, and ghastly pale.
Far, far aloof the frighted ravens sail;
The famished eagle screams and passes by.
Dear companions of my tuneful art
Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes,
Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart,
Ye died amid your dying country’s cries
No more I sleep. No more they weep…………………
Some day when “Gray-the-Pindaric” is rediscovered this may perhaps be
seen as tough poetry quite different from the usual 18th century casual verse
and Poems on Several Occasions. With deep historical roots woven with
detail into the story, he might again be compared to the Greek Master for
his mythic storyline drenched in antique history. But the coruscating slash
of brilliance of the Greek with his long metrical memory and choral per-
formance at state fests is a far cry from the closet poet Gray, an un-robust
man of few words cautiously suturing words together at his desk with quill
in hand. These worlds are very different and of course so are the poets. Yet
Gray is worth mentioning if only for the differences, while the similarities
are in themselves artistically quite pertinent.

35
Chapter V: Background to Pythian VIII
There has been so much detailed scholarship about the place of each
Epinician Ode’s place and meaning in the history of Greece, that the sheer
volume of books and articles can hardly be listed, let along summarized in a
study of this length and nature. In fact so much historical scholarship has
accrued that the process of familiarizing oneself with it tends to obscure the
poetic content of the poems. Yet a certain bare minimum of historical back-
ground is essential for reading a poem like Pythian 8, which can be outlined
briefly as preface to reading the poem.
The traditional date for this poem is fairly sure at 446 BC. It was written
for one Aristomenes who won the Pythian wrestling contest, and is interest-
ing as the sole poem of Pindar on a man from Aegina, which had lost her
independence after the Athenian victory in 457. Aegina had been suspected
of a pro-Persian attitude before the Persian Wars, and since Pindar was
Theban and Thebes was suspected of Persian sympathy before the wars, he
may have found himself at one time between the interests of Thebes,
Aegina and a hostile Athens. But his reputation as a poet permitted access to
Athens, where he studied the poetic art in his youth and was valued for his
poetry.
At the time this Ode was written Pindar was near eighty and this is so far as
we know his last victory Ode, and the only one which celebrates Aegina,
which had opposed the imperialist policies of Athens and was repopulated
later around 430 after its defeat, as an Athenian colony In this poem Pindar
is aware of the difficult position of the island and hopes she will remember
her old glory from the days of the pious and just founder-hero Aeacus, and
still find a place in the new pan-Hellenic world. Aegina in fact never recov-
ered its former standing as a great naval power rivaling Athens earlier in the
century, and praise of this state in this poem must be seen as a sad hope
which was not borne out by history.

36 References in the poem to Dike as the personification of justice may have
had more meaning for the Aeginetans than one would at first assume, and
the name of Aeacus in the poem calls up a reputation of piety from a time
when Aegina was infested by plague. Zeus rewarded him for his concern
and aid to the people, and gave him as many people as there were ants on
the island, henceforth named Myrmidons from the word for ant.
The name Aegina also has a special history, as a nymph loved by Zeus who
bore Aeacus and brought her name to this island. The names of Aeacus and
his son Telamon who fathered the greater Ajax and Peleus father of
Achilles are all brought together at the end of the poem, in a resounding
prayer for peace with Zeus and Aegina presiding, thus confirming the
mention of Hesychia or “Quietude” with which the poems starts.
There are other famous names in the poem which must have touched deep
resonances in the politico-religious mythology of the people of that age. For
us many of the names are just items to look up in a book of classical refer-
ence, since the Greek mythic tradition has a mainly literary value in the new
world of the West. Put the other way around, how could an ancient Greek
respond to the name of St. Simeon Stylites or St. Francis of Assisi? And
how do we respond to the names of Indra and Vishnu, still alive in Hindu
society? Mythic and religious names depend on their social setting for
meaning and impact.
The constant in-weaving of mythic names and actions in Pindar’s poetic
fabric is not decorative. It is critical to the poems, but at the same time it is
impossible for us to conjure up their effect in the vivid way he employed it.
Scholarship in the West has had a long tradition of turning history into
dates, and myths into stories a la Bullfinch. For Pindar the poet, this blocks
understanding the art of the poetry. But if we can conjure up the depth of
mythic relevance and excitement in early 5th century Greece, and expand
this with a generous dose of imagination and subjective sympathy, we may
come close enough to the spirit of that age to begin to read the poems of
Pindar as the rich and complex compositions which they are.

37
Chapter VI: TEXT Pythian VIII
First of all, we should lay out the entire text of this poem, so we can get a
look at its length, sections, strophic arrangement and the “shape” and ar-
rangements of the lines in the strophic stanzas. The following is the way the
text is printed in standard editions, although we may want to reconsider the
lines as Clauses in view of Dionysus’ specific remarks about Alexandrian
changes in format.
After a quick scan of the poem, you can go to the start of the examination
and analysis which follows it directly. Translation will accompany the
discussion which follow this text page, which is given here mainly to set the
stage for discussion of the poem as a whole.
ARISTOMENEI AIGINHTH/ PALAISTH/
str 1
filovfron JHsuciva Divka”
w` megistov poli quv gater
boula’ n te kai polev mwn
ev coisa klai’ > da” uJ pertav ta”
Puqiov nikon timan Aristomev nei dev keu.
tu gar to malqakon ev rxai te kai paqei’ n oJ mw’ ”
epiv stasai kairw’ / sun atrekei’ :
ant 1
 tu dæ opov tan ti” ameiv licon
kardiv a/ kov ton enelav sh/
tracei’ a dusmenev wn
uJ pantiav xaisa krav tei tiqei’ ”
uJ brin en av ntlw/ tan oude Porfuriv wn mav qen
paræ ai` san exereqiv zw kev rdo” de fiv ltaton
eJ kov nto” eiv ti” ek dov mwn fev roi.

38epod 1
 biv a de kai megav laucon ev sfalen en crov nw/ .
Tufw” Kiv lix ekatov gkrano” ouv nin av luxen
oude man basileu” Gigav ntwn: dma’ qen de keraunw’ /
tov xoisiv tæ Apov llwno” : o} ” eumenei’ nov w/
Xenav rkeion ev dekto Kiv rraqen estefanwmev non
uJ ion poiv a/ Parnassiv di Dwriei’ te kwv mw/ .
str 2
 ev pese dæ ou Cariv twn eJ ka”
aJ dikaiov poli” aretai’ ”
kleinai’ sin Aiakida’ n
qigoi’ sa na’ so”: telev an dæ ev cei
dov xan apæ arca’ ” polloi’ si men gar aeiv detai
nikafov roi” en aev qloi” qrev yaisa kai qoai’ ”
uJ pertav tou” hJ rwa” en mav cai”:
ant 2
ta de kai andrav sin emprev pei.
eimi dæ av scolo” anaqev men
pa’ san makragoriv an
luv ra/ te kai fqev gmati malqakw’ /
mh kov ro” elqwn kniv sh/ to dæ en posiv moi trav con
iv tw teon crev o” w pai’ newv taton kalw’ n
ema’ / potanon amfi macana’ / .
epod 2
palaismav tessi gar icneuv wn matradelfeou”
Olumpiv a/ te Qeov gnhton ou katelev gcei”
oude Kleitomav coio niv kan Isqmoi’ qrasuv guion+:
auv xwn de pav tran Midulida’ n lov gon fev rei”
ton o{ nper potæ Oi> klev o” pai’ ” en eJ ptapuv loi” idwn
uJ iou” Qhv bai” ainiv xato parmev nonta” aicma’ /
str 3

39 oJ
pov
tæ apæ Av
rgeo” hv
luqon
deutev ran odon Epiv gonoi.
w| d ei` pe marnamev nwn:
— fua’ / to gennai’ on epiprev pei
ek patev rwn paisi lh’ ma qaev omai safe”
drav konta poikiv lon aiqa’ ” Alkma’ næ epæ aspiv do”
nwmw’ nta prw’ ton en Kav dmou puv lai”.
ant 3
oJ de kamwn protev ra/ pav qa/
nu’ n areiv ono” enev cetai
ov rnico” aggeliv a/
Av drasto” h{ rw”: to de oiv koqen
antiv a prav xei mou’ no” gar ek Danaw’ n stratou’
qanov nto” ostev a lev xai” uJ iou’ tuv ca/ qew’ n
afiv xetai law’ / sun ablabei’
epod 3
v Abanto” eurucov rou” aguiav ” toiau’ ta men
efqev gxatæ Amfiav rho” caiv rwn de kai auto”
v Alkma’ na stefav noisi bav llw raiv nw de kai u{ mnw/
geiv twn o{ ti moi kai kteav nwn fuv lax emw’ n
upav ntasen iov nti ga’ ” omfalon paræ aoiv dimon
manteumav twn tæ efav yato suggov noisi tev cnai”.
str 4
tu dæ Ekatabov le pav ndokon
naon euklev a dianev mwn
Puqw’ no” en guav loi”
to men mev giston tov qi carmav twn
wv pasa”: oiv koi de prov sqen arpalev an dov sin
pentaqliv ou sun eJ ortai’ ” uJ mai’ ” epav gage”.
av nax eJ kov nti dæ euv comai nov w/
ant 4

40 katav tinæ aJ rmoniv an blev pein
amfæ e{ kaston o{ sa nev omai.
kwv mw/ men aJ dumelei’
Div ka parev stake: qew’ n dæ ov pin
av fqonon aitev w Xeiv narke” uJ metev rai” tuv cai”.
ei gav r ti” esla pev patai mh sun makrw’ / pov nw/
polloi’ ” sofo” dokei’ pedæ afrov nwn
epod 4
biv on korussev men orqobouv loisi macanai’ “:
ta dæ ouk epæ andrav si kei’ tai daiv mwn de pariv scei
av llotæ av llon u{ perqe bav llwn av llon dæ upo ceirw’ n
mev trw/ katabaiv nei Megav roi” dæ ev cei” gev ra”
mucw’ / tæ en Maraqw’ no” { Hra” tæ agw’ næ epicwv rion
niv kai” trissai’ “? ? Wristov mene” dav massa” ev rgw/ :
str 5
tev trasi dæ ev mpete” uyov qen
swmav tessi kaka fronev wn
toi’ ” ouv te nov sto” oJ mw’ ”
ev palpno” en Puqiav di kriv qh
oude molov ntwn par matev ræ amfi gev lw” gluku”
w` rsen cav rin kata lauv ra” dæ ecqrw’ n apav oroi
ptwv ssonti sumfora’ / dedagmev noi.
ant 5
oJ de kalov n ti nev on lacwn
aJ brov tato” ev pi megav la”
ex elpiv do” pev tatai
uJ poptev roi” anorev ai” ev cwn
krev ssona plouv tou mev rimnan en dæ oliv gw/ brotw’ n
to terpnon auv xetai ou{ tw de kai piv tnei camaiv
apotrov pw/ gnwv ma/ seseismev non.
epod 5

