The Philosophical Ode in the
The philosophical pindaric develops in the latter part of the seventeenth century and becomes, as it moves into the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the most popular kind of Pindaric imitation. To write an ode on Immortality or on Dejection or on Melancholy or on Liberty would seem to Wordsworth or Coleridge, to Keats or Shelley, to be the most proper, indeed the most fitting of Pindaric undertakings. Yet until Cowley “invented” the philosophical ode, nothing quite like it was known in English and even in Latin it possessed few forerunners. Among these forerunners we might include the Latin odes of Casimire Sarbiewski on philosophical topics or the humanist odes addressed to abstract figures such as Health or Fortune. Yet even if we do, we must recognize that the seventeenth-century philosophical ode anatomizes subjects in ways that earlier pindarists would hardly have imagined, portraying abstract notions such as Liberty or Beauty or Desire in philosophical and not hymnic form.
As the philosophical ode in the seventeenth century has only a brief history, so it possesses only an indirect relation to Pindar's odes. True, Pindar addresses himself to Water (as the best of substances), to Joy (as the physician of pain), to the Lyre (as the link between heavenly and earthly music), but these brief apostrophes that begin Olympian 1, Nemean 4, and Pythian 1 respectively, only introduce the odes and do not command attention beyond the opening strophe. Olympian 1 is not in any way an ode to Water. Further, although aphorism and philosophical digression are not uncommon in Pindar's odes, they do not occasion the