Duncan McGibbon, Poet

Rome Non Basta Una Vita

The distinguished Italian writer, Silvio Negro, described Rome as “too much for one life.” I think the same could be said in reverse of Bath: “too much life for one city.” The city of Bath, a smaller city than Rome, is easier to retain in the historical, rather than the mythological memory. Yet in contrast the life-span of the nine Gold and the Silver aged poets from the birth of Lucretius in about 100BC, through Catullus in 87 or 84, Virgil in BC 70, Horace in 65, Tibullus in 54, Sextus Propertius in 50, Ovid in 43, Martial in 40 AD, Juvenal in 60 and the death of Juvenal in about 130 AD was only two hundred and thirty years. The first poem written about Bath must have been at least in the year 800 and we’re still going strong over a thousand years later.
Bath itself has always been a border town between the Dobunni and the Romans, then the Romano-Dobunni and the Hwicce, then between Wessex and Mercia, then between Alfred and the Vikings then between Somerset and Gloucestershire, then between the Dioceses of Worcester and Bath and Wells then between Roundhead and Cavalier and now between Lib Dem and Conservative, whereas Rome is the centre of all centres. Whenever the world believed it had a centre, then Rome was the centre of that world.
On the other hand it could be not time but space to which Negri refers. As a writer in the Bath Chronicle put it:
    “A cursory glance at the Ordnance Survey map does indeed throw up seven hills visible from the city centre. It maybe pushing the point, but there is Beechen Cliff and Southdown, Kelston Round Hill and Lansdown, Solsbury Hill and Bathford Hill . . . and Bathampton Down to complete the septet. There are other hilltops, but somehow the 'Seven Hills of Bath’ form a nucleus. After all the Pincian and Vatican hills aren’t part of the Roman Seven either.…” The seven hills of Rome are the Aventine  (Aventinus) Caelian  (Caelius) Capitoline  (Capitolinus) Esquiline  (Esquilinus) Palatine  (Palatinus) Quirinal  (Quirinalis) Viminal  (Viminalis).
    Whether across the life of time or in the light of space, I want to celebrate the poets who defined and translated both cities in time and place, or at least wrote about both. Most of these writers were visitors to Bath, or were associated with it. None was born there. This again, is no concern as with the exception of Lucretius and Tibullus, whose birthplaces are unknown, none of these Roman poets was born in Rome.
    One of those writers is myself. I spent the millennial year in Rome as a pilgrim. I want to take you through the sequence of poems I wrote while I was there as each sums up a vision of Rome.: a city for lovers, a city for Imperialists, a city for aristocrats, for Protestants, for Catholics, for writers, for children and a city for Romantics. This describes Bath as much as it describes Rome. Uniquely, Rome and Bath are Gothic cities and they are both cities of pilgrimage.

1. To Play at Gods
Virgil’s Imperial Rome
Two white pigeons
ordain the low wall
of the villa above the lake.
with sunken boats,
where men proved themselves
ordinary by wanting to play at Gods.
I read poems here last night
to the anxiety of my pilgrim priest.
Yet I have already
given the bough to you,
who follow me in friendship.
The ferry man is at rest now,
as the bodies of living girls
wax in the unmarried
water of  the swimming pool
and we move on, mindful
of this place and its English
Virgin of the Snows
and part the gates
with memories of sleep.

Dryden’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid hits an elevated tone which is still regarded as the canon. When Dryden wrote, Britain was becoming an Empire. Aeneas, as guided by Venus, Aeneas' mother, is representative of pietas (a self-less sense of duty), against Turnus, who is guided by Juno, representing unbridled furor (mindless passion and fury). Furor is also personified in the suicidal character of Dido, however although her furor conflicts with Aeneas' pietas, she herself is not pitted against Aeneas, whose mother is the goddess of love. Aeneas is also loyal to his father, to tradition. Again we find the common theme between Rome and Bath, that of the conflict of will between love and duty, as symbolised in the conflict between man and woman,.

Arms and the man I sing, who, forced by fate
And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate,
Expelled and exiled left the Trojan shore.
Long labours, both by sea and land, he bore,
And in the doubtful war, before he won
The Latian realm, and built the destined town.
His banished gods restored to rites divine.
And settled sure succession in his line;
From whence the race of Alban fathers come
And the long glories of majestic Rome.

O Muse, the causes and the crimes relate,
What goddess was provoked, and whence her hate;
For what offence the Queen of Heaven began
To persecute so brave, so just a man.
Involved his anxious life in endless cares,
Exposed to wants, and hurried into wars !
Can heavenly minds such high resentment show,
Or exercise their spite in human woe ?

The poem is also about the survival of heroic courage and the founding of Rome
This is from Book 6

Let others better mould the running mass
Of metals, and inform the breathing brass.
And soften into flesh a marble face ;
Plead better at the bar ; describe the skies,
And when the stars descend, and when they rise.
But Rome, 'tis thine alone, with awful sway,
To rule mankind and make the world obey,
Disposing peace and war thy own majestic way.
To tame the proud, the fettered slave to free —
These are imperial arts, and worthy thee."

Almost at the end of the Empire, Hadrian, the Wise Emperor makes another imperial connection with Bath. In 1876 a collection of translations of the poem Hadrian wrote as he was dying was published by David Johnston in Bath. It brought to light a bad-tempered letter from Pope to Addison complaining that his translation was printed with his name. The problem seemed to be Pope’s concern that the last breath should always be Christian. His first version runs.
 Ah fleeting Spirit! wand'ring fire
That long hast warmed my tender breast
Must thou no more this flame inspire.
No more a pleasing cheerful guest
Whither ah whither art thou flying
To what dark, undiscovered shore
Thou seem'st all trembling, shiv'ring, dying
And Wit and Humour are no more.
                                                                   And then there is the theological correction.

Byron is more direct :
Ah! gentle, fleeting, wav'ring Sprite,
Friend and associate of this clay!
To what unknown region borne,
Wilt thou, now, wing thy distant flight?
No more with wonted humour gay,
But pallid, cheerless, and forlorn.

Soul rudderless, unbraced,
The body's friend and guest,
Whither away to-day ?
Unsuppled, pale, dis-cased,
Dumb to thy wonted jest.
Christina Rossetti

Michael Rossetti

Charles Turner





At least Hadrian knew he could not play at God.

2. Every Language of the Heart.

I went to Rome in the Year 2000, as a pilgrim for the Millennial Holy Year. I wrote this tribute to the Pope who called it. Both Rome and Bath are still places of pilgrimage for Anglicans and Catholics.
Ad Petri Cathedram:

A frail old man
raises himself to his feet,
his body bent and trembling.
His left arm shakes
with no control
as he struggles to speak
alone on the almost cynical
exactness of the of the steps.
And finally we hear him;
a lesson in every language
of the heart.

Chaucer knew both cities. The Wife of Bath tells us much about herself, but little about the town. However, she knew Rome as, like millions before and since, she had been a pilgrim there.

Bold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.   
She was a worthy womman al hir lyve,
Housbondes at chirche-dore she hadde fyve,                               
Withouten other companye in youthe;
But therof nedeth nat to speke as nouthe.
And thryes hadde she been at Ierusalem;
She hadde passed many a straunge streem;
At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne,       
In Galice at seint Iame, and at Coloigne.
She coude muche of wandring by the weye.
Paul Hetherington described the Church’s first Jubilee Year:
The word spread like wildfire through Europe, and even by New Year’s Eve of 1299 a great crowd had assembled at St. Peter’s ...at midnight. From then on, the crowds flocked ...from all over the known world. ...The crowds were so massive that the papal police had to institute a keep-right system for all the crowds crossing the bridge on foot that led over the Tiber to St. Peter’s .”..Dante alludes to this in the Inferno.
The wife of Bath was more likely to have travelled in 1350.
Chaucer was well aware of the female chauvinism of his character. Her seven husbands reflect Martial’s witty epitaph for Chloe. The shameless Chloe placed on the tomb of her seven husbands the inscription,
Shamelessly she chipped it on the tomb,
her septet of husbands, all Chloe’s “work.”
Worked “on,” or “over,” both shortened their doom.
3. Pages of Love’s Pelt
Rome is also the focus for lovers. Lover’s Rome. One such pilgrim of erotic love was Goethe: he refers to the triumvirate of love poets, Tibullus, Catullus and Sextus Propertius.
Roman Elegies: Roman Elegies. Tannhauser  The German traveller has read the pages of love’s pelt  with calculating fingers. You are illiterate, perhaps, naive; up from the suburbs.  His Roman voice has swelled with erlebnis and his Latin  word for love is a single one. You are poor, perhaps, and wanting friendship, maybe, dreading his ham-fisted Teutonic style.  Now even whispers in the dark have stilled to nothing.
“Then” speaks only to “then”, now, and you, maybe, have become the only living thing possible.
Triumvirs create and cannot conquer dust in the name of love and yet because, perhaps, no-one knows you now,  your mystery freshens you. 
His Lesbia lay with you . His Cynthia conceived you.  His Delia, begot you; and you vanished,
a slick of ash between
thought tallow and the experienced flame. 
The Elizabethan, George Gascoigne, "a defamed person and noted for manslaughter," writes of Rome and her amorous ladies
     THE stately Dames of Rome, their Pearles did weare,
About their neckes to beautifie their name:
But she (whome I doe serve) hir pearles doth beare,
Close in hir mouth, and smiling shewe, the same.
No wonder then, though ev'ry word she speakes,
A Jewell seeme in judgement of the wise,
Since that hir sugred tongue the passage breakes,
Betweene two rockes, bedeckt with pearles of price.
Hir haire of golde, hir front of Ivory,
(A bloody heart within so white a breast)
Hir teeth of Pearle lippes Rubie, christall eye,
Needes must I honour hir above the rest:
Since she is fourmed of none other moulde,
But Rubie, Christall, Ivory, Pearle, and Golde.
Ferdinando Jeronimy.

