Become What You Are: Pindar

406px-Pindar_statue

Become what you are.

Well, that’s short and sweet! But what does it mean? There is much learned discourse on the subject on the internet and it has apparently come to be interpreted as ‘become whatever you want to be’, ie if you want to be an astronaut or President of the USA, just go for it. Given the epoch in which he lived, it seems highly unlikely that it was meant in this sense, and I find more interesting the more obvious interpretation: ‘develop the talents you were born with to become the best you can be.’ What a wise old bird!

Here is the fount of all knowledge on Pindar:

Pindar (Ancient Greek: Πίνδαρος, Pindaros, pronounced [píndaros]; Latin: Pindarus) (c. 522–443 BC), was an Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes. Of the canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserved. Quintilian wrote, “Of the nine lyric poets, Pindar is by far the greatest, in virtue of his inspired magnificence, the beauty of his thoughts and figures, the rich exuberance of his language and matter, and his rolling flood of eloquence, characteristics which, as Horace rightly held, make him inimitable.”[1] His poems however can also seem difficult and even peculiar. The Athenian comic playwright Eupolis once remarked that they “are already reduced to silence by the disinclination of the multitude for elegant learning”.[2] Some scholars in the modern age also found his poetry perplexing, at least up until the discovery in 1896 of some poems by his rival Bacchylides, when comparisons of their work showed that many of Pindar’s idiosyncrasies are typical of archaic genres rather than of the poet himself. The brilliance of his poetry then began to be more widely appreciated. However his style still challenges the casual reader and he continues to be a much admired though largely unread poet.[3]

Pindar is the first Greek poet to reflect on the nature of poetry and on the poet’s role.[4] Like other poets of the Archaic Age, he has a profound sense of the vicissitudes of life, but he also articulates a passionate faith in what men, by the grace of the gods, can achieve, most famously expressed in his conclusion to one of his Victory Odes:[5]

Creatures for a day! What is a man?
What is he not? A dream of a shadow
Is our mortal being. But when there comes to men
A gleam of splendour given of heaven,
Then rests on them a light of glory
And blessed are their days. (Pythian 8)[6][7]

His poetry illustrates the beliefs and values of Archaic Greece at the dawn of the classical period.[8]

Advertisements

About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
This entry was posted in Quotation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s