What is the origin of an ode, and what are its characteristics?

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robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hi richi,

An ode is a lyric poem, usually written in a formal, heightened style, and usually with a dignified theme. Its purpose is to praise and glorify. Odes tend to be reasonably difficult, intellectual poems (rather than emotional, personal poems) and are often extremely long, consisting of a succession of stanzas in lines of varying length and meter.

The term comes from the Greek oide or aoide, which was derived from aeidein, meaning “to sing.”

Originally, an ode was a poem meant to be sung. The earliest ode-like poems were written by Sappho c. 600 B.C. and Alcaeus c. 611 – 580 B.C., while the modern ode dates from the Renaissance.

Famous odes in English include Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode to a Nightingale," and "Ode to Autumn," Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality," and Allen Tate's "Ode to the Confederate Dead."