Page images
PDF
EPUB

PREFACE.

F all the great Writers of Antiquity, no one was ever more honoured and admired while living, as few have obtained a larger and fairer portion of fame after death, than Pindar. Paufanias tells us, that the character of Poet was really and truly confecrated in his perfon, by the God of Poets himself *, who was pleafed by an express oracle to order the inhabitants of Delphi to fet apart for Pindar one half of the first-fruit offerings brought by the religious to his fhrine; and to allow him a place in his temple; where in an iron chair he was used to fit and fing his hymns, in honour of that God. This chair was remaining in the time of † Paufanias (feveral hundred years after) to whom it was shewn as a relick not unworthy the fan&tity and magnificence of that holy place. Pan likewife, another Mufical Divinity, is reported to have skipped and jumped for joy, while the Nymphs were dancing in honour of the birth of this Prince of Lyrick Poetry ; and to have been afterwards fo much delighted with his compofitions, as to have fung his Odes in the hearing even of the Poet himself §. Unhappily for us, and indeed for Pindar, thofe parts of his works, which procured him these extraordinary testimonies from the Gods (or from Mortals rather, who by the invention of

I

Pauf. in Boot.
Philoftratus in Icon.

† Paul. in Phoc.
§ Plut. in Numa.

of thefe fables meant only to exprefs the high opinion they entertained of this great Poet) are all loft: I mean his Hymns to the feveral Deities of the Heathen World. And even of those writings, to which his lefs éxtravagant, but more ferious and more lafting glory is owing, only the leaft, and, according to fome people, the worst part is now remaining. Thefe are his Odes infcribed to the Conquerors in the Four facred Games of Greece. By these Odes therefore are we now left to judge of the merit of Pindar, as they are the only living evidences of his character.

Among the moderns* thofe men of learning of the truest taste and judgment, who have read and confidered 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 fuch who are still able to examine Pindar himself, I fhall leave him to ftand or fall by his own merit; only bespeaking their candour in my own behalf, if they fhould think it worth their while to perufe the following tranflations of fome of his Odes: which I here offer chiefly to the English reader, to whom alone I defire to addrefs a few confiderations, in order to prepare him to form a right judgment, and indeed to have any relish of the Compofitions of this great Lyrick Poet, who notwithstand

ing

See Abbé Fraguier's Character of Pindar, printed in the 3d Vol. of Memoires de l'Academie Royale, &c. and Kennet's Life of Pindar, in the Lives of the Greek Pocis.

ing muft needs appear before him under great difadvantages.

To begin with removing fome prejudices against this Author, that have arifen from certain writings known by the name of Pindarick Odes; I must infift that very few, which I remember to have read under that title, not excepting even thofe written by the admired Mr. Cowley, whofe wit and fire firft brought them into reputation, have the leaft refemblance to the manner of the Author, whom they pretend to imitate, and from whom they derive their Name; or, if any, it is fuch a resemblance only as is expreffed by the Italian word caricatura, a monftrous and diftorted likeness. This ebfervation has been already made by Mr. Congreve in his Preface to two admirable Odes, written profes fedly in imitation of Pindar; and I may add, fo much in his true manner and fpirit, that he ought by all means to be excepted out of the number of thofe who have brought this author into difcredit by pretending

to resemble him.

Neither has Mr. Cowley, though he drew from the life, given a much truer picture of Pindar in the Tranflations he made of two of his Odes. I fay not this to detract from Mr. Cowley, whofe genius, per-' haps, was not inferior to that of Pindar himself, or either of those other two great Poets, Horace and Virgil, whofe names have been bestowed upon him, but chiefly to apologize for my having ventured to tranflate the fame Odes; and to prepare the Reader for

I 2

*Preferved in the prefent collection,

the

the wide difference he will find between many parts of bis Tranflations and mine.

Mr. Cowley and his Imitators (for all the Pindarick Writers fince his time have only mimicked him, while they fancied they were imitating Pindar) have fallen themselves, and by their examples have led the world, into two mistakes with regard to the character of Pindar: both which are pointed out by Mr. Congreve in the Preface above-mentioned, and in the following words:

"The character of thefe late Pindaricks is a bundle

of rambling incoherent thoughts, expreffed in a like "parcel of irregular ftanzas, which alfo confift of "fuch another complication of difproportioned, un"certain, and perplexed verfes and rhymes. And "I appeal to any Reader, if this is not the condition in which thefe titular Odes appeared.

"On the contrary (adds he) there is nothing more regular than the Odes of Pindar, both as to the "exact obfervation of the meafures and numbers of "his ftanzas and verfes, and the perpetual coherence "of his thoughts: for though his digreffions are fre"quent, and his tranfitions fudden, yet is there ever "fome fecret connexion, which, though not always appearing to the eye, never fails to communicate it"felf to the understanding of the reader."

Upon thefe two points, namely, the regularity of meafure in Pindar's Odes, and the connexion of his thoughts, I fhall beg leave to make a few obser

vations.

Thefe

« PreviousContinue »