41 epav meroi tiv dev ti”… tiv dæ ouv ti”… skia’ ” ov nar
av nqrwpo” allæ o{ tan aiv gla diov sdoto” ev lqh/
lampron fev ggo” ev pestin andrw’ n kai meiv lico” aiwv n:
Aiv gina fiv la ma’ ter eleuqev rw/ stov lw/
pov lin tav nde kov mize Di kai krev onti sun Aiakw’ /
Phlei’ te kagaqw’ / Telamw’ ni suv n tæ Acillei’
_______________________
You may want to print out these pages of the Grek text to have them on
hand separately from this commentary.
Now we can proceed to a detailed step by step analysis of the Ode in the
following pages:

42
Chapter VII Text with Comment
Strophe 1
filovfron JHsuciva Divka”
w` megistov poli quv gater
boula’ n te kai polev mwn
ev coisa klai’ > da” uJ pertav ta”
Puqiov nikon timan Aristomev nei dev keu.
tu gar to malqakon ev rxai te kai paqei’ n oJ mw’ ”
epiv stasai kairw’ / sun atrekei’ :
filovfron JHsuciva Divka”
w` megistov poli quv gater
“Thought loving Peace, Justice’s
daughter, of the greatest of states”
or metrically:
filov
fron J
hsuciv
a Div
ka”
. . . _ . . _ . _

43 We can hardly miss the striking rhythmics of this line when we read it
aloud. The central word Hesychia stands out with its balanced rhythmic
pattern _ . . _ for the word on which the whole poem is based and
focused. But the word is complicated by its special use in Pindar’s poetic
vocabulary, and also by the enormous use of the word in the history of the
later Western world.
The noun “hesuchia” appears in Ionic garb just once in the line of Homer
at Od.18.22 in the sense of peace and quiet: “let there rather be hesuchia to
me = let me have peace and quiet” as Odysseus argues with the Ithacan va-
grant Irus avoiding having a fist fight. The word is used here not a restful
state of the mind, but as an alternative to violence, and Homer uses the ad-
jective only once in the Iliad 21.598 again in the same sense. Boeckh in the
early l9 th c. thought that the spelling Jasuciva would be better in a choral
Doric setting, with a nice ring of alphas encircling the word. But to our ears
attuned by history to Hesychia as a familiar word, this sounds odd and his
spelling has not taken hold.
A web search comes up with over a thousand occurrences of Hesychia in
current use, including sites concerned with spiritual enlightenment, refer-
ences to the Eastern Christian Church, Health Sites and a wide swatch of
commercial advertisements for services of all sorts. A colony of Hesychiasts
at Mt. Athos in the 14 th century devoted themselves to enlightenment
through quiet and meditation, and the word has generally been taken to re-
fer to spiritual matters operating through formal meditative practices.
Some have felt that Pindar uses Hesychia as a divine figure, the Goddess of
Peace, but this is no formal Personification like Aristophanes’ Eirene or the
Roman personified deity PAX. Quite to the contrary, Jhsuciva is a gen-
eral word for quiet restfulness, something like “quietude” perhaps, and a
subtle notion which is not to be imagined as a stone stature for a temple. It
is elusive as a word, just as the quiet of the mind has an elusive quality.
Pindar’s use of it in this passage places it in the midst of a series of social
and political terms, where its calm appearance is somewhat surprising. He
uses the word half a dozen time in all, but with various subtle shadings

44 which avoid the idea of a single fixed and formal Principle of Peace. It is
the variation of setting and coloring which makes his use of the word inter-
esting in a shaded web of poetic wording. As Finley pointed out half a
century ago, Pindar uses a number of abstract nouns in a fluid and almost
transcendental way, avoiding hard personification in favor of a gentler mist
of mythic association.
The initial word in the poem, filovfron, is also a word of the mind. As
“thought or thoughtfulness-loving” it is clearly a quiet and meditative term.
Interestingly the metrics are light and airy, with three short syllable which
lead up to and stop short before the rhythmically formal word Hesuchia.
On the other side of Hesuchia stands the formal term DIKH which is a word
connected not only with Justice, the courts and legal decision making, but
with the name of the Lord of the Gods, Zeus. The proverb ( ek Dio~
dikh) “from Zeus (comes) justice” was not repeated through the Hellenic
centuries without meaning. If there were still question about Personification
of Hesychia, the appearance here of a well personified principle of Diké
would prove the non-personification of Hesuchia, since two such
Personifications would not stand beside each other in a careful poet’s verse.
Note how emphatically Diké rings out with an iambic thrust, ending the line
as strongly as it had begun in a different rhythmic pattern.
w` megistov poli quv gater
O great citied daughter
Dike is mentioned to illustrate the hard edge of JUSTICE, but it turns out
that her daughter is soft, evanescent and quietly composed hesychic qui-
etude, which I write in italics to help remove it from becoming a special
word, which would lead to personification. But this soft edged daughter is
concerned with reality in her own way, and was of course the requirement
for economic stability in the cities of the Aegean world In a maritime
trading society hesuchia means profit, something which soon after Pindar’s
death would be completely forgotten in the forty years of the devastation of
the Peloponnesion War.

45 Homer can never use the adjective “megalopolis” because of the three short
syllables in the adjective, but Pindar with access to a wide range of rhyth-
mics seem to rejoice in the word, using it in the plural form “megalopolies”
twice with the plurals Athenai and Syracusai. But here he goes one step
further, using the Superlative form of the Adjective, megisto-. If Athenai
and Syracusai are the Great States of the Greek world, then the desirable
but elusive quality of Hesuchia will be the clue to the “Greatest of States”,
the key to overall excellence.
And that is exactly what Pindar says of her. She holds the Highest Level
Keys, which can unlock the gates of two components of a great city’s
constitution. On the one hand there are Councils, the boulai which are
commemorated in thousands of inscriptions from ancient Hellas, as laws are
laid out and unfolded into practice. But there are also Wars which are
declared in a different spirit, not from the measured Councils of the State,
but often in response to the ugly side of nationalistic politics. So in the first
line below, we have the unbalanced equation of the two factors which make
the Greek city-state work, while in the following words stands the spirit of
CALM, holding in her hands the keys ( kleides ) of cities.
boula’ n te kai polev mwn
ev coisa klai’ ; da” uJ pertav ta”
“of councils and wars
possessing the highest keys”
We have a semantic problem with that critical word “the Keys”, since the word is
used in many different ways both through history and even now. We give the new
Mayor “the Keys to the City” as a sign of confidence, hoping that they will not be
used to unlock the city’s treasury of bank notes. Budapest was called the Key to
Christendom in resistance against the Turks, Gibraltar the Key to the
Mediterranean, and St. Peter hold the Keys to a Heaven which is apparently
locked to all but the elect. Whether our Keys start the car or open the house door,
we consider a key to be an unlocking device, which is quite different from the
meaning of the Greek word klais/klaides (Att. kleis) as Pindar uses it here.

46 Homer is our earliest witness here as often, and his Key will be either a bar set
across metal catches which lock the bi-folding gates of a town or a house, or the
in a Homeric house the sliding bar which is pulled horizontally into door-locking
position by a catch rope. These are locking devices, and the idea of a key which
un-locks is something which only appears much later. So in this passage the Keys
of the Greatest of Cities must refer to the massive bars on the city gates which are
in possession of the spirit of Peace and quiet. When the councils decide, the gates
can be opened to metics, wholesalers of goods, trading of all sorts, but when War
comes those gates are closed and locked firm. The exact parallelism goes some
awry here as often in Pindar, who is poet first and grammatical logician only by
chance, with Quietude opening the gates to the countryside in generous freedom
but losing control under condition of warfare. She is not a controlling spirit at all,
but a “condition” of being which can determine the greatness of states in the long
run. She cannot enforce the way Dike can, she can only smile benignantly on the
days when great states are free to prosper, as she does in this poem on the troubled
history of Pindar’s Aegina.
Now look back from the meaning of the words to their rhythmic display:
boula’ n te kai polev mwn
_ _ . _ . . _
ev coisa klai’ ; da” uJ pertav ta”
. _ . _ _ . _ . _
On such heavy associations of meaning, the rhythms mark out a steady
pace, with more longs than short syllables, and a steady pattern which seems
to be avoiding an unbalanced rhythmic pace. Then just as this paced and
stately introduction reaches a static pose, the poet switches to an entirely
different rhythmic message, almost flinging away with a gesture of his
right arm from the somber thoughts of councils and wars, to:
Puqiov nikon timan Aristomev nei dev keu.
_ . . _ _ _ . . _ . . _ . _

47 The words blocked will show a jammed and startling order:
Pytho victory honor (for A…..) receive now
“Receive for Aristomenes the Pythian victory honor”
This is not one clause in a communicative sentence, but a flash of images
which display a glorious place, great action and grand honor, a man hon-
ored in public view, and a gracious gesture to enter the hall of glory.One
might wonder why this is addressed to Quietude, remembering that the
victory at games was a microcosmed mimic of warfare, done with great
fervor and beyond all the intent to win. But we must remember that all
great activity finally rests in repose, all wars will end in peacefulness, and
this poem which is about to verge into the frantic forces of mythic violence
as preface to the struggle at the games, will conclude with a special kind of
restful and peace-assigning Quietude. But that is later, now we continue
with the address to the Spirit of Quiet, with direct wording as if speaking to
a person of wide mind and wise ways:
tu gar to malqakon ev rxai te kai paqei’ n oJ mw’ ”
epiv stasai kairw’ / sun atrekei’ :
“To do a gentle things and to receive it likewise
You have knowledge — at the exact right moment ”
Rearranging the words we get a better sense of the progression of ideas,
starting with the informal “you/ tu” which is suspended until “you under-
stand / epistasai” while the object of understanding is inserted perhaps
somewhat breathlessly in-between:
tu gar
to malqakon ev rxai te kai paqei’ n oJ mw’ ”
epiv stasai
kairw’ / sun atrekei’ :
“You know: how to do a gentle thing, and how to receive it too…”

