Military Elegy: Courage by Tyrtæus

Ne’er would I praise that man, nor deign to sing,
First in the race, or strongest at the ring,
Not though he boast a ponderous Cyclop’s force,
Or rival Boreas in his rapid course;
Not tho’ Aurora might his name adore,
Tho’ eastern riches swell his countless store,
Tho’ power and splendour to his name belong,
And soft persuasion dwell upon his tongue,
Tho’ all but god-like valour, were his own:

My muse is sacred to the brave alone;
Who can look carnage in the face, and go
Against the foremost warriors of the foe.

By heaven high courage to mankind was lent,
Best attribute of youth, best ornament.
The man whom blood and danger fail to daunt,
Fearless who fights, and ever in the front,
Who bids his comrades barter useless breath
For a proud triumph, or a prouder death,
He is my theme — He only, who can brave
With single force the battle’s rolling wave,
Can turn his enemies to Might, and fall
Beloved, lamented, deified by all.
His household gods, his own parental land
High in renown, by him exalted stand;
Alike the heirs and founders of his name
Share his deserts and borrow from his fame
He, pierced in front with many a gaping wound,
Lies, great and glorious, on the bloody ground,
From every eye he draws one general tear,
And a whole nation follows to his bier;
Illustrious youths sigh o’er his early doom,
And late posterity reveres his tomb.
Ne’er shall his memorable virtue die,
Tho’ cold in earth, immortal as the sky;
He for his country fought, for her expired:
Oh would all imitate whom all admired!
But if he sleep not with the mighty dead,
And living laurels wreathe his honour’d head,
By old, by young, adored, he gently goes
Down a smooth pathway to his long repose,
Unaltering friends still love his hairs of snow,
And rising elders in his presence bow.
Would ye, like him, the wond’ring world engage,
Draw the keen blade, and let the battle rage!

From: Peter, William (ed.), Specimens of the Poets and Poetry of Greece and Rome by Various Translators, 1848, Carey and Hart: Philadelphia, p. 27.
(https://archive.org/details/spe00cimensofpoetspeterich

Date: 7th century BCE (original in Greek); 1848 (translation in English)

By: Tyrtæus (7th century BCE)

Translated by: Francis Hodgson (1781-1852)

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One Comment to “Military Elegy: Courage by Tyrtæus”

  1. Here I go again. Translations that rhyme when the original didn’t are a pet peeve of mine, but finding a translation of Latin, or classical Greek, poetry that doesn’t rhyme may be difficult at best and often just impossible.

    On Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 9:30 PM, From Troubles of The World wrote:

    > flusteredduck posted: “Ne’er would I praise that man, nor deign to sing, > First in the race, or strongest at the ring, Not though he boast a > ponderous Cyclop’s force, Or rival Boreas in his rapid course; Not tho’ > Aurora might his name adore, Tho’ eastern riches swell his co” >

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