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THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
WILLIAM PITT, Esq.
PAYMASTER-GENERAL OF HIS MAJESTY'S FORCES,
AND TO THE HONOURABLE
SIR GEORGE LYTTELTON, Bart."
ONE OF THE LORDS COMMISSIONERS OF THE TREASURY :
ARE INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR ;
WHO IS DESIROUS THAT THE FRIENDSHIP,
WITH WHICH THEY HAVE FOR MANY YEARS HONOURED HIM,
AND THE SINCERE AFFECTION AND HIGH ESTEEM,
WHICH HE HATH CONCEIVED FOR THEM,
FROM A LONG AND INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE
OF THEIR WORTH AND VIRTUE,
MAY BE KNOWN
WHEREVER THE PUBLICATION OF THE ENSUING PIECES
SHALL MAKE KNOWN THE NAME OF
Op all the great writers of antiquity, no one was ever more honoured and admired while living, as few bave obtained a larger and fairer portion of fame after death, than Pindar. Pausanias tells us, that the character of poet was really and truly consecrated in his person, by the god of poets himself', who was pleased by an express oracle to order the inhabitants of Delphi to set apart for Pindar one half of the first-fruit offerings brought by the religions to his shrine; and to allow him a place in his temple; where in an iron chair he was used to sit and sing his hymns, in honour of that god. This chair was remaining in the time of Pausanias * (several hundred years after) to whom it was shown as a relic not unworthy the sanctity and magnificence of that holy place. Pan : likewise, another musical divinity, is reported to have skipped and jumped for joy, while the nymphs were dancing in honour of the birth of this prince of lyric poetry; and to have been afterwards so much delighted with his compositions, as to have sung his odes in the hearing even of the poet himself. Unhappily for us, and indeed for Pindar, those parts of his works, which procured him these extraordinary testimonies from the gods, (or from mortals rather, who by the invention of these fables meant only to express the high opinion they entertained of this great poet,) are all lost: I mean bis Hymns to the several deities of the heathen world. And even of those writings, to which his less extravagant, but more serious and more lasting glory is owing, only the least, and, according to some people, the worst part is now remaining. These are his Odes inscribed to the conquerors in the four sacred games of Greece. By these odes, therefore, are we now left to judge of the merit of Pindar, as they are the only living evi. dences of his character.
Among the moderns 5 those men of learning of the truest taste and judgment, who have read and considered the writings of this author in their original language, have all agreed to confirm the great character given of him by the ancients. And to such who are still able to examine Pindar himself, I shall leave him to stand or fall by his own merit; only bespeaking their candour in my own behalf, if they should think it worth their while to peruse the following translations of some of his odes; which I here offer chiefly to the English reader, to whom alone I desire to address a few considerations, in order to prepare him to form a right judgment, and indeed to have any relish of the compositions of this great lyric poet, who, notwithstanding, must needs appear before him under great disadvantages.
To begin with removing some prejudices against this author, that have arisen from certain writings known by the name of Pindaric Odes; I must insist that very few, which I remember to have read under that title, not excepting even those written by the admired Mr. Cowley, whose wit and fire first brought them into reputation, have the least resemblance to the manner of the author, whom they pretend to imitate, and from whom they derive their name; or, if any, it is such a resemblance only as is expressed by the Italian word caricatura, a monstrous and distorted likeness. This observation has been already made by Mr. Congreve in his preface 6 to two admirable odes, written professedly in imitation of Pindar; and I may add, so much in his true manner and spirit, that he ought by all means to be excepted out of the number of those who have brought this author into discredit by pretending to resemble him.
Neither has Mr. Cowley, though he drew from the life, given a much truer picture of Pindar in the translations be made of two of his odes. I say not this to detract from Mr. Cowley, whose genius, perhaps, was not inferiour to that of Pindar himself, or either of those other two great poets, Horace and Virgil, whose names have been bestowed upon him, but chiefly to apologize for my having ventured to translate the same odes, and to prepare the reader for the wide difference he will find between many parts of his translations and mine.
