Pindar and the Renaissance Hymn-Ode, 1450-1700

By Stella P. Revard | Go to book overview
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With the recovery in Italy of classical texts in the mid fifteenth century came a renewal of interest in the ancient Greek poet Pindar and his victory odes, odes composed in fifth century B. C. Greece to celebrate the athletes who had won prizes at the Olympic, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian games. That Pindar and his odes should command the attention that they received in Europe over the next three hundred or so years is a curious literary and intellectual phenomenon. This was the triumph of a poet virtually unknown and a genre of poetry that had been utterly neglected. Unlike Homer and some of the other Greek writers whose names had survived while their works were unavailable to the Western world, Pindar and his works had been virtually forgotten. The editors of the first editions of the odes that appeared in the early 1500s had to introduce Pindar to the public. Even before his works became available in print, however, poets already had begun to imitate the odes. The Italian poets Francesco Filelfo and Michele Marullo were the first to express admiration for Pindar and to compose odes and hymns in imitation. Others followed, some, such as Benedetto Lampridio and Luigi Alamanni, attempting to duplicate Pindar's Greek strophes in Latin and in Italian. Enthusiasm for Greek writers—and especially for Pindar—quickly spread from Italy to France and to other parts of Europe. Ronsard and the Pléiade poets named Pindar the first of poets and began to write triadic odes in French in imitation of his epinician odes. Pindar came to England at the end of the sixteenth century, when the relatively obscure writer John Soowthern produced some imitations of Ronsard's pindarics.1 In Elizabethan England, no major English poet

1 For accounts of the development of the Pindaric ode on the continent and its history in England from the sixteenth century, see Robert Shafer, The English Ode to 1660 (Prince


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