Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats

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Structure of the Text

The Greek Ode: It is fitting that Keats’s poem, which is about a Greek object and which draws heavily on Greek culture, is also written in a Greek-verse style. A Greek ode is a lyric poem which praises a specific subject—typically a location, event, or person. The ode structure has three parts: the strophe (call), antistrophe (response), and epode (union). Odes were often performed within dramas and were recited by the chorus. The most famous Greek poets of the ode were Pindar and Horace. 

The English Ode: The English ode is an adaptation of the Greek ode and serves the same purpose. While English poets—from Spenser to Wordsworth to Shelley—have written odes in a number of styles, Keats’s odes from 1819 defined the form. Thus the English ode—or Keatsian ode, as it is often called—is a poem in iambic pentameter with three to five stanzas, each of which follows an ABABCDECDE rhyme scheme. Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” with an ABABCDEDCE scheme, represents a slight variation.