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Geoffrey Chaucer was an exponent of the palinode

A palinode or palinody is an ode in which the writer retracts a view or sentiment expressed in an earlier poem. The first recorded use of a palinode is in a poem by Stesichorus in the 7th century BC, in which he retracts his earlier statement that the Trojan War was all the fault of Helen. [1]

An important example of a palinode is that of Socrates in the Phaedrus[2] in which his first major speech disparages the "mania" of Eros and its part in human affairs, while his second one (commonly known as the palinode of Socrates) praises Eros. As he says, "love was not sent from the Gods for the utility of the lover and his beloved. But, on the contrary, it must now be shown by us that a mania of this kind was sent by the Gods, for the purpose of producing the greatest felicity."[3]

The word comes from the Greek παλινῳδία from πάλιν (palin, meaning 'back') and ᾠδή ("song"); the Latin-derived equivalent "recantation" is an exact calque (re- meaning 'again' and cant- meaning 'sing').

It can also be a recantation of a defamatory statement in Scots Law.


Chaucer's Retraction is one example of a palinode.

In 1895, Gelett Burgess wrote his famous poem, the Purple Cow:

I never saw a purple cow.
I never hope to see one.
But I can tell you anyhow
I'd rather see than be one.[4]

Later in his life, he followed it with this palinode:

Ah yes, I wrote the purple cow!
I’m sorry now I wrote it!
But I can tell you anyhow,
I’ll kill you if you quote it![5]

Ogden Nash wrote a palinode in relation to his most famous poem about the dandiness of candy, and quickness of liquor:

Nothing makes me sicker
than liquor
and candy
is too expandy

Palinodes have also been created by many medieval writers such as Augustine, Bede, Giraldus Cambrensis, Jean de Meun, Andreas Capellanus and others.


  1. ^ cf. Phaedrus 243a: "False was my tale, thou ne'er across the main/ In beauteous ships didst fly, Troy's lofty tow'rs to gain"
  2. ^ cf. Phaedrus 244a-257b
  3. ^ cf. Phaedrus 245b (trans. Thomas Taylor)
  4. ^ "Gutenberg etext". 2006-05-28. Retrieved 2012-06-26. 
  5. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Quotations p.162