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In Greek drama, the strophe (turning) signified the first section of a choral ode, and was recited by the Chorus as it moved across the stage. The Chorus’s movement back to its original side was accompanied by the antistrophe. Finally, the Chorus stood still to chant the epode, the final section of the ode, which used a new metrical structure. This classic structure is explicitly foregrounded in Ben Jonson’s “A Pindaric Ode.” Strophe came to be synonymous with the stanzas in an ode; see Coleridge’s “France: An Ode.” It has also been used to describe units or verse paragraphs in free verse. See Robert Duncan’s, “A Poem Beginning with a Line by Pindar” and Geoffrey Hill’s “On Reading Crowds and Powerfor examples of this contemporary usage.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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