Ode

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Ode is a form of stately and elaborate lyrical verse. A classic ode is structured in three parts – the strophe, the antistrophe and the epode but different forms such as the homostrophic ode and the irregular ode exist.

Greek origins

There were two great divisions of the Greek melos or song; the one the personal utterance of the poet, the other, the choric song of his band of trained dancers. Each of these culminated in what have been called odes, but the former, in the hands of Alcaeus, Anacreon and Sappho, came closer to what modern criticism knows as lyric, pure and simple. On the other hand, the choir-song, in which the poet spoke for himself, but always supported, or interpreted, by a chorus, led up to what is now known as ode proper. It was Alcman, as is supposed, who first gave to his poems a strophic arrangement, and the strophe has come to be essential to an ode. Stesichorus, Ibycus and Simonides of Ceos led the way to the two great masters of ode among the ancients, Pindar and Bacchylides.

The form and verse-arrangement of Pindar’s great lyrics have regulated the type of the heroic ode. It is now perceived that they are consciously composed in very elaborate measures, and that each is the result of a separate act of creative ingenuity, but each preserving an absolute consistency of form. So far from being, as critics down to Cowley and Boileau supposed, utterly licentious in their irregularity, they are more like the canzos and sirvcntcs of the medieval troubadours than any modern verse. The Latins themselves seem to have lost the secret of these complicated harmonies, and they made no serious attempt to imitate the odes of Pindar and Bacchylides.

It is probable that the Greek odes gradually lost their musical character; they were accompanied on the flute, and then declaimed without any music at all. The ode, as it was practised by the Romans, returned to the personally lyrical form of the Lesbian lyrists. This was exemplified, in the most exquisite way, by Horace and Catullus; the former imitated, and even translated, Alcaeus and Anacreon, the latter was directly inspired by Sappho.


This article incorporates text from the 1911 Encyclop

Strophe

Strophe (Greek στροφή, turn, bend, twist, see also phrase) is a term in versification which properly means a turn, as from one foot to another, or from one side of a chorus to the other.

In its precise choral significance a strophe was a definite section in the structure of an ode, when, as in Milton‘s famous phrase in the preface to Samson Agonistes, “strophe, antistrophe and epode were a kind of stanzas framed only for the music.”

In a more general sense, the strophe is a pair of stanzas of alternating form on which the structure of a given poem is based. In modern poetry the strophe usually becomes identical with the stanza, and it is the arrangement and the recurrence of the rhymes which give it its character. But the ancients called a combination of verse-periods a system, and gave the name strophe to such a system only when it was repeated once or more in unmodified form.

It is said that Archilochus first created the strophe by binding together systems of two or three lines. But it was the Greek ode-writers who introduced the practice of strophe-writing on a large scale, and the art was attributed to Stesichorus, although it is probable that earlier poets were acquainted with it. The arrangement of an ode in a splendid and consistent artifice of strophe, antistrophe and epode was carried to its height by Pindar.

With the development of Greek prosody, various peculiar strophe-forms came into general acceptance, and were made celebrated by the frequency with which leading poets employed them. Among these were the Sapphic, the Elegiac, the Alcaic and the Asclepiadean strophe, all of them prominent in Greek and Latin verse. The briefest and the most ancient strophe is the dactylic distich, which consists of two verses of the same class of rhythm, the second producing a melodic counterpart to the first.

The forms in modern English verse which reproduce most exactly the impression aimed at by the ancient odestrophe are the elaborate rhymed stanzas of such poems as KeatsOde to a Nightingale or Matthew Arnold‘s The Scholar-Gipsy.

This article incorporates text from the 1911 Encyclop

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