05 August 2012

Olympics: For Theron of Akragas

For Theron of Akragas,
Winner in the Olympic chariot-race, 476 BC

                                    by Cameron Hawke Smith

                                     Herakles in pursuit of the doe
                                     with the golden antler
                                     came to the land
                                     beyond the north wind's home

                                     and wondered
                                     at the forest of dark green
(for which there is no word in Greek)
and the round eye of the moon
gazed at him

a sweet urge came upon him
to fetch that primal greenness
and make shade for the racetrack

where the garden
with the consecrated altars of Zeus
was naked of trees and exposed
to the sun's caustic rays

and now athletes
hot from the chase
and crowned
by the Arbiter of Games
carry that forest on their victors' heads

For Theron of Akragas,
Winner in the Olympic chariot-race, 476 BC
Olympian 3
                                  by Pindar 

 1. I aim to please the guest-loving tydarids,
     golden-haired Helen, too,
while I pay honor to famous Akragas and
rouse up for Theron the hymn of Olympic victory owed to the tireless
hooves of his team! Once more the Muse
     stands at my side as I search out a
new-fashioned mix of Dorian dance with

voices that celebrate triumph.  Crowns
    fixed in my hair mark a
ritual duty of joining the elegant
tones of the lyre with a shout from the pipe and a pattern of
   words in due praise of
Hagedisamos' brave son, and
   Pisa commands me as well.  Songs
travel from there, god-sent and destined for

ep. him on whose brow the strict Elian judge,
following Harakles' ancient rule,
   places a wreath of gray olive to
bind in his hair -- leaves from the tree
   brought long ago by Amphitryon's
son from the shadowy sources of
   Ister to serve as best
emblem of games at Olympia, once his

2. words had persuaded the men of Apollo who
   live beyond VZoreas.
He made his plea in good faith, wanting a
tree for the famed grove of Zeus, as shade to be shared by the
   crowd, and as a badge of 
valiant success. His father's altars once
   hallowed, the eye of the midmonth
moon had shone full upon him from her golden

car as on Alpheos' banks he established a sacred
   judging of games and a
festival, every four years, but no splendid
trees as yet grew in that field by the Kronian Hill --
   Pelops' domain.  To him the
precinct seemed naked, enslaved to the sharp
   rays of the sun, and in that
moment his heart had urged him to go

ep. back to the Istrian land where Orthosia,
horse-driving daughter of Leto, had
   earlier met him, come from Arkadia's
ridges and glens, forced by Eurystheus
   (and by the oath of his father) to
bring back the hind whose horns were of 
   gold, the gift that Taygeta 
offered to Artemis with her inscription.

3. Chasing that doe, he'd glimpsed the land that lies
   back of the chill winds of 
Boreas and he had stood there in silence,
stunned by the trees.  A sweet longing to plant just such
   trees at the turn of his twelve-lap
course later seized him, and now he is
   glad as he visits that Elean
festival, joining the twin sons of Leda!

To them, when he went to Olympos, he left the 
   care of his glorious
contests of muscle and chariot skills.
My heart commands me say that these same horse-loving
   Tyndarids now bring
glory to Theron and to the Emmenid tribe,
   who, of all men, have most frequently
welcomed these heroes at their friendly feasts,

ep. piously keeping the rites of the Blessed.  If
water is best, gold the most honored of
   all man's possessions, so it is
Theron who reaches the outermost
   edge of success, moving from home to
Herakles' pillars! No wise man goes
   further, nor even the 
unwise.  I'll not attempt it -- I'd be a fool

Cameron Hawke Smith, from Modern Poetry in Translation 3/17: Parnassus (£9.95).

Pindar from  Anne Pippin Burnett, Pindar: Odes for Victorious Athletes, (JHUP, Baltimore, 2010).

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