48 There is something curiously unbalanced about this line’s meaning, which
makes it very interesting. It is clear that the Spirit of Quiet can do a deed of
gentleness, and that is to be sure the nature of her being. But does she also
receive that which is a part of her very nature? Is the receiving a part of the
gentle experience for her as quietude? It seems the poet is thinking of the
balanced situation which involves both Giving and Receiving, and has
joined this with a petition to Goodness of Heart to give the gentle gift at
this Ceremony of Honors. Giving does involve receiving, there is something
quite reciprocal about these two acts, and Pindar cannot mention the one
without thinking of the other. Later he notes that the “best thing is to re-
ceive from one who gives willingly”, as the honors of the Games are will-
ingly bestowed out of a mind which does not calculate the difference be-
tween giving and receiving. There is here, as often in Pindar a light cloak
of mystery about patches of words, which may worry the conscientious
scholar more than the poetry minded reader. This line is a good example of
something important but delicate which is not exactly meant to be under-
stood.
One more phrase summarily concludes this thought and the strophe
together, a hard and tough consideration which is consciously added onto
the soft givingness of the previous clause:
kairw’ / sun atrekei’ :
_ _ . _ . _
“when the moment is exactly right”
The Greek word “kairos” is very different from the English “time” which
refers to a long series of discrete moments seen in retrospect as a contin-
uum. But the Greek word refers to just one of those moments of time which
make up the continuum, and although the word originally was used for “a
point, a measure, an exact location” it was more generally used later for
“Time” in our sense, but as composed of many moments of time seen tele-
scoped and compacted. The ancient proverb that “en kairw ou polu~

49 crono~” meant anciently that “in the Moment (kairos) there is not much
time {chronos}”, and was probably intended as a pointed and clever say-
ing. In English “There’s not much time in time” would be silly, and we
don’t have a supply of words to match the Greek time-based notions.. But
we can in English define the same time distinctions with phrases like “get-
ting to school in time” (punctual) as against “he’ll get it done in time ”
(durative).
Here the meaning of “kairos” is clear and pointed. The gift of gentleness is
given and received at the Pythian ceremony in a spirit of graciousness at the
moment of final repose when the game is won and the victory proclaimed.
But that is only done at the critical moment of winning which cannot be
fudged or compromised. The victory is won or lost by a hair’s breadth, and
at the final moment of truth on this critical day, it becomes clear that this is
a day of glory for the young man from Aegina. It is this hard edge of
critical discrimination which makes the difference between a real winner in
a real competition of honor, as against someone who receives gifts gladly
given, but does not earn the victory of the final moment of competition.
This line both concludes and hardens the tone and meaning of this first
strophe. Now we can look at the strophe as it stands:
filovfron JHsuciva Divka”
w` megistov poli quv gater
boula’ n te kai polev mwn
ev coisa klai’ > da” uJ pertav ta”
Puqiov nikon timan Aristomev nei dev keu.
tu gar to malqakon ev rxai te kai paqei’ n oJ mw’ ”
epiv stasai kairw’ / sun atrekei’ :

50
Antistrophe 1
tu dæ opov tan ti” ameiv licon
kardiv a/ kov ton enelav sh/
tracei’ a dusmenev wn
uJ pantiav xaisa krav tei tiqei’ ”
uJ brin en av ntlw/ tan oude Porfuriv wn mav qen
paræ ai` san exereqiv zw kev rdo” de fiv ltaton
eJ kov nto” eiv ti” ek dov mwn fev roi
________________
tu dæ opov tan ti” ameiv licon kardiv a/ kov ton enelav sh/
“…and you (whem one thrusts in his heart anger without mercy)”
Repeating the exact format of the verse structure of the strophe, we have:
tu dæ opov tan ti” ameiv licon k…
. . . _ . . _ . _
At this point we realize the poet has in memory the whole sound and
rhythm of the first strophe, and it is so vividly etched in his mind (even as
we might remember without thinking of it, the repeating sound of the stan-
zas of a well known Schubert song) that he can compose with new words

51 out of his patch of memory perfectly. In a musical setting we understand
this better than in a poem in a foreign language where our learned use of
words does not work with the same pinpoint accuracy as wording in our
own intuitive speech. To understand the metrical quality of this antistrophe,
we must have the strophe perfectly memorized, words and sounds alike, and
only then can we proceed to read this new stanza with the previous rhyth-
mics ringing in our ears.
If we don’t take the trouble to memorize sections of this poem, we remain
deaf to its cadences, and no amount of diacriticizing will make the rhyth-
mics become real. We can comment on the relationship between rhythm and
meaning as important, but when they are separated the quality of the poetic
line disappears. We must learn how to master the rhythmic patterns first,
and then read the segments of the poem as meaning conjointly with the
meters, as the only reasonable way to approach Pindar’s Odes. We can
continue with discussion of the words as meaningful units, so long as we
remember that we are dealing with just one partial of a poem.
tracei’ a dusmenev wn uJ pantiav xaisa krav tei
tiqei’ ” uJ brin en av ntlw/
“fierce countering the power of the hateful,
you put pride in the bilge”
The remarkable switch of tone from the intimations of gentleness in the first
strophe, to Hate in the counter segment, is striking indeed. It begins with someone
driving hate into his heart, then the spirit of Quietude turns savagely fierce in
retaliation. Fastening on the catchword of Hubris with its many religious as well
as personal associations, it hurls Pride into the dirty ballast water in the hold of
the ship.
The first thrust at anger is posed in lofty terms, but as the line closes we face the
reality of slop in the bilge making the ugliness of the situation more real. Pindar
loves this kind of un-announced topic switching, part of his roughness and dislike
of preset sentence structure. In ages of academic imitators from Alexandria

52 through the l9th century, this kind of abruptness is rarely found, while later a poet
of Pound’s imagination will use it as part of his poetic vocabulary. Logicalness
and poetry do not have a great deal in common.
tan oude Porfuriv wn mav qen
paræ ai` san exereqiv zw
“this Porphurion understood not,
beyond measure vexing you”
In a gust of new association, we allude to the monstrous Giant Porphurion, who
tried rising up from the depths to scale the mountain home of the gods, failing in
the end. It is not clear why P. is referred to here, except as a giant myth failing,
but the name must be associated with the purple dye from Tyre which was mark
of royalty, as was the name of the 2nd c. NeoPlatonist Porphyry as a Greek ren-
dering of the Tyrian Malchus, a name clearly cognate with its triconsonantal “m-
l-ch” for King. The etymology of the name is less important that the suddenness
of his appearance, followed by another abrupt break in the thread of the poem:
kev rdo” de fiv ltaton
eJ kov nto” eiv ti” ek dov mwn fev roi.
“Gain is sweetest
if you bear it from the home of a willing giver”
This is inserted almost as an aside, with meaning emanating more from its
proverbial wording, than from the overbearing pridefulness of Porphurion. before
Typhos the Kilician comes soon after in the next strophe, with similar import but
it seems no special hidden mythic message.
Having worked through the lines and clauses, this would seem a good time to do a
careful metrical reading of the strophe and see how the acoustics work to amplify
the poetic theme.

53 tu dæ opov tan ti” ameiv licon
kardiv a/ kov ton enelav sh/
tracei’ a dusmenev wn
uJ pantiav xaisa krav tei tiqei’ ”
uJ brin en av ntlw/ tan oude Porfuriv wn mav qen
paræ ai` san exereqiv zw kev rdo” de fiv ltaton
eJ kov nto” eiv ti” ek dov mwn fev roi

54
Epode 1
biv a de kai megav laucon ev sfalen en crov nw/ .
Tufw” Kiv lix ekatov gkrano” ouv nin av luxen
oude man basileu” Gigav ntwn: dma’ qen de keraunw’ /
tov xoisiv tæ Apov llwno” : o} ” eumenei’ nov w/
Xenav rkeion ev dekto Kiv rraqen estefanwmev non
uJ ion poiv a/ Parnassiv di Dwriei’ te kwv mw/ .
Suddenly another line of moral wisdom enters here, the role of sheer Force in the
world of destiny:
 biv a de kai megav laucon ev sfalen en crov nw/ .
“Violence trips down the great boaster in the course of time”
How neatly but strangely this Violence follows on the business of Gain! But we
realize with a metrical jerk that we are in the Antistrophe now, with a surprising
change of rhythms piled atop the two previous thematic surprises. As Dionysus
had warned us, Pindar pays small attention to the rules of logically well con-
structed sentences, he hurls clauses above the head of metrical schemata and
tightly constructed meaning. Just look at the metrics:

55  biv a de kai megav laucon ev sfalen en crov nw/ .
. _ . _ . . _ . _ _ . _ . _
This is clearly what Dionysus meant by a natural Clause of sense,. Being longer
than the clauses of the strophe, it demands a different metrical treatment. We are
not sufficiently sensitive to the metrical shifts which Pindar uses so deftly, but this
line does seem to have a wider range of expressions than we saw before in the
strophe. There seem to se a certain thrust to the line as we move past the middle
point of …….aucon evsfalen en …….to a plainer iambic ending, but not being
attuned to the natural cadences of the language, we cannot with certainty mark out
for ourselves the subtler kind of effects.
But this gnomic remark feeds directly into the resumed thread of the unruly giants
revolting against the gods:
Tufw” Kiv lix ekatov gkrano” ouv nin av luxen
oude man basileu” Gigav ntwn:
“Typhos the Kilician of the hundred heads escaped not this
nor the king of the giants…”
With this we can confirm the rotation of themes from start to end, thus:
a) Porphyrion
b) hubris as Pride
b) bia as Violence
a) Typhos and giant king
Control is now coming from the wide-reaching mind of Zeus and also Apollo.
dma’ qen de keraunw’ /
tovxoisiv tæ Apovllwno”
“He was conquered by the thunderbolt (of Zeus),
by the arrows of Apollo”