In Gascoigne’s Dan Bartholomew of Bath, there is comic spirit and mad rollicking humour. The hero's courtship and deceptive triumph, his discomfiture and dolorous laments, his Last Will and Testament, his Subscription and Seal, his Farewell, and "The Reporter's" conclusion in the style of The Mirror for Magistrates, are written with distinctive energy. The account of his falling in love will give an idea of this:--

That mouth of hers which seemed to flow with mell
In speech, in voice, in tender touch, in taste:
That dimpled chin wherein delight did dwell,
That ruddy lip wherein was pleasure placed;
Those well-shaped hands, fine arms, and slender waist,
With all the gifts which gave her any grace,
Were smiling baits which caught fond fools apace

These poems equate a Rome of luxurious abundance with the Bath of amorous intrigue and scandal barely concealed behind its waning wool town facade. The conflict between respectability and amorous indulgence is a classic Bath dilemma which like all English dilemmas would prove most unfashionable to either mention or resolve.

 6. Writer’s Rome: Afternoon with Traffic and Metastasio.

My plastic compass
lunges for its magnetic mate.
I rotate the guidebook map
to face Northern obligations
and yet I journey elsewhere,
past shoals of MBWs
and Lambretta flocks,
which migrate
with the fading light
from nest to nest
before stucco facades.
I look for some landmark
And find the smiling statue
of a poet whom this city made.
Only to re-encounter him
Again and again from all sides and
under the rallentando sunlight,
a different city
each still opened up on him.

I catch the bus
Out of his guiles;
I have my own plinth
to occupy and my own
city to confuse.

Bath like Rome is a literary city. It is both the home and the subject of writers. Writers need friends and their influence, but shun to be influenced by them.  In my poem, the figure of Metastasio is more European , but he has his links with Bath. When Haydn moved into Vienna, Metastasio was already living there. as Poet Laureate. He taught Haydn the Italian language. Metastasio brought Haydn piano pupils. He helped Haydn to learn, to be independent, to become successful.  Metastasio was also a friend of Rauzzini, whom Haydn met in Bath. Hannah More and Samuel Johnson both translated him.
Johnson has this to say about writers.
“He that wants money to follow the chase of pleasure through her yearly circuit, and is left at home when the gay world rolls to Bath or Tunbridge; he whose gout compels him to hear from his chamber the rattle of chariots transporting happier beings to plays and assemblies, will be forced to seek in books a refuge from himself.
The author is not wholly useless, who provides innocent amusements for minds like these. There are, in the present state of things, so many more instigations to evil, than incitements to good, that he who keeps men in a neutral state, may be justly considered as a benefactor to life’.
At the same time Jonathan Swift feared Bath for its medical associations, and bullied Stella into staying away because his beloved, but ill-fated Mrs Wesley needed to go.
“I was to see Mrs. Wesley this evening, who has been somewhat better for this month past, and talks of returning to the Bath in a few weeks.”.” I could say a thousand things on this head, if I were with you. I am thinking why Stella should not go to the Bath, if she be told it will do her good. I will make Parvisol get up fifty pounds, and pay it you; and you may be good housewives, and live cheap there some months, and return in autumn, or visit London, as you please: pray think of it.
Letter 22.30 Yes, yes. Do not write to me again till this letter goes: I must make haste, that I may write two for one. Go to the Bath: I hope you are now at the Bath, if you had a mind to go; or go to Wexford: do something for your living. This echoes Swift’s translation of Catullus Carmen 92


tr. Jonathan Swift
Lesbia forever on me rails.
To talk of me, she never fails.
Now, hang me, but for all her art,
I find that I have gained her heart.

My proof is this: I plainly see
The case is just the same with me;
I curse her every hour sincerely,
Yet, hang me, but I love her dearly.
His close friend Pope visited Prior Park translated Chaucer
The mouse that always trusts to one poor hole
Can never be a mouse of any soul.
 lines 298-299. Compare:
"I hold a mouses wit not worth a leke,
That hath but on hole for to sterten to",
Pope was always looking for a another mousehole in which to forget others and write.
This Augustan practice was based on the Roman sanctuary of Praeneste south of Rome, the oldest portion of which was on the next-to-lowest terrace, in a grotto in the natural rock where there was a spring that developed into a well. Such a sacred spring had its native nymph, who might be honoured in a grotto-like nymphaeum, Like Bath the presence of water brought these nymphs close enough for inspiration..
The grotto at Prior Park dates from the 1740s and was originally a hideaway for Elizabeth, the wife of Ralph Allen, the entrepreneur who landscaped and created Prior Park into the natural masterpiece it is today.
The artificial cave was built as an elaborate feature, on the recommendation of Pope, a frequent visitor to the Allen home, who had already installed very opulent grottoes at his own home in Twickenham and at Marble Hill.
Like Pope’s secret hideaway, the grotto at Prior Park consisted of archways built of limestone vandalised from Ralph Allen’s mines and was originally encrusted with gems and rare minerals. it was no b doubt in his nymphaeum that Pope modified a love poem to suit a friend who lived at number five King’s Bench Walk and was also a Twickenham neighbour.
Horace 4,1, BOOK IV. ODE I.


'GAIN ? new tumults in my breast?
Ah spare me, Venus ! let me, let me rest !
I am not now, alas ! the man
As in the gentle reign of my Queen Anne.
Ah sound no more thy soft alarms, 

Nor circle sober fifty with thy charms.
Mother too fierce of dear desires !

Turn, turn to willing hearts your wanton fires.
To Number Five direct your doves,
There spread round Murray all your blooming loves
Noble and young, who strikes the heart
With every sprightly, every decent part ;
Equal, the injured to defend,
To charm the mistress, or to fix the friend.
He, with a hundred arts refined,
Shall stretch thy conquests over half the kind :
To him each rival shall submit,
Make but his riches equal to his wit.
Then shall thy form the marble grace,
(Thy Grecian form) and Chloe lend the face :
His house, embosomed in the grove, 
Sacred to social life and social love,
Shall glitter o'er the pendant green,
Where Thames reflects the visionary scene :
Thither, the silver- sounding lyres
Shall call the smiling loves, and young desires ;
There, every Grace and Muse shall throng,

Exalt the dance, or animate the song ;
There youths and nymphs, in consort gay,
Shall hail the rising, close the parting day.
With me, alas ! those joys are o'er ;

For me the vernal garlands bloom no more.
Adieu ! fond hope of mutual fire,

The still-believing, still-renewed desire ;
Allien! the heart-expanding bowl,

And all the kind deceivers of the soul !
But why? ah tell me, ah too dear !

Steals down my cheek the involuntary tear 
Why words so flowing, thoughts so free

Stop, or turn nonsense atone glance of thee?
Thee, dressed in Fancy's airy beam,

Absent I follow through the extended dream;
Now, now 1 seize, 1 clasp thy charms,
And now you burst (ah cruel !) from my arms,
And swiftly shoot along the Mall, 

Or softly glide by the canal,
Now shown by Cynthia's silver ray,

And now on rolling waters snatched away.

7. Aristocratic Rome: A Name for Oppression
Rome is the home of aristocrats. Thomas Moore managed to dine with nobility every day of his stay in Rome. Even now as a Republican city, their unstated  presence can be felt. Bath too is famed for its patronage which underwrote so much of its lasting elegance. Yet the spirit of Puccini’s Scarpia still haunts the city.
The tide of human voices
tightens and darts
across the tables.
A woman still beautiful
who can wear a mini-skirt
talks about Catullus
to eggs Benedict
and a blessing
for Winter in Autumn,
while outside her servants
struggle with a sunshade
against a North wind
and nearly fall
off the high balcony,
the girl’s cry, a name
for oppression,
smudged on the wind.

Pope died in 1744, the year the diarist, Evelyn visited Rome. He comments on one servant of the nobility.

‘Bernini…gave a public opera wherein he painted the scenes, cut the statues, invented the engines [stage machinery], composed the music, writ the comedy, and built the theatre.’

and in Bath another for he comments on Rauzzini. “We all went to see Bath, where I  bathed in the cross bath. Among the rest of the idle diversions of the town, one musician was famous for acting a changeling, which indeed he personated strangely.

He too trifled with the titled.”The faccia of this cathedral is remarkable for its historical carving. The King's Bath is esteemed the fairest in Europe. The town is entirely built of stone, but the streets narrow, uneven and unpleasant. Here, we trifled and bathed, and intervisited with the company who frequent the place for health.”

Congreve affects a courtly hauteur with his sprightly versions of Juvenal 11. A Chef justifies his prices:

Be not surprised that 'tis all homely cheer,

For nothing from the shambles I provide,

But from my own small farm, the tenderest kid

And fattest of my flock, a suckling yet,

That ne'er had nourishment but from the teat.

No bitter willow-tops have been its food,

Scarce grass ; its veins have more of milk than blood.

Next that, shall mountain sparagus be laid,

Pulled by some plain but cleanly country-maid ;

The largest eggs, yet warm within the nest,

Together with the hens that laid them, dressed ;
Clusters of grapes, preserved for half a year,
Which, plump and fresh as on the vine, appear ;
Apples of a rich flavour, fresh and fair,
Mixed with the Syrian and the Signian pear, —
Mellowed by winter from their cruder juice.
Light of digestion now, and fit for use.

It is likely that There, she did not see theChevalier de St. George, but she did see his two sons, Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, and Henry, Cardinal York. "The eldest seemsthoughtless enough, and is really not unlike Mr. Lyttelton in his shapeand air," she wrote to Montagu. "The youngest is very well made, dances finely, and has an ingenuous countenance; he is but fourteen years ofage. The family live very splendidly, yet pay everybody, and (wherever
they get it) are certainly in no want of money."

