PDF The Odes
I write this just cause I did a sort of whistle stop tour of the epinicion odes this morning, having previously read Pythians I, II, IX and Olympian I in the Greek and done essay work on Olympian I. I ended up finding lots of reasons to find Pindar highly imprssive although at first the painful process of actually translating him had made me feel less favorable. It's particularly in the poems with longer sections of mythological narrative like Olympian I, Pythian IV and IX that it's clear Pindar was a very distinctive mythographer in the Greek literary tradition, particularly for his ability at pithy renderings of myths like Pelops' chariot race against Oenomaus in Olymp.I; he also exploits myth for interesting ends, deriving moral insight or aetiology. In comparison, Bacchylides just wholesale incorporates slightly overdrawn passages of mythological narrative into his odes that do little to sharpen his poetry. Pindar is probably the best story-telling poet since Homer for this reason, although maybe Archilochus' invective narrative or Alcman's choral songs showed similar craft. His revision of myth in areas like his attempt to rehabilitate Ajax and Tantalus' feast likewise characterizes him as a true individual in this field. Pindar's style is also distinctive, characteristically using periphrasis and unconventional phrasing to create a new, grander poetic register; he covers a lot of ground in all sorts of directions often in quite restrictive metres and so he is obviously a poet who knows how to make poetry flexible and expressive. Pindar's sophia or his constant recourse to pithily phrased but somewhat platitudinous moral aphorisms can get tedious but they work quite well in the eschatological section of Olympian II and Pindar's bitter response to Bacchylides' success in Hiero's court in Pythian II; they work well as transitions anyway. The shorter odes, the Isthmians and the Nemeans aren't very interesting it has to be said. I'm interested in looking into other lyric poets now.
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