John Keat , William Wordsworth , Thomas Gray , Alexander Pope , Percy Bysshe Shelley etc are some renowned ode poets of the past centuries .
The word ode comes from two Ancient Greek words ὁδός which means ” path or way ” and word aeidein, which means to “sing or to chan“.
In English poetry ,
Ode is a poetic form that can be generalized as a formal address to someone or something.
M.H Abrams defined the ode as , ” a long poem that is serious in subject and treatment elevated in style and elaborate in its stanzaic structure .”
It is a structured poem praising or glorifying an event or individual, describing nature in lyric form often in ceremonial, and formal tone.
Originally the Greek odes were pieces of poetry performed with musical or without music accompaniment , sung or recited .
It is seen that an ode can be in the form of sonnet or elegy.
It is patterned in lyrical literary technique which is not very lengthy. The subject matter of the poem is highlighted in a serious but formal tone with elaborated patterns of stanzas.
Besides addressing some animate or inanimate objects or abstract ideas , the ode is sometimes used to commemorate important public events.
A salient feature of ode is its uniform metrical feet, but poets generally do not strictly follow this rule though use highly elevated themes.
Some examples of odes are
Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (By William Wordsworth),
Ode to the Confederate Dead (By Allen Tate),
The Progress of Poesy: A Pindaric Ode (By Thomas Gray,
Ode on a Grecian Urn (By John Keats), etc.
Structure of an Ode Poem
An lyrical form poem , ode is traditionally divided into three stanzas:
• The strophe • the antistrophe • the epode
Traditional odes are an example of lyric poetry, which means that they have a regular rhyme scheme, pertain to feelings or emotions and generally use only one speaker’s perspective. The characteristics of an ode vary depending on the time period and geographical location in which it was written.
• The strophe. In a Greek ode, the strophe usually consists of two or more lines repeated as a unit. In modern usage, the term strophe can refer to any group of verses that form a distinct unit within a poem.
•The antistrophe. The second section of an ode is structured the same way as the strophe, but typically offers a thematic counterbalance.
•The epode. This section or stanza typically has a distinct meter and length from the strophe and antistrophe, and serves to summarize or conclude the ideas of the ode.
Types of ode
Traditionally ode is of three types
Irregular or English ode
Pindaric ode :-
Pindaric odes were performed with a chorus and dancers, and often composed to celebrate athletic victories.
The Pindaric is named for the ancient Greek poet Pindar, who is credited with innovating this choral ode form.
The ode contains formal opening,( strophe,) with a complex metrical structure, followed by an antistrophe, which mirrors the opening, and an epode, the final closing section of a different length and composed with a different metrical structure.
Best example of Pindaric ode is William Wordsworth ‘s poem “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”
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;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The Horatian ode :-
The Horatian ode, named for the Roman poet Horace.
This type of ode contains two or four lines stanzas that share the same metric rhyme scheme and length.
It is generally more tranquil and contemplative than the Pindaric ode.
Less formal, less ceremonious, and better suited to quiet reading than theatrical production.
Best example of Horatio ode is the Allen Tate poem “Ode to the Confederate Dead,”
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 sacrament
To the seasonal eternity of death;
Then driven by the fierce scrutiny
Of heaven to their election in the vast breath,
They sought the rumour of mortality.
English Ode ( Irregular Ode )
English ode is the type of ode which neither follows the Pindaric form nor the Horatian form .
It follows irregular versus structure and stanza pattern , hence also known as irregular ode . There is no formal rhyme scheme in this kind of ode .
“Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats , Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” Robert Creeley’s “America,” Bernadette Mayer’s “Ode on Periods,” and Robert Lowell’s “Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket ” are some examples of irregular ode .
An ode usually expresses feelings in a dignified and sincere manner with a formal tone of imagination and discursive expounding of philosophical ideas .
Significance of ode
In the history of literature, odes are seen to hold elevated positions .
Romantic poets used odes to celebrate their strongest sentiments and deepest administrations . Ode was a famous form of poetry in both 18 th and 19th centuries.
Odes are usually written in appreciation or reflection. They are almost always written about a significant event, or someone or something that the poet admires and hence has its significance in the history of literature.