Monday, December 28, 2009

Pindar: Paean 1

For the Thebans, 52a, P.Oxy.841 (5,1908)

πρὶν ὀδυνηρὰ γήραος σχεδὸν μολεῖν,
πρίν τις εὐθυμίᾳ σκιαζέτω
νόημ' ἄκοτον ἐπὶ μέτρα, ἰδών
δύναμιν οἰκόθετον

Just before reaching the pains of old age,
let a man gladly shelter
a peaceful mind for the sake of moderation, having seen
power stored in his home.

I've been intrigued for several days with this fragment of one of Pindar's Paeans. The first line depends on the conjecture of the first editors, Grenfell and Hunt, who read σ[χεδὸν μ]ολεῖν. But the crux of the passage is the meaning of the enigmatic phrase, σκιαζέτω νόημ' ἄκοτον ἐπὶ μέτρα. I've taken the prepositional phrase ἐπὶ μέτρα to mean "for the sake of moderation." I follow Race for the verb σκιαζέτω meaning "to shelter," for that is the sense of what the man must do to his "un-angry mind." The word seems, however, to mean "shade, to cast a shadow," or, "to overshadow," or even "to keep away" as of the sun's rays (Alciphr.3.12). Perhaps it should read νόημα κότον rather than νόημ' ἄκοτον, and the man would be advised to keep off anger with respect to the mind. In any case, it is also an interesting question how we are to understand the "angry" or "un-angry" mind.