1 Paus. in Bæot. . Paus, in Phoc.
3 Philostratus in Icon.
4 Plut. in Numa. $ See abbé Fraguier's Character of Pindar, printed in the 3d rol. of Memoires de l'Academie loyale, &c. and Kennet's Life of Pindar, in the Lives of the Greek Poets.
• Preserved in the present collection.
Mr. Cowley and his imitators (for all the Pindaric writers since his time have only mimicked him, while they fancied they were imitating Pindar) bave fallen themselves, and by their examples have led the world, into two mistakes with regard to the character of Pindar; both wbich are pointed out by Mr. Congreve in the preface above mentioned, and in the following words :
“ The character of these late Pindarics is a bundle of rambling incoherent thoughts, expressed in a like parcel of irregular stanzas, which also consist 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 odes appeared.
“ On the contrary (adds he) 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.”
Upon these two points, namely, the regularity of measure in Pindar's odes, and the connection of his thoughts, I shall beg leave to make a few observations.
These odes were all composed to be sung by a chorus, either at the entertainments given by the conquerors (to whom they were inscribed) or their friends, on account of their victories, or at the solemn sacrifices made to the gods upon those occasions. They consist generally of three stanzas, of which the following account was communicated to me by a learned and ingenious friend.
“ Besides what is said of the Greek ode in the Scholiast upon Pindar, I find (says he) the following passage in the Scholia on Hephæstion; it is the very last paragraph of those Scholia.”
The passage cited by him is in Greek, instead of which I shall insert the translation of it in English.
You must know that the ancients (in their odes) framed two larger stanzas, and one less; the first of the larger stanzas they called strophé, singing it on their festivals at the altars of the gods, and dancing at the same time. The second they called antistrophé, in which they inverted the dance. The lesser stanza was named the epode, which they sung standing still. The strophé, as they say, denoted the inotion of the higher sphere, the antistrophé that of the planets, the epode the fixed station and repose of the Earth.
“ From this passage it appears evident, that these odes were accompanied with dancing; and that they danced one way while the strophe was singing, and then danced back again while the antistrophe was sung : which shows why those two parts consisted of the same length and measure; then, when the dancers were returned to the place whence they set out, before they renewed the dance they stood still while the cpode was sung.
“ If the same persons both danced and sung, when we consider how much breath is required for a full song, perhaps one may incline to think, that the strophe and antistrophe partook something of the recitative manner, and that the epodle was the more complete air.
“ There is a passage in the ancient grammarian, Marius Victorinus, which is much to the same purpose as this above, though he does not distinctly speak of dancing. The passage is this :
“ Pleraque lyricoruin carminum, qua: versu, coli-que et commatibus componuntur, ex stmphê, antistrophé, et epodo, ut Græci appellant, ordinata subsistunt. Quorum ratio talis est. Antiqui deorum laudes carminibus comprehensas, circum aras eorum euntes canebant. Cujus primum ambitum, quem ingrediebantur ex parte dextrâ, strophen vocabant; reversionem autem sinistrorsum factam, completo priore orbe, antistrophen appellabant. Deinde in conspectu deorum soliti consistere cantici, reliqua consequebantur, appellantes id epodon.
“ The writers I have quoted speak only of odes sung in the temples; but Demetrius Triclinius, upon the measures of Sophocles, says the same thing upon the odes of the tragic chorus.
“ What the Scholiast upon Hephæstion, cited above, adds about the heavenly motions, &c. is also said by Victorinus, and by Demetrius Triclinius, and likewise by the Scholiast on Pindar. Yet I consider this in no other light than I do the fantastical conceits with which the writers on music abound. Ptolemy, out of his three books of Harmonies, employs one almost entirely upon comparing the principles of music with the motions of the planets, the faculties of the mind, and other such ridiculous imaginations. And Aristides Quintilianus, supposed an older author, is full of the same fouteries, Marius Victorinus has another scheinc al-o, viz. that the dancing forwards and backwards was invented by Theseus, in memory of the labyrinth out of which he escaped. But all this is taking much umecessary pains to account why, when dances have goue as far as they can one way, they should return back again; or at least not dance in the same circle till they are giddy.”
