The Debt of Fault and Song

Pindar, Olympian 10.1-15

“Read me aloud the name of the Olympian victor,
The child of Arkhestratos, from the place where
It is entered in my thoughts since
He’s owed a sweet song and
It has been forgotten.
Muse, you and Truth, Zeus’ daughter,
Keep me from harming a friend with lies.

For the coming future approached from far away
And shamed me for my debt.
Yet interest paid can has the power to release us
From sharp critique.

Let him see now how, just as a wave
Washes over a pebble as it rolls through the sea,
So too do I pay back shared speech
As a dear favor.”

Τὸν Ὀλυμπιονίκαν ἀνάγνωτέ μοι
Ἀρχεστράτου παῖδα, πόθι φρενός
ἐμᾶς γέγραπται· γλυκὺ γὰρ αὐτῷ μέλος ὀφείλων
ἐπιλέλαθ᾿· ὦ Μοῖσ᾿, ἀλλὰ σὺ καὶ θυγάτηρ
Ἀλάθεια Διός, ὀρθᾷ χερί
ἐρύκετον ψευδέων
ἐνιπὰν ἀλιτόξενον.
ἕκαθεν γὰρ ἐπελθὼν ὁ μέλλων χρόνος
ἐμὸν καταίσχυνε βαθὺ χρέος.
ὅμως δὲ λῦσαι δυνατὸς ὀξεῖαν ἐπιμομφὰν
τόκος. ὁράτω νῦν ψᾶφον ἑλισσομέναν
ὁπᾷ κῦμα κατακλύσσει ῥέον,
ὁπᾷ τε κοινὸν λόγον
φίλαν τείσομεν ἐς χάριν.

Schol. Ad Pin. Ol. 10.15e

“He speaks allegorically comparing his own power to the flow of the sea. For, just as a wave washes over a stone whirled up, expelled on the shore, so in the same way, he claims, I wash away blame circulated like that stone.”
παραβάλλει δὲ ἀλληγορῶν τῷ τῆς θαλάσσης ῥεύματι τὴν ἑαυτοῦ δύναμιν. ὡς

γὰρ ψῆφον παρ’ αἰγιαλὸν κυλινδουμένην ἐκβρασσόμενον τὸ κῦμα κατακλύζει, τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον, φησὶ, κἀγὼ τὴν ἐπικυλιομένην μέμψιν ἐκκλύσω ὡς ψῆφον.

“otherwise: now a stone hurling on. The hymn washes away criticism from people like a [the water washes away] the stone.”

ἄλλως· νῦν ψᾶφον ἑλισσομέναν: νῦν [ψᾶφον] τὴν παρὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων μέμψιν κατακλύσει ὁ ὕμνος ὡς ψῆφον

“The wave” when [he mentions] the shared speech, which is the poem, we pay back in return…”

κῦμα, ὅταν τὸν κοινὸν λόγον, τουτέστι τὸ ποίημα, πρὸς χάριν ἀποτίσωμεν.

Oil painting of a wave, semi impressionistic style
The Wave by Gustave Courbet, c. 1869, oil on canvas, California Palace of the Legion of Honor

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