The UVic Writer's Guide


An ode is a long lyric lyric poem which deals with a serious subject in an elevated style. The regular or Horatian ode is characterized by an regular organization of stanzas, and by the impassioned praise of a person or thing (art, for instance, or an abstract concept such as duty).

The true Pindaric ode has regular stanzas in groups of three (such as Gray's "The Bard" [1757]); the irregular Pindaric ode has a variable stanza form and rhyme scheme, and became the most common type of ode in English poetry after the mid-seventeenth century.

Poets of the Romantic Period (1798-1832) often used the personal ode to meditate on their own emotions, general human problems, or nature. Below are excerpts from Dryden's "Alexander's Feast" (1697), in praise of poetry, and Coleridge's meditative "Dejection: An Ode" (1802):

The praise of Bacchus then the sweet musician sung,
Of Bacchus ever fair and ever young:
The jolly god in triumph comes;
Sound the trumpets; beat the drums....

* * * * * * * *

My genial spirits fail;
And what can these avail
To lift the smothering weight from off my breast?
It were a vain endeavour,
Though I should gaze forever
On that green light that lingers in the west:
I may not hope from outward forms to win
The passion and the life, whose fountains are within.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated April 11, 1995