Definition of Ode

An ode is a form of poetry such as sonnet or elegy, etc. Ode is a literary technique that is lyrical in nature, but not very lengthy. You have often read odes in which poets praise people, natural scenes, and abstract ideas. Ode is derived from a Greek word aeidein, which means to chant or sing. It is highly solemn and serious in its tone and subject matter, and usually is used with elaborate patterns of stanzas. However, the tone is often formal. A salient feature of ode is its uniform metrical feet, but poets generally do not strictly follow this rule though use highly elevated theme.

Type of Odes

Odes are of three types, including:

Pindar Ode

This ode was named after an ancient Greek poet, Pindar, who began writing choral poems that were meant to be sung at public events. It contains three triads; strophe, antistrophe and final stanza as epode, with irregular rhyme patterns and lengths of lines.

Horatian Ode

The name of this ode was taken from a Latin poet, Horace. Unlike heroic odes of Pindar, Horatian ode is informal, meditative and intimate. These odes dwelled upon interesting subject matters that were simple and gave pleasure to senses. Since Horatian odes are informal in tone, they are devoid of any strict rules.

Irregular Ode

This type of ode is without any formal rhyme scheme and structure such as Pindaric ode. Hence, the poet has great freedom and flexibility to try any types of concepts and moods. William Wordsworth and John Keats were such poets who extensively wrote irregular odes, taking advantage of this form.

Examples of Ode from Literature

Many famous poets like John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Thomas Gray, S.T Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Edmund Spencer, etc. have written popular odes in their writing career, some of the extracts from these odes are given below as examples.

Example 1

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;–

(Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth)

These lines are taken from “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” by William Wordsworth. This is a perfect example of an English Pindaric ode. Just observe the use of different types of meters in each stanza, which have made it easier to read, and made flexible with simple rhyme scheme of ababac.

Example 2

Row after row with strict impunity
The headstones yield their names to the element,
The wind whirrs without recollection;
In the riven troughs the splayed leaves
Pile up, of nature the casual sacramen
To the seasonal eternity of death…

(Ode to the Confederate Dead by Allen Tate)

These lines are taken from “Ode to the Confederate Dead” by Allen Tate. This is an example of Horatian ode, which presents a consistent rhyme scheme. It has no division into triads like Pindar ode, but is less ceremonious, less formal, more tranquil, and better suited for reading. The purpose of using this type of ode is to give vent to pent-up feelings.

Example 3

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

(Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley)

These lines are taken from “Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. This presents an example of irregular ode that employs neither three parts, nor four line stanzas like a Horatian ode. Nevertheless, each stanza of ode is distinct from the other stanzas in rhyme scheme, pattern and length.

Function of Ode

Ode is a form of lyrical poetry in which poets use a certain metrical pattern, rhyme scheme and can express their noble and lofty sentiments in serious and sometimes satirical tone. Since the themes of odes are inspiring and lofty that bears significance, therefore have universal appeal. Also, by using sublime and exceptional style, poets endeavor to compose grand and elevated types of odes. Sometimes odes may be humorous, but they are always thoughtful, intended to explore important themes and observations related to human relations, emotions and senses.

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