"The manners of Italy are so much altered since we were here last, the
alteration is scarce credible. They say it has been by the last war. The
French, being masters, introduced all their customs, which were eagerly
embraced by the ladies, and I believe will never be laid aside; yet the
different governments make different manners in every state. You know,
though the republic is not rich, here are many private families vastly
so, and live at a great superfluous expense: all the people of the first
quality keep coaches as fine as the Speaker's, and some of them two or
three, though the streets are too narrow to use them in the town; but
they take the air in them, and their chairs carry them to the gates. The
liveries are all plain: gold or silver being forbidden to be worn within
the walls, the habits are all obliged to be black, but they wear
exceeding fine lace and linen; and in their country-houses, which are
generally in the faubuurg, they dress very rich, and have extreme fine
jewels. Here is nothing cheap but houses. A palace fit for a prince may
be hired for fifty pounds per annum; I mean unfurnished. All games of
chance are strictly prohibited, and it seems to me the only law they do
not try to evade: they play at quadrille, piquet, &c., but not high.
Here are no regular public assemblies. I have been visited by all of the
first rank, and invited to several fine dinners, particularly to the
wedding of one of the house of Spinola, where there were ninety-six sat
down to table, and I think the entertainment one of the best I ever saw.
There was the night following a ball and supper for the same company,
with the same profusion. They tell me that all their great marriages are
kept in the same public manner. Nobody keeps more than two horses, all
their journeys being post; the expense of them, including the coachman,
is (I am told) fifty pounds per annum. A chair is very near as much; I
give eighteen francs a week for mine. The senators can converse with no
strangers during the time of their magistracy, which lasts two years.
The number of servants is regulated, and almost every lady has the same,
which is two footmen, a gentleman-usher, and a page, who follows her

Lady Wortley-Montague,

Horace 1.4
Sharp winter now dissolv'd, the linnet sing,
The grateful breath of pleasing Zephyrs bring
The welcome joys of long-desired spring.
The galleys now for open sea prepare,
The herds forsake their stalls for balmy air,
The fields adorn'd with green th'approaching sun declare.
In shining nights the charming Venus leads
Her troop of Graces, and her lovely maids,
Who gaily trip the ground in myrtle shades.
The blazing forge her husband Vulcan heats
And thunderlike the labouring hammer beats,
While toiling Cyclops every stroke repeats.
Of myrtle new the cheerful wreath compose,
Of various flowers which opening spring bestows,
Till coming June presents the blushing rose.
Pay your vow'd offering to God Faunus' bower!
Then, happy Sestius, seize the present hour,
'Tis all that nature leaves to mortal power.
The equal hand of strong impartial Fate
Levels the peasant and th'imperious great,
Nor will that doom on human projects wait.
To the dark mansions of the senseless dead,
With daily steps our destin'd path we tread,
Realms still unknown, of which so much is said.
Ended your schemes of pleasure and of pride,
In joyous feasts no one will there preside,
Torn from your Lycidas' beloved side.
Whose tender youth does now our eyes engage,
And soon will give, in his maturer age,
Sighs to our virgins -- to our matrons rage.

Farewell to Bath
by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
To all you ladies now at Bath,
      And eke, ye beaux, to you,
With aching heart, and wat'ry eyes,
      I bid my last adieu.

   Farewell ye nymphs, who waters sip
      Hot reeking from the pumps,
While music lends her friendly aid,
      To cheer you from the dumps.

   Farewell ye wits, who prating stand,
      And criticise the fair;
Yourselves the joke of men of sense,
      Who hate a coxcomb's air.

   Farewell to Deard's, and all her toys,
      Which glitter in her shop,
Deluding traps to girls and boys,
      The warehouse of the fop.

   Lindsay's and Hayes's both farewell,
      Where in the spacious hall,
With bounding steps, and sprightly air,
      I've led up many a ball.

   Where Somerville of courteous mien,
      Was partner in the dance,
With swimming Haws, and Brownlow blithe,
      And Britton pink of France.

   Poor Nash, farewell! may fortune smile,
      Thy drooping soul revive,
My heart is full I can no more—
      John, bid the coachman drive.

Philip Francis was the father of Sir Philip Francis who almost certainly wrote the Junius Letters. He translated Horace ODES. BOOK I. 15 He wittily chides himself as a father.

As Notus often, when the welkin lowers,
Sweeps off the clouds, nor teems perpetual showers ;
So let thy wisdom, free from anxious strife,
In mellow wine dissolve the cares of life.
Whether the camp, with banners bright-display 'd.
On Tiber holds thee, in its thick-wrought shade.
When Teucer from his sire and country fled.
With poplar wreaths the hero crown'd his head.
Reeking with wine, and thus his friends address'd :
Deep sorrow brooding in each anxious breast.
Bold let us follow through the foamy tides,
Where fortune, better than a father, guides :
Avaunt despair, when Teucer calls to fame.
The same your augur, and your guide the same.
Another Salamis, in foreign clime
With rival pride shall raise her head sublime.
So Phcebus nods ; ye sons of valour true.
Full often tried in deeds of deadlier hue.
To-day with wine drive every care away,
To-morrow tempt again the boundless sea.

died in Bath.

8.The Cold Care of Angels Catholic Rome: Venerabile

Milton and my mother
shared the same table here
He dreamed
the cold care of angels.
My mother’s love,
an earthen warmth.
I have arrived at a party
raucous with redeemed flagons.
I shake hands with familiars,
Southwell, Sherwin, Tichborne
who sing the Te Deum
by the Trinity picture..
like boy scouts.
Their foolish God of flesh,
a reality, quartered on
the map of England.
In the fingers of
my pilgrim priest
I see time kneaded from earth
by departed hands
become a simple man
by the Tiber, by the Kedron,
by  the Tyburn.
Dryden leaves no record of a visit to Bath. Bath, but he left an indelible mark on it, not because he rewrote Chaucer’s Wife of Bath tale, but because he celebrated the life of a spinster of Bath.

 “On the monument of a fair maiden lady, who died at Bath, and is there interred.”

  Below this marble monument is laid
  All that heaven wants of this celestial maid.
  Preserve, O sacred tomb! thy trust consign'd;
  The mould was made on purpose for the mind:
  Which her own inward symmetry reveal'd
  And like a picture shone, in glass anneal'd.
  Or like the sun eclipsed, with shaded light:
  Too piercing, else, to be sustain'd by sight.
  Each thought was visible that roll'd within:
  As through a crystal case the figured hours are seen.
  And Heaven did this transparent veil provide,
  Because she had no guilty thought to hide.
  All white, a virgin-saint, she sought the skies:
  For marriage, though it sullies not, it dyes.                       20
  High though her wit, yet humble was her mind:
  A soul so calm, it knew not ebbs or flows,
  Which passion could but curl, not discompose.
  A female softness, with a manly mind:
  A daughter duteous, and a sister kind:
  In sickness patient, and in death resign'd.

The monument can still be seen in the Abbey-church. Her name was
Mary Frampton. She died in 1698.Her sister Jane was a friend of Dryden’s through her connexion with the Pastons.

Dryden had converted to Catholicism in 1686 and he was very sensitive about suspicions over his motives. In particular he was accused of his “fond uxorious vice.” In other words if he did anything he did it for a woman’s whim, a prejudice not helped by the fact he was seen first going to Mass in the company of Nell Gwynne. Hence his advocacy of the single life as artistic perfection in this, the Anne Killigrew Ode and the associated monument to Margaret Paston.

Dryden introduces the next set of poets, whom I want to celebrate. They are the many Bath divines and writers who translated the great poets of Rome in the language of their times. 
4.The Circus of Delight

Children’s Rome: Roman Night.
 The generations of the stones have leaped incarnate into this circus of delight.  A fat man’s stomach runs with a stripe of gelato. Lovers, cooling their cheeks, kiss so gently, so lingeringly, they   cannot see how  their hair has intertwined on the surface of the fountain which sprinkles laughter to the shafts of light that pedal in the crazy shadows. Children edge towards the little depths; a dozen Noahs, launching their arks of fascination onto the water’s night.

One event that Dryden also commemorated that had what Aristotle would call its efficient cause in Bath was the birth of Mary of Modena’s son, a much debated successor to the throne. Aphra Behn a resilient loyalist, at least until the chips were down, also praised the event. The river must surely be the Avon.

Nor Nests for wanton Birds, the Glade allows;
Scarce the soft Winds were heard amongst the Boughs.
While thus She lay resolv'd to tune no more
Her fruitless Songs on Brittains Faithless Shore,
All on a suddain thro' the Woods there Rung,
Loud Sounds of Joy that Jo Peans Sung.
Maria! Blest Maria! was the Theam,
Great Brittains happy Genius, and her Queen.
The River Nimphs their Crystal Courts forsake,
Curl their Blew Locks, and Shelly Trumpets take:
And 'tis Eternal Musick when you speak;
Thro' all no formal Nicety is seen,
But Free and Generous your Majestick Meen,
In every Motion, every Part a Queen;
All that is Great and Lovely in the Sex,
Heav'n did in this One Glorious Wonder fix,
Apellis thus to dress the Queen of Love,
Rob'd the whole Race, a Goddess to improve.
Yet if with Sighs we View that Lovely Face,
And all the Lines of your great Father's Trace.
Aphra Behn was a considerable person. A traveller to South America, a spy, a successful dramatist and woman of influence, she was also an effective translator from Latin, despite being ridiculed for her lack of learning. This is her Paraphrase of OVID'S Heroic Epistle of OENONE to PARIS. The theme of a secret child is again common to Rome and Bath.

Hecuba, being with Child of Paris... conveys it secretly to Mount Ida, there to be fostered by the Shepherds, where he falls in love with the Nymph OEnone, but at last he sails into Greece, and carries Helen to Troy, which OEnone understanding, writes him this Epistle.
And all the Day my list'ning Soul I hung \
Each Beach my Name yet bears, carv'd out by thee,
Paris, and his OEnone fill each Tree ;
And as they grow, the Letters larger spread,
Grow still a witness of my Wrongs when dead !

Close by a silent silver Brook there grows
A Poplar, under whose dear gloomy Boughs
A thousand times we have exchanged our Vows ! J
Oh may'st thou grow ! t' an endless date of Years !
Who on thy Bark this fatal Record bears ;
When Paris to CEnone proves untrue,
Back Xanthus Streams shall to their Fountains flow.
Turn ! turn your Tides ! back to your Fountains run !
The perjur'd Swain from all his Faith is gone !

Curst be that day, may Fate appoint the hour,
As Ominous in his black Kalendar ;
When Venus, Pallas, and the Wife of Jove
Descended to thee in the Mirtle Grove,
...Turn then, fair Fugitive, e'er 'tis too late,
E'er thy mistaken Love procures thy Fate ;
E'er a wrong'd Husband does thy Death design,
And pierce that dear, that faithless Heart of thine.

Sedley His bon mot at the expense of James II is well known. The king had seduced his daughter and created her countess of Dorchester, whereupon Sedley said: "As the king has made my daughter a countess, the least I can do, in common gratitude, is to assist in making his Majesty's daughter (Mary) a queen".

