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The Ode: Definition, Types & Characterisitics

The Ode: Definition, Types & Characterisitics

The Ode: Definition, Types & Characterisitics

Definition of Ode

Historically, the ode took its birth in the fertile land of ancient Greek. In Greek plays, the ode was used by a chorus. It was in fact a type of song, which was sung with the accompaniment of music or at least with a lyre. The word ode has actually been taken from a Greek word oide, which means song. Sir Edmund Goose defines it as, any strain of enthusiastic and exalted lyrical verse, directed to a fixed purpose, and dealing progressively with one dignified theme.” .” It is a lyrical poem with elegant style, exalted theme, and ostentatious language. It is usually addressed to some person or thing. Webster’s Dictionary explains it as, “In modern use, a lyric poem, rhymed or unrhymed, typically addressed to some person or thing and usually characterized by lofty feeling, elaborate form, and dignified style.”

Characteristics of Ode

Characteristics of an Ode

There are many characteristics of ode, which distinguishes it from the other kinds of lyrics. These features are enumerated as below:

  • The author addresses a person or thing in his ode. It is usually an indispensable quality of an ode. Whenever we go through an ode, we feel that the poet is having conversation with somebody or maybe something. By way of example, in Ode to Nightingale, John Keats is addressing the Nightingale. In Ode on a Grecian Urn, the poet is speaking to a Grecian Urn. Hence, this unique quality distinguishes it from other types of lyrical poetry.
  • Another fundamental characteristic of an ode is its solemn and serious tone. Each and every ode is extremely serious poem. There is absolutely no room for humour or petty and frivolous things. It is highly serious and solemn in its tone. Look at the odes of John Keats. Every ode of John Keats is an epitome of solemnity in this regard. It does not have any element of frivolity.
  • In terms of style, the ode possesses an exceptionally sublime and grand style. Every ode is composed in an exceedingly grand style. No ode, in the history of English poetry, could possibly be traced out, which is not elevated in its style. Every single poet endeavours hard to compose his ode in extra elevated style. Almost all odes of John Keats are best examples in this particular respect.
  • Another important feature of an ode is the fact that its theme is highly elevated. Its theme is definitely exalted, sublime and elevated. Its theme bears wide-ranging significance. It may not be limited simply to the personality of the poet, rather; it’s is universal.
  • Catharsis of emotions is yet another essential characteristic of an ode. The poet wishes to give vent to his emotions through his plight of imagination in his ode. He really wants to leave the real world and take shelter in the world of his imagination. Thus catharsis of emotion is an exclusive feature of and ode.
  • Uniform metrical scheme is a salient feature of an ode. Poets really need to follow a consistent metrical scheme. Stanza in the ode has a hard and fast rhyme scheme, which the poet pursues from start to the end of the ode. It must be kept in mind that the irregular odes don’t follow these rules.

What is Pindaric Ode?

According to

" Pindaric Ode is a poem with set meter and rhyme just like all other odes. It is defined by three triads: the strophe and the antistrophe being of the same stanza form and an epode as the final which is different. This form of Ode was named after the writer Pindar."

Types of Ode

Pindaric Ode

Pindar, who was the greatest lyric poet of the Greece, has been considered to be the father of the Pindaric or Choric Ode. Pindaric odes are also referred to as the choric ode, for the reason that, in Greek plays, the chorus had to speak out the words of the ode with the accompaniment of music. It has a fixed stanza structure; however the number of stanzas may vary. It is broken down in to three parts: strophe, antistrophe and epode. The very first stanza of the Pindaric ode is recognized as strophe, wherein the chorus chanted the stanza and moved in one direction. The second stanza in the Pindaric ode is known as antistrophe, whereby the chorus spoke out it and proceeded in the opposite direction of the strophe. During epode, the chorus remained stationary. Cowley was the first poet, who followed the conventions of Pindaric ode and wrote many odes. However, he didn’t have an understanding of the true nature of Pindaric ode, and deviated slightly from it. He didn’t adhere to the rhythmical and metrical pattern of the Pindaric ode, rather; he introduced irregular stanzas in his odes.

Event though, the Pindaric ode couldn’t blossom in England, yet it paved the way for the coming poets to try their hands on Irregular and Horation odes. Numerous poets composed odes and took it to the pinnacle of glory.

William Collins’s “Ode to Fear” is an excellent example in this regard:

Ode to Fear


Thou, to whom the world unknown

With all its shadowy shapes is shown;

Who see'st appalled the unreal scene,

While Fancy lifts the veil between:

Ah Fear! Ah frantic Fear! …………………………….



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In earliest Greece to thee with partial choice

The grief-full Muse addressed her infant tongue;

The maids and matrons on her awful voice,

Silent and pale, in wild amazement hung.

