What is Ode?

Most simply, the Ode is known as a poem addressed to somebody or something. But, besides that one simple feature, the ode is characterized by a number of features of a special classical form of poetry, or poetic expression. It is one of those elaborately structured forms in which lyric poems were written by the classical poets for praising and glorifying an individual, commemorating an event, or describing nature, intellectually rather than emotionally.

Odes were originally songs performed publicly to the accompaniment of a musical instrument. An ode usually expresses feelings in a dignified and sincere manner; the tone is usually one of imaginative and intellectual meditation or discursive expounding of philosophical ideas. Odes are usually highly subjective in content, being most often an externalization of the poet’s internal feelings. The Ode is a genre that comes down from the classical Greek poets who wrote two types of odes: choral odes that were sung by chorus in dramas, and personal odes that were sung by individual poets to mark important incidents or to praise some person, god or thing. In modern times the ode has undergone immense changes in form and structure, and there have been two distinct types call the regular ode and the irregular ode. The stanzas of an irregular ode vary in number, length and tone, but the regular ode is written in stanzas of equal lines, meter and similar tone.

Whether classical or the modified modern ones, odes are usually long lyrical poems that are serious in subject and treatment, intellectual in theme, elevated in style and elaborate in stanza pattern. The variation of line length, number of lines per stanza, meter, and rhyme scheme is typical of the irregular odes common in English literature. More typically, the poets, most typically John Keats, develop a personal issue so as to embrace a general problem, and they go to the extent of developing a philosophy about life in general, or about creativity, suffering, myth, art and life or mortality and eternity. Keats’s odes are personal and romantic odes, but they follow the seriousness of tone, philosophical subjects and themes, regular stanza patterns and rhythm. Keats also uses a classical kind of perfection in language: the word-choice, expression, metaphors and allusions, and sentence structure and music are less ordinary and spontaneous then in normal romantic poems.

Published on 23 Jan. 2014 by Kedar Nath Sharma