56 That was done long time past in ages gone. But now with an almost apotheistic
apparition, Pindar introduces Apollo in a present situation, as archer of the
arrows of justice, and also as virtual Master of Ceremonies at this festive moment,
here in actual presence to receive and bless the winning athlete. This is a
remarkably strong pivotal swing from the stories of the giants, to this moment at
this juncture in the Ode, also at the ceremonial festivities where a gracious and
favoring Apollo appears to congratulate the winner of the wrestling competition.
This switch of range begins with the first line below, continuing:
o} ” eumenei’ nov w/
Xenav rkeion ev dekto Kiv rraqen
estefanwmev non
uJ ion
poiv a/ Parnassiv di
Dwriei’
te kwv
mw/
.
WHO (apollo) with gracious mien
Xenarkes’ son back from Kirrha
has received, garlanded with Parnassan leafery
and with Dorian songfest.
This starts so easily with Apollo’s gracious reception that we might not be
prepared for this intertwining of word connections .
from Kirrha
Xenarkes’ (he received) wreathed son
+
with leaves
+
with song
Where there is ease and clarity, the poetic artist knows that complex knots of
wording are soon in order, as a contrastive device and as a part of the dynamics of
the performance. Hoydn’s Surprise Symphony may be noted as a case in point,
responding to the truism that art need never be dull. Typhos the Kilician may have

57 had a hundred heads, but Pindar the Theban was one grade better having the full
use of a hundred temperaments.
Now we can put these parts together to see the shape of the passage we have just
been examining:
 biv a de kai megav laucon ev sfalen en crov nw/ .
Tufw” Kiv lix ekatov gkrano” ouv nin av luxen
oude man basileu” Gigav ntwn: dma’ qen de keraunw’ /
tov xoisiv tæ Apov llwno” : o} ” eumenei’ nov w/
Xenav rkeion ev dekto Kiv rraqen estefanwmev non
uJ ion poiv a/ Parnassiv di Dwriei’ te kwv mw/ .

58
Strophe 2
str 2
 ev pese dæ ou Cariv twn eJ ka”
aJ dikaiov poli” aretai’ ”
kleinai’ sin Aiakida’ n
qigoi’ sa na’ so”: telev an dæ ev cei
dov xan apæ arca’ ” polloi’ si men gar aeiv detai
nikafov roi” en aev qloi” qrev yaisa kai qoai’ ”
uJ pertav tou” hJ rwa” en mav cai”:
We return with the second strophe to the reality of the cities of the Greek world,
and to Aegina the unhappy loser of a real-world contest with Athens. Aegina has a
place near to Pindar’s heart and was hopefully to have a rising star for the future
years. This was a just city, he even calls it the dikaiopoli~ nhso~, Isle of
Justice. perhaps taking a chance with his Athenian censors. There is a real note of
sadness implicit in the first line, almost an apology for the losses of power which
Aegina had suffered, and an appeal to the virtues which she always had.
 ev pese dæ ou Cariv twn eJ ka”
aJ dikaiov poli” aretai’ ”
kleinai’ sin Aiakida’ n
qigoi’ sa na’ so”:
“she has not fallen far from the Graces
the city of justice, that island
which touches the famed
virtues of the sons of Aeacus”

59 In fact Aegina was in bad times, it was losing out to the commercial expansion of
an Athenian expansionism, and for Pindar who was long associated with that city,
the best thing to say now is to call attention to her moral sense of Dike and justice,
and Aegina’s ancient fame reaching back to the days of the old mythology.
There has been much comment on the meaning of the words “fallen away…”; the
scholiast takes it much as I do :”The island has not fallen from favor of the
deities” which makes good poetic sense, along with a touch of sadness and regret.
But there is a use of the verb piptw / pes- “fall out” in the shaking of lots out of
a bowl or vessel, and thissome have thought might mean the fateful turn of bad
luck against the island.
But then an island itself does not get bad lots, so it is felt that “island” means “the
affairs of the island”, and this is becomes comment on the political turn of
Aeginetan affairs. I take this to be unnecessary reconstruction of a meaning, which
is clear in the eyes of the ancient scholiast, and an example of the hyper-
intellectual approach of much modern criticism of the classics. It seems best to use
a poetic approach first in reading a poem, and defer political and social in-
vestigation for possible illustrative use in the margin.
Pindar continues with this appeal to the glorious history of past ages:
telev an dæ ev cei
dov xan apæ arca’ ”
“she holds perfect
reputation from the beginnings”
and swinging back to the athletic competition such as the one now held in close
view, he adds:

60 polloi’ si men gar aeiv detai
nikafov roi” en aev qloi” qrev yaisa kai qoai’ ”
uJ pertav tou” hJ rwa” en mav cai”:
“…and is sung by many in victory bearing
athletics, fostering the greatest heroes
also in fast-moving fighting.”
If the first passage in this segment was intended to be moral, the second clause
moves into the dynamics of the athletic scene at hand which is seen as physical
training for character and a demonstrable evidence of Aegina’s moral traits. The
constant re-connections of moral and just background from the days of Aeacus,
with the present ceremonies in the athletic Field of Honor are essential to Pindar’s
concept of an epinician Ode. Winning is nothing without character, and if one
wins it must be done from a deep background and performed in the right moral
manner.
 ev pese dæ ou Cariv twn eJ ka”
aJ dikaiov poli” aretai’ ”
kleinai’ sin Aiakida’ n
qigoi’ sa na’ so”: telev an dæ ev cei
dov xan apæ arca’ ” polloi’ si men gar aeiv detai
nikafov roi” en aev qloi” qrev yaisa kai qoai’ ”
uJ pertav tou” hJ rwa” en mav cai”:

61
Antistrophe 2
ta de kai andrav sin emprev pei.
eimi dæ av scolo” anaqev men
pa’ san makragoriv an
luv ra/ te kai fqev gmati malqakw’ /
mh kov ro” elqwn kniv sh/ to dæ en posiv moi trav con
iv tw teon crev o” w pai’ newv taton kalw’ n
ema’ / potanon amfi macana’ / .
_
Now as the second antistrophe begins, the tone of the setting of the poem, and the
voice of the sung passage experience a dramatic change. It seems that Pindar or
possibly his lead agonist, as if in a play, is stepping out before the choral group
and delivering a personal “song” within the format of choral drama, much as
Aeschylus was doing in dramatic playwriting. This sudden shift of attention from
the singing group of trained choristers to the voice of a lead singer is surprising in
the middle of a highly concentrated victory Ode, and stands out as a passage de-
manding great attention. Some scholars see a problem about who is talking and
who is being talked about. This misses the inherently lyric sense of the words
which give us an interior view into the poet’s creative thinking as seen personally
and at close range. This passage is a virtual zoom into the poet’s private thinking.

62 ta de kai andrav sin emprev pei.
“these things shine out even in her men.” (written over from prev.)
eimi dæ av scolo” anaqev men
pa’ san makragoriv an
luv ra/ te kai fqev gmati malqakw’ /
mh kov ro” elqwn kniv sh/
“I have no leisure to lay
grand wording at length
upon my lyre with delicate singing,
lest excess come to grate….”
How remarkable that in the midst of a formal choral presentation, the poet imag-
ines himself extemporizing on a theme to the accompaniment of the lyre, fash-
ioning Aeolic cadences with delicately sung voicing. It is as if the choral presen-
tation has receded into the background with lowered amplitude, and the poet is
stepping forth to offer a most curious excuse for what he apparently would like to
do, but cannot in the present ambiance. Is he feeling confined by the choral style
and almost wishing he were solo singing with his lyre in the manner of the great
lyric masters of the Aeolic tradition? With this in mind, it would be no accident
that this Ode is written in Aeolic cadences, which allow him great freedom of ex-
pression, yet perhaps not quite enough as he engages to sing a song as “Praise of
Great Men”.
He has gone past Aristomenes the athletic winner now, and is singing the files of
past heroes, those who made Aegina once great. In such a song of sadness the soul
of the lyric poet naturally comes to the fore, if only for a moment and with an
apologetic explanation.
to dæ en posiv moi trav con
iv tw teon crev o” w pai’ newv taton kalw’ n
ema’ / potanon amfi macana’ / .
“let this, your due debt go forth
running at my feet, my lad, latest of glories
made soaring now by my craft.”

63 In this unexpected passage, we may well wonder exactly what the “debt” is and
who is talking to whom. The due debt is certainly the well earned reward which is
owed to the victor, and the addressee is certainly Aristomenes himself. The Greek
word pai’ refers to any young man above puberty, as Anacreon’s “w pai’ = lad
looking a girlish glance”. This is not specifically a child as in English.
This elaborate interlocking of several elements into a single poetic clause is
something Pindar loves, and if it at first complicates understand and at the same
time denies the logic of a complete sentence, this is perhaps so much the better
artistically and poetically. In this passage we have interfused a) the just reward or
chreos b) the lad who raced and now received it c) the reward re-identified with
the Ode itself d) which is informed and vividified by the poet’s art and
craftsmanship in poetry.
Again, an overview of what we have been reading:
ta de kai andrav sin emprev pei.
eimi dæ av scolo” anaqev men
pa’ san makragoriv an
luv ra/ te kai fqev gmati malqakw’ /
mh kov ro” elqwn kniv sh/ to dæ en posiv moi trav con
iv tw teon crev o” w pai’ newv taton kalw’ n
ema’ / potanon amfi macana’ / .

64
Epode 2
palaismav tessi gar icneuv wn matradelfeou”
Olumpiv a/ te Qeov gnhton ou katelev gcei”
oude Kleitomav coio niv kan Isqmoi’ qrasuv guion
auv xwn de pav tran Midulida’ n lov gon fev rei”
ton o{ nper potæ Oi> klev o” pai’ ” en eJ ptapuv loi” idwn
uJ iou” Qhv bai” ainiv xato parmev nonta” aicma’ /
_______________________
If an Epode is intended to serve contrastively against the preceding antistrophe,
this initial line with its three massive words and their stiff nominal formation
surrounding the subject “tracking” (icneuvwn pres. ppl. n.sg.), serve as a good
example.
palaismav tessi gar
icneuv wn matradelfeou”
“in wrestlings tracking after maternal-uncles”
Now this next passage becomes complicated, with additional personal connections.
Walking in the footsteps of your uncles, you do not disgrace (katelevgcei”)
two other persons, who are Theognotus at Olympia (who is identified centuries
later by Pausanias 6.9.1 as a known hero) and Kleitomachus at Isthmian games, a
man unknown to history.

