Pindar’s Hymn to Persephone.

Persephone appeared to him in a dream, and complained that she alone of all
the gods had had no hymn made by him in her honour ; but added that he should
yet praise her in the land of the dead. Ten days after this the poet died at Argos
Immediately after, his spectre appeared to an aged dame at Thebes, and recited a
new hymn to Persephone ; some portion of which she was able to commit to writing.”
—See ‘ Life of Pindar’ in “ Ancient Classics for English Readers .


It was the day that tuneful Pindar sent1
To banquet with Apollo ;* I, who knew2
Him far from Thebes, sat pondering the intent3
Of that strange vision, which, revealed to few,4
He trusted to my long-tried faithful breast5
Ere unto Argos he his steps addressed. 6


For ten days gone (‘twas thus he told the tale) 7
There stood revealed his midnight couch beside8
A form majestic, lifting her black veil : 9
At once he knew her for King Hades’ bride, 10
Awful, yea terrible, yet fair to see, 11
With eyes that lit the gloom, Persephone.12

* “ Pindar to supper with the god,” was proclaimed by the sacristan at Delphi,
each night, before he closed the temple door.


Upon the moonlight splendour of those eyes13
His own, he said, fixed unaverted gaze, 14
The while he heard these words : “ Thy melodies15
Resound, O Pindarus ! each high god’s praise ; 16
Each goddess’ might and beauty make they known17
Save one ;— they leave unhymned my praise alone.18


Why, Phœbus’ nursling ! why, thus wrong my fame ? 19
Why weave no garland of fair song for me ? 20
Is this well done to slight my holy name ? 21
But yet thou, too, shalt praise Persephone, 22
Not here, near waters bright by Dircé fed,— 23
By darker waves, in kingdom of the dead.”24


I mused on this : night came, and with it stood25
Pindar by me, changed since I saw him last ; 26
All signs of age were gone, his altered mood27
Showed solemn joy, as one who had o’erpassed28
The boundaries of our life, and all things seen29
As gods behold them in their light serene.30


He held the lyre no more ; but full, rich song31
Flowed from his lips like stream that swells in might ; 32
He praised Persephone, the fair, the strong, 33
The gentle,—then he vanished from my sight. 34
With me some fragments of that song remain,— 35
Take them, poor echoes of a lofty strain !36