For Aristocleides of Aegina
?475 B. C.
Queenly Muse, our mother! I entreat you, come in the sacred month of Nemea
to the much-visited Dorian island of Aegina. For beside the waters of the Asopus young men are waiting, craftsmen of honey-voiced
victory-songs, seeking your voice. Various deeds thirst for various things; but victory in the games loves song most of all, the most auspicious attendant of garlands and of excellence.
Send an abundance of it, from my wisdom;
begin, divine daughter, an acceptable hymn to the ruler of the cloud-filled sky, and I will communicate it by the voices of those singers and by the lyre. The hymn will have a pleasant toil, to be the glory of the land where the ancient Myrmidons lived, whose marketplace, famous long ago,
Aristocleides, through your ordinance, did not stain with dishonor by proving himself too weak in the strenuous
course of the pancratium. But in the deep plain of Nemea
, his triumph-song brings a healing cure for wearying blows. Still, if the son of Aristophanes, who is beautiful, and whose deeds match his looks,
embarked on the highest achievements of manliness, it is not easy to cross the trackless sea beyond the pillars of Heracles,
which that hero and god set up as famous witnesses to the furthest limits of seafaring. He subdued the monstrous beasts in the sea, and tracked to the very end the streams of the shallows,
where he reached the goal that sent him back home again, and he made the land known. My spirit, towards what foreign headland are you turning my voyage? I bid you to summon the Muse in honor of Aeacus and his race; consummate justice attends the precept, “praise the noble.”
And no man should prefer to desire what is alien. Search at home; you have won a suitable adornment for singing something sweet. Among old examples of excellence is king Peleus, who rejoiced when he cut a matchless spear, and who alone, without an army, captured Iolcus,
and caught the sea-nymph Thetis after many struggles. And powerful Telamon, the comrade of Iolaus, sacked the city of Laomedon;
and once he followed him to meet the bronze-bowed strength of the Amazons. And fear, the subduer of men, never dulled the edge of his mind.
A man with inborn glory has great weight; but he who has only learned is a man in darkness, breathing changeful purposes, never taking an unwavering step, but trying his hand at countless forms of excellence with his ineffectual thought.
But golden-haired Achilles, staying in the home of Philyra as a child, played at great deeds, often
brandishing in his hands a javelin with a short blade; swift as the wind, he dealt death to wild lions in battle, and he slew wild boars and carried their panting bodies to the Centaur, son of Cronus, first when he was six years old, and afterwards for all the time he spent there.
Artemis and bold Athena gazed at him with wonder,
as he slew deer without the help of dogs and crafty nets; for he excelled with his feet. I have this story as it was told by earlier generations. Deep-thinking Cheiron reared Jason under his stone roof, and later Asclepius,
whom he taught the gentle-handed laws of remedies. And he arranged a marriage for Peleus with the lovely-bosomed1
daughter of Nereus, and brought up for her their incomparable child, nurturing his spirit with all fitting things,
so that when the blasts of the sea-winds sent him
, he might withstand the spear-clashing war-shout of the Lycians and Phrygians and Dardanians; and when he came into close conflict with the spear-bearing Ethiopians, he might fix it in his mind that their leader, powerful Memnon the kinsman of Helenus, should not return to his home.
From that point the light of the Aeacids has been fixed to shine far.
Zeus, it is your blood and your contest at which my song aimed its shot, shouting the joy of this land with the voices of young men. Their cry is well-suited to victorious Aristocleides, who linked this island with glorious praise and the sacred
Theoric temple of the Pythian god with splendid ambitions. By trial the accomplishment is made manifest, of that in which a man proves himself preeminent,
as a boy among young boys, a man among men, or, thirdly, among elders, according to each stage which we,the race of men, possess.
And mortal life sets in motion four excellences, and bids us to think of what is at hand. You are2
not without these excellences. Farewell, my friend! I am sending this to you, honey mixed with white milk, crested with foam from mixing, a draught of song accompanied by the Aeolian breathings of flutes,
although it is late. The eagle is swift among birds: he swoops down from afar, and suddenly seizes with his talons his blood-stained quarry; but chattering daws stay closer to the ground. By the grace of Clio
on her lovely throne and because of your victorious spirit, the light has shone on you from Nemea