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[107] Though they have no regard for other poets, they valued his works so highly that they passed a law which provides that their men, after taking the field, shall be summoned to the king's tent to hear the verses of Tyrtaeus all together, holding that this of all things would make them most ready to die for their country. It will be profitable for you to hear these elegiac verses too, that you may know what sort of conduct brought men fame among the Spartans.1

“Nobly comes death to him who in the van
Fighting for fatherland has made his stand.
Shame and despite attend the coward's flight,
Who, leaving native town and fruitful land,
Wanders, a homeless beggar, with his kin,
True wife, old father, mother, tender child.
Unwelcome will he be where'er he goes,
Bowed dawn with hardship and by want defiled.
Bringing his house dishonor, he belies
His noble mien, a prey to fear and shame.
Thus roams the waif unpitied and unloved,
He and the line that after bears his name.
Be stalwart then. Think not of life or limb;
Shielding our land and children let us die.
Youths, brave the fight together. Be not first
To yield to craven cowardice and fly.
Make large your hearts within you. Undismayed
Engage in battle with grown men. Be bold;
And standing fast forsake not those whose feet
No longer keep their swiftness. Guard the old.
For shame it is to see an elder fall,
Down in the forefront, smitten in the strife,
Before the youths, with grey beard, hair grown white,
To breathe out in the dust his valiant life,
Clasping his bloody groin with clinging hands,
(Fit sight indeed to kindle wrath and shame!)
His body bared. But those whom youth's sweet flower
Adorns unfaded nothing can defame.
Honor of men is theirs, in life, and women's love;
Fair are they too when in the van laid low.
Then clench your teeth and, with both feet astride,
Firm planted on the ground withstand the foe.


1 Alternative versions of these lines will be found in the Oxford Book of Greek Verse In Translation(no. 97) and in the Loeb Elegy and Iambus(vol. i., no. 258).

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