Olympian Ode I


                                                                                                Strophe I

Chiefest is water of all things, for streaming

Therefrom all life and existence came;

And all proud treasure of princes the gleaming

Splendour of gold outshines, as the flame

Of a great fire flings through the night its rays.

But, heart of mine, if thou fain wouldst praise

Triumphs in athlete-contests won,

Search not, when day with his glory is glowing,

For a radiant star more life bestowing

In the whole void sky, than the kingly sun.

Even so shall we find no brighter crown

Than Olympia giveth whereof to sing;

For thence doth the chant of high renown

O’er the spirits of bards its perfume fling,

When, the praise of Kronion in song resounding,

Unto Hiero’s blest heart wealth-abounding

The hymn of his praise they bring.


                                                                                                Antistrophe I


Hiero!—yea, for the rod of his power

Is a scepter of righteousness stretched o’er the land

Of the myriad flocks; and the choice of the flower

Of chivalry ever is plucked by his hand.

Yea, and he also is garlanded

With the blossom of song enstarring his head,

The song that with gladsome voices now

We singers chant, at the banquet meeting

Of the Prince who giveth us friendhsip’s greeting.

Now, O my Muse, from its rest take thou

The lyre that is strung to the Dorian strain,

If the glory of fleet Pherenikus, he

Who triumphed in Pisa’s Olympian plain,

Haply with rapture of song thrilled thee,

When flashed in the course by Alpheus’ river

His body by lash or by goad touched never,

And wedded to victory.


                                                                                                Epode I

His lord, the ruler of Syracuse-town

The king who joyeth in gallant steeds,

Flasheth afar his name’s renown,

Flasheth from Sicily far over sea

Where Pelops, the exile from Lydia’s meads,

Founded a hero-colony—

Pelops, beloved of the Earth-enfolder,
Poseidon the strong, when the Fate of the Thread

Drew him resplendent with ivory shoulder

From the undefiled laver, whom men deemed dead.

There be legends full many; and fables hoary

With inventions manifold broidered o’er

Falsify legend, I wot, with a story

Wherein truth liveth no more.


                                                                                                Strophe II

But the Grace of Beauty, which aye is weaving

All manner of charm round the souls of men,

Taketh these tales unworthy believing,

And arrays them in honour; so cometh it then

That man with unwavering credence clings

To a false-feigned tale of impossible things.

But the after-days are witnesses

That be wisest.  Reverent speech beseemeth

The mortal who uttereth that which he deemeth

Of the Gods—so shall his reproach be less.

O Tantalus’ son, I will speak not as they

Who told thy story in days of old!

But thy father bade thee a guest that day

To a banquet arrayed by the righteous-souled

Upon Sipylus’ loved height—so he tendered

To the Gods requital for boons they had rendered.

On a sudden the chariot of gold


                                                                                                Antistrophe II

Of the Lord of the Trident gleaming splendid,

Whose soul was with love for thy youth overcome,

Bare thee, as up through the blue ye ascended,

To imperial Zeus’s glory-home,

Whither also came in the after-day

Ganymedes ravised from earth away

In halls celestial the nectar to pour,

But when viewless thus from the earth they had caught thee,

Nor the questers that far and near had sought thee

To the arms of thy mother could thee restore,

Then spake some neighbor in envious spite

A whispered slander of sin and shame,

How that over the boiling water’s might

Which hissed in the bronze that bestrode the flame

Did they carve thy flesh with the knife, and seethe it,

And served at the feats, and –dare lips breathe it?—

That the God-guests ate of the same.


                                                                                                Epode II

But impossible is it for me to call

Any Blest One man-eater—with loathing and scorn

I recoil! Oh, the profit is passing small

That the dealer in slander hath oftentimes found.

But if ever a man on the earth was born

Whom the Watchers from Heaven with honour crowned,

That man was Tantalus: yet of their favour

No profit he had, or of that hight bliss.

But the man’s proud stomach was drunk with its savour

And gorged with pride; and by reason of this

He drew on him ruin utter-crashing;

For Zeus hung o’er him a huge black scaur,

And he cowers from it aye on his head down-rushing

From happiness exiled far.


