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On the Victorious Progress of Her MAJESTY's Arms. under the Conduct of the Duke of MARLBOROUGH,
To which is prefixed,
A DISCOURSE ON THE PINDARIC ODE.
Operosa parvus “ Carmina fingo.”
HOR. Lib. iy. Ode 2.
A DISCOURSE ON THE PINDARIC ODE.
HE following Ode is an attempt towards restoring
the regularity of the antient Lyric Poetry, which seems to be altogether forgotten or unknown by our English writers.
There is nothing more frequent among us, than a sort of poems intituled Pindaric Odes ; pretending to be written in imitation of the manner and stile of Pindar, and yet I do not know that there is to this day extant in our language, one Ode contrived after his model. What idea can an English reader have of Pindar (to whose mouth, when a child, the bees
brought brought their honey, in omen of the future sweetness and melody of his songs) when he shall see such rumbling and grating papers of verses, pretending to be copies of his works?
The character of these late Pindarics is, a bundle of rambling incoherent thoughts, expressed in a like parcel of irregular ftanzas, which also conhift of such another complication of disproportioned, uncertain, and perplexed verses and rhymes. And I appeal to any reader, if this is not the condition in which these titular
On the contrary, there is nothing more regular than the Odes of Pindar, both as to the exact observation of the measures and numbers of his stanzas and verses, and the perpetual coherence of his thoughts. For though his digressions are frequent, and his transitions sudden, yet is there ever some secret connection, which though not always appearing to the eye, never fails to communicate itself to the understanding of the reader.
The liberty which he took in his numbers, and which has been fo misunderstood and misapplied by his pretended imitators, was only in varying the stanzas in different Odes; but in each particular Ode they are ever correspondent one to another in their turns, and according to the order of the Ode.
All the Odes of Pindar which remain to us, are songs of triumph, victory or success in the Grecian games : they were sung by a chorus, and adapted to the lyre, and sometimes to the lyre and pipe; they consisted oftenest of three stanzas; the first was called the Strophé, from the version or circular motion of the fingers in that stanza from the right hand to the left. The second stanza was called the Antistrophé, from the contraverfion of the chorus; the fingers, in performing that, turning from the left hand to the right, contrary always to their motion in the Strophé. The third stanza was called the Epode, (it may be as being the after-song) which they fung in the middle, neither turning to one hand nor the other.
What the origin was of these different motions and stations in singing their Odes, is not our present business to enquire. Some have thought that by the contrariety of the Strophé and Antistrophé, they intended to represent the contrarotation of the Primum Mobile, in refpect of the Secunda Mobilia; and that by their standing still at the Epode, they meant to signify the stability of the earth. Others ascribe the institution to Theseus, who thereby expressed the windings and turnings of the labyrinth, in celebrating his return from thence.
The method observed in the composition of these Odes, was therefore as follows. The poet having made choice of a certain number of verses to constitute his Strophé or first stanza, was obliged to observe the fame' in his Antistrophé, or second stanza; and which accordingly perpctually agreed whenever repeated, both in number of verses and quantity of feet : he was then again at liberty to make a new choice for his third ftanza, or Epode ; where, accordingly, he diversified: his numbers, as his ear or fancy led him : composing that stanza of more or fewer verses than the former, and
those verses of different measures and quantities, for the greater variety of harmony, and entertainment of the ear.
But then this Epode being thus formed, he was ftri&tly obliged to the same measure as often as he should repeat it in the order of his Ode, so that every Epode in the fame Ode is eternally the same in measure and quantity, in respect to itself; as is also every Strophé and Antistrophé, in respect to each other.
The lyric poet Stefichorus (whom Longinus reckons amongst the ableft imitators of Homer, and of whom Quintilian fays, that if he could have kept within bounds, he would have been nearest of any body, in merit, to Homer) was, if not the inventer of this order in the Ode, yet so strict an observer of it in his compositions, that the three stanzas of Ştesichorus became
common proverb to express a thing universally known, ne tria quidem Stesichori noftri ;” so that when any one had a mind to reproach another with excefsive ignorance, he could not do it more effectually than by telling him, “ he did not so much as know the o three stanzas of Stefichorus;" that is, did not know that an Ode ought to consist of a Strophé, an Antistrophé, and an Epode. If this was such a mark of ignorance among them, I am sure we have been pretty long liable to the same reproof ; I mean, in respect of our imitations of the Odes of Pindar.
My intention is not to make a long Preface to a fhort Ode, nor to enter upon a dissertation of Lyric Poetry in general : but thus much I thought proper to
fay, for the information of those readers whose course of study has not led them into such enquiries.
I hope I shall not be so misunderstood, as to have it thought that I pretend to give an exact copy of Pindar in this ensuing Ode; or that I look upon it as a pattern for his imitators for the future : far from such thoughts, I have only given an instance of what is practicable, and am sensible that I am as distant from the force and elevation of Pindar, as others have hitherto been from the harmony and regularity of his numbers.
Again, we having no chorus to sing our Odes, the titles, as well as use of Strophé, Antistrophé, and Epode, are obsolete and impertinent : and certainly there may
be very good English Odes, without the diftinction of Greek appellations to their stanzas. That I have mentioned them here, and observed the order of them in the ensuing Ode, is therefore only the more in. telligibly to explain the extraordinary regularity of the composition of these Odes, which have been represented to us hitherto, as the most confused structures in
However, though there be no necessity that our triumphal Odes should consist of the three afore-mentioned stanzas; yet if the reader can observe that the great variation of the numbers in the third stanza (call it Epode, or what you please) has a pleasing effect in the Ode, and makes him return to the first and second ftanzas with more appetite than he could do, if always cloyed with the same quantities and measures ; I cannot see why some use may not be made of Pindar's ex