Ode (from the Ancient Greek ὠδή) is a type of lyrical verse. A classic ode is structured in three major parts: the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode. Different forms such as the homostrophic ode and the irregular ode also exist. It is an elaborately structured poem praising or glorifying an event or individual, describing nature intellectually rather than emotionally.
Contrary to a few scholars, the Greek odes did not lose their musical quality; they were originally symphonic orchestras accompanied by a poem sung. As time passed on, they gradually became known as simple poems whether sung or recited (with or without music). Most likely the instrument of choice was the aulos. The written ode, as it was practiced by the Romans, returned to the lyrical form of the Lesbian lyricists. This was exemplified, exquisitely, by Horace and Catullus; the odes of Horace deliberately imitated the Greek lyricists such as Alcaeus and Anacreon, and the poetry of Catullus was particularly inspired by Sappho.
An ode is typically a lyrical verse written in praise of, or dedicated to someone or something which captures the poet's interest or serves as an inspiration for the ode.
The initial model for English odes was Horace, who used the form to write meditative lyrics on various themes. The earliest odes in the English language, using the word in its strict form, were the Epithalamium and Prothalamium of Edmund Spenser.
In the 17th century the most important original odes in English are those of Abraham Cowley and Andrew Marvell. Marvell, in his Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland uses a regular form (two four-foot lines followed by two three-foot lines) modelled on Horace, while Cowley wrote "Pindarick" odes which had irregular patterns of line lengths and rhyme schemes, though they were iambic. The principle of Cowley's Pindaricks was based on a misunderstanding of Pindar's metrical practice, but was widely imitated, with notable success by John Dryden.
With Pindar's metre being better understood in the 18th century, the fashion for Pindaric odes faded, though there are notable "actual" Pindaric odes by Thomas Gray, The Progress of Poesy and The Bard.
The Pindarick of Cowley was revived around 1800 by William Wordsworth for one of his very finest poems, the Intimations of Immortality ode; irregular odes were also written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley who wrote odes with regular stanza patterns. Shelley's Ode to the West Wind, written in fourteen line terza rima stanzas, is a major poem in the form, but perhaps the greatest odes of the 19th century were Keats's Five Great Odes of 1819 which included Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on Melancholy, Ode on a Grecian Urn, Ode to Psyche, and To Autumn. After Keats, there have been comparatively few major odes in English. One major exception is the fourth verse of the poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon which is often known as "The Ode to the Fallen" or more simply as "The Ode".
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