Guide to Literary Terms

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What are the characteristics of an ode?  

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An ode is a poem in praise of something or someone. An ode can be serious or humorous, but in all instances it is thoughtful, in that the poet is exploring important aspects of the thing being praised or making keen observations about the person. Often, odes to things employ personification, and Pablo Neruda is a master of odes and he uses personification extensively. "Ode to the Storm" by Neruda is worth examining, as is "Ode to Clothes."

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Usually the ancient odes took the most exalted language in a lyrical verse form dealing with some deed or event and carrying one theme from beginning to end. Accompanied by music--sometimes by entire choirs or the Greek "chorus," the musical production helped to tell the story through its movement. Later "odes" were much lighter and flexible in verse patterns and expressed life in much less solemn terms. They were also not considered "productions" or entertainments as much as something to be simply read aloud.

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There are many different kinds of odes...Keats'  "Ode to a Grecian Urn" differs greatly from Pablo Neruda's "Ode to My Socks," however, they all have the same basic principles:

The Ode is usually a lyric poem of moderate length. It has a serious subject. It has an elevated style (word choice, etc.). It usually has an elaborate stanza pattern.

The ode often praises people, the arts of music and poetry, natural scenes, or abstract concepts.  In the case of Neruda's ode about socks, he is praising his socks...not elevated, but a bit satirical...a sort of ode parody.

These basic principles began with Pindar in Greece and several Roman poets as well.  The English Romantics (Keats, Coleridge, etc.) took Pindar's model and tweaked it for their own needs.

Good Luck!


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richi | Student

ode like its parent form lyrics is of greek origin .it is serious and dignified composdition,almost always in rhyme and longer than lyrics proper. it is often in a form of address adn is somtimes used to commorate an important  public occasion. it is exalted in subject matter and elevated in tone and style.

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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.

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