Ceremonious in nature, an ode is a form of lyrical poetry that usually addresses and even celebrates a person, place, thing or idea. The outline of an ode depends on the type: Horatian, Greek or Pindaric, English Romantic or Sapphic. The types of odes differ in stanza forms, meter and rhyming.
The Horatian ode, named after the Latin poet Horace (65 to 8 B.C.), are philosophical and given to the contemplation of simple pleasures. The Horatian ode traditionally consists of quatrains, or four-line stanzas, that feature a consistent rhyme scheme and metrical pattern. Andrew Marvell offers a fine example of the form. He writes his Horatian ode in the traditional quatrain form with an AABB rhyme scheme, which he carries throughout the poem. For meter, his ode alternates between tetrameter and trimeter couplets, eight-syllable and six-syllable lines respectively.
The Pindaric, or Greek, ode is the classic celebratory poem. The Pindaric ode features a three-stanza structure repeated throughout the piece. The stanzas follow a pattern of strophe-antistrophe-epode. The strophe refers to the first section of the ode, and the antistrophe to the second; the two sections follow the same metrical and rhyming patterns. The epode comes last and features a rhyming and metrical structure unique from the strophe and antistrophe. Ben Jonson offers a clear example in his aptly named "A Pindaric Ode." He utilizes ten-line stanzas with AABB rhyme scheme in the strophe and antistrophe, switching to twelve-line stanzas with ABAB rhyme scheme in the epode.
English Romantic Ode
The English Romantic ode comes from the romantic poets' modifying the Horatian and Pindaric forms. Romantic poets used the Pindaric irregularity in stanza for Horatian-style meditation. Their odes followed the Romantic style in addressing intense emotions, personal crisis and revelation. Indeed, the outline of English Romantic odes revolve around subject development. They start by describing a natural scene. They then meditate, considering how the scene reminds them of a problem or universal situation. The meditation leads to insight; the narrator returns to the original scene with his new perspective. Typical of the style, Percy Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" introduces the wind, meditates on its destructive and preserving powers, and ultimately reflects on his own art through the metaphor of the wind. For format, Shelley uses three-line stanzas, ABA rhyme scheme and couplets that end "oh hear!"
The Sapphic form dates back to the poet Sappho in ancient Greece. Sapphic odes consist of quatrains in strict meter. Algernon Charles Swinburne's "Sapphics" offers a clear example of the style. The lines of these odes build on trochees and dactyls. Trochee refers to a two-syllable metrical foot that's stressed-unstressed. Similarly, a dactyl features three syllables, one stressed followed by two unstressed. In outline, the first three lines consist of two trochees, a dactyl then two more trochees: "All the night sleep came not upon my eyelids." The fourth line of the quatrain, called an Adonic, contains just one dactyl followed by one trochee: "Stood and beheld me." Sapphic odes do not rhyme.