How to Write an Ode

An ode is a poem written in tribute to a person, a place, a thing or even an idea. Examples include "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats. Odes are an approachable poetic form for writers of all levels since they do not have to rhyme, nor do they have to maintain any format for meter or structure. The poem's theme is what defines it.

Choose Your Subject

The subject of your ode can be anything, ranging from actual items to intangible ideas. One of the most famous odes is William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” The only criteria for your ode is that you should be commemorating or offering tribute to the subject or idea. Odes are positive, but they can also take on a more serious and dignified tone beyond simple praise. An ode is written in a single voice, typically from the perspective of the poet.

Write a Horatian Ode

If you choose to adopt a formal structure for your ode, the Horatian ode is the easiest to write. The Horatian ode has a more reflective tone, and is written to be read rather than performed. The only rule for writing a Horatian ode is that it must have repeating stanzas. The format for those stanzas is up to you. Therefore, if you choose a rhyme scheme of abab and a meter of iambic pentameter, you must repeat that rhyme and meter in each stanza you write. You can include as many stanzas as you like, though most odes are at least four stanzas.

Write a Pindaric Ode

The Pindaric ode is a bit more difficult to write because it has a more rigid structure. This style of ode was written to be performed -- usually sung by a chorus. A Pindaric ode begins with a strophe, a stanza with two pairs of rhyming lines. The lines do not have to be couplets, so they can have a rhyme scheme like abab or abcb. The stanza is followed by the antistrophe, which has the same meter but a different rhyme scheme. The strophe and antistrophe are known as the "turn" and "counterturn," and they are also marked by a change in tone. The Pindaric ode ends with the epode, which has a different rhyme pattern and offers a conclusion or moral.

Revise for Language

Once you write the draft of your ode, you can revise it for language. Whether you or not you chose to adopt a formal rhyme scheme or meter, you will need to conform to the language conventions of the ode, which call for dignified language that shows admiration for the subject. Read your poem for content first, ensuring that it shows the importance of your subject, as well as your own appreciation for it. Then eliminate any casual word choice and revise for precision.

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