                                                                                                Strophe III

And there unto torment fettered for ever

Living on, living on in eternal despair

He abides with the Three on whom hope dawns never,

He who from the feast of the Gods could dare

To steal ambrosia and nectar whereby

They had given him immortality,

That the guests of his wine-cup might revel thereon!

But who thinketh to hide his evil doing

From God, he errs to his bitter ruin!

So then the Immortals sent back his son

Exiled to earth from the heavenly home,

Thenceforth with the sons of a day to abide.

But in process of time, when Pelops was come

To the flower-bright season of life' s springtide,

When the soft rose-tint of his cheek 'gan darken,

To the whisper of love did his spirit hearken,

And he dreamed of the world-famed bride,


                                                                                                Antistrophe IIII


Hippodaemia, the glorious daughter

Of the Lord of Pisa, a prize for him

Who could win her. Alone by the surf-white water

Of the sea he stood in the darkness dim.

To the Thunderer-voiced he cried o'er the wave,

To the Lord of the Trident mighty to save:

And lo, at his side did the God appear.

And  'O Poseidon," he spake imploring,

"If the gifts of the Cyprian Queen's outpouring

To thy spirit, O King, be in any wise dear,

His bronze lance let not Oenomaus lift

To mine hurt, but cause me to Elis to ride

On a god-given chariot passing swift:

There throne thou me by victory's side.

For lovers by that spear merciless-slaying

Have died thirteen, and he still is delaying

To bestow his child as a bride.


                                                                                                Epode III


In the path doth a mighty peril lie;

To the craven soul no welcome it gives.

But, seeing a man must needs once die,

Wherefore should I unto old age screen

From peril a life that only lives,

Sitting nameless and fameless in darkness unseen,

In the deeds of the valiant never sharing?

Nay, lies at my feet the challenge now:

I will accept it for doing and daring!

Good speed to mine heart's desire grant thou!"

Not fruitless the cry of his heart's desiring

Was uttered.  The God heard gracious-souled,

And crowned him with honour.  Winged steeds untiring

He gave a chariot of gold.


                                                                                                Strophe IV

So he won for his bride that maiden peerless;

For her terrible father he overcame.

And she bare to him six sons battle-fearless,

Captains of war-hosts, thirsting for fame.

And his portion assured hath Pelops still

Where the priests the blood of the sacrifice spill;

And unto his tomb resorteth the throng

Of strangers from far who have heard his story.

From his grave-mound his spirit beholdeth the glory

Of the mighty Olympian strife of the strong

In the course that from Pelops its name hath ta'en,

Wherein be contending the swift to run

And the thews that be might in wrestling-strain.

and whoso therein hathh the victory won,

Thereafter on through his life-days ever

Sweetly his peace shall flow as a river

Blissfully gliding on


                                                                                                Antistrophe IV


For those Games' sake. Yea the good that unceasing

On man's lot daily as dew droppeth down

In that which to each is most well-pleasing.

Now is it my bounden duty to crown

With a strain wherein hoof-beats triumphant ring

In Aeolian mood Sicilia's King.

And hereof is my spirit assured past doubt

That amidst all men on the wide earth dwelling

There is found no host whom with prouder-swelling

Notes in many a winding bout

Of noble song I may glorify;

Yea, none more learned in honour's lore,

None who showeth therein more potency.

The God who guardeth thee watcheth o'er

Thine hopes and thine aims, that no evil assail thee;

And if--O nay, but he cannot fail thee!--

I trust ere long once more


                                                                                                Epode IV


To chant a triumph than all more sweet,

Inspiration-wafted, as one that flies

In a chariot, on paths of utterance meet,

Till I win unto Kronos' Hill sunbright.

O yea, in my Muses quiver lies

A song-arrow winged for stronger flight.

By diverse paths men upward aspire:

Earth's highest summit by kings is attained.

Thou therefore look to attain no higher

Than earth. Be it thine on the height thou hast gained

To pace mid splendour of royal achieving

Thy life through: mine be it no less long

To consort with victors, from Hellas receiving

The world o'er praise for my song.



--translated, A. S. Way