Horace 2,8 Elegy : His daughter died at Bath
Bath also raised another secret child. Clara Allegra Byron (January 12, 1817 – April 20, 1822), initially named Alba, meaning "dawn," or "white," by her mother, was the illegitimate daughter of the poet George Gordon, Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont, the stepsister of Mary Shelley.[1]
Born in Bath, England, she initially lived with her mother and Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley in North Italy, but was turned over to Byron when she was fifteen months old. She lived most of her short life with boarders chosen by Byron or in a Roman Catholic convent, where she died at age five of typhus or malaria. She was visited only intermittently by her father, who displayed inconsistent paternal interest in her.
Byron translation of Catullus 5

Samuel Langhorne. who lived at Blagdon and was a friend of Hannah More, Catullus 5

Shelley twice lived in Bath 1819 poem Julian and Maddalo: A Conversation:

A lovelier toy sweet Nature never made;
A serious, subtle, wild, yet gentle being; Graceful without design, and unforeseeing;
 With eyes -- O speak not of her eyes! which seem
Twin mirrors of Italian heaven, yet gleam
With such deep meaning as we never see
But in the human countenance.

The poem is prefaced by a quotation from Virgil Tenth Ecologue
The meadows with fresh streams, the bees with thyme,
The goats with the green leaves of budding Spring,
Are saturated not--nor Love with tears
This is a longer version found among Shelley’s manuscripts
Melodious Arethusa, o'er my verse
Shed thou once more the spirit of thy stream:

(Two lines missing.)

Who denies verse to Gallus? So, when thou
Glidest beneath the green and purple gleam
Of Syracusan waters, mayest thou flow                                _5
Unmingled with the bitter Dorian dew!
Begin, and whilst the goats are browsing now
The soft leaves, in our song let us pursue
The melancholy loves of Gallus. List!
We sing not to the deaf: the wild woods knew                         _10
His sufferings, and their echoes answer...
Young Naiades, in what far woodlands wild
Wandered ye, when unworthy love possessed
Our Gallus? Nor where Pindus is up-piled,
Nor where Parnassus' sacred mount, nor where                         _15
Aonian Aganippe spreads its...

(Three lines missing.)

The laurels and the myrtle-copses dim,
The pine-encircled mountain, Maenalus,
The cold crags of Lycaeus weep for him.

(Several lines missing.)

'What madness is this, Gallus? thy heart's care,                     _20
Lycoris, mid rude camps and Alpine snow,
With willing step pursues another there.'

(Some lines missing.)

And Sylvan, crowned with rustic coronals,
Came shaking in his speed the budding wands
And heavy lilies which he bore: we knew                              _25
Pan the Arcadian with....
...and said,
'Wilt thou not ever cease? Love cares not.
The meadows with fresh streams, the bees with thyme,
The goats with the green leaves of budding spring                    _30
Are saturated not--nor Love with tears.'

* * *
8. Gibbon Gothic Rome: Unable to Grasp what We Dream

At the Casina of the Cevette

Cypresses, poplar, Corsican pine
burn above the lawn
of this delicate paradise.
A Russian pianist plays
a Schubert fantasia,
sadness strips away
the illusion of the sounds.
We followed a pathway
through the Frankenstein’s
monster of a house,
rather too like our friendship,
except it hurts us.
The gentle downstrokes
of your steps steals away
the sharpness from my thoughts.

The trees will strum
to the last quavers
of the piano keys.
While we grow silent
unable to grasp
what we dream
of casting off

Ann Radcliffe never visited Rome.
Beckford never wrote about it, but visited it.
: A Young Man's Letter
William Beckford, from Dreams, Waking Thoughts and Incidents, in a Series of Letters, fromVarious Parts of Europe (1783)
William Beckford (1760–1844) was the son of the lord mayor of London, and no expense was spared in his education. To cite just a few examples of the resources available to this young man, one could note that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was his music teacher, Sir William Chambers instructed him in architecture, and that Beckford had pursued travels in Switzerland where he met Voltaire, who encouraged him to write, even before embarking on his Grand Tour. Beckford, an early reader of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, was entranced by Oriental tales, and went on to write several, the best known of which is Vathek (1787).
Beckford was clearly attracted to men, and it may be that his Grand Tour was designed by his family to interrupt his homoerotic relationship with eleven-year-old William Courtenay. His family also appears to have endeavored to suppress the publication of Beckford's romantic travelogue. The letters were published anonymously as Dreams, Waking Thoughts and Incidents, in a Series of Letters, from Various Parts of Europe in 1783, and received wider appreciation when revised in volume one of Beckford's Italy; with Sketches of Spain and Portugal (1834). In this letter, Beckford juxtaposes the splendid imaginative visions he has conceived of Rome from his classical education with the prospect of the city itself.
From Letter XXII. Rome, October 29, 1780
We set out in the dark. Morning dawned over the Lago di Vico; its waters of a deep ultramarine blue, and its surrounding forests catching the rays of the rising sun. It was in vain I looked for the cupola of St. Peter's upon descending the mountains beyond Viterbo. Nothing but a sea of vapours was visible.
At length they rolled away, and the spacious plains began to show themselves, in which the most warlike of nations reared their seat of empire. On the left, afar off, rises the rugged chain of Apennines, and on the other side, a shining expanse of ocean terminates the view. It was upon this vast surface so many illustrious actions were performed, and I know not where a mighty people could have chosen a grander theatre. Here was space for the march of armies, and verge enough for encampments. Levels for martial games, and room for that variety of roads and causeways that led from the capital to Ostia. >> note 4 How many triumphant legions have trodden these pavements! how many captive kings! What throngs of cars >> note 5 and chariots once glittered on their surface! savage animals dragged from the interior of Africa; and the ambassadors of Indian princes, followed by their exotic train, hastening to implore the favour of the senate!
During many ages, this eminence commanded almost every day such illustrious scenes; but all are vanished: the splendid tumult is passed away; silence and desolation remain. Dreary flats thinly scattered over with ilex; >> note 6 and barren hillocks crowned by solitary towers, were the only objects we perceived for several miles. Now and then we passed a few black ill-favoured sheep feeding by the way-side, near a ruined sepulchre, just such animals as an ancient would have sacrificed to the Manes. >> note 7 Sometimes we crossed a brook, whose ripplings were the only sounds which broke the general stillness, and observed the shepherds' huts on its banks, propped up with broken pedestals and marble friezes. I entered one of them, whose owner was abroad tending his herds, and began writing upon the sand, and murmuring a melancholy song. Perhaps the dead listened to me from their narrow cells. The living I can answer for: they were far enough removed.
* * *
I could have spent the whole day by the rivulet, lost in dreams and meditations; but recollecting my vow, I ran back to the carriage and drove on. The road not having been mended, I believe, since the days of the Caesars, would not allow our motions to be very precipitate. "When you gain the summit of yonder hill, you will discover Rome," said one of the postillions: up we dragged; no city appeared. "From the next," cried out a second; and so on from height to height did they amuse my expectations. I thought Rome fled before us, such was my impatience, till at last we perceived a cluster of hills with green pastures on their summits, inclosed by thickets and shaded by flourishing ilex. Here and there a white house, built in the antique style, with open porticos, that received a faint gleam of the evening sun, just emerged from the clouds to discover themselves in the valley, and St. Peter's to rise above the magnificent roofs of the Vatican. Every step we advanced the scene extended, till, winding suddenly round the hill, all Rome opened to our view.
A spring flowed opportunely into a marble cistern close by the way; two cypresses and a pine waved over it. I leaped up, poured water upon my hands, and then, lifting them up to the sylvan Genii of the place, implored their protection. I wished to have run wild in the fresh fields and copses above the Vatican, there to have remained till fauns might creep out of their concealment, and satyrs begin to touch their flutes in the twilight, for the place looks still so wondrous classical, that I can never persuade myself either Constantine, Attila or the Popes themselves have chased them all away. I think I should have found some out, who would have fed me with milk and chestnuts, have sung me a Latin ditty, and mourned the woeful changes which have taken place, since their sacred groves were felled, and Faunus ceased to be oracular. Who can tell but they might have given me some mystic skin to sleep on, that I might have looked into futurity?
Shall I ever forget the sensations I experienced upon slowly descending the hills, and crossing the bridge over the Tiber; when I entered an avenue between terraces and ornamented gates of villas, which leads to the Porto del Popolo, and beheld the square, the domes, the obelisk, the long perspective of streets and palaces opening beyond, all glowing with the vivid red of sunset? You can imagine how I enjoyed my beloved tint, my favourite hour, surrounded by such objects. You can fancy me ascending Monte Cavallo, leaning against the pedestal which supports Bucephalus; >> note 8 then, spite of time and distance, hurrying to St. Peter's in performance of my vow.
I met the Holy Father in all his pomp returning from vespers: trumpets flourishing, and a legion of guards drawn out upon Ponte St. Angelo. Casting a respectful glance upon the Moles Adriani, >> note 9 I moved on till the full sweep of St. Peter's colonnade opened upon me, and fixed me, as if spell-bound, under the obelisk, lost in wonder. The edifice appears to have been raised within the year, such is its freshness and preservation. I could hardly take my eyes from off the beautiful symmetry of its front, contrasted with the magnificent though irregular courts of the Vatican towering over the colonnade, till, the sun sinking behind the dome, I ran up the steps and entered the grand portal, which was on the very point of being closed.
I knew not where I was, or to what scene transported. A sacred twilight concealing the extremities of the structure, I could not distinguish any particular ornament, but enjoyed the effect of the whole. The perfume of incense was not yet entirely dissipated. No human being stirred. I heard a door close with the sound of thunder, and thought I distinguished some faint whisperings, but am ignorant whence they came. Several hundred lamps twinkled round the high altar, quite lost in the immensity of the pile. >> note 10 No other light disturbed my reveries but the dying glow still visible through the western windows. Imagine how I felt upon finding myself alone in this vast temple at so late an hour, and think whether I had not revelations.
It was almost eight o'clock before I issued forth, and, pausing a few minutes under the porticos, listened to the rush of the fountains: then traversing half the town, I believe, in my Villa Medici way to the, under which I am lodged, fell into a profound repose, which my zeal and exercise may be allowed, I think, to have merited.
Mary Shelley.

9. Protestant Rome: the Visibility of Angels
Scimmia Tower

Hawthorne still sleuths
the visibility of angels
among the tiles
of this apartment house
for displaced Goths.

