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The Ode
An ode (for example, "A Song for St. Cecilia's Day") is an exalted, often rapturous, lyric poem on a lofty subject, with complex or irregular stanzas. The form of the ode grew out of Greek drama, in which the chorus, accompanied by music, chanted a strophe when moving to the left on the stage, and antistrophe when moving to the right, and an epode when standing still. The Greek poet Pindar established the regular pattern for the ode, with fixed forms for the various parts. However, the English ode has tended almost always to be irregular, with stanzaic structure shifting readily to accommodate shifts of thought and mood. Some odes tend to be primarily eulogistic, others meditative. Most odes are written to praise someone or to commemorate some event. An ode may also be inspired by an object or creature; see, for example, Shelley's "Ode to the West Wing" or Keat's "Ode to a Nightingale".

Contributed by Gifford, Katya
28 March 2002

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