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Ode

A formal, often ceremonious lyric poem that addresses and often celebrates a person, place, thing, or idea. Its stanza forms vary. The Greek or Pindaric (Pindar, ca. 552–442 B.C.E.) ode was a public poem, usually set to music, that celebrated athletic victories. (See Stephen Burt’s article “And the Winner Is . . . Pindar!”) English odes written in the Pindaric tradition include Thomas Gray’s “The Progress of Poesy: A Pindaric Ode” and William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Reflections of Early Childhood.” Horatian odes, after the Latin poet Horace (65–8 B.C.E.), were written in quatrains in a more philosophical, contemplative manner; see Andrew Marvell’s “Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland.” The Sapphic ode consists of quatrains, three 11-syllable lines, and a final five-syllable line, unrhyming but with a strict meter. See Algernon Charles Swinburne’s “Sapphics.”

The odes of the English Romantic poets vary in stanza form. They often address an intense emotion at the onset of a personal crisis (see Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Dejection: An Ode,”) or celebrate an object or image that leads to revelation (see John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “To Autumn”). Browse more odes.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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