Mlle.Hilda Ennui’s hand
flutters dove-like
by the high eves
it cannot reach.

A sculptor’s blows
pare away the rubble
from the real.
The copyist
trains her hand
and eye
on nature
it cannot complete.
The little world
of the saved
and its witnessed evil
cannot move,
as the monkey
of right tires
of its crime.
and picks its way down,
holding the baby
of truth,
while five schools
of just pretence teach
the love of bird-shot tiles
and the rubbish
that yet is gemstone.

Hawthorne lived briefly in Bath after the success of the The Marble Faune
The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, by Tobias Smollett (chapter50)
I have here met with my old acquaintance, H[ewet]t, whom you have often heard me mention as one of the most original characters upon earth — I first knew him at Venice, and afterwards saw him in different parts of Italy, where he was well known by the nick-name of Cavallo Bianco, from his appearing always mounted on a pale horse, like Death in the Revelations. You must remember the account I once gave you of a curious dispute he had at Constantinople, with a couple of Turks, in defence of the Christian religion; a dispute from which he acquired the epithet of Demonstrator — The truth is, H— owns no religion but that of nature; but, on this occasion, he was stimulated to shew his parts, for the honour of his country — Some years ago, being in the Campidoglio at Rome, he made up to the bust of Jupiter, and, bowing very low, exclaimed in the Italian language, ‘I hope, sir, if ever you get your head above water again, you will remember that I paid my respects to you in your adversity.’ This sally was reported to the cardinal Camerlengo, and by him laid before pope Benedict XIV, who could not help laughing at the extravagance of the address, and said to the cardinal, ‘Those English heretics think they have a right to go to the devil in their own way.’
10. Romantic Rome.
De Quincy, Wordsworth
and Walter Savage Landor with his version of Catullus Carmina 5
Thomas Moore: Martial To Chloe Book III: 53 Sorry Chloe
Thomas Moore (1779-1852) lived in Sloperton, near Bowood House home of his patron, the Marquis of Lansdown, Together with the Marquis of Lansdowne  and poets Crabbe and Bowles, he was present at the grand opening of the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in January 1825. This what he wrote:
The grand opening today of the Literary Institution in Bath. Attended the inaugural lecture by Sir G. Gibbs, at two. Walked about a little afterwards - and to dinner at six. Lord Lansdowne was in the chair [...] "Lord L. alluded to us in his first speech, as among the literary ornaments, if not of Bath itself of its precinct [...].

Thomas Moore then himself gave a speech, received by "a burst of enthusiasm" by his audience in which he talked of the "springs of health with which nature had gift the fair city of Bath".
Thomas Moore and his wife Bessie were frequent visitors to the city, as their daughter Anastasia went to school here. His poetry was loved by his contemporaries, especially his Irish Melodies, Lalla Rookh and the Loves of the Angels. In Prose he wrote the Life of Sheridan and as a friend of Lord Byron, he published The Letters and Journals of Lord Byron and in 1830 edited Byron's collected works. He was a frequent guest in aristocratic circles at Lacock Abbey and Bowood, dining, dancing, singing, reciting poetry and talking about politics. This was witnessed by an astonished 6th Duke of Devonshire, visiting Bowood in April 1826, who wrote in his diary that Thomas Moore, "the little urchin" was shown straight into Lord Lansdowne's room without any ceremony.
The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution is fortunate in having in its collection a bust of the poet Thomas Moore.
Trudy Wallace 2002

Catullus 51

Ille mi par esse deo uidetur,
ille, si fas est, superare diuos,
qui sedens aduersus identidem te
spectat et audit
dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis
eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,
Lesbia, aspexi, nihi est super mi
[vocis in ore]
lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
tintinant aures, gemina teguntur
lumina nocte.
otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:
otio exsultas nimiumque gestis:
otium et reges prius et beatas
perdidit urbes.

C.H. Sisson’s translation

He seems like a god, that man,
He seems to subdue the gods, if I may put it that way;
He is sitting opposite you and yet repeatedly
Looks at you and hears
Your delightful laughter. I should be completely senseless.
When I look at you, Lesbia, there is nothing left of my voice.
My tongue is frozen, a thin flame descends through my limbs,
There is ringing in my ears, my two eyes
Are covered with night.]

Re-Discovering Pindar’s Olympic Odes

I want to begin this celebration of Greek Olympian poetry by telling you all that I

don’t really know much Greek, don’t actually like the modern Olympics and

didn’t know much about the ancient Greek poet Pindar who lived from 518 to

438 B.C. Having worked on his poetry, using the TUFTS Perseus site I

re-discovered something unique about him, his beliefs and the Olympic ideal.
However, let me start with Greek. I was inspired by that dear legend of Classical

tutoring, Emma Seller, who told me about an essay Virginia Woolf had written

about “Not knowing Greek.” Of course not knowing Greek is a shame, as after

all clever people know Greek. Clever people can interpret non-Roman signs such

as field equations, musical scores, Persian scripts, carpets and computer

programmes. Supposing just for once you did Greek because like the proverbial

mountain, it just happened to be there. People just happened to have lived and

loved speaking it.
This was Virginia Woolf’s idea, triggered by the irritation that in her time only

men were supposed to be clever in the civil service, IQ sense of the word. After

all, all we have of the ancient Greeks is their language and a few disputed stones.

As Woolf puts it “Euripides was eaten by dogs; Aeschylus killed by a stone;

Sappho leapt from a cliff. We know no more of them than that. We have their

poetry, and that is all.” Yet as she goes on to say, that is not all we know. Like

the magic submarine that rises with baking powder, the smell of words leads to

the sights, which lead to the sounds, the sounds to the taste of breathing and the

breathing to the persons and the persons to the touch of the Gods. Yet all the

while Greek stones simply stack as stones. Woolf quotes Electra out of her

mind, fated and therefore leaping into ours with a discipline of words. She

admires Greek brevity. She quotes Jane Austin in a similarly economic vein,
“There comes a moment —“I will dance with you,” says Emma — which rises

higher than the rest, which, though not eloquent in itself, or violent, or made

striking by beauty of language, has the whole weight of the book behind it. In

Jane Austen, too, we have the same sense, though the ligatures are much less

tight, that her figures are bound, and restricted to a few definite movements. She,

too, in her modest, everyday prose, chose the dangerous art where one slip

means death.”
Woolf tends to concentrate on dramatists who are poets too, but Pindar, whom

she never mentions was a poet without a box-office. Yet Woolf seems to have a

place for the poet: “To understand him it is not so necessary to understand

Greek as to understand poetry.” This was the touch-paper at which I set the

match of my own risky creativity.
I like false ideas. They leave a residue for the imagination. The bravest of all

nonsense is to be found in the ideas of Giambattista Vico. He claimed all poets

knew a primitive universal language that preceded Babel. This is the translator’s

form book, if you understand the racing analogy. Let Virginia Woolf finish her

attempt at the universal illusion with her concluding remarks “Entirely aware of

their own standing in the shadow, and yet alive to every tremor and gleam of

existence, there they endure, and it is to the Greeks that we turn when we are sick

of the vagueness, …of our own age.”
Yet it was Pindar’s simple optimism that charmed me even beyond the strictures

of a great Modernist writer. I don’t want to tell you now about Pindar’s verse. I

want you to experience it. With your indulgence I will read from this exuberant

and uneconomical poet, Pindar.
This ode was written and performed in 476 B.C. at Syracuse in Sicily at the

court of Hieron who had won the horse race at Olympia that year.

Olympian 1
Water, above all, is best and
gold, a flame that burns at night:
the greatest wealth of the famous:
but to speak from the heart now,
should one dare, your words
would be of honours
won in the contest of the games
seen in the daytime sky,
as another strong star
in the empty air
that gives greater warmth than the sun,
nor shall we bless an assembly more than the Olympian.
This hymn of honour is decked out
in the tactics of wise-men;
they chant of the son of Kronos
and the happiness of Hieron’s home.

It is he who holds the mace of law
in lush valleys of sheep
in Sicily ,where the crops the first fruits
of all that is perfect.
It is his glory stuns is in the festival
our music celebrates.
as in the uplift of our songs
when we sit as friends together.

Now take the Dorian guitar off its peg
for certain the loveliness of Pisa
and the fair features of Pherenikus
buried our passions with the logic of
of sweetness for when he raced
past Alpheios and took the lead,
not waiting to be goaded on
and brought success to his backers

The mounted knight, the King of Syracuse
whose honour is aflame in the exalted
forum of heroes, founded by Pelops, the Lydian,
Poseidon that massive trouble
of the earth fell in love
with Pelops, for Klotho
had hauled him out of
the curing bath that seethed
with his ivoried shoulder,
handsome and pale.
Much is a source of wonder
and often the elaborate song slips past the truth
to charm the talk of men
with their fertile lies.

The lovely ideal who makes
all pleasure for humanity
brings fame at whim and issues falsity
as truth: now the witness of wisdom
lies in the days to come,
A man should speak well of the Gods
that his guilt be assuaged.
Tantalos’ son, whom I create in fable,
to contradict ancestral poets.
Your father, when he caroused with friends
at a guileless celebration
invited Gods as guests to his home in Sipylos
as the Gods had made him theirs.
then that God of the blazing trident

fell in love with you and took you
away on his mares of gold
to the heights of Zeus’ home,
whom so many worship
where Ganymede was later
drawn away to the same liaison
with Zeus, when you had vanished
and people looked for you, but
did not take you back to your mother.
Then a spiteful bystander whispered his secret
and the brew seethed above the flames
and they hacked you down into the stew.
For the main course, they numbered the joints
on your flesh and consumed it.

