Hymns to the Gods
It is one matter for a Renaissance poet to invoke the Muses to inspire him or even to address an ode “Ad Musas”; it is another for him to compose a hymn to a pagan god—Apollo or Athene or Bacchus or Pan or even Aphrodite. Yet spurred on by the examples of classical hymn and ode that became available in manuscripts and early printed texts, those very Italian poets—Marullo, Pontano, and Crinito—who courted Pindar's Muses and responded to the cult in art and literature of poetry's patron Apollo began to compose hymns and odes to other pagan deities. Their hymns in turn became models for later Italian poets and inspired the secular hymns of the Pléiade in France. Ronsard and his followers both imitated earlier humanist poets and extended the range of classical hymn, thereby influencing Spenser and the English poets who followed him. Under the thin veil of allegorical representation, Christian humanists invoked pagan gods and goddesses of the Olympian pantheon. Besides addressing hymn-odes to the Olympian divinities, fifteenth- and sixteenth-century humanist poets also invoked abstract deities—Hope, Fortune, Health, and deities associated with natural phenomena—Night, Dawn, the Seasons. These very same humanist poets, moreover, also began to compose hymns to the Christian God, Christ, or the saints on the model of the classical literary hymn and so to replace the older liturgical models with Christian hymns based on classical patterns.
In the Renaissance as in antiquity the genre of hymn-ode covered a wide range of types. It found its classical precedents not only in cult hymns—Homeric and Orphic Hymns—but also in those literary hymns that included the Greek hymns of Callimachus, the Latin odes of