Pindar and the Renaissance Hymn-Ode, 1450-1700

By Stella P. Revard | Go to book overview
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In tracing the evolution of the hymn-ode on the continent and in England from the hymn or ode to the classical deity to the Christian hymn-ode and finally to the philosophical ode, I am aware that I am presenting only one aspect of the complicated tradition of Pindaric imitation. This single aspect, however, witnesses the change in view of Pindar from an enlightened pagan model to a useful and proper poetic exemplar. By the time we arrive at Cowley and his Pindaric imitations, there is only a vestige remaining of the view that Pindar is the divine poet that Christians have been seeking. It is not that Cowley separates the pagan Pindar from the acceptable Christian poet. It is rather than he sees poetry experiencing something like a separation from the so-called divine roots that Sidney, Spenser, and many of the continental pindarists were insisting upon. Involved in this is also the trend not only toward the “secular” pindaric but also the growth of the light, recreational ode, which again, but in a different way, demystifies the Pindaric tradition. Of course, once we move past 1700 and into the redefinitions of the pindaric by Collins and Gray, we are setting the stage for one more reaction to Pindar and his ode—a reaction that will recreate the pindaric for Wordsworth and Coleridge, for Shelley and Keats. That development, however, is beyond the scope of this present book.

I have chosen to conclude with Cowley and the Cowleian pindaric because with the transfer of the Pindaric ode from the continent to England, we arrive at a fully developed stage of Pindaric imitation in England. To an extent, the new English pindaric in the seventeenth century was based—as was the continental pindaric—on mistaken apprehensions of Pindar's ode. But, as I outlined in the Preface, we can never fully re


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