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On the Victorious Progrefs of Her MAJESTY'S Arms under the Conduct of the Duke of MARLBOROUGH.
the regularity of the antient Lyric Poetry, which feems to be altogether forgotten or unknown by our English writers.
There is nothing more frequent among us, than a fort of poems intituled Pindaric Odes; pretending to be written in imitation of the manner and ftile 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 whofe mouth, when a child, the bees L 4
brought their honey, in omen of the future fweetness and melody of his fongs) when he fhall fee fuch rumbling and grating papers of verfes, pretending to be copies of his works?
The character of thefe late Pindarics is, a bundle of rambling incoherent thoughts, expreffed in a like parcel of irregular ftanzas, which alfo confift of such another complication of difproportioned, 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 obfervation of the measures and numbers of his ftanzas and verses, and the perpetual coherence of his thoughts. For though his digreffions are frequent, and his tranfitions fudden, 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 mifapplied by his pretended imitators, was only in varying the ftanzas in different Odes; but in each particular Ode they are ever correfpondent one to another in their turns, and according to the order of the Ode.
All the Odes of Pindar which remain to us, are fongs of triumph, victory or fuccefs in the Grecian games: they were fung by a chorus, and adapted to the lyre, and fometimes to the lyre and pipe; they confifted ofteneft of three ftanzas; the firft was called the Strophe,
from the verfion or circular motion of the fingers in that stanza from the right hand to the left. The fecond 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 ftanza was called the Epode, (it may be as being the after-fong) which they fung in the middle, neither turning to one hand nor the other.
What the origin was of thefe different motions and ftations in finging their Odes, is not our prefent bufinefs to enquire. Some have thought that by the contrariety of the Strophé and Antiftrophé, they intended to reprefent the contrarotation of the Primum Mobile, in refpect of the Secunda Mobilia; and that by their ftanding still at the Epode, they meant to fignify the stability of the earth. Others afcribe the inftitution to Thefeus, who thereby expreffed the windings and turnings of the labyrinth, in celebrating his return from thence.
The method obferved in the compofition of thefe Odes, was therefore as follows. The poet having made choice of a certain number of verfes to conftitute his
Strophé or firft ftanza, was obliged to obferve the fame in his Antiftrophé, or second stanza; and which accordingly perpetually agreed whenever repeated, both in number of verfes and quantity of feet: he was then again at liberty to make a new choice for his third › ftanza, or Epode; where, accordingly, he diverfified his numbers, as his ear or fancy led him : compofing that stanza of more or fewer verfes than the former, and
thofe verfes 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 ftrictly obliged to the fame measure as often as he fhould repeat it in the order of his Ode, so that every Epode in the fame Ode is eternally the fame in meafure and quantity, in refpect to itself; as is also every Strophé and Antiftrophé, in refpect 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 compofitions, that the three ftanzas of Stefichorus became common proverb to exprefs a thing univerfally known, " ne tria quidem Stefichori noftri ;" so that when any one had a mind to reproach another with exceffive ignorance, he could not do it more effectually than by telling him, "he did not fo much as know the "three ftanzas of Stefichorus;" that is, did not know that an Ode ought to confift of a Strophé, an Antiftrophé, and an Epode. If this was fuch a mark of ignorance among them, I am fure we have been pretty long liable to the fame 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 differtation of Lyric Poetry in general: but thus much I thought proper to
fay, for the information of those readers whose course of ftudy has not led them into fuch enquiries.
I hope I fhall not be so misunderstood, as to have it thought that I pretend to give an exact copy of Pindar in this enfuing Ode; or that I look upon it as a pattern for his imitators for the future: far from fuch thoughts, I have only given an inftance of what is practicable, and am fenfible that I am as diftant 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 fing our Odes, the titles, as well as ufe of Strophé, Antiftrophé, and Epode, are obfolete and impertinent and certainly there may be very good English Odes, without the diftinction of Greek appellations to their ftanzas. That I have mentioned them here, and obferved the order of them in the enfuing Ode, is therefore only the more intelligibly to explain the extraordinary regularity of the compofition of these Odes, which have been represented to us hitherto, as the most confufed ftructures in
However, though there be no neceffity that our triumphal Odes should confist of the three afore-mentioned ftanzas; 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 fame quantities and measures; I cannot fee why fome ufe may not be made of Pindar's example,