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National Poetry Month, 2014 Odes

On the River
Catherine Al-Meten

National Poetry Month, 2014 The Ode

One of the most ancient forms of poetry is the ode, a song of praise. The word ‘ode’ is derived from the Greek word, aeidein meaning to sing or to chant. It is an ancient form of lyric poetry, often accompanied by music and dancing.

The three types of odes include: Pindaric, Horatian, and the Irregular or English ode.

Named for the Greek poet, Pindar, Pindaric odes are often used to celebrate great events such as athletic victories. Pindar is thought to have invented the ode form, composed of an opening (strophe), a complex metrical structure/antistrophe, and a final metrical structure that varies from the first.

William Wordsworth’s Ode to a Daffodil is an example of a Pindaric ode:

William Wordsworth


I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretch'd in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Row after row with strict impunity
The headstones yield their names to the element,
The wind whirrs without recollection;
In the riven troughs the splayed leaves
Pile up, of nature the casual sacrament
To the seasonal eternity of death;
Then driven by the fierce scrutiny
Of heaven to their election in the vast breath,
They sough the rumour of mortality.

To read more examples of odes, visit the

The Horatian ode is named after the Roman poet, Horace. It is more of a contemplative and reflective type of poetry than is the Pindaric ode. Horatian odes are not meant to be dramatic or theatrical, and offer the reader food for thought rather than entertainment. Horatian odes often use a recurring pattern of stanzas. Horatian odes like Pindaric odes, use quatrain stanzas (meaning four lines). Horatian odes often have a short third line in each stanza with a full fourth line, whereas Pindaric odes have short fourth lines. The Horatian ode is generally more personal while the Pindaric celebrates the gods, great events, or great people.

Ode to Aphrodite by Sappho (630-570 BCE) is an example of a Pindaric Ode:

Deathless Aphrodite, throned in flowers,

Daughter of Zeus, O terrible enchantress,

With this sorrow, with this anguish, break my spirit

Lady, not longer!
Hear anew the voice! O hear and listen!
Come, as in that island dawn thou camest,
Billowing in thy yoked car to Sappho
Forth from thy father's
Golden house in pity!

The Ship of State

By Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace, 65-8 BCE):

On Ship! New billows sweep thee out
Seaward. What wilt thou?

Hold the port, be stout
See'st not thy mast
How rent by stiff Southwestern blast?
Thy side, of rowers how forlorn?
Thine hull, with groaning yards, with rigging torn,
Can ill sustain
The fierce, and ever fiercer main;
Thy gods, no more than sails entire,
From whom yet once they need might aid require,
Oh Pontic Pine,
The first of woodland stocks is thine.
Yet race and name are but as dust,
Not painted sterns gave storm-tost seamen trust;
Unless thou dare
To be the sport of storms, beware.
O fold at best a weary weight,
A yearning care and constant strain of late,
O shun the seas
That girt those glittering Cyclades

The Irregular or English Ode is considered irregular because it does not use the standard three divisions of a classic ode. The English ode uses a regular and repeated rhyme scheme, and is known to be freer in form and subject matter. The irregular/English ode is meant to be a meditation on some event or person.

Ode to Spring

Ode To Spring
Oh ! Glorious Spring, how amazing you are

You are both Truth's beauty and light

You travel far

Yet always remain bright

Baby lambs greet you with a bleat

Birds fly stretching their wings

Lovers on a seat

We are truly thankful for what you bring

Spring never leave

Oh but can I compare

How I feel when you're near?

Spreading your joy to those so dear

Spring we celebrate your birth

And we mourn each year you leave this Earth

Oh Spring!

Ode on a Grecian Urn

by John Keats

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? what maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal--yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

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Try your hand at writing an ode. An ode is typically written about something you are passionate about. Here are some simple steps for writing an ode.

1 Brainstorm ideas you would like to write about. Ideas might include, friendship, love, grandparents, teachers, computers, trees, rivers, the full moon, or apples. Let your imagination go free, thinking of 5-6 ideas that you feel passionate about.
2. Narrow your subject down. Next, decide which idea to write about, and begin deciding what is important about that idea.
3. Describe the subject. Using your imagery, describe your subject. Describe what it does. Describe why it’s important and what life would be like without it. Describe how you feel about it.
4. Write the ode. Next, write your poem. Keep the lines short, using as few a words as possible. Focus on writing about the three areas you have already described.

Ode to_____________________

Introduce your subject 2-4 lines

Describe the subject 4-8 lines

Describe what it does 4-8 lines

Describe what life would be without it 4-8 lines

Describe how you feel about it 4-8 lines.

You can vary the number of lines. The important thing is to write down what you think and feel about your subject.

Enjoy, and share you ode if you like, and I will publish it here in this column. Happy Ode-ing!

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