Yet he, the bard who first invoked thy name,

Disdained in Marathon its power to feel:

For not alone he nursed the poet's flame,

But reached from Virtue's hand the patriot's steel……………………



Thou who such weary lengths hast passed,

Where wilt thou rest, mad nymph, at last?

Say, wilt thou shroud in haunted cell,

Where gloomy Rape and Murder dwell?

Or in some hollowed seat,

'Gainst which the big waves beat,

Hear drowning seamen's cries in tempests brought!

Dark power, with shuddering meek submitted thought…………………………………


(Ode to Fear by William Collins)

What is Horation Ode?

Britannica Encyclopedia defines Horation Ode as:

"Horatian ode, short lyric poem written in stanzas of two or four lines in the manner of the 1st-century-bc Latin poet Horace. In contrast to the lofty, heroic odes of the Greek poet Pindar (compare epinicion), most of Horace’s odes are intimate and reflective; they are often addressed to a friend and deal with friendship, love, and the practice of poetry."

Horation Ode

The Horation Ode has been named after the Latin poet, Horace, who wrote in the manner of Pindaric ode. It is pertinent to mention here that the Horace didn’t follow the traditions of Pindaric ode as laid by Pindar. He made several modifications in the structure of the ode and gave it his own personal touches. The Horation ode comprises of many stanzas with regular metrical structure. An essential characteristic of Horation ode is that it has not been split up into triads like Pindaric ode. The poet’s main purpose is to give vent to his feelings in Horation ode, unlike, the Pindaric ode, wherein an element of objectivity runs through the whole structure of ode.

John Keats is a leading poet, who is famous for his stunning and fabulous odes. Look at the stanza taken from Ode to a Nightingale:

Ode to a Nightingale

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,

Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,

But on the viewless wings of Poesy,

Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:

Already with thee! tender is the night,

And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,

Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays

But here there is no light,

Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown

Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

(Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats)


Irregular Ode

Britannica Encyclopedia defines Irregular Ode as, “rregular ode, a rhymed ode that employs neither the three-part form of the Pindaric ode nor the two- or four-line stanza that typifies the Horation ode. It is also characterized by irregularity of verse and stanzaic structure and by lack of correspondence between parts called pseudo-Pindaric ode or Cowleyan ode (after Abraham Cowley).”

Abraham Cowley is regarded as the originator of this kind of ode. Irregular ode has all the important features of the Pindaric ode, but it avoids the division of the ode into triads or groups. Each stanza of an irregular ode is different from the next stanza in its length, pattern, and rhyme scheme. Different kinds of meters are utilized in each stanza. That is why; it is considered the most flexible and easier one kind of ode. Look at the following stanzas taken from Wordsworth’s Ode on the Intimations of Immortality:

Ode on the Intimations of Immortality

THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth, and every common sight,

To me did seem

Apparell'd in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.


The rainbow comes and goes,

And lovely is the rose;

The moon doth with delight

Look round her when the heavens are bare;

Waters on a starry night

Are beautiful and fair.


(Ode on the Intimations of Immortality by Wordsworth)

When we thoroughly examine the above-mentioned lines taken from the first two stanzas of the Ode on the Intimations of Immortality, we will find that the rhyme schemes are totally different from each other.

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© 2014 Muhammad Rafiq


Begom Naziha Furkan on June 25, 2020:

Thank you. It is helpful

Muhammad Salman on February 18, 2020:

Very very helpful, thank you so much.

MAhii khAn on February 08, 2020:

This artical give me much help. Thanks alot

Muhammad Rafiq (author) from Pakistan on May 25, 2019:

You are welcome!

Brad on May 25, 2019:


Thanks for this very informative article. I had no idea that the word ode went so deep.

Muhammad Rafiq (author) from Pakistan on October 07, 2018:

Thanks for your comments! I am glad it helped you.

Mark Tulin from Long Beach, California on October 07, 2018:

Very helpful for us who often write odes. Well done.

Behari Lal on November 25, 2017:

thank you so much sir I was just confused in one characteristic of ode... which is addressing to someone in the ode.

Muhammad Rafiq (author) from Pakistan on April 23, 2016:

Thanks for your comments, Singer4Freedom!

Ghost from Brazil on April 23, 2016:

very well written

Muhammad Rafiq (author) from Pakistan on April 24, 2014:

Thanks FlourishAnyway for visiting. Have a nice time!

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 24, 2014:

I haven't read odes in a very long time. This was superb information, and your examples were helpful illustrations of your points.

Muhammad Rafiq (author) from Pakistan on April 15, 2014:

Thanks billybuc for stopping by! Have a nice time!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 15, 2014:

Another excellent tutorial. Thank you for this information.

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