μυριᾶν δ᾿ ἀρετᾶν ἀτελεῖ νόῳ γεύεται

From Pindar Nemean 3.40ish, with Loeb text and translation.

συγγενεῖ δέ τις εὐδοξίᾳ μέγα βρίθει.
ὃς δὲ διδάκτ᾿ ἔχει, ψεφεννὸς ἀνὴρ
ἄλλοτ᾿ ἄλλα πνέων οὔ ποτ᾿ ἀτρεκεῖ
κατέβα ποδί, μυριᾶν δ᾿ ἀρετᾶν ἀτελεῖ νόῳ γεύεται.

One with inborn glory carries great weight,
but he who has mere learning is a shadowy man;
ever changing his purpose, he never takes a precise
step, but attempts innumerable feats with an ineffectual
mind.

The single citation for ψεφεννός I can find is right here but it’s clearly related to another rare word – ψέφος or darkness (which appears as ψέφας in a fragment from Pindar).  But for the logic to follow, the sense has to be in contrast with βρίθω – which Slater’s Lexicon to Pindar, citing this appearance, gives as “be heavy met. συγγενεῖ δέ τις εὐδοξίᾳ μέγα βρίθει prevails, is powerful.”  The image would accordingly have to veer more toward  the association of dark with fog with shadow with shade/spirit with flitting lightness with inconstancy and ineffectuality.  And that movement toward spirit and lightness would seem confirmed with the next line’s πνέων which generally means ‘to breath’ but which Slater cites for this location as falling under the metaphorical sense of “be minded, have aspirations.”  All of which would come together in translation as:

One with inborn glory has great heft,
but he who has learning is an aery/insubstantial fog
aspiring now to one thing, now to another, and never
stepping with determined foot.  Countless achievements does he taste but with a mind that brings none to a conclusion.

I’m certainly projecting my own guilt for intellectual flightiness into Pindar’s conclusion but my rendering avoid’s the Loeb’s unjustifiable insertion of “[mere] learning.” My ἀτρεκής is easily within bounds of the accepted ‘precise, accurate, strict’, my γεύω sheds a loose metaphorical rendering, and my ἀτελής holds closer to the etymological basis.  I call it an improvement.  But the Loeb translator Race has the last laugh because I read his version while no one will read the one I spent 30 minutes on.

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