ode, elaborate and stately lyric poem of some length. The ode dates back to the Greek choral songs that were sung and danced at public events and celebrations. The Greek odes of Pindar, which were modeled on the choral odes of Greek drama, were poems of praise or glorification. They were arranged in stanzas patterned in sets of three—a strophe and an antistrophe, which had an identical metrical scheme, and an epode, which had a structure of its own. The ode of the Roman poets Horace and Catullus employed the simpler and more personal lyric form of Sappho, Anacreon, and Alcaeus (see lyric). The ode in later European literature was conditioned by both the Pindaric and the Horatian forms. During the Renaissance the ode was revived in Italy by Gabriello Chiabrera and in France most successfully by Ronsard. Ronsard imitated Pindar in odes on public events and Horace in more personal odes. Horatian odes also influenced the 17th-century English poets, especially Ben Jonson, Robert Herrick, and Andrew Marvell. Milton's ode "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" (1629) shows the influence of Pindar, as do the poems written for public occasions by his contemporary Abraham Cowley. However, the Cowleyan (or irregular) ode, originated by Cowley, disregarded the complicated metrical and stanzaic structure of the Pindaric form and employed freely altering stanzas and varying lines. In general the odes of the 19th-century romantic poets—Keats, Shelley, Coleridge—and of such later poets as Swinburne and Hopkins tend to be much freer in form and subject matter than the classical ode. Notable examples of the three kinds of ode are: Pindaric ode, e.g., Thomas Gray's "The Progress of Poesy"; Horatian ode, e.g., Keats's "To Autumn"; Cowleyan ode, e.g., Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality." Although the ode has been seldom used in the 20th cent., Allen Tate in "Ode on the Confederate Dead" and Wallace Stevens in "The Idea of Order at Key West" made successful, and highly personal, use of the form.
See studies by C. Maddison (1960), G. N. Shuster (1965), R. Shafer (1918, repr. 1966), J. D. Jump (1974), and P. H. Fry (1980).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.