What is an ode?

We explain what an ode is and the topics that this poetic composition usually covers. In addition, the types of ode that exist and examples.

  1. What is an ode?

It is called ode to a poetic composition in verse  and the lyric subgenre in which it is framed , characterized by a high tone, almost singing, and for addressing a religious, heroic, loving or philosophical theme, which contains a reflection of the poet. Its extension is variable, as well as its metric and structure, which have changed along with poetry over the centuries.

In general, any poetic text destined to be sung is ode , since initially this genre (from Greek antiquity) was accompanied by music, and was composed of two aspects: coral and monodia, sung by several voices or by one respectively.

It is common for odes to be an exaltation of certain values , which is why they tend to devote themselves to the “great themes” of humanity: love, war , death , empires, pleasures, etc. A perfect modern example is the  Ode to Joy  composed by Ludwig van Beethoven from an original poetic text by Friedrich Schiller.

Other famous cultists of this poetic genre were the poets Píndaro (518-438 BC), Anacreon (574-485 BC), Horacio (65-8 BC), Garcilaso de la Vega (1498-1536 AD), Fray Luis de León ( 1528-1591), Victor Hugo (1802-1885) and Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), to name just a few examples.

  1. Types of ode

There are many considerations regarding odes, since they have endured since ancient times. In general, they can be classified according to their theme and structure, as follows:

  • Pindáricas . The classic form of the ode, of regular rhyme and exalted themes, whose name comes from the poet Píndaro of classical Greek antiquity.
  • Horacianas . Named for the work of Horacio, the most important Latin poet, usually have intimate tone and regular rhythm .
  • Anacreontics . Baptized in honor of Anacreon, a Greek poet who sang love and eroticism, they are usually classic and focused on these themes.
  • Romantic . Its name has nothing to do with love and romance, but with Romanticism , an aesthetic movement that emerged in the 18th century and opposed to Rationalism and Enlightenment . It is characterized by new ideas in the ode and a more emotional and subjective tone.
  • Sacred . Those that deal with religious or mystical themes, such as praises to God and the experience of the divine.
  • Heroics . Those who sing the feats of heroes, both ancient and modern.
  1. Ode examples

Some recognized odes are:

  • “Ode II” by Anacreon (fragment) 

The Supreme being in everything
(that God must be named)
with wise providence
perfection deals;
He gave the elements
remarkable fecundity,
instinct gave the beasts,
the fish and birds,
understanding man,
making him his image,
and a free will,
with which he could lean
to him straight very honest,
useful, and delectable.

And what did he give to the Fair Soul?
Grace, with which to rise
above the perfections
and natural gifts:
what loving God achieves,
and loses by not loving him.

  • “Ode to joy” by Friedrich Schiller (fragment) 

Joy, beautiful spark of the gods
daughter of the Elysium!
Drunk with burning we penetrate,
heavenly goddess, into your sanctuary!
Your spell rejoins
what the world had separated,
all men become brothers
wherever your soft wing perches.

Embrace, innumerable creatures!
This kiss around all world!
Brothers! On the starry vault
a loving Father must live.

  • “Ode to Niagara” by José María Heredia (fragment) 

Temper my lyre, give it to me, that I feel
in my soul shaken and agitated to
burn inspiration. Oh! How much time
in darkness passed, without my forehead
shining with its light! … Niagara undoso;
Your sublime terror could only
turn me into the divine gift, which, skewered,
stole the ungodly hand from pain!
Prodigious torrent, calm, shut
your terrifying thunder; dissipate somewhat
the darkness around you;
Let me contemplate your serene face
and my soul full of burning enthusiasm.

  • “Ode to the socks” by Pablo Neruda (fragment) 

Violent socks,
my feet were two woolly fishes,
two long sharks
of ultramarine blue
pierced by a golden braid,
two gigantic blackbirds,
two cannons;
My feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.

They were so beautiful that for the first time
my feet seemed unacceptable,
like two decrepit firefighters,
firemen unworthy of that embroidered fire,
of those luminous socks.

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