Pindar and Hiero

Hiero . Pindar! no few are there among my guests
Who lift up eyebrows archt and rounded eyes
To hear thee talk as they do. Poets grin
And whisper,
He is one of us, not more ,
Tho' higher in . . I think they also add
Our foolish king's esteem.
Pindar . In verse I sing
Not always dithyrambics. I may lift
A mortal over an admiring crowd,
And I may hear and heed not their applause,
A part whereof is given to him who fed
The steeds, a part to him who drove, a part
At last to me.
Hiero . My friend! the steeds are gone,
The charrioteers will follow: Death pursues
And overtakes the fleetest of them all:
He may pant on until his ribs are crackt,
He never shall reach thee. Believe one word
A king hath spoken . . Ages shall sweep off
All lighter things, but leave thy name behind.
Pindar . I was amused at hearing the discourse
Of our wise judges, when their maws were fill'd,
About some poets of the present day.
Hiero . I did not hear it. I would not surcharge
Thy memory, 'twere unfriendly; but perchance
A tittle of the tattle may adhere
Stil to thy memory, as on amber hairs
That some loose wench hath combed into the street:
If so, pray let me have it.
Pindar . An old friend
Of mine had represented the grave sire
Of poets, in the ile of Ithaca,
Conversing with Laertes.
Hiero . He was wrong.
Homer lived some time after him.
Pindar . Who knows?
Howbeit, the worst complaint was that a king
Spoke of stale bread, and offered it his guest.
Hiero . Ithaca is not Sicily: the rocks
Of that poor iland bear no crops of wheat;
Laertes might not every day have spared
The scanty brushwood for the oaten cake.
Wine, I will wager, your old friend hath jogg'd
The generous host to lay upon the board.
Pindar . And both converst as other men converse.
The poet is no poet at all hours,
The hero is no hero with a friend.
Hiero . The virtuous, the valiant, and the wise,
Have ever been thy friends, and they alone.
Pindar . Few have I found, and fewer have I sought.
Apart I chose to stand. The purest air
Breathes o'er high downs on solitary men.
Thou smilest, O king Hiero, at my words,
Who seest me in thy court.
Hiero . No, no, my friend!
Pindar . We must not penetrate the smile of kings,
There may be secrets in it.
Hiero . Open mine;
There is but one for thee; and it is this;
'Tis written on no scroll, but on my heart;
Command I dare not call it, though I would . .
Pindar is Pindar, Hiero is but king.
Pindar . Embolden'd when I ought to be abasht,
I venture now to question thee.
Hiero . Obey.
Sprinkle a drop of Lethe on the fount
Of sparkling Dirce, nor remember Thebes,
Or him alone remember, him whose harp
Rais'd up her walls, which harp thou strikest now
With hand more potent than Amphion's was.
Here shalt thou dwell in honor, long thy due,
And sing to us thy even-song of life.
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