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The Extant Odes of Pindar   By: (518? BC - 438? BC)

Book cover

First Page:

THE EXTANT

ODES OF PINDAR

TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH

with

INTRODUCTION AND SHORT NOTES

BY

ERNEST MYERS, M.A.

Sometime Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford

1904

First edition printed 1874.

Reprinted (with corrections) 1884, 1888, 1892, 1895, 1899, 1904

SON OF THE LIGHTNING, FAIR AND FIERY STAR, STRONG WINGED IMPERIAL PINDAR, VOICE DIVINE, LET THESE DEEP DRAUGHTS OF THY ENCHANTED WINE LIFT ME WITH THEE IN SOARINGS HIGH AND FAR PROUDER THAN PEGASEAN, OR THE CAR WHEREIN APOLLO RAPT THE HUNTRESS MAID. SO LET ME RANGE MINE HOUR, TOO SOON TO FADE INTO STRANGE PRESENCE OF THE THINGS THAT ARE. YET KNOW THAT EVEN AMID THIS JARRING NOISE OF HATES, LOVES, CREEDS, TOGETHER HEAPED AND HURLED, SOME ECHO FAINT OF GRACE AND GRANDEUR STIRS FROM THY SWEET HELLAS, HOME OF NOBLE JOYS. FIRST FRUIT AND BEST OF ALL OUR WESTERN WORLD; WHATE'ER WE HOLD OF BEAUTY, HALF IS HERS.

INTRODUCTION.

Probably no poet of importance equal or approaching to that of Pindar finds so few and so infrequent readers. The causes are not far to seek: in the first and most obvious place comes the great difficulty of his language, in the second the frequent obscurity of his thought, resulting mainly from his exceeding allusiveness and his abrupt transitions, and in the third place that amount of monotony which must of necessity attach to a series of poems provided for a succession of similar occasions.

It is as an attempt towards obviating the first of these hindrances to the study of Pindar, the difficulty of his language, that this translation is of course especially intended. To whom and in what cases are translations of poets useful? To a perfect scholar in the original tongue they are superfluous, to one wholly ignorant of it they are apt to be (unless here and there to a Keats) meaningless, flat, and puzzling. There remains the third class of those who have a certain amount of knowledge of a language, but not enough to enable them to read unassisted its more difficult books without an expenditure of time and trouble which is virtually prohibitive. It is to this class that a translation ought, it would seem, chiefly to address itself. An intelligent person of cultivated literary taste, and able to read the easier books in an acquired language, will feel himself indebted to a hand which unlocks for him the inner chambers of a temple in whose outer courts he had already delighted to wander. Without therefore saying that the merely 'English reader' may never derive pleasure and instruction from a translation of a foreign poet, for to this rule our current version of the Hebrew psalmists and prophets furnish one marked exception at least still, it is probably to what may be called the half learned class that the translator must preeminently look to find an audience.

The other causes of Pindar's unpopularity to which reference was made above, the obscurity of his thought and the monotony of his subjects, will in great measure disappear by means of attentive study of the poems themselves, and of other sources from which may be gathered an understanding of the region of thought and feeling in which they move. In proportion to our familiarity not only with Hellenic mythology and history, but with Hellenic life and habits of thought generally, will be our readiness and facility in seizing the drift and import of what Pindar says, in divining what has passed through his mind: and in his case perhaps even more than in the case of other poets, this facility will increase indefinitely with our increasing acquaintance with his works and with the light thrown on each part of them by the rest[1].

The monotony of the odes, though to some extent unquestionably and unavoidably real, is to some extent also superficial and in appearance only. The family of the victor, or his country, some incident of his past, some possibility of his future life, suggest in each case some different legendary matter, some different way of treating it, some different application of it, general or particular, or both... Continue reading book >>




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