Such was the structure of the Greek ode, in which the strophé and the antistrophé, i. e, the first and second stanzas, contained always the same amber and the same kind of verses. The epode was of a different length and measure; and if the ode ran out into any length, it was always divided into triplets of stanzas, the two first being constantly of the same length and measure, and all the epodes in like manner corresponding exactly with each other : from all which the regularity of this kind of compositions is sufficiently evident. There are indeed some odes, which consist of strophes, and antistrophés without any epode; and others which are made up of strophés only, of different lengths and measures. But the greatest mumber of Pindar's odes are of the first kind.
I have in the translation retained the names of stryphé and antistrophé, on purpose to imprint the more strongly on the mind of the English reader the exact regularity observed by Pindar in the structure of his odes; and have even followed his example in one, which in the original consists only of two strophés.
Another charge against Pindar relates to the supposed wildness of his imagination, his extravagant digressions, and sudden transitions, which leads me to consider the second point, viz. the connection of his thoughts. Upon which I shall say but little in this place, having endeavoured to point out the connection, and account for many of the digressions, in my arguments and notes to the several odes which I hare translated. Here therefore I shall only observe in general, that whoever imagines the victories and praises of the conquerors are the proper subjects of the odes inscribed to them, will find himself mistaken. These victories indeed gave occasion to these songs of triumph, and are therefore constantly taken notice of by the poet, as are also any particular and remarkable circumstances relating to them, or to the lives and characters of the conquerors themselves : but, as such circumstances could rarely furnish out matter sufficient for an ode of any length, so would it have been an indecency unknown to the civil equality and freedom, as well as to the simplicity of the age in which Pindar lived, to have filled a poem intended to be sung in public, and even at the altars of the gods, with the praises of one man only; who, besides, was often no otherwise considerable, but as the victory which gave occasion to the ode had made him. For these reasons, the poet, in order to give his poem its due extent, was obliged to have recourse to other circumstances, arising either from the family or country of the conqueror, from the games in which he had come off victorious, or from the particular deities who had any relation to the occasion, or in whose temples the ode was intended to be sung. All these and many otber particulars, which the reading the odes of Pindar may suggest to an attentive observer, gave hints to the poet, and led him into those frequent digressions, and quick transitions, which it is no wonder should appear to us at this distance of time and place both extravagant and unaccountable.
l'pon the whole, I am persuaded that whoever will consider the odes of Pindar with regard to the manners and customs of the age in which they were written, the occasions which gave birth to them, and the places in which they were intended to be recited, will find little reason to censure Pindar for want of order and regularity in the plans of his compositions. On the contrary, perhaps, he will be inclined to admire him, for raising so many beauties from such trivial hints, and for kindling, as he sometimes does, so great a fame from a single spark, and with so little fuel.
There is still another prejudice against Pindar, which may arise in the minds of those people who are not thoronghly acquainted with ancient history, and who may therefore be apt to think meanly of odes inscribed to a set of conquerors, whom possibly they may look upon only as so many prize-fighters and jockeys. To obviate this prejudice, I have prefixed to my translation of Pindar's odes a Dissertation 1 on the Olympic Games ; in which the reader will see what kind of persons these conquerors were, and what was the nature of those famous games, of which every one, who has but just looked into the history of Greece, must know enough to desire to be better acquainted with them. The collection is as full as I have been able to make it, assisted by the labours of a learned Frenchman, Pierre du Faur, who, in his book entitled Agonisticon, hath gathered almost every thing that is mentioned in any of the Greek or Latin writers relating to the Grecian games, which he has thrown together in no very clear order; as is observed by his countryman Mons. Burette, who hath written several pieces on the subject of the gyinnastie exercises, inserted in the second rolume of Memoires de l'Academie Royale, &c. printed at Am-terdam, 1719. In this dissertation I have endeavoured to give a complete history of the Olyinpic games; of which kind there is not, that I know of, any treatise now extant; those written pom this subject by some of the ancients being all lost, and not being supplied by any learned modern, at least If it so fully as might have been done, and as su considerable an article of the Grecian antiquities seemned
; For this dissertation, and the learned author's copious notes, which are not inserted in the present collection, we musi refer the curious reader to the work at large. N.