I will not, not I, the poet, say it
that any divinity grew obese
on feasting-I defer this matter.
Those who open their mouths in iniquity
heap luckless times on their history.
If those who look down from Olympos
ever celebrated those born only to die,
it was Tantalos, yet his guts
could not obtain the heavy zest
and he faced disaster-
a pendulum stone hung above him
and desperate to dodge it,
he is a stranger to joy.
He eeks out life in everlasting anxiety,
and to three tortures adds a fourth
because he was a thief
and fenced Ambrosia, God’ s nectar,
which gave him life immortal.
The one who thinks God cannot see
everything he does and would do as he pleases,
is mistaken.
And it was thus the Immortals,
hurled him back, his Son, to live with men
who are wholly to die; and when he arrived
at the fond leafage of his growth
whose down covered his chin,
his mind was fixed on nuptials
he expected, to have the famous
Hippodameia from her father in Pisa.
He took down on his own to the hoary sea
in the dark of night.
and called out to the stentorian-voiced
Lord of the Trident and the god stood byhim
next to his feet: and Pelops said
“If the close love you once had for me
can yield goodness, I pray,
hold back the bronze spear that belong to Oinomaos
and on the fastest vehicle
take me to Elis and make me a winner
for Oinomaos has slaughtered
thirteen suitors
and has delayed the date
of his daughter’s wedding. There is great danger
un fit for the cowardly, but for those who end in death
what point is there in sitting it out in darkness
and hope for no outcome,
senility without fame,
to falter over fine possessions.
such suffering waits for me, but you
can give me
the project I crave for.”
Thus he asked and the plea he uttered was not without response.
The god praised him
and handed him a gold-wrought chariot
and winged, restless horses.

So the power of Oinomaos
was dragged to the ground
and the maiden was taken to bed.
She gave birth to Princeling sons,
ambitious to be noble.
Now by Alpheos’ Ford, Pelops
is spattered in the brilliance
of bloody sacrifice,
the active grave on the altar’s side
where numberless wanderers flock.
the Olympic celebrity in Pelops’ games
spans the wide world.
In that place the strength of a man’s ripeness fulfils its tasks.
and he who wins inhales a wholesome and appetizing breath
all the days left of his life.

as he recollects the contest.
And so far these fine matters
that present themselves as the day presents.
are yet the finest out of all for all.
I seek to honour the winner with the tune
of cavaliers on the Aeolian mode.
and thus to enliven him among the wonderful flow of singing.
I am acquainted no living man
befriends the stranger more than Hieron,
both in insight into everything
or control over it.
May God protect you, Hieron,
It is his pleasure and he holds vigil
over all you care for.
and if his departure is far off,
I seek to find a way of greater pleasure.

and to meet up with a speedy car to glorify you
when I take the road that rouses the tongue.
to the hill of Kronos under the sun.
The Muse is cradling a javelin for me
a miracle of strength and courage.
One man’s greatness lies in one way,
another’s elsewhere,
yet Kings are the summit of all.
Gaze no longer than on this.
I ask that you pace glorified
down all they days of your life
and may my friendship be among winners,
a lighthouse of poetry
in all places within the Hellenic span.
Five basic aesthetic features leap from Pindar’s odes. He is obsessed with

genealogy. He weaves a texture of minor myths around the families of those

whom he praises. His poems dance to a rhythm that does not link to their sense.

The simple structure of strophe, antistrophe and epode is a dance structure that

does not help us grasp his verse as we know nothing of Greek dance. He has a

taste of pithy philosophising that carries a magnificent grimness to it. Finally, he

has a fixed religious belief in the role of physical prowess as a graced gift from

the Gods that allows the victor to explore the possible and avoid excess, a

simple optimism perhaps.

Pindar is always a surprise. For a start we know more about him than most

Greek poets. He was born about 520 BC in Cynocephale, near Thebes, into the

family of the aristocratic Spartan Aegidae as he states in Pythian 5. Starting life in

a local aristocracy with a strong Doric, or southern lilt, both culturally and

linguistically, he went to Athens at an early age to study music and poetry and

found acceptance in the intellectual circles of the Peisistrian dynasty, very

possibly becoming acquainted with Aeschylus who came out of a similar

aristocratic and traditional background. While probably not as wealthy as his

patrons, he was certainly successful from the range of his recorded contracts

During the Persian Wars of 480-79 BC he appeared to support the position of

Thebes which was unfortunately pro-Persian, and when Thebes fined him for his

praise of Athens, the Athenians generously paid his fine out of  respect  for his

poetic reputation. In his middle years he was invited to
Syracuse in Sicily, where he stayed for several years and wrote several of his

mature Odes. He is reported to have lived to the age of eighty, which would

place his death at Argos around 440 BC, just before the Peloponnesian War.

The effect of his odes is rather like a massage of names and references. The

reader soon drops the classical dictionary in sheer exhaustion. By far the best

way to enjoy Pindar’s poetry is to allow it to weave its charm, just as Mahler’s

polyphony hits at once with a massive wave of sound. This was the effect Pindar

intended. As Steve Donaghue puts it

“The idea was to simulate spontaneity: a group of spirited young men, ostensibly

the roistering friends of the victor, would at a certain prearranged point in the

evening’s celebration tumble haphazardly into the room as though coming

straight from the games with first news of the win. Their faces would be flushed

as though with wine; their dress would be dishevelled, and they would seem to

collect themselves gradually into a full-throated ode in praise of their friend. All

of this was staged; in the bigger games, the dishevelled young men would be

professional actors and complete strangers to the victor, but it didn’t matter: the

point of the performance was to highlight the immediacy of it all, to make fathers

and uncles nostalgic for their own long-ago victories, to make those in

attendance feel completely included in the rush of emotions, to provide a

breathless act in the theatre the ancient Greeks saw all of life to be.”

Perhaps if you hold that image in mind, the second Olympic Ode may work in a

different way:

Olympian II was written for the same tyrant, Theron, more likely for his home

coming in 476 B.C.

Rulers of the harp-strings, songs of mine,
who is the God, who is the hero,
who is the man fit for our song?
for Zeus owns Pisa and the Olympic festival belongs
to Hercules, who first
laid out its trophy of war.
Sing out, my voices, of Theron instead,
who won the chariot race four -handed .
Civility is his and his the kindness
that should be given out to guests.
his, the defence of Akragas:
On him the fathers of the place
take leaf and, on him, the city holds
The fathers took heartfelt pains
to make a sacred city then ,beside the river.
to be the eyesight  of Sicily:
richness and happiness came
to honour elect nobility
in the destiny of their days.

But you born out of Kronos and Rhea,
Oversee their ancient meadows.
Take heart at my words
and Lord, in companionship,
throned on Olympus
and on the prominence of the games
and at the crossing at Alpheos
For those who will succeed us.
Not even time can undo the happening
of right or wrongful acts,
with luckiness and fortune
comes oblivion
and anguish fades
enraged, but in defeat
 by gracious joys,

whenever the Gods send
a prosperous fate
such as that of the daughters of Kadmos,
throned on high, they knew anguish,
but their weighty grief
fell away at greater happiness.
Semele with her long-hair
was struck dead by a thunderstorm,
but lives with the Olympian Gods now
loved by Pallas and Father Zeus,
but more loved by her son,
the one crowned in ivy.
Even in the sea it’s said,
among the daughters Nereus sired in the ocean,
Ino has the gift to live for ever.
For men that die no time is set,
nor when that infant of the sun,
a day of peace, will end in endless joy.
the currents that sweep over men are many,
carrying joys and carrying drudgery.
This is how fatality, that holds the wealth
of men to be handed on from Father to son.
 can usher in  a grief that counters gracious success,
did not the fatal meeting of his son with Laos,
enact the old oracle of Pytho?

Yet Erinys, sharp as ever, witnessed it
and dispatched the warrior sons
in common killing. Yet fallen Polyneikes
gave us his son Thersandros,
famous for the games of youth
and military conflict, an heir to guard
the house of Adrastos.
How proper it is that Ainesidamos’ son,
whose roots grew from that seed,
should be met with  songs that honour and the harp.
 For in Olympia it was he who won the honoured prize
The disinterested Graces brought flowers
to share with his brother at their victory
in the race of twelve courses.
The challenge of contest
brings an escape from wretchedness
Wealth decked with talent brings on the moment
and incites ambitions, profound and uncontrolled.
A stronger star, the one that lights up man,
at least for those who have and plan a future:
That the unruly dead must face some sanction ,
Transgressions in the country of God
are weighed below by a bitter judge
with remorseless sentences.

But under the sun in measured day and equinox,
the just live a life free from toil,
They do not till the soil with muscled arms
nor cast in the sea for poor living.
Those who have been faithful to their promises
delight in a tearless life, side by side with Gods.
Those who have kept away from shame in triple lives
on either side of being go down the path of Zeus
to the turret of  father Time where a breeze off the ocean blows
across the Island of the Blessed Ones, where golden  flowers blaze
from a prodigy of trees and  watered plants.
The blessed bind their hands with wreaths and festoon themselves
to keep faith with Rhadamanthys, whom great father Time,
the consort of Rhea, keeps seated by him .
Peleus is there and Cadmus and Achilles,
whose mother led him here,
who swayed Zeus’ heart with prayers,
who slaughtered Hector, that unflinching undefeated
column of Troy, Achilles who delivered  Kyknos to death,
as well as the son of the Dawn, an Ethiopian.
Many quick arrows are quivered under my elbow,
arrows that talk only to the elite,
but the crowds need  translators.
He who has learned much from intuition
is truly skilled, yet those who imitate
can only prattle away like crows
before the holy bird of Zeus.
Now let’s aim the bow at the target,
now, with the mind , whom do we have in view?
as famous arrows are shot from a tender heart?
I will shoot at Akragas and utter words sworn
on a sincere vow
In no city this hundred years has any man been born
more loving in mind or generous of hand
than Theron.
Yet honour faces greed without the company of justice
stirred by dissolute voices, hasty to jabber
and to efface the virtues of decent men
Who could estimate the gifts Theron has given ,
since the sea-shore sand is beyond all number?