65 Olumpiv a/ te
Qeov gnhton ou katelev gcei”
oude
Kleitomav coio niv kan Isqmoi’ qrasuv guion
To avoid parallelism there is a shift of the two names.
“You do not disgrace Theognotos himself,
OR the bold limbed Victory of Kleitomachus.”
And continuing……..
auv xwn de pav tran Midulida’ n —— lov gon fev rei”
ton o{ nper
potæ Oi; klev o” pai’ ” en eJ ptapuv loi” idwn
uJ iou” Qhv bai” ainiv xato parmev nonta” aicma’ /
“raising up the clan of the Meidulidae —– you bear it,
that very word which
once the son of Oikleus (Amphiareus) seeing the sons
firm-standing in battle at seven-gate Thebes —-hinted ……”
The son of Oikleus is the hero Amphiarus, an ancient Argive hero associated with
Thebes and the story of the Seven Against Thebes, who dying was avenged by his
son Alcmaeon. You have to read the complex story of these two heroes to get the
sense of the historical detailing to which Pindar is referring , an intertwined skein
of myth and history which is the base from which this segment of the Ode is
sprung. And just as the story of these heroes is complex and involved, so the
grammar of the above passage is innerly complex, with words separated from
their congeners, and an organization which can only have been intentional. Again,
the Epode is contrastive to the previous strophe, and now involves contrastive
writing itself. Observe the interlocking structures:
potæ Oi> klev o” pai’ ” en
eJ ptapuv loi” idwn
uJ
iou” Qhv bai” AINIVXATO parmev nonta” aicma’ /

66 Note the word “hinted in riddle” ainivxato as the carry-over word which goes
right into Strophe 3, continuing the thread of the story but in the metrical texture
of the first strophic rhythm of the Ode. The Epodic contrast is suddenly concluded
…….. and the quotation of what the hero Amph. said plunges back with Strophe 3
into a mode which is softer, short claused, and perhaps gentler. It is as if nothing
has happened. This is a special contrastive writing of verse, obviously intentional
and surely a part of what Dionysos was referring to as rough-texture, improvising
done in a hurry while thrusting idea onto idea.
palaismav tessi gar icneuv wn matradelfeou”
Olumpiv a/ te Qeov gnhton ou katelev gcei”
oude Kleitomav coio niv kan Isqmoi’ qrasuv guion
auv xwn de pav tran Midulida’ n lov gon fev rei”
ton o{ nper potæ Oi; klev o” pai’ ” en eJ ptapuv loi” idwn
uJ iou” Qhv bai” ainiv xato parmev nonta” aicma’ /

67
Strophe 3
oJ
pov
tæ apæ Av
rgeo” hv
luqon
deutev ran odon Epiv gonoi.
w| d ei` pe marnamev nwn:
— fua’ / to gennai’ on epiprev pei
ek patev rwn paisi lh’ ma qaev omai safe”
drav konta poikiv lon aiqa’ ” Alkma’ næ epæ aspiv do”
nwmw’ nta prw’ ton en Kav dmou puv lai”.
………oJ
pov
tæ apæ Av
rgeo” hv
luqon
deutev ran odon Epiv gonoi.
w| d ei` pe marnamev nwn:
“when the Epigonoi from Argos came
a second expedition,
thus he spoke as they fought:”
The Epigonoi or “Afterborn Ones” were the generation after the death of those
who had fought and died at Thebes, and according to Herodotus 4.32 the title of
the lost Epic cycle about them was “Epigonoi”. What follows now as words from
Amphiarus the son of Oileus , is spoken in an archaic and oracular style of lan-
guage, which suits the nature of the quotation quite naturally.

68 fua’ / to gennai’ on epiprev pei
ek patev rwn paisi lh’ ma
“by nature the noble strain shines out
from fathers to sons.”
Under this rubric of inherited nobility, Pindar continues with the train of
successors to the noble line:
qaev omai safe”
drav konta poikiv lon aiqa’ ” Alkma’ næ epæ aspiv do”
nwmw’ nta prw’ ton en Kav dmou puv lai”.
“I see clearly
Alcman, the colored snake on his shining shield
Wielding, first at the gates of Kadmos”
Amphiaros was both warrior and also a seer and the scholiast remarks that the
snake on Alkman’s shield was thus recognized by his prophetic powers.
oJ
pov
tæ apæ Av
rgeo” hv
luqon
deutev ran odon Epiv gonoi.
w| d ei` pe marnamev nwn:
— fua’ / to gennai’ on epiprev pei
ek patev rwn paisi lh’ ma qaev omai safe”
drav konta poikiv lon aiqa’ ” Alkma’ næ epæ aspiv do”
nwmw’ nta prw’ ton en Kav dmou puv lai”.

69
Antistrophe 3
oJ de kamwn protev ra/ pav qa/
nu’ n areiv ono” enev cetai
ov rnico” aggeliv a/
Av drasto” h{ rw”: to de oiv koqen
antiv a prav xei mou’ no” gar ek Danaw’ n stratou’
qanov nto” ostev a lev xai” uJ iou’ tuv ca/ qew’ n
afiv xetai law’ / sun ablabei’
oJ de kamwn protev ra/ pav qa/
nu’ n areiv ono” enev cetai
ov rnico” aggeliv a/
Av drasto” h{ rw”: to de oiv koqen
antiv a prav xei
“But he failing in a first defeat
Adrastos the hero is now met with news
of a better bird-omen — but the things
of his own house work opposite….”
The first part of this paragraph is worked with typical Pindaric involvement of
words, couching the heralding of news of augury omen, to which the following
five words serve as counterfoil by their brutal simplicity. The words to de
oivkoqen are clear in present meaning but elliptical and indirect, while antiva
pravxei negate the good news without saying so, a good example of flash contrast
at word.

70 mou’ no” gar ek Danaw’ n stratou’
qanov nto” ostev a lev xai” uJ iou’ tuv ca/ qew’ n
afiv xetai law’ / sun ablabei’
Abanto” eurucov rou” aguiav ”
“he alone from the Danaan force
gathering the bones of his dead son, with gods’ favor
will approach, with his people unharmed,
the wide streets of Abas”
In the flow of prophetic wording, the pronouncement somehow goes over the
limit of the Antistrophe, and we find it concluding in the first line of the Epode.
This remarkable overwriting of the line and section must be part of what Dionysus
had noted as rough stonework jammed into place in the wall, or what Horace
referred to a the rush of a springtime river overflowing its margins. This cannot
have been done by Pindar out of error or miscalculating the line, it startles and
that is surely the effect intended.
oJ de kamwn protev ra/ pav qa/
nu’ n areiv ono” enev cetai
ov rnico” aggeliv a/
Av drasto” h{ rw”: to de oiv koqen
antiv a prav xei mou’ no” gar ek Danaw’ n stratou’
qanov nto” ostev a lev xai” uJ iou’ tuv ca/ qew’ n
afiv xetai law’ / sun ablabei’

71
Epode 3
Abanto” eurucov rou” aguiav ”
toiau’ ta men
efqev gxatæ Amfiav rho” caiv rwn de kai auto”
v Alkma’ na stefav noisi bav llw raiv nw de kai u{ mnw/
geiv twn o{ ti moi kai kteav nwn fuv lax emw’ n
upav ntasen iov nti ga’ ” omfalon paræ aoiv dimon
manteumav twn tæ efav yato suggov noisi tev cnai”.
Abanto” eurucov rou” aguiav ” (goes with previous passage)
toiau’ ta men
efqev gxatæ Amfiav rho”
“So spoke Amphiaros…….”
These are words of greatest conciseness to end the previous oracular divagation.
But this is not just a tight formula like a Homeric “so spoke he !”, but a bit of
intentional abruptness between two complicated and flowing passages, serving as a
pivot to go on to the next section, where something quite remarkable occurs.
Pindar speaks right out of the choral setting, with a directness almost suiting the
words of a lyric poet. Despite some scholarly questioning, it can hardly be the
voice of the choristers singing these personally oriented words:

72 caiv rwn de kai auto”
v Alkma’ na stefav noisi bav llw
raiv nw de kai u{ mnw/
“I myself am full of joy
I cover Alcmaeon with wreathes
I sprinkle him with song”
Note: Alcman is the Doric form of Alcmaeon.
These three short phrases are surely clauses in the way Dionysus had described
them. There are special inner arrangements of verbal element in the three clauses
a) first b) last c) first again, with de kai in a) and c) only. Note also
that a) and c) each have six syllables, while the intervening b) has a much long se-
quence with ten. But this is not all a matter of arranging and counting! This little
cluster of lines is eminently singable, it has balance and a swinging rhythm, and
sings right out of the tighter and more formal choral ambiance to announce the
following words, which are even more of a surprise:
geiv twn o{ ti moi kai kteav nwn fuv lax emw’ n
upav ntasen iov nti ga’ ” omfalon paræ aoiv dimon
manteumav twn tæ efav yato suggov noisi tev cnai”.
“because as neighbor and as guardian of my possessions
he met me as I was going to the singfest center of the world
he touched upon Prophecies with his inherited skills.”
Now here again we have a triple arrangement, but of whole and indivisible lines
with over fifteen syllables, each complete in meaning by itself. But exactly what
that meaning may be is a different matter, and scholars ancient and modern have
worried these lines back and forth with the energy of a terrier after a rat. Some
explanations are due, and perhaps the best way is to stick with the simplest set,
remembering that in the world of poetic utterance “fact” is a part of the poetry,
not the other way around.

