Guide to Literary Terms

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Ode

Ode - a lyric poem with a dignified theme that is phrased in a formal, elevated style. Its purpose is to praise and glorify. Odes describe nature intellectually rather than emotionally and usually consist 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. Interest in this poetry form revived in the Twentieth Century.

John Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” is an ode.