This brings me to the second of the surprises, Pindar presents, his belief in the

sacredness of physical combat, despite the gory  facts. As Richmond Lattimore

describes them, the Olympic Games were for aristocrats.
“Of Pindar's works, only the epinician, or victory, odes have survived intact,

although numerous fragments show that he wrote much besides. The victory ode

commemorates the success of a winner in the "games" or athletic meets held at

regular intervals from very early times down to the Roma period. There were

four great games : the Olympian, at Pisain Elis, sacred to Zeus; the Pythian, at

Pytho (Delphoi), sacred to Apollo; (held every four years), the Nemean, at

Nemea in the Peloponnese, sacred to Zeus; and the Isthmian, at the Isthmos of

Korinth, sacred to Poseidon. (held every two years) Of these, the Olympian

games were the oldest and most honorable… It must be understood that in all

horse and chariot races the "victor" was the person who entered horse or team;

he was not required to ride or drive in person.”
Steve Donaghue is even closer to the truth far from sane or sound.
 “the outcomes were often brutal enough to satisfy even the most bloodthirsty

spectator: maimings and deaths were common. There were boy’s and men’s

foot-races (including a sprint of nearly a mile in broiling heat), boxing, wrestling,

the breathtakingly savage pankration (a mixture of no-holds-barred wrestling and

boxing done with spiked leather gloves, usually conducted without quarter), a

pentathlon that consisted of discus, javelin, running, jumping, and wrestling, and

there were chariot races, some with single horse-drawn chariots, some with

single mule-drawn chariots, and some (the real crowd-pleasers) with four-horse

chariots, in all of which striking other drivers with your whip was legal. And

since there was no track-order, violent multi-chariot pile-ups happened

frequently, with dozens of drivers crushed underneath overturning carriages and

panicked horses. Small wonder that the games were sacred to the Greeks: they

virtually constituted blood-sacrifices to the gods.”
Yet having witnessed that first England goal against France, there is something

quite elemental in the excitement Pindar whips up over his victors. We may be

disillusioned by the men and women athletes found guilty of drug-taking, of

political rank-pulling, of corporate investments, property inflation, white-elephant

stadiums and dodgy committees, yet winners are still winners and the sheer thrill

of competition transcends the corruption. Pindar’s was no ideal world, but one

as dominated by tyranny and inequality as our own. With breathless conviction

in his own talent, he doesn’t give the slightest attention to the brutalities but

weaves an aesthetic of holy joy that carries conviction in its well-wrought


Olympian III illustrates this aesthetic idealism: it was written for Theron of

Akragas for a feast at which the Dioskuroi and Helen were believed to be present

in the same year 476 BC

Let me please the generous Sons of Tyndareos 
and Helen whose hair is so lovely
while I  praise the renown of Akragas
by singing a song of honour
to Theron, who won at Olympia
by chosen horses  with feet that never rest .
She is standing right next to me, the Muse,
as I innovate, a fresh and stylish fashion
for the Dorian sandal to skip to the noble voice
of this triumphal procession.
For chains of flowers bound to the  hero’s head
bond me to a holy obligation
to harmonise for the child of Aenesidamos
the needle-working harp and the skirl of the flutes
with the shapeliness of words
 and Pisa would have me raise a cry, Pisa
from which God-granted  chants
often come over to men, surely to
any man on whom the Aetolian judge
sets the olive and grey hair-ruffling wreath
to fulfil the old wishes of Herakles;
for the finest monument  to the Olympics,
 the olive-tree, which the Son of Amphytrion once carried
from the shaded springs of the Danube,
when he convinced the Northern people,
who worshipped Apollo, in good will
that a shade-loving plant could be shared by all
in the Grove of Zeus which is open to all.
and to be a crown for victors.
By now the altars to his father had been blessed
and in the middling-month as evening came
the Moon, in her gilded car, flared up her eye-light
and Herakles had created the holy test of the grand games
and the feast-days of every Fourth Year
on the sacred banks of the Alpheos.
Yet in the valleys that fell away
from the Hill of Kronos,
the venerable ground of Pelops
had no greenery of lissom  trees.
He saw the sun ‘s rays piercing down
on the bare treeless garden.
So he was stirred by the spirit
to go as we said to the Danube lands
where Leto’s daughter who drove horses
welcomed him as he came up from
the Arcadian ridges and  the valleys  that wound sheer.
Eurystheus had ordered him, in duty to his Father
to find the gold-horned stag, the one
which Taygete had marked as sacred to Artemis
of good counsel. In the hunt for his quarry
he saw the lands beyond the cold wind
and found the trees were marvellous.
A genial urge to have the trees had seized him
to set them on the  horse track’s edge
on which the chariots ride twelve times.
Even now he comes out of kindness
to this festival of ours in company
with those  demi-Gods,  deep - waisted  Leto’s twins.
When he went up to Mount Olympos
he delegated to them the running
of this conflict of dignity  among men and
the speed and worth  of charioteers.
My heart is stirred to sing  of  glory
to the Emmenidae and to Theron
because of the gift the sons of Tyndareos,
those great horsemen, have made to that family
with the most generous table among mankind,
that follows the liturgy of the sacred Gods
with holy contemplation.
Once I sang water is best and gold most treasured
of all goods ,so Theron has now attained the limit
by his abilities .He strokes  the Pillars of Herakles,
what goes beyond cannot be travelled by the wise
nor can the untrained take the path
and I will not take it, as only a fool would do so.

At the outset of this talk, I claimed that re-discovering  the Olympic Odes of

Pindar has helped me accommodate the Olympic spirit despite much that is

bogus and materialistic. One feature of the Olympic Odes is Pindar’s praise for

Olympia itself and the mythology of its founding.
This is what Olympus looked like:

Olympia Plan
1. The Gymnasium - Here athletes would exercise running and long-jumping.
2. The Palaestra - This is where they would train for wrestling and pankration.
3. The Thermai - baths
4. The Heroön - Monument to the unknown hero
5. The Theokoleon - Priests' quarters
6. Phedias' Workshop
7. Phaidryntai House - Here the care-takers of the statues lived.
8. The Leonidaion - A guesthouse for noble men.
9. The Temple of Zeus
10. The Bouleuterion - This is where the Olympic Committee sat.
11. The Southern Stoa - marketplace
12. Hestias' Sanctuary
13. The Echo Hall - Here the announcements were made, echoing seven times.
14. The Krypte - The Entrance to the stadium
15. The Stadium
16. The Treasure Houses
17. The Statues of Zeus, or Zanes
18. The Metroon - Temple to the Great Mother
19. Herodes Atticus' Nymphaeum
20. The Temple of Hera
21. The Pelopion - Monument to Pelops
22. The Philippeion - Monument to Philip II
23. The Prytaneion - Where feasts were held
According to one version of the founding myth, Zeus fought his father Cronus,

finally beating him and seizing the throne. In memory of his victory, Zeus

founded the games.
Another story tells us about king Oenomaus of Pisa, had a daughter

Hippodameia of marrying age. This worried the king, as the usual pesky Greek

oracle had told him that he would die by the hand of his son-in-law, and so he

made an announcement that any suitor would have to compete with him in a

chariot race. If the suitor won, he would get Hippodameias' hand, but if he lost,

he would die.
Despite the risk of losing their lives, many luckless suitors challenged the king,

not knowing that he had Ares' invincible horses. After Oenomaus had beaten,

and killed, 33 suitors, Pelops arrived. As soon as she saw him, Hippodameia fell

desperately in love, and conspired with the king's charioteer Myrtilos to help

Myrtilos pulled out the bolt that held one of the king's chariot wheels in its place,

and the chariot fell apart in the first turn. The king was caught in his horses’ reins

and dragged to his death. Pelops and Hippodameia married, and the games were

to be held in order to remember the day Pelops won over the king.
The area of Olympia was already inhabited in the beginning of the 2nd

Millennium BC, if not earlier. It lay in the North Western Peloponnese peninsula

at the junction of the Alpheios and Kladeos Rivers. There was a cult here before

Zeus, probably to Gaea.
Tradition holds that the first Olympic Games were held in 776BC, but possibly

earlier. The games were a peace treaty between Sparta and Elis, and it was soon

decided that all Greek states could take part in them as long as they respected

the sacred truce. This period was for a month at first, but because so many

states took part and people came to watch, it was extended to three months,

always during summer.
Because the sacred truce gave the kings and leaders from Greece a chance to

meet unarmed, Olympia became important for political discussions and trade. It

also enhanced the feeling of unity among the Greeks, along with the shared

language and religion.
Slaves and women, especially married ones, were strictly forbidden to watch the

games. Women could compete though, and besides that, the Heraia were also

held here; foot races for young maids in the area.
Barbarians were allowed to watch, but not to compete.
A competitor had to be a free, unpunished Greek and he had to have trained for

the games in his home for ten months, and for one month in Olympia. The

winners did not receive any money, but were greatly honoured with

commissioned odes. The prize was an olive wreath from Zeus’ holy tree, and the

winner was allowed to raise a victory statue. In his home town he would usually

be given free meals for the rest of his life, and it is said that a town with a

champion would tear down its wall since they no longer needed one with such an

athlete as a citizen.
If an athlete was caught cheating, perhaps through bribing or poisoning, he was

forced to buy a statue of Zeus where his name and his family's would be put

along with the offence. Then the statue was put near the entrance of the stadium,

so that the athletes would see them before the games started as a reminder of

what could happen.
From the year 472 the games were held during five days instead of the original

one. On the first day the competitors would register, take a sacred oath that they

had trained for ten months and that they would respect the rules. On this day

there was a competition between the heralds. On the second day the horse races

and Pentathlon were held. On the third the track races took place. On the fourth

there was wrestling, boxing and Pancrateon. On the fifth day the prizes were

handed out, with celebrations following.
During the Classical period the great temple of Zeus was built. Olympia was his

sanctuary and he had an oracle here. Inside the temple stood the statue of the

god, made by Phidias. We only know about this statue through coins and

descriptions, and it was supposedly 13.5 meters (37.5 feet) high. It pictured a

sitting Zeus with the goddess Nike in his right hand and a sceptre in his left. The

statue was made of gold and ivory, and was considered one of the seven

wonders of the ancient world. It disappeared towards the end of the 4th century

This is the Olympia of Pindar’s odes:
Olympian 14 was written for Asopichos of Orchomenos who won the foot race

in 488 B.C. the sensitivity with which he introduces the victor’s recently dead

father reveals an intimacy to Pindar that testifies to his humanity.

Hear me in my prayer,
you, to whom the streams
of Kaphisos belong, in the place
where horses run.
Hear me ruler of music
in Orchomenos that skips in the sunlight,
hear me Graces, who keep watch
over the old family of the Minoans.
By your sacred truth
all lovely delights
are the property of man:
if a man has fame,
if a man is wise,
if a man is handsome
it is because even Gods withdraw
when we dance or carouse.
The Graces designed heaven
and sit next to the God with a bow of gold, Apollo,
Pythian Apollo.

