Once Upon a Time, No One Would Prostitute a Rhyme

Pindar, Isthmian 2.1-15

“Thrasyboulos: people in the past
Used to climb onto the chariot
Of the gold-crowned Muses
Armed with a fame-bringing lyre.
Then they would quickly aim their sweet-voiced hymns
At the boys–whoever was cute and
in that sweetest summer season
Of well-throned Aphrodite.

That’s because the Muse wasn’t yet
Too fond of profit nor yet
A working girl.
And sweet songs
From honey-voiced Terpsichore
Weren’t yet sold as pricey tricks.

So now she invites us to remember
The word of the Argive that’s closest
To the truth: “Money,
A man is his money”–
As someone claims when he’s lost
His cash along with his friends.”

Οἱ μὲν πάλαι, ὦ Θρασύβουλε,
φῶτες, οἳ χρυσαμπύκων
ἐς δίφρον Μοσᾶν ἔβαι-
νον κλυτᾷ φόρμιγγι συναντόμενοι,
ῥίμφα παιδείους ἐτόξευον μελιγάρυας ὕμνους,
ὅστις ἐὼν καλὸς εἶχεν Ἀφροδίτας
εὐθρόνου μνάστειραν ἁδίσταν ὀπώραν.
ἁ Μοῖσα γὰρ οὐ φιλοκερδής
πω τότ᾿ ἦν οὐδ᾿ ἐργάτις·
οὐδ᾿ ἐπέρναντο γλυκεῖ-
αι μελιφθόγγου ποτὶ Τερψιχόρας
ἀργυρωθεῖσαι πρόσωπα μαλθακόφωνοι ἀοιδαί.

νῦν δ᾿ ἐφίητι <τὸ> τὠργείου φυλάξαι
ῥῆμ᾿ ἀλαθείας <⏑–> ἄγχιστα βαῖνον,
“χρήματα χρήματ᾿ ἀνήρ”
ὃς φᾶ κτεάνων θ᾿ ἅμα λειφθεὶς καὶ φίλων.

Scholion ad Pin. Isth. 2.1b

“Pindar elaborates his introduction again by referring to his payment for composing the epinician hymn. But he says that ancient lyric poets used to make serious efforts towards noble works without payment, but when money began existing poems were purchased. These comments apply to poets around the time of Alkaios, Ibykos, Anakreon, and some of those before him who seemed to pay a lot of attention to boys. Those poets were older than Pindar. Indeed, when Anacreon was asked why he composed hymns to boys and not to the gods, he answered, “Because they are our gods.”

ἐξειργάσατο δὲ τὸ προοίμιον ὁ Πίνδαρος πάλιν ἑαυτῷ τῆς τοῦ ἐπινίκου γραφῆς μισθὸν ποριζόμενος. φησὶ δὲ, ὅτι τῶν λυρικῶν οἱ παλαιοὶ ἀμισθὶ πρὸς τὰ καλὰ τὴν σπουδὴν εἶχον, ἐπὶ δὲ τοῦ παρόντος ἀργυρίου πιπράσκεται τὰ ποιήματα. ταῦτα δὲ τείνει καὶ εἰς τοὺς περὶ ᾿Αλκαῖον καὶ ῎Ιβυκον καὶ ᾿Ανακρέοντα, καὶ εἴ τινες τῶν πρὸ αὐτοῦ δοκοῦσι περὶ τὰ παιδικὰ ἠσχολῆσθαι· οὗτοι γὰρ παλαιότεροι Πινδάρου· ᾿Ανακρέοντα γοῦν ἐρωτηθέντα, φασί, διατί οὐκ εἰς θεοὺς ἀλλ’ εἰς παῖδας γράφεις τοὺς ὕμνους; εἰπεῖν, ὅτι οὗτοι ἡμῶν θεοί εἰσιν.

pile of gold old coins

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