Poetry odes started back with the Greek poet Pindar, who invented them. The word “ode” comes from the Greek word “oide” meaning “to sing or chant.” There are three types of odes and they are usually written about someone or something the poet admires or loves.
The Pindaric ode is named after Pindar. They were performed with dancers and a chorus and sometimes celebrated the Olympic games.
They consisted of three sections, with irregular line lengths and rhyme patterns.
Example: Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth.
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The Horatian ode was named after the Roman poet, Horace. It was usually more calm and less formal than the Pindaric Ode, and was more for personal enjoyment than a stage performance.
Example: Here is an excerpt from Ode to the Confederate Dead by Allen Tate.
“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.”
Authors of the irregular ode will retain some of the elements of an ode, but have the freedom to experiment.
Example: Here is an excerpt from the ending of Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ode to the West Wind
Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
It is important to further explain the similarities and differences between the Pindaric Ode and the Horatian Ode before showing you some poetry examples of all three types of odes.
Pindaric Ode: Ode to Aphrodite - Sappho (c. 630-570 B.C.)
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! ...
Horatian Ode: The Ship of State (Odes I, 14) - Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace) (65-8 B.C.)
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;
Irregular Ode: Ode to a Grecian Urn - John Keats
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.