Ode (from Ancient Greek: ᾠδή ōidē) is a type of lyrical stanza. A classic ode is structured in three major parts: the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode. Different forms such as the homostrophic ode and the irregular ode also exist. It is an elaborately structured poem praising or glorifying an event or individual, describing nature intellectually as well as emotionally.
Greek odes were originally poetic pieces accompanied by symphonic orchestras. As time passed on, they gradually became known as personal lyrical compositions whether sung (with or without musical instruments) or merely recited (always with accompaniment). The primary instruments used were the aulos and the lyre (the latter of which was the most revered instrument to the Ancient Greeks). The written ode, as it was practiced by the Romans, returned to the/ L E2 lyrical form of the Lesbian lyricists.
There are three typical forms of odes: the Pindaric, Horatian, and irregular. Pindaric odes follow the form and style of Pindar. Horatian odes follow conventions of Horace; the odes of Horace deliberately imitated the Greek lyricists such as Alcaeus and Anacreon. Odes by Catullus, as well as other poetry of Catullus, was particularly inspired by Sappho. Irregular odes are rhyming, but they do not employ the three-part form of the Pindaric ode nor the two- or four-line stanza of the Horatian ode.
A lyrical stanza in praise of, or dedicated to someone or something which captures the poet's interest or serves as an inspiration for the ode.
An ode's lyrics can be on various themes. The earliest odes in the English language, using the word in its strict form, were the Epithalamium and Prothalamium of Edmund Spenser. In the 17th century the most important original odes in English are those of Abraham Cowley odes which had irregular patterns of line lengths and rhyme schemes, though they were iambic. The principle of Cowley's Pindariques was based on a misunderstanding of Pindar's metrical practice but was widely imitated nonetheless, with notable success by John Dryden.
The Pindarick of Cowley was revived around 1800 by William Wordsworth for one of his very finest poems, the Intimations of Immortality ode; irregular odes were also written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley who wrote odes with regular stanza patterns. Shelley's Ode to the West Wind, written in fourteen line terza rima stanzas, is a major poem in the form, but perhaps the greatest odes of the 19th century were Keats's Five Great Odes of 1819 which included Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on Melancholy, Ode on a Grecian Urn, Ode to Psyche, and To Autumn. After Keats, there have been comparatively few major odes in English. One major exception is the fourth verse of the poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon which is often known as "The Ode to the Fallen" or more simply as "The Ode".
W.H. Auden also wrote 'Ode', one of his most popular poems from his earlier career when based in London, in opposition to people's ignorance over the reality of war. In interview Auden once stated that he had intended to title the poem My Silver Age in mockery of the supposedly imperial Golden age, however chose 'Ode' as it seemed to provide a more sensitive exploration of warfare.
“Ode on a Grecian Urn”, while an ekphrasis, also functions as an ode to the artistic beauty the narrator is observing.
The English ode's most common rhyme scheme is ABABCDECDE.
Notable practitioners of the ode
- Thomas Gray
- John Keats
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- William Wordsworth
- Percy Bysshe Shelley
- Pablo Neruda
- Álvaro de Campos
- Dorothy Regan Drake
- William Shakespeare
- Thomas Nashe
- John Donne
- Data (Star Trek)
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gosse, Edmund (1911). "Ode". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.