Definition of Ode

An ode is a form of poetry such as sonnet or elegy. 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.

Types of Ode

Odes are of three types, including (1) Pindar ode, (2) Horatian ode, and (3) irregular ode.

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 the 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 were pleasing to the 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 the 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.

Short Examples of Odes in Writing

  1. Fragmented drops of rainbow
    Retract, reflect light through clear prisms
    Bend spectrum delights.
  2. Silver shot moon
    Hangs high in the sky
    Radiating light to be reflected.
  3. Rain drops drop down as I reach home,
    Cozy with warm clothes and hot tea,
    No need to move around.
  4. Some days may go desperately
    But every day is there to overcome,
    Struggle to get through them,
    Just to live each day with positivity.
  5. The mist spins through a deep valley
    Moving slowly and giving sights
    Of flowers, slowly it disperses in
    Morning sunlight.
  6. Nature is fantastic as it
    Brings gems that delight every soul.
  7. The sorrow, the pain
    I’ll overcome tomorrow
    Ah! What a joy life brings.
  8. And here beneath the moon,
    And upon eveningward height of earth
    To feel always the arrival of
    Rising of the morning.
  9. It is the morning without
    Damp and dark, without stillness
    Waiting for the day, not for any sounds
    But feeling breeze.
  10. Whatever the new day brings, it brings something new
    Spins rounds, round, and round; and something new.
  11. The Junes are full and free, driving through the roads
    Valleys, and under boldly standing Mays.
  12. I see a new day upon the dew drops laden ground,
    I have awaken to start new a day as I found it
    Beyond the city roads.
  13. Crispy, crispy nights
    Soft, soft ice flakes,
    Stream, cold stream,
    Chimneys breathing
    Rising with a sigh,
    Winter cold winter!
  14. A thought, a wondrous positive thought
    Sparkles in the morning,
    Scattering fragrance everywhere.
  15. Walking down the streets,
    Walking down in the evening,
    Here starts falling down the snow.

Structure and Format of an Ode 

There are three parts to an ode, a strophe, an antistrophe, and an epode.

A Strophe: It is the first part of an ode in which the singers used to go from right to left. As it means a turn, it presents the first part of the argument or presentation. Usually, this part used to occur in Grecian chorus intervening tragic plays.

An Antistrophe: This is the response to the first part, the strophe. In this part, the singers used to move from left to right on the stage and sang this part.

An Epode: This means “after the song” which is the concluding part of the ode. In some modern odes, this part is left or omitted.

Differences Between an Ode and an Elegy

There are some points common in both poems. For example, both are poetic forms, both are lyrical and both are intended to be sung. However, whereas an ode is formal, glorifying an individual or idea or person, an elegy is not a formal presentation. It is a serious reflection on the death of some person whose departure from the scene has become unbearable. It includes wailing and cries. However, both are also different in structure. Whereas odes have different types and synchronizing structures, elegy could be written in any lyrical form without any restrictions of formats.

How to Write an Ode?

A poet must keep the below pointers in mind when writing an ode.

  1. What is the main shape/format of the ode?
  2. What is its metrical pattern based on?
  3. Decide which type of ode are you going to use as a model.
  4. Chose the correct quatrain stanza style.
  5. Decide the theme of your ode.
  6. Write the first draft, revise, revise, and revise.
  7. Finalize the draft working on the wording.

Examples of Odes in Literature

Example #1: Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood By William Wordsworth

“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; —”

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 a simple rhyme scheme of ABABAC.

Example #2: Ode to the Confederate Dead By Allen Tate

“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 …”

This is an example of a Horatian ode, which presents a consistent rhyme scheme. It has no division into triads like the 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: Ode to the West Wind By Percy Bysshe Shelley

“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?”

This presents an example of the irregular ode, which employs neither three parts nor four-line stanzas like a Horatian ode. Nevertheless, each stanza of the ode is distinct from the other stanzas in rhyme scheme, pattern, and length.

Example #4: The Progress of Poesy: A Pindaric Ode By Thomas Gray

“A thousand rills their mazy progress take:
Now the rich stream of music winds along
Deep, majestic, smooth, and strong …
Now rolling down the steep amain,
Headlong, impetuous, see it pour:
The rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the roar.”

In the above-mentioned ode, the speaker is addressing poetry that is coming out from different places to find its echoes in nature. This is a good example of a true ode.

Example #5: Ode on a Grecian Urn By John Keats

“Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme …
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter …
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.”

This ode has a regular and tight structure. Except for the final stanza, the first four lines in each stanza follow the rhyme scheme of ABAB and the next lines follow CDE or CED. This is one of the most celebrated odes in English literature.

Example #6: Ode to Spring By Thomas Gray

“The untaught harmony of spring …
Still is the toiling hand of Care:
The panting herds repose:
Yet hark, how thro’ the peopled air
The busy murmur glows!
Some lightly o’er the current skim,
Some show their gaily-gilded trim
Quick-glancing to the sun.”

This is another good example of an ode. The speaker is talking about the spring season, and praises its beauty, expressing lofty and noble sentiments about it.

Function of Ode

Ode is a form of lyrical poetry, in which poets use a certain metrical pattern and rhyme scheme to express their noble and lofty sentiments in a serious and sometimes satirical tone. Since the themes of odes are inspiring and lofty, they 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.

Synonyms of Ode

The following words are close synonyms for ode: clerihew, dithyramb, eclogue, elegy, sonnet, epigram, or epic. However, they are specific terms and cannot be used as its replacements.

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