Teacher of laughter and praise,
who finds happiness in music
and the children of the God
most powerful, listen now,
with Thalia who loves the dance
observe her companions the in light balletic
with a helpful destiny for them.
Lady Grace, this is a song for Asopichos, I come with
in a Lydian key and studied harmony.
who brought the Minoans
victory at Olympia.
Go, Echo, go to the black walls now,
the ones of Persephone’s place
and give his Father the good news
that ,Kleodamos, in the fabled vales of Pisa,
 your son was decked with wings of triumph
for he has won his race.

and now the Ode I consider to be his finest,

Olympian 6 written for Hagesias of Syracuse, winner with the mule-car in 472

We shall put up a well-wrought basilica,
so to speak, and put golden pillars
to shine from its front to the distances,
just to show how work has been set afoot here.
What if a man were to win at Olympia
and were a deacon of the prophetic altar
raised to Zeus at Pisa and just suppose
he was co-founder of famous Syracuse
and supposing his neighbours
loved the songs he loved to sing.
What hymn could then be denied him?

Tell Sostratos’ son
about the shoe the Gods have fitted for him,
Feats in want of danger carry no honour neither with men.
nor do empty ships. The dignity of effort will always be remembered.
Praise stands ready for you, Hegesias, praise Adrastos truly
spoke of Amphiaros , Oiklees’ son, when earth buried the seer
and buried his glittering war-horses, too.

As the final cremation of the seven-fold dead extinguished
In Thebes, the son of Talaos spoke this;
“I grieve the most courageous of these men.
He had two gifts, prophetic insight and combat with a spear.”
such tribute holds for  the feasted Lord at Syracuse.
I who do not pick fights,
I who am notambitious,
even I will thunder such a testimony
for this man that even the lovely tongued Muses shall listen in.
Phintis, come on now, put the strong mules in the yoke for me
Be quick! as I climb into the chariot and drive on a fresh thoroughfare
to the place where men such as these began.
These mules mules know it better than anyone
that they can guide us, as they were wreathed at Olympia.
Now fling open before them the gateway to the chant
and arrive punctually at the ford of the Eurotas
and at Pitna.

Pitna fell in love, as stories tell, with Poseidon, Son of Kronos,
and bore Evadne, with the dark blue hair.
She hid her, passion’s misery, beneath her gown
until the birth-month  when she sent her servants
to bring the baby to Eilatides, ruler of Arkady, stationed at Phaisana
at home with Alpheus . It was there Apollo raised her
and there she tasted the honey of Aphrodite.

That she was concealing a divine kernel, only Aiptyos knew.
To raise his concerns with Pytho, the God, on the nature of unbearable agony,
Aiptyos left , with pointed concern pricking the silent rage in his heart.
His adopted daughter put down her silver jug, slipped off her
crimson dress and lay herself down in the shadow of the bushes
and gave birth to her hallowed child; the God whose hair was gold
consigned the Moirae and loving Eiletheia to help her.

and  out from her Iamus fell under the light
In keen pain, Evadna left the boy there.
The gods saw to it that a pair
of grey and sharp-eyed snakes
would comfort and nourish him
with the jam of bees and when
the king  came back from stony Delphi
he interrogated the house about
the child Evadne whelped:
he told them he had learned
that Apollo had conceived a child
who was to be for men who lived on earth
a powerful prophet, whose progeny would never cease.
thus he said this. The house stressed they had heard no sound,
 nor seen the five day child. They found him among the mass of reeds
and the briars that had had no track.
His sensitive form , drenched
with mauve and yellow stock.
at which his mother made it known
that her son would learn to say “I am those”
and be so called.
When he took the youth-flower,
the flower of delight  with a golden crown
he dived into the River Alpheus
to visit Poseidon, of spacious right,
who was his grandfather and visit
Apollo, the Archer who guards Delos,
constructed by the gods and asked  for
the right to foster his people
under the sky at night.
His father’s answered words were clearly spoken
“get up , my son and backed by my voice
make your way to a land which all will own.”

They arrived at the sheer outcrop
that the glorious son of Kronos held
Zeus gave Iamos a twice over worth of insight;
“ Listen to voice that cannot deceive
and when Herakles arrives,
the brave designer,
a pious scion of the sons of Alkaios,
to begin a celebration shared by many
for his father’s sake to order
the games that are greatest,
you will commission an augur
on the highest sanctuary of the Lord.

From that time onwards
the strain of the sons of Iamos
has won fame among the Hellenes.
Riches came alongside those sons.
They praise endeavour and pass by
on the track facing the eyes of all.
Every task concluded is their testimony.
The slander of jealous foes
always follows those who come in first
at the twelfth round,
while sacred charm
spills honour and splendour on them.
if truth could tell of those on your mother’s side
how they lived in the borders under Mount Kyllana,
and worshipped Hermes, the Gods’ courier
who rules the games and assigns the prizes
and praises the land of Arcadia with its valiant men.
Hagesias son of Sostratos, it is Hermes
with his father’s shrill thunder-crack
who leads fortune to act.
A stone sharpens my tongue
and at my will I am pulled to the daughter
of my river, the Ladon, of the town of Stymphalos
I am pulled towards Metopa, in flowering glamour.
And Theba, the horsewoman was her
daughter, she whose lovely waters I will swallow
when I lace my modelled, military song.
Now Aineas, leader of my choir,
rouse up your friends,
to crown Hera of the girls with acclamation.
Then let’s get down to basics,
have we done with the jeering
over “Boiotian pig,” that old taunt?
You can be trusted, we know that,
decoder of the muses with the lovely tresses,
tuned melting pot of deafening choruses.

Did I not tell you to think back to Syracuse,
and the place where Hieron rules
without a corrupt staff and fairness at heart.
called Ortygia. He cherishes Demeter
of the russet feet,
and for the solemnity of her daughter,
the girl with the white horse
and for the power of Zeus the Aitnean,
the Volcano.
The harps tuned to exquisite thrumming
and to singing songs know this man.
My the bidding prospect not strike his happiness.
but with the charm loved by man,
mayhe come and welcome home these singers of triumphs,
 as they travel from one dwelling to one more
from Stymphalos with its walls, as they leave
the mother of Arkadia and her healthy sheep..
It is a fine thing to drop two anchors
from a fast vessel these nights inwinter.
May the Lord give both families love and good  luck
God of the sea, Lord King,
give us a direct passage without strife,
spouse of Amphitria whose tholepin is gold,
and burst into a crop of fruit the flowers of my odes.

In the 4th century BC the whole stadium was moved to the East and slopes were

made on the sides for the spectators. Alexander the Great completed his father’s

building the Philippeion and competed himself during the games. He didn't win,

but proved to be a good loser.
The Romans conquered Greece in the 2nd century BC and they took many of

the treasures of Olympia with them. Sulla even tried to relocate the games to

Rome, but failed. Even so, the Olympic Games lost their importance and were

just held for show. During Augustus’ reign Olympia's status was enhanced again.

Statues of the emperor and his family and descendants were put in the sanctuary.
Nero came to Greece in AD 67 and took part in the horse races. Although he fell

off his chariot he had himself declared winner, and then took many statues with

Herodes Atticus built a nympheum, and its fountain provided the area with

drinking water.
Germanic tribes ravaged Athens and the Peloponnese and many buildings were

torn down in the 3rd century, and the materials were used to build fortifications

in Olympia. The barbarians never actually came to Olympia, but in the 4th

century the games were banned by the Emperor Theodosius. The whole

sanctuary was shut down in 426. In the 6th century, earthquakes destroyed the

buildings in Olympia, and it was filled with mud from the flooded rivers Kladeos

and Alfeos. Landslides from Mt. Kronion finally covered the whole area up.
The sanctuary was discovered in 1776, and in 1829 French archaeologists

started excavating the site. The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens

in 1896.
I began this celebration of Greek Olympian poetry by telling you all that I didn’t

really know much Greek, didn’t actually like the modern Olympics and didn’t

know much about the ancient Greek poet Pindar. Through translating Pindar, I

have felt the power of his deeply religious devotion to human physical

achievement, as an optimistic belief in the limited happiness of mortal human

beings. What is missing in to-day’s Olympics is the sense that human

achievement goes beyond the definition of human beings as economic agents

alone. What is needed is a new Olympic spirituality. as the Pope said recently

“to overcome the logic of individualism and selfishness which often characterise

human dealings, and so leave space for the logic of fraternity and love, the only

thing capable of authentically promoting the common good, at all levels". This is

one of Pindar’s legacies to us. Let me finish by repeating the description of

heaven from the Second Ode

But under the sun in measured day and equinox,
the just live a life free from toil,
They do not till the soil with muscled arms
nor cast in the sea for poor living.
Those who have been faithful to their promises
delight in a tearless life, side by side with Gods.
Those who have kept away from shame in triple lives
on either side of being go down the path of Zeus
to the turret of  father Time where a breeze off the ocean blows
across the Island of the Blessed Ones, where golden  flowers blaze
from a prodigy of trees and  watered plants.
The blessed bind their hands with wreaths and festoon themselves
to keep faith with Rhadamanthys, whom great father Time,
the consort of Rhea, keeps seated by him .
Peleus is there and Cadmus and Achilles,
whose mother led him here,
who swayed Zeus’ heart with prayers,

Text Pindar. The Odes of Pindar including the Principal Fragments with an

Introduction and an English Translation by Sir John Sandys, Litt.D., FBA.

Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd.


Donaghue, Steve, (2010) Beyond the Pillars of Hercules in Open Letter, available

from http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/beyond-the-pillars-of-hercules/

accessed 11/06/12
Lattimore, Richmond (1942)The Odes of Pindar Chicago, University of Chicago

Press available from; http://archive.org/details/odesofpindar035276mbp

accessed 11/06/12
Vico, Giambattista(1730/1744),  Scienza nuova seconda The New Science of

Giambattista Vico, revised translation of the third edition by Thomas Goddard

Bergin and Max Harold Fisch, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1948; Cornell

Paperbacks, 1976.
Woolf ,Virginia (1925) On Not Knowing Greek in The Common Reader

available from http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91c/chapter3.html

accessed 03/06/12
The London Olympics

Benedict 16th, Pope The Church is not indifferent to sport. Vatican Information

Office, 8 June 2012


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