73 geiv twn o{ ti moi kai kteav nwn fuv lax emw’ n
“because as neighbor and as guardian of my possessions……”
The most direct interpretation of this line is that since Pindar’s homes was at
Thebes, he knew of a shrine of the hero Alcmaeon which was near his house, and
he had deposited some portion of his wealth in gold or silver securities in the
precinct of Alcmaeon. Shrines were in a sense the banks of antiquity, since no-
body would dare to steal from a holy precinct under fear of social as well as reli-
gious punishment. If the famous Treasure of the Athenians at Delphi was a secure
place for Athenian funds, the smaller and less formal shrine of Alcmaeon may
well have served the same function for private moneys.
This may seem an unusual matter, but it is exactly what the poet says, in terms of
his “neighbor” in the region serving as virtual banker to Pindar personally. We
can wonder at the words but there is little room for argument.
The next line is surprising, but just as clear in meaning from the text:
upav ntasen iov nti ga’ ” omfalon paræ aoiv dimon
“he met me as I was going to the singfest center of the world”
Here we have the startling encounter of the poet traveling on the road to the
Pythian games where he is to celebrate the subject of this very Ode, and meeting
face to face (antiazein) the hero Alcmaeon. The modern commentators note this
with surprise as an “epiphany”, supporting their perception by referring to various
appearance of gods and spirits in the ancient world to prove the case. In the an-
cient world such Appearances were frequent and not a matter of surprise. If a per-
son has sufficiently concentrated on his holy mentor, and his mind is emptiedof
peripheral thinking at a specific and special moment (kenosis), then the holy pres-
ence can appear to him as a matter of faith and natural happening. It may be Indra
or Jesus or Alcmaeon, but the appearance will be vested in the same sense of real-
ity in each case.

74 Again, whether the epiphany is “external” and real, or generated out of the
person’s own mental processes, is probably immaterial and certainly at the present
time an insoluble question. But Appearances then and now do happen, about that
there is no argument.
In the natural excitement of traveling on the road to the Holy Site at Pythia,
Pindar had that experience which led to some further consequence which he does
not exactly delineate:
manteumav twn tæ efav yato suggov noisi tev cnai”.
“he touched upon Prophecies with his inherited skills.”
We do not find those prophecies in the rest of the poem, although scrutinous
philologists have scoured the ground with painstaking precision. Having made his
startling confession of a moment of enlightened Faith, Pindar finds himself in a
religious mood, and goes on to the next strophic segment of the Ode.
Abanto” eurucov rou” aguiav ”
toiau’ ta men
efqev gxatæ Amfiav rho” caiv rwn de kai auto”
v Alkma’ na stefav noisi bav llw raiv nw de kai u{ mnw/
geiv twn o{ ti moi kai kteav nwn fuv lax emw’ n
upav ntasen iov nti ga’ ” omfalon paræ aoiv dimon
manteumav twn tæ efav yato suggov noisi tev cnai”.

75
Strophe 4
tu dæ Ekatabov le pav ndokon
naon euklev a dianev mwn
Puqw’ no” en guav loi”
to men mev giston tov qi carmav twn
wv pasa”: oiv koi de prov sqen arpalev an dov sin
pentaqliv ou sun eJ ortai’ ” uJ mai’ ” epav gage”.
av nax eJ kov nti dæ euv comai nov w/
katav tinæ aJ rmoniv an blev pein ( cont. to antisstrophe 4)
amfæ e{ kaston o{ sa nev omai.
Note: In the excitement of his formal address to the god which will preside over
the Pythian games and ceremonies, Pindar writes the end of the strophe right into
the first two lines of the antistrophe, with a thrust of intent which overrides the
stanza-like regularity of the Doric music schema. In metrics, in choice and ar-
rangement of words, and even in the strophic indignity, Pindar is free and inno-
vative again and again.
Fom our traditional focus on the later 5th century as the core of Greek culture, we
often think of Pindar and Aeschylus as the last of the old-style poetic tradition,
dark and inscrutable in the meanings and anciently wordy in their poetic utter-
ances. In comparison with the bare style of Euripides, this may be true, but Pindar
was, in terms of the poetry which came before his time, a rule-breaking icono-

76 clast. He knows how to be rough when other were metrically smooth. He knows
how to break thoughts off, how to leave sentences puzzling. He says things which
stir questions without answers, he knows the value of mystery in idea and in
words, and we simply cannot pass him off as the last of an old school of poets. In
the last fifty years the world Archaic Greece has come into full view and we are
now in a much more favorable position to re-read and rethinking the Odes of
Pindar.
tu dæ Ekatabov le pav ndokon
naon euklev a dianev mwn
Puqw’ no” en guav loi”
“But YOU, Apollo, governing
the famous pan-Hellenic shrine
in the hollows of Pytho….”
Here we come to the central point and focus of the Ode, the moment in which the
figure of Apollo, Homer’s “far-darter” and Hecatobolist is to appear as presiding
Deity of the actual ceremonial procedure. Since Apollo is both master of Athletics
and also lord of the Arts, his invocation turns the tide of the fluctuations of this
poem into a straight course, which will continue from this point right until the fi-
nal words of the poem. It is as if the sun has come out with Apollo, who oversees
the games, shedding light on success and on good thinking, on morality and on the
moment of grace in which human life blossoms.
It is no fortuitous occurrence that the address to Apollo occurs at this moment in
the poem. By setting the stage first with past glories of ancient heroes of the
Aeacid strain, and then at closer range speaking of Alcman and his gifts of action
and also of prophecy, we lead inexorably up to the magic moment at which we
find ourselves in the presence of the highest authority, the celestial reigning deity
who now presides over the actual ceremony which is taking place. It is no longer
looking backward to the remote historical and mythic past. Nor is it the epiphanic
meeting with Alcman on the road coming to the games. We are now actually

77 speaking with the ruling Lord of the games, and invoking his gifts of grace and
victory in the time honored manner of a praying suppliant.
The ancient Greek prayer is outlined in a formal procedure, which first gives the
ritual name of the god as a way of identifying the access of the suppliant. In
Homer it is Chryses the priest using the ritual name for Apollo “Smintheus” which
nobody else would know. In Sappho Frag.I it is correctly “athanata” as immortal
and poetically as “doloploka” or wile-weaving. Here it is the old Homeric name
“hekatobolos” the Far Archer used as the introductory key-word.
Next must come the reminder of past supplications which succeeded with favors
granted. In Homer Iliad I it is the temple roofed and flesh offering burned,
Sappho does it impatiently with “at some other time” but the reference is clear.
Here the reminder is quite specific:
to men mev giston tov qi carmav twn
wv pasa”: oiv koi de prov sqen arpalev an dov sin
pentaqliv ou sun eJ ortai’ ” uJ mai’ ” epav gage”.
“it was here that you granted the greatest
joys, and before that at home the envied gift
of the pentathlon with your festivities you did grant…..”
So in due form Pindar completes the three part prayer formalities, and is now
prepared to go on with the Prayer Proper, in which the suppliant asks his Lord for
something new and special.
av nax eJ kov nti dæ euv comai nov w/
katav tinæ aJ rmoniv an blev pein
amfæ e{ kaston o{ sa nev omai.
“O Lord, I pray that will a willing mind
and with some harmony you look
upon each (step) I take in my path.”

78 As often, when deeply agitated, Pindar writes across the strophic line, something
which he apparently does with intent and purpose.This seems also have been a
way of connecting segments which had become overly discrete in pervious choral
literature , a good way of re-forming words into a continuous flow while retaining
the genre.
tu dæ Ekatabov le pav ndokon
naon euklev a dianev mwn
Puqw’ no” en guav loi”
to men mev giston tov qi carmav twn
wv pasa”: oiv koi de prov sqen arpalev an dov sin
pentaqliv ou sun eJ ortai’ ” uJ mai’ ” epav gage”.
av nax eJ kov nti dæ euv comai nov w/
katav tinæ aJ rmoniv an blev pein ( cont. to antisstrophe 4)
amfæ e{ kaston o{ sa nev omai.

79
Antistrophe 4
katav tinæ aJ rmoniv an blev pein
amfæ e{ kaston o{ sa nev omai.
kwv mw/ men aJ dumelei’
Div ka parev stake: qew’ n dæ ov pin
av fqonon aitev w Xeiv narke” uJ metev rai” tuv cai”.
ei gav r ti” esla pev patai mh sun makrw’ / pov nw/
polloi’ ” sofo” dokei’ pedæ afrov nwn
biv on korussev men orqobouv loisi macanai’ “: (with epode 4)
As often, a pithy moral statement is inserted into the strophic discourse, in this
case echoing back to the start with a reiteration of the important of DIKE or
Justice as the peace and harmony making factor between states.
kwv mw/ men aJ dumelei’
Div ka parev stake:
“With sweet voiced choir of song
Dike has taken her stand.”
And the prayer continues with the core of the request, which is:

80 qew’ n dæ ov pin
av fqonon aitev w Xeiv narke” uJ metev rai” tuv cai”.
“from the gods,
un-grudging favor I request, (father) Xenarkes, for your family’s
fortunes”
The word “un-grudging” or a-phthonos may seem strange to modern ears, since in
our religious atmosphere God is hardly likely to be one who holds a grudge. In
Greek terms, however, there is a different course to the argument, which states
that man’s responsibility is to view himself and his fortunes as suitable for a man,
and to avoid the overweening pride of Hubris which encourages a man to think of
himself as more than a man. That would mean seeing himself as a god in some
degree, which would offend those of the celestial realm into “holding a grudge”.
It may be the Engl. “grudge” is not the right word for this at all, perhaps ‘ill-will’
or disfavor would be nearer to the Greek word.
In any case, this request for favor and good fortune must not be so amplified as to
cross the line between human and theic, and every Greek knew from myth and
from common sense that there is a train of events which starts from man’s Hubris,
leading him into foolish blindness or Ate, which causes misjudgment and
ultimately leads to Nemesis and destruction. Curiously Nemesis (from the verb
nemo “allot, deal out, retribute”) implies a degree of fatalism, man getting
something which is his fated outcome, whereas the previous stages would imply
that he is receiving the result of his own personal come-up-ance, that fine world
from the older American morality.
ei gav r ti” esla pev patai mh sun makrw’ / pov nw/
polloi’ ” sofo” dokei’ pedæ afrov nwn
biv on korussev men orqobouv loisi macanai’ “: (epode 4)
“If someone has achieved great things without long labor,
he seem to many a wise man among fools
and to crown his life with well planned devices”

