Pronunciation: listen


An ode is a lyric poem, usually addressing a particular person or thing. It originated in Ancient Greece, and the Pindaric ode (so-called because it was written by the Theban poet Pindar, 518 ? 442 BC) was based on a pattern of three stanzas called the strophe, antistrophe and epode. It was performed by a chorus, which walked along one side of the orchestra chanting the strophe and down the other side chanting the antistrophe, then came to a standstill before the audience and chanted the epode. This performance was repeated with each set of three stanzas.

The Horatian ode (invented by the Latin poet Horace in about 65 BC) was adopted in the early 19th century by John Keats for one of his most famous poems, 'Ode to a Nightingale'. Many modern odes, however, are irregular in form, such as 'Intimations of Immortality' from 'Recollections of Early Childhood' by William Wordsworth.

While the ode does not necessarily have a regular metre or fixed rhyme scheme, Kit Wright's tongue-in-cheek Ode to Didcot Power Station uses both - as well as a repertoire of old-fashioned language - to parody the lofty style traditionally associated with this form. As Wright says in his introduction, "if you're going to have an ode, why not go the whole hog?"

How to use this term

'At the Grave of Asa Benveniste', by Roy Fisher, is arguably as much an ode, in its address to the dead poet, as it is an elegy.

Related Terms


Related Poems

The Children's Archive

This part of the Archive is full of poems chosen specially for children. Meet old favourites and make new discoveries.

Support The Poetry Archive
The Poetry Archive depends on donations from public bodies and private individuals. Find out how you can contribute to the work of the Archive.
Search for a poem or a poet:

My Archive

Create lists of your favourite poems and poets and share them with friends.

Browse all poets by name

View all poets

Browse all poems by title

View all poems

Glossary of poetic terms

View full glossary