Translator's notes

From Olympian III

By Pindar

Pindar’s Odes were a celebration of life as expressed in what was for the Greeks its supreme form: excellence in individual competitive games. He used all the resources available to him to achieve this celebration: intricate patterns of dance and music as well as patterns of words. We have to imagine the chorus creating a series of complex visual patterns on the floor, as they turned to face different sections of the audience in the circular theatre. Within the word patterns he weaves stories or fragments of stories of the gods, who created the games and whose presence is everywhere felt in the landscape and family histories of the athletes. They are the eternal spectators.

With so much richness it is no wonder Pindar has proved hard to translate. We have to select some aspect of the poetry. My versions place all the emphasis on the imagery of the poems, mainly visual but also, I believe, kinetic. I try to catch a little of the dance movement in the flow of the words on the page. The English language with its strength in monosyllables and simple rhythms is entirely unlike ancient Greek with its polysyllables, its quantitative metres and its pitch accent. But we share images and resources of metaphor, though sometimes we must unpick these from the deep etymological roots of our common linguistic heritage.

Contributor and student discounts

If you are a student, or if you contribute to MPT you are eligible for a great discount deal when you subscribe…» Subscribe now

Back to top
Supported by Arts Council England

Copyright © Modern Poetry in Translation and contributors
Website design ashbydesign
Developed by Code Frontiers
Powered by Storemill