81
Epode 4
biv on korussev men orqobouv loisi macanai’ “:
ta dæ ouk epæ andrav si kei’ tai daiv mwn de pariv scei
av llotæ av llon u{ perqe bav llwn av llon dæ upo ceirw’ n
mev trw/ katabaiv nei Megav roi” dæ ev cei” gev ra”
mucw’ / tæ en Maraqw’ no” { Hra” tæ agw’ næ epicwv rion
niv kai” trissai’ “? ? Wristov mene” dav massa” ev rgw/
We have written over the strophe again, but the clause sense pulls us into the
fourth Epode inexorably, right in the middle of a puzzling statement. Recapping,
we go on:
biv on korussev men orqobouv loisi macanai’ “:
“and to crown his life with well planned devices”
Again an inserted and compressed moralism, but one which explains the previous
three lines, which must be read carefully to get its gist. Let us look at it again
more carefully before going on:
ei gav r ti” esla pev patai mh sun makrw’ / pov nw/
polloi’ ” sofo” dokei’ pedæ afrov nwn

82 It is the qualifying words “among fools” that are important. A man seems to be
falling into success by good luck, no effort of his own but just sheer good-luck,
which the Greek knew well under the name of the deity Tyche or
TUXH. It is only
fools who smile at luck without labor, and these next words make that clear:
ta dæ ouk epæ andrav si kei’ tai
“These things do not rest with men!”
…….but with the gods above, who have their preferences and if pushed hard, their
devastating grudges which will bring a high riding man down to the lowest level
of poverty and despair.
daiv mwn de pariv scei
av llotæ av llon u{ perqe bav llwn av llon dæ upo ceirw’ n
mev trw/ katabaiv nei
“A superior being holds these things,
at one time raising a man high and another one he puts down
by hands with the count.”
It is only the grammarians ancient and modern who warn us about mixed
metaphors, which serve Shakespeare and Pindar so very well. The figure of the
man raised high must refer to social and political stature, and cannot be a phrase
from the wrestling floor where a lifted wrestler is clearly not the winner.
On the other hand, while incidentally changing the grammar from participle
bavllwn to verb katabaivnei, the following clause clearly refers to the
wrestling mat, quite suitably since this is a wrestling competition. The god put the
other man down, but down as a wrestler goes down forced onto the mat by the
other man’s grips (hands = upo ceirw’n), and this is checked by the judges on
measurement of time, by the Metron as the measurement.
The moral is accepted and now the poet turns to Aristomenes the Winner, and
addressing him personally, changes from contemplation of Apollo and morality

83 and the twists of fateful Tyche, to the documentation of the winner’s actual
victories::
Megav roi” dæ ev cei” gev ra”
mucw’ / tæ en Maraqw’ no” { Hra” tæ agw’ næ epicwv rion
niv kai” trissai’ “? ? Wristov mene” dav massa” ev rgw/ :
“At Megara you have the prize,
and in the recess at Marathon, and the local prize of Hera
with triple victories, O Aristomenes, you have mastered by your effort.”
At his home state of Aegina he won thrice in the Heraia, a local set of
competitions imitating the great Competitions on the mainland. Mentioning the
Triple Victories in the home setting may be intended to raise the status of the local
Aeginetan Heraia, something dear to the poet’s heart.
With the last word of the above strophe “by your work, by effort” (evrgw/: with
its lost digamma is cognate with English “work”) we connect back to the above
lines about fools thinking a lazy man who prospers to be wise. No! Success must
be won with much work, and this wrestling victory with supreme effort is witness
to the role of action r3sulting in glory .
biv on korussev men orqobouv loisi macanai’ “:
ta dæ ouk epæ andrav si kei’ tai daiv mwn de pariv scei
av llotæ av llon u{ perqe bav llwn av llon dæ upo ceirw’ n
mev trw/ katabaiv nei Megav roi” dæ ev cei” gev ra”
mucw’ / tæ en Maraqw’ no” { Hra” tæ agw’ næ epicwv rion
niv kai” trissai’ “? ? Wristov mene” dav massa” ev rgw/

84
Strophe 5
tev trasi dæ ev mpete” uyov qen
swmav tessi kaka fronev wn
toi’ ” ouv te nov sto” oJ mw’ ”
ev palpno” en Puqiav di kriv qh
oude molov ntwn par matev ræ amfi gev lw” gluku”
w` rsen cav rin kata lauv ra” dæ ecqrw’ n apav oroi
ptwv ssonti sumfora’ / dedagmev noi.
Now we move in close with a zoom effect to the scene of the wrestling match,
with a momentary flash view of the winner —- and of the loser’s sad fate.
tev trasi dæ ev mpete” uyov qen
swmav tessi kaka fronev wn
“Upon four bodies you fell in a leap
thinking in furious rage…..”
Note: The form evmpete~ would be in Att. emepese~ from piptw.

85 It is hard to find an English phrase to get the meaning of “thinking bad thoughts”
kaka fronevwn since “bad” in English will have a moral effect. Our slang of this
time has something more like the Greek in ” he was wicked angry”, and the
meaning is not far from “fit to kill”. Translating from meaning seems best here
even if we have to leave the actual Greek words behind..
Now turning in detail to the loser, his sad homecoming and loss of face in a
contest designed to raise his family and state’s reputation aloft:
toi’ ” ouv te nov sto” oJ mw’ ”
ev palpno” en Puqiav di kriv qh
oude molov ntwn par matev ræ amfi gev lw” gluku”
w` rsen cav rin kata lauv ra” dæ ecqrw’ n apav oroi
ptwv ssonti sumfora’ / dedagmev noi.
“For them similar happy homecoming
was not awarded at the Pythia,
nor returning to their mothers did sweet laughter
raise up grace. Down alleys hanging aloof from enemies
they cower, bitten by calamity.”
We only know the word evpalpno” from the scholiast’s gloss as hdu~ or sweet,
a true hapax! Also apavoroi / aphoroi needs comment as from aeirw “lift up”
giving the meaning here meant “aloof”. The bite of disaster comes from daknw
p.p.ppl.
The Pythian games were serious athletic and political competition, not games done
as sport in our sense of the word. Modern notions of being a good sport in face of
losing is something quite different. We are supposed to shake hands with the win-
ner and go away with a smile, but when the going gets serious as in the modern
Olympics, with rewards of much money beyond fame and a medal, the ancient
scenario tends to come back to haunt the losers. Things remain the same over the
centuries, with big money there is always very small change.

86
Antistrophe 5
ant 5
oJ de kalov n ti nev on lacwn
aJ brov tato” ev pi megav la”
ex elpiv do” pev tatai
uJ poptev roi” anorev ai” ev cwn
krev ssona plouv tou mev rimnan en dæ oliv gw/ brotw’ n
to terpnon auv xetai ou{ tw de kai piv tnei camaiv
apotrov pw/ gnwv ma/ seseismev non.
oJ de kalov n ti nev on lacwn
aJ b
rov tato” ev pi megav la”
ex elpiv do”
pev tatai uJ poptev roi” anorev ai”
ev cwn
krev
ssona plouv tou mevrimnan
“But he who has got some new thing.
from his hope of great splendor
flies high on wings of manliness, having
a thought greater than wealth.”
In these five lines we have a structured refinement of the winner’s thoughts, first
starting with his having got something new and unexpected, a strangely vague
phrase to suit the achievement of a lifetime of training and desire. It is almost as if
it is impossible to sum up the results of winning, all the person can think of in his

87 interior mind is “Yes, I got it…” where the IT is everything that he has worked
for and desired.
Trying to get nearer to the actual achievement, we have an uneasy assortment of
words which reflect different turns of the winner’s thinking. Splendor is not really
the right word for aJbrovth~ from abro~ which means “delicate, lovely” and
can be used of a parthenic maiden better than of a sweating athlete. Sappho had
said “Above all I love delicacy (aJbrovth~ ) . Glory is too large and showy, love-
liness is too feminine for the situation. What we have here is an intentional light-
ness and delicacy in describing the rewards which come from his high hopes, to
let his soul ride high in excitement and exultation.
Riding high on the wings of fancy may seem again a little too angelic, considering
that although a Winged Victory was acceptable, nobody in Greece had ever seen a
winged Athlete. Pindar therefor makes it “winged manliness” (anoreva /Att.
hnoreva). What is interesting in this passage is first the undefinable quality of the
winning as “something new, some new thing”, followed by “loveliness” generated
out of “hope”, flying aloft on “wings” —– but yet steered by “manly qualities”.
This alternation between the soft and the hard, at this critical juncture in the cere-
mony and also the poem , is intentional and artistically most interesting.
But the passage cannot conclude ethically with the rewards of winning at the
Olympic contests, which will of course bring financial returns of some sort as well
as sheer fame. Olympics has become a big business with high finance involved at
every stage, so the final clause in this passage seems most relevant:
ev cwn
krev ssona plouv tou mev rimnan
“having a thought grander than wealth”
And just as Pindar touches the critical matter of Wealth (almost as if sensing that
in the long run the Olympics is going to become in Hellenistic times a crass
money-making business with little of the ethical glory of the past) he subjoins an
abrupt warning.

88 en dæ oliv gw/ brotw’ n
to terpnon auv xetai ou{ tw de kai piv tnei camaiv
apotrov pw/ gnwv ma/ seseismev non.
“In short time mortals’ delight
waxes great. But so too it falls to the ground
shaken by a backward-turning doom.”
We know basically what is meant by these last words, but the words puzzle still.
The adjective apotrovpo~ is actually “turning away, off ” and a scholiast re-
marks that it means contrary to expectation. Lattimore took it as “a backward
doom “, stretching the Greek slightly but not unreasonably. Still the word gnwvma
leaves us with a problem, since it is really a “thought, will, mental decision”, and
one which belongs to men as part of their thinking processes. But the context
would seem to point to an external force, a contrary will of an offended daimon, a
turn of fate and the fore-ordained which finally dashes a man to the ground.
The word gnome is a word for the thought and actions of human beings. So the
meaning must be that just as WE make our own good fortune, by an off-turned
piece of “judgment” or thought, we devise our own calamities. Responsibility for
life depends on our thought, just as responsibility for winning at the games de-
pends on the athlete’s thought. This is human centrism at the peak, we are the
makers of our own good (and bad) fortune, and Apollo presiding even as now at
this ceremony is not really the controlling force, but at most the favoring and
confirming authority.
apotrov pw/ gnwv ma/ seseismev non.
“But so too it falls to the ground
shaken by a wrong-turning judgment..”
For the Greeks all is done under the cover of a theic supervision, yet man assumes
responsibility for the good and bad which occurs. Modern society still likes to feel
it operates under a celestial umbrella of some sort, whether Fate, or Luck-Of-The-
Draw, or Astrology or any shade of religious belief.

