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drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An ode is a formal lyric poem with a lofty theme. The style of language is elevated in order to glorify the subject. The earliest versions of odes were poems that were sung; in fact, the term “ode” comes from the Greek verb meaning “to sing.” 

The ode was originated by Greek poets, including Sappho. During the Renaissance, interest in the ode was revived. The ode has enjoyed periodic revivals since then, including the Romantic period. Some of the most famous odes were written by the English Romantic poet John Keats, including “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to Beauty.”

lit24 | Student

To begin with, the ode is a particular type of lyric. Other popular lyric forms are the sonnet and the elegy. The ode is special in the following ways:

1. There are two types of odes: the Pindaric ode which is meant to be performed in public by a chorus accompanied by music and dancing and the Horatian ode which is meant to be read and enjoyed by an individual privately in quiet contemplation.

2. Length: The ode is, relatively speaking, the longest of all lyric forms-the sonnet is a mere 14 lines.

3. The poet apostrophizes a person or a thing: the ode is always in the form of an address to an absent person or thing: "O Attic shape!"

4. The ode always expresses lofty and noble sentiments: "Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty."

5. The tone of an ode is always very formal. The style is very elevated.

6. It has a very elaborate and complex stanzaic structure made up of alternating long and short lines. The pindaric ode comprises a Strophe (the stanza which was sung when the chorus danced in a clockwise direction), the Anti Strophe (the stanza which was sung when the chorus danced in an anti clockwise direction) and the Epode (the stanza which was sung with the chorus remaining stationary). Comparatively, the Horatian ode is less intricate with regualr stanzas.