Many years ago someone told me that there were only two poets who were truly sublime: Milton and Pindar. I already knew first hand the sublimity of Milton, but at that point in my life I was Greekless and the translations of Pindar that I was acquainted with left sublimity behind. At the end of my first year of Greek as a kind of reward for doing well, George Pepe, my instructor at Washington University, offered a tidbit of Pindar—Olympian 14. Little did he know what he was starting. As I came to the end of the first strophe and Pindar's exalted description of the Graces standing by Pythian Apollo and with him eternally revering in song the honor of the Olympian Zeus, I finally experienced with a divine shiver Pindar's sublimity first-hand. I persuaded in due course another member of Washington University's Classics Department, Carl Conrad, to offer the first Pindar course the Department had offered in recent times. Reading a rich selection of Pindar's odes, I found myself wanting to understand how the odes of this extraordinary poet had come down to the Renaissance, and if perchance, in some way my other poet—John Milton—might have owed a little of his own sublimity to his sublime predecessor. Thus I embarked upon this book—about twenty years ago. In due course chapters 1 and 2 of the book served as a Master's Thesis for an M. A. in Classics at Washington University.
I owe a great deal to those who had faith in this project over the years as I sallied forth into territory where few had gone before. The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded me a summer fellowship in 1976 and later a year-long fellowship in 1985; Southern Illinois University granted me research grants, summer fellowships, and leaves