For Melissus of Thebes
Thanks to the gods, I have countless paths opening on every side; Melissus, at the Isthmian games you revealed abundant resources for celebrating in song the excellence of your family, in which the sons of Cleonymus flourish perpetually,
with a god's favor, as they progress towards the mortal end of life. But a changeable wind sweeps down and drives all men at different times.
These men truly are spoken of as honored in Thebes from the beginning; they have good relations with the neighboring towns, and are bereft of loud arrogance. And as for the memorials that fly through all the world,
memorials of boundless fame for living and dead men, they have attained all of these in full. Through their manly deeds they reached from home to touch the farthest limit, the pillars of Heracles—
do not pursue excellence any farther than that! And they became breeders of horses
and were pleasing to bronze-clad Ares. But on a single day the rough storm of war robbed their blessed hearth of four men. Now, after the wintry gloom of the changing months, the ground has blossomed as if with crimson roses
by the will of the gods. The shaker of the earth who dwells at Onchestus
and at the sea-bridge before the walls of Corinth, by offering to that family this marvellous song, wakes from her bed their ancient fame for glorious deeds. For she had fallen asleep, but now she has awakened and her body shines, marvellous to see, like the morning-star among other stars.
She proclaimed their chariot victorious on the high ground of Athens and also in Sicyon
at the games of Adrastus, and thus gave them leaves of song, like these, from the singers of their time. Nor did they keep their curved chariot from competing in the general contests; striving against all of Greece
, they rejoiced in spending their wealth on their horses.
Those who attempt nothing face silence and obscurity,
and fortune remains hidden even to those who contend, until they reach the final goal. For she dispenses from this side and from that, and the skill of weaker men
can overtake and trip up a stronger man. Indeed, you know of the bloodstained might of Aias, which late at night he pierced by falling on his own sword, thus bringing blame on all the sons of the Greeks who went to Troy
But he is honored throughout the world by Homer, who set the record right concerning all his excellence and told it with the staff of his divine words, for posterity to play.
For if one says something well, that saying goes forth speaking with an immortal voice. And the radiance of fine deeds, forever unquenchable, has crossed the fruitful earth and the sea.
May we win the favor of the Muses and kindle that torch of song, a worthy garland from the pancratium
for Melissus, too, the scion of the race of Telesias. For in the toil of conflict he resembles the spirit of loud-roaring lions in boldness, while in wisdom he is like the fox, who forestalls the swoop of the eagle by falling on her back. And it is right to do anything to blot out one's enemy.
For Melissus was not allotted the nature of Orion;
he is negligible to look at, though heavy to grapple with in his strength. And yet once there went from Thebes, Cadmus' city, a hero short in stature but unflinching in spirit. This hero went to the house of Antaeus in grain-bearing Libya
, to keep him from roofing Poseidon's temple with the skulls of strangers,
Alcmena's son. He went to Olympus
, after he had explored all lands and the high-cliffed hollow of the gray sea, and had tamed the straits for sailors. Now he dwells beside aegis-bearing Zeus, and has the most beautiful prosperity. He is honored as a friend by the immortals and is married to Hebe;
he is lord of a golden house, and son-in-law to Hera.
For him, above the Electran gates, we Thebans, busily preparing the feast and the circle of newly-built altars, pile up burnt offerings in honor of the eight bronze-clad men, now dead, the sons whom Megara
, Creon's daughter, bore him.
For them the flame rises in the rays of the setting sun and blazes all night long, prodding the air with fragrant smoke.
And on the second day is that struggle of strength, the final event of the annual games. And there, his head wreathed with white
myrtle, this man showed forth a double victory, having won before in the boy's contest by heeding the wise advice of his helmsman and trainer, Orseas. I will honor him together with Orseas in my victory-song, pouring delightful grace on both.