The first strophe names the sea and the earth, each of them overwhelming (δεινόν) in its own way. To be sure, the naming of sea and earth does not intend the things it names in a merely geographical or geological way. That is how we today encounter these natural phenomena, only to paint them over with a few petty and fleeting feelings. But here, “sea” is said as if for the first time; it is named in the wintry swells in which it constantly drags [118|162] up its own depths and drags itself down into them. Directly after the main and guiding saying at the beginning, the ode starts off harshly with τοῦτο καὶ πολιοῦ. It sings of breaking forth upon the groundless waves, of giving up firm land. This breakaway does not take place upon the cheerful smoothness of gleaming water, but amid the winter storm. The saying of this breakaway is situated in the law of motion that arranges the words and verses, just as the χωρεῑ in verse 336 is placed at the point where the meter shifts: χωρεῑ, he gives up the place, he heads out—and ventures to enter the superior power of the sea’s placeless flood. The word stands like a pillar in the construction of these verses.
But this violence-doing breakaway into the overwhelming sea is woven together with the restless break-in to the indestructible sway of the earth. Let us mark it well: here the earth is called the highest of gods. Violence-doing, the human being disturbs the calm of growth, the nourishing and enduring of the tireless one. Here the overwhelming does not hold sway in self-devouring wildness, but as that which without toil and without tiring, from out of the superiority of the calm of great riches, ripens and dispenses what is inexhaustible and rises above all impatience. The violence-doers break into this sway, year by year they break it up with plows and drive the toilless earth into the restlessness of their toiling.