Apollo and the Nine: A History of the Ode

Apollo and the Nine: A History of the Ode

Apollo and the Nine: A History of the Ode

Apollo and the Nine: A History of the Ode

Excerpt

In this study I have tried to illustrate the steps by which the ode came into being as a modern genre in Italy, France, and England. After a brief survey of the classical lyric poetry that inspired it, I have made a detailed examination of the neolatin ode, the immediate background of the vernacular ode of the Renaissance. Then I have shown how the Italian and French odes were created under humanist impulse, how they reacted with one another, and how the English ode began in imitation of the French, but soon returned to the basic classical and humanist sources to find its inspiration.

My aim has been to show how a new poetic genre was created out of classical and medieval materials in each of these three related literatures. Therefore, in each of the literatures I have followed the early experiments in the ode up to the point where important poets have appeared who have definitively established the new form. With a detailed analysis of their odes I have left the particular literature. Thus I have ended my study of the Italian ode with Chiabrera and his followers, the French with Malherbe, and the English with Cowley.

Despite the fact that the period covered was one of considerable critical activity and despite the fact that many of the humanists were both critics and poets, there was very little criticism either of the contemporary ode or of the ode in general. Du Bellay's programme for the Pléiade was the exception. Before du Bellay only Minturno had commented on what he was attempting to do in his two odes. After du Bellay Scaliger discussed the various poetic genres and sub-genres, including the ode, and the subject matter and metres that were appropriate to each. The chief importance of his work on the ode lies in the encouragement that it gave to the metric experimentation which was to come to the fore in seventeenth- century England. Otherwise critics contented themselves with repeating Horace's familiar description of the ancient lyric, that its subjects were the gods, heroes, victorious athletes, youthful . . .

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