An ode is a form of lyrical poetry, carefully structured, that praises or glorifies an event or a person. Odes can also be found to describe nature intellectually as well as emotionally, just as Denny Bradbury does, in her poem “Wisdom of Trees” from her soon to be published new collection “De-versify” where she draws reference to the First World War and talks of how the trees know that mankind will go on fighting from “righteous outrage” rather than learning from the past and walking “..in peaceful union” whilst the trees
“..will reach their searching branches
Up into the wind and rain
They live and die as nature dances
Next year they grow and live again.”
Odes are about celebration and reverence and were originally accompanied by music and dance with instruments such as the aulos and the lyre. They were performed in public with a Chorus during ancient Greek times and were often composed to celebrate athletic victories. Whilst modern odes are not written to be performed in such a way, their aim is still to describe or report a situation or individual using celebratory language and grand metaphors.
A classic ode was structured in three major parts – the strophe, the antistrophe and the epode – with three typical forms of odes: the Pindaric, of which William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley were all known to follow; the Horatian and the Irregular.
Whereas the Pindaric ode follows the three part form, the English ode, who’s most common rhyming scheme is ABABCDECDE, of which Horace was the initial model, consists of a two or four line stanza, written in praise of, or dedicated to, someone or something that capture’s the poet’s interest as can be seen in Denny Bradbury’s poem “Broken in Time” where she talks of how the sea “reclaims its own, Pulling earth to drown..”
Some of the most famous historical odes describe traditionally romantic things and ideals, often written for a certain occasion or on a particular subject such as Keats’ “Ode to Autumn” where he talks of how
“.. full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly barn,
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.”
Whilst in “Ode On a Grecian Urn” he describes the timelessness of art.
An ode is usually more serious and dignified than other forms of poetry, and just as Denny Bradbury does in a number of her poems from her new collection “De-versify”, Shelley, in his “Ode to the West Wind” addresses the west wind as a powerful force and asks it to scatter the his words throughout the world.
“O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts, from an encounter fleeing,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”