89
Epode 5
epav meroi tiv dev ti”… tiv dæ ouv ti”… skia’ ” ov nar
av nqrwpo” allæ o{ tan aiv gla diov sdoto” ev lqh/
lampron fev ggo” ev pestin andrw’ n kai meiv lico” aiwv n:
Aiv gina fiv la ma’ ter eleuqev rw/ stov lw/
pov lin tav nde kov mize Di kai krev onti sun Aiakw’ /
Phlei’ te kagaqw’ / Telamw’ ni suv n tæ Acillei’
Coming to the Finale of this last great poem from the master of choral poetry, and
remembering that he was thenabout eighty years old then, and had started this Ode
with an unusual appeal to Hesychia as the spirit of universal peace under Justice,
we might well pause before approaching his last words. He has shrouded the
Finale with a sense of mystery, which raises deep questions about the meaning of
human life, its expectations and its defaults, a philosophical and lyrical interlude
of great beauty ——before plunging back to Aegina and the mythic mysteries of
the heroes from a long gone past.
epav meroi tiv dev ti”… tiv dæ ouv ti”…
skia’ ” ov nar av nqrwpo”
“Things of a day are we. What are we? What are we not?
The dream of a shadow, that is Man…….”

90 Shakespeare had said as much, we are players on life’s stage, here for the part and
for the show, when the curtain fall we step off and disappear forever.This will
probably be the way most of us would read Pindar’s word epavmeroi at first
sight, and that may in fact be one part of Pindar’s meaning.
But there is a long tradition about this “ephemeral” word dating back to Homer’s
phrase at Od.21.85 ephemeria phroneontes (efhmeria froneonte~) which
refers somewhat regretfully to the shortness and variability of man’s span of at-
tention. Then as now we think of the daily things first and the ultimate meanings
only peripherally if at all. That is human nature, and so it appeared to the Greeks
and it may not be entirely wrong several millennia later. Aeschylus in one of the
fragments says “mortals think for the day” and adds the phrase that mental stabil-
ity is no more than the shadow of smoke (kapnou skia), a near parallel to
Pindar’s phrase “dream of a shadow”..
In terms of the ancient use of this critical word, we might better translate the line
this way:
Thinking for the day! (as we are by our human nature)
What is one? What is one not? (Heraclitus ‘ Continuum of Change)
This does seem more consonant with Greek thinking, with the actual words Pindar
uses, and if we feel robbed of some of the mystery of the wonderful wording of
the close of this grand poem, we can console ourselves by knowing that with this
interpretation we may be in Greek terms nearer to the poet’s thoughts.
On the other hand, we as later-world readers of this venerable poetry have a right
to use our own impressions and intuitions, and we are certainly not to be bound by
the restrictions of a set of classical Greek quotations. There is much in Pindar as
in every Greek writer which slips us by or tricks us in a wrong direction, as we
read and interpret texts copied over and over again from an ancient lost
manuscript. We adhere to the doctrine of reading in the light of philological

91 truthfulness, and scholarship can often correct aberrant impressions quite well. But
t
here is another area in which we must trust our own perceptions, where our sub-
jective and personal impressions may carry a worthwhile message even if not
completely consonant with the text we have at hand. Philology is one of our best
tools for truth, so long as we recognize that is has a peculiar stamp of its own,
which is too often non-literary and even at times anti-literary. We must use schol-
arship but we must not let it get in our way.
I mention this here because of the wonderful mysterious mist which these closing
words cast over our eyes, words which we should in the final analyssi read with
our own personal and subjective bias. Where spirit is involves, footnotes may
simply not be in order.:
epav meroi tiv dev ti”… tiv dæ ouv ti”…
skia’ ” ov nar av nqrwpo”
Let the words stand and slip into memory, and decide later what they may have
meant to the author and what they seem to mean to you at this ephemeral moment
of time.
epavmeroi Alas, we humans are mere things of a day,
variable in our thoughts and gone in an instant of time.
tiv dev ti”… What is a person after all, his achievements and wealth?
tiv dæ ouv ti”… What has he failed to do, what life has he wasted…?
skia'” ovnar avnqrwpo” It all comes to nothingness. It is all
Vanity of vanities!
__________________

92 However that is not the end of the situation or of the poem. We are almost at the
end, but we have two more thematic strands to unravel before we are done. The
first is signalled by a emphatic BUT which counters the previous mystical sadness
about the meaning of life, with a flash of light and bright hope:
all
æ o{ tan aiv gla diov sdoto” ev lqh/
lampron fev ggo” ev pestin andrw’ n kai meiv lico” aiwv n:
BUT when the god-given brightness comes,
a shining light rests upon men, and a lovely life.
This changes the direction of the ending emphatically, with a note of faith and
optimism and hope for a life which can be good and lovely for the winning athlete
and for the rest of us too.
This terminating passage must be read alltogether as a set of connected thoughts,
in three parts:
a) What is life, passing quickly by, constantly changing, a reminder
of how emphemeral we are, how insignificant and what we have
failed to become.
b) BUT when a gleam of brightness shines on us, we are enlightened
and from that moment on we will live a lovely and charmed life.
c) And that brings back to mind the great mythic tradition, with its
guidance in free wise from Zeus above and from the ancient families
of heroes tracing their line from Aegina and Aeacus down through
the generations, to that last exemplar of the bright and the brilliant
— the incomparable Achilles.

93 This passage, moving from a) despair and measured desperation in the review of a
spent life, to a b) flashing view of the brightness which can mysteriously come to
enlighten and vivify our lives, leads inexorably to c) the mythic vision of the
Heroes .
These vividly exemplify, in terms of ancient myth from a far heroic island, the
traditional brilliance of the Greek word aiglh, which exists in this world as a
goal within the reach of emphemerals like ourselves, who can hear this poem sung
with the last words ringing in our ears, with the names of heroes and victories in
gallant rhythmic pulses of song, and thus have hope that Brilliance is not forever
gone from this world
Aiv gina fiv la ma’ ter eleuqev rw/ stov lw/
pov lin tav nde kov mize Di kai krev onti sun Aiakw’ /
Phlei’ te kagaqw’ / Telamw’ ni suv n tæ Acillei’
“Dear mother Aegina, with a free sailing forth
accompany this city, along with Zeus and king Aeacus,
Peleus and brave Telamon, and with Achilles.”
There is much packed into these three lines. Aegina as dear to Pindar in many of
his poems, is here mother of the victorious athlete. Now threatened by Athenian
hegemony trading on the high seas where Aegina had been a major power, the
poet prays for the guardian spirit Aegina to protect the city with free sailing, both
as a poetic turn of phrase and also with a political and economic innuendo.
The lines verge backward into the ancient mythic past, proceeding from the city
of Aegina backward to nymph Aegina as mother of Aeacus by Zeus, then on to
Aeacus’ one son Telamon who fathered the greater Ajax and also Teucer, and his
other son Peleus who by the nymph Thetis fathered Achilles. Compressing these
varied mythological strands together into three tightly packed lines has a double
purpose. It dynamically arranges names of famous note together in short breath-
like groupings of words, with the strong effect of sequenced compression:

94 Aiv gina fiv la ma’ ter Aegina our mother
eleuqev
rw/
stov
lw/with fair voyage
pov lin tav nde kov mize this city
Di kai zeus
krev onti sun Aiakw’ /Aeacus
Phlei’ te Peleus
kagaqw’ / Telamw’ ni Telamon
(pause before the very end)
suv n tæ Acillei’ AND WITH ACHILLES
This is no mere roster of famous names, a list from Apollodorus or Bullfinch of
Aeacid Heroes of famous reputation. It is the tracing of the spiritual lifeblood of
an island realm which was part of an ancient world, known for its high mountains,
its ports for sailing to the known world, its hoplites fighting on foot with weapons
in their hands, its new athletes who retain their ancestral righting spirit, and if this
is all to be summed up in a single word or name, the list would conclude with one
name only.
Telling all the rest of the names, we have to pause as the final breath brings forth
the last words, which strikes the heart of every person who knows the Homeric
world of epic song. The roster must end with a pregnant pause, and then the name
of ACHILLES.
But looking back at the poem from the very first words, we realize there is a dif-
ference from start to end. At the first line it was the spirit of Quietude or Hesychia
as quality if not a formal deity, which with Justice or DIKE from Zeus makes the

95 ways of cities straight and clean. But as the poem ends, it is not justice by the
bright gleam of god-rewarded achievement with control, which calls up the names
of ancient heroes known specifically for valiance and courage. We know that
Achilles as the summation of all that was bright and brilliant, does have a fatal
flaw in his samurai-like fighting mentality. Without tenderness or love or family,
he wins the fights he engages, with a warrior’s prcision and coldness. He would
seem to eb with out feelings, but there is a certain nascent tristesse about him as
the Iliad comes to the end. Yet his was the brilliance, that indubitable shine of
successful Glory which a hero aspires to, and in that light his name concludes this
poem resoundingly.
We must remember that Pindar was an old man when writing this last poem, that
Quietude was from the start the theme of the Ode, that near death he knew all
about the empheralness of human existence. We wonder why his conclusion and
his final emblematic titling would be with the name of Achilles as the paradigm of
the man of blood and action, the ultimate warrior. Heaping praise earlier in the
poem on Alcmaeon both as warrior and also as prophet, Pindar might seem to
have had a better choice for his great Hero. But that was spoken within the range
of his home and background at Thebes, and this at the Pythian ceremony, which
had to be pan-Hellenic and to end with a drum roll which would stir all hearts
throughout the Aegean world.
The Finale stirs us still, but perhaps with a warning about war, about hero wor-
ship, and and how easily we forget our thoughts about Hesychia and Quietude as
our best preferences. Do we really prefer Peace and Quiet, or are we still tuned to
the martial cadences of national histories and the excitement of the sounds of war?
Still there is a heroic ring in our hearts as we think of our own fair city, when
knowing that god is on our side, we hear the resounding list of the great men of
our people who lived with courage and brilliance:
pov lin tav nde kov mize
Di kai krev onti sun Aiakw’ /
Phlei’ te kagaqw’ / Telamw’ ni
suv n tæ Acillei’
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