By Muhammad Faseeh ul Hassan

Definition

An ode is a lyric poem, usually of some length. The meaning of ‘ode’ is to sing or chant. The main feature is elaborate stanza-structure, a marked formality and stateliness in tone and style, lofty sentiments and thoughts. However, ode can be distinguished into two basic kinds: the public and the private.

The public is used for ceremonial occasions, like funerals, birthdays, state events; the private often celebrates rather intense, personal, and subjective occasions; it s inclined to be meditative and reflective. Tennyson‘s Ode on the Death of the Dukes of Wellington is an example of the former; Keats‘s Ode to a Nightingale, an example of the latter.

Qualities

  • The way of writing in ode is serious.
  • In contrast to sonnet, it comes up short on logical order.
  • The rhyming plan is sporadic (metrical).
  • Writer is by all accounts conversing with something specific, for example individual or object.
  • It expresses the feelings of the writer.

Background

The earliest odes of any note or at any rate poems which could be put into the category of ode were written by Sappho (600 B.C.) and Alcaeus (611-580 B.C.). Pieces of Sappho’s Ode to Aphrodite and Alcaeus’s Ode to Castor and Polydeuces are still surviving.

Next and more important was Pindar (522-442 B.C.), a native of Thebes, whose odes were written for public occasions, especially in the honor of victors in the Greek games. Modelled on the choric songs of Greek drama, they considered of strophe, antistrophe and epode – a patterned stanza movement intended for choral song and dance.

Pindar’s Latin counterpart was Horace (65-8 B.C.), but his odes were private and personal. They were stanzically regular and bases on limited metrical patterns, especially Alcaics and Sapphics. Between them Pindar and Horace were the begetters of the ode and both influenced the development of the form in the Renaissance Europe. Meantime, the Provencal canso and the Italian canzone also got attracted towards the ode. This form, as used by Dante, Guiniceli and their contemporaries, survived and flourished into that period known as High Renaissance, when Spencer’s Epithalamion (1595) and Prothalamion (1596) showed the loftiness and majesty of the fully-blown ode.

Late in the 16th century and early in the 17th William Drummond of Hawthornden, Samuel Daniel and Michael Drayton all attempted odes, but Ben Jonson was the first to write on in the Pindoric tradition; namely, Ode to Sir Lucius Cary and Sir H. Morison (1629).

Because of its architectonic possibilities (the elaborate rules, formality and decorum) one would expect the 18th century poets to favor the ode form and ineed that period produced many distinguished examples.

Lady Winchilsea (1661-1720) wrote a Pindoric poem on The Spleen, and ,early in his life, Pope composed an Ode on Solitude in the Horacian style. Thomas Grey’s odes also showed considerable variety and versatility. Four of them were relatively short and in simple stanza forms. These were the Ode on Spring; Ode on a distant Prospect of Eton College; Ode on Adversity and Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat.

Then followed: Coleridge‘s France (1798) and Dejection (1802); Wordsworth‘s magnificent Ode on Imitations of Immorality (1804) and his Ode to Duty (1805); Shelley‘s Ode to the West Wind (1819); and six superb odes by Keats (1819): On a Grecian Urn; To a Nightingale; To Autumn; On Melancholy; On Indolence; and To Psyche.

Other well known English poets to have essayed this kind of lyric are: Robert Herrick, Landor, Matthew Arnold, Coventry Patmore, Francis Thompson and Algernon Charles Swinburne.

Types

There are three types of the odes;

  1. Pindaric Ode
  2. Horatian Ode
  3. Irregular Ode

1. Pindaric Ode

This ode was named after Pindar, who started composing choral sonnets that were intended to be sung at public occasions. It contains three ternions; strophe, antistrophe, and last verse as epode, with asymmetrical pattern and lengths of lines.

2. Horatian Ode

Horatian ode is an ode written in manner of Latin poet Horace in stanzas of two or four lines. Mostly, Horace’s odes are intimate and reflective as they are largely addressed to a friend and deal with friendship, love, and the practice of poetry.

3. Irregular Ode

Irregular ode is a rhymed ode that neither uses the three-part style of the Pindaric ode nor the two- or four-line stanza of the Horatian ode. It is characterized by the irregularity of the verse and stanzaic structure and is called as pseudo-Pindaric ode or sometimes Cowleyan ode.

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