Compare Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" with Pope's "Ode on Solitude" by examining the chief characteristics of the ode form.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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A comparison of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" and Pope's "Ode on Solitude" reveals some of the chief characteristics of the ode, including its possibilities for variability. The ode is a form of lyric poetry originated by the Greeks, especially Pindar, and carried on with variation by the Romans, especially Horace. Odes, like all lyric poetry, were originally set to music and sung. The instrumental aspect became less prevalent even in ancient times so that the ode was then declaimed (i.e., spoken) instead of sung.

By examining these two odes, it is evident that stanzas may be of varying verse (i.e., line) length; Pope's has four verses to a stanza while Shelley's has fourteen verses with an ending couplet, which incidentally is similar to the sonnet form, which has fourteen verses and an ending couplet. Despite this variability in verses, both odes have the same number of stanzas: each has five stanzas.

Close textual examination reveals that in both odes stanzas one and two form one thought subject while stanzas three and four provide a turn and begin a different subject within the same topic. Stanza five, then provides another turn and completes the ode with a resolving subject. Shelley's first two stanzas address the "West Wind" directly while three and four reflect on the poetic speaker's experience ("Thou who didst waken"). The end stanza presents the speaker's supplication to the "West Wind": "Make me thy lyre ... ." Pope's first two stanzas define who is being praised in the ode, "How happy he who ...," while three and four reflect the blessing of such a one, "Blest!". The end stanza presents the poetic speaker's supplication to an unnamed listener: "Thus let me live ... ."

Examination also shows that both are in iambic rhythm ( ^ / ) but Shelley's is written in a consistent meter of pentameter while Pope's is tetrameter with a stanza ending dimeter verse. Pentameter, tetrameter and diameter are three of several possible meters and all measure number of repetitions of the rhythm (e.g., iambic): pentameter, five repetitions ( ^ / ^ / ^ / ^ /  ^ / ); tetrameter, four; and  dimeter, two repetitions. The rhyme schemes (i.e., patterns of rhyming) also vary from each other. Shelley's rhyme scheme is a b a b c b c d c d e d e e, with e e being the stanza ending couplet. In contrast, Pope's rhyme scheme is a b a b  c d c d  e f e f  g h g h, with no ending couplet.

These observations point to the strophe, antistrophe, epode structure of odes defined by a turn in topic between the first pair of stanzas and the second pair of stanzas with the completion of, the resolution of, the ode in the fifth stanza. The observations also point to the definitive nature of odes that embraces many variations on alternating rhyme schemes and quantity of verses, such as, for example, the Royal Octava a b a b a b c c in an eight verse stanza or a common ode rhyme scheme of a b a b c d e c d e in a ten verse stanza.

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poonamvalera | College Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

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Alexander Pope's poem, "Ode on Solitude," sets a very peaceful mood. The relaxed language that Pope chooses to use makes the calm, routine lifestyle of a farmer seem more appealing than usual. He focuses on the idea of using only one's own means to survive while living completely alone but he does not make it seem boring or melancholy. The various techniques that he uses, such as uniform stanzas, a predictable rhyme scheme, and simple language makes it seem as if the speaker is not some poet that is trying to take on a foreign voice, describes the farmer in the same language that he would most likely use.Alexander Pope wrote his “Ode on Solitude” before he was twelve years old. The poem consists of five numbered quatrains. Each quatrain has the rime scheme, ABAB.


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