Ode Definition And Example

The ode is a form of poetry that is characterized by its positive and solemn character. The form of the poem must meet strict requirements in terms of strophic structure and meter. How this is structured, what forms there are and how an ode works, you will find out below.content

For a long time there was no clear definition of odes and what criteria they had to meet. It was not until the 18th century that it was stipulated that not every lyric work may be identified as an ode and that certain requirements must be met.

Since then, in addition to its solemn character, an ode has to meet requirements in terms of strophic structure and metrics. One of the most famous odes is that of the German poet Friedrich Schiller ‘An die Freude’. As a European anthem, the poem became internationally known as a composition by Beethoven in his ninth symphony.

What an ode is

What an ode is

The ode is a form of poetry with a solemn and positive character . The name is derived from the Greek and is translated with the word song, poem or song.

In ancient times, the ode was not yet delimited and described each lyric work that was performed to the music. Therefore, the hymn is often used as a synonym for the ode. Since the 18th century there have been strict guidelines as to which works can be called odes.

Since then, the ode describes a form of poetry and no longer describes lyrical works that are accompanied by music. There are particular characteristics in the strophic structure , in the meter and in the theme of the ode. Compared to the song, odes are more elaborate and have a more upscale style. One of the best-known examples is Friedrich Schiller’s ode ‘To Joy’, which was set to music in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony .

Structure of the ode

Structure of the ode

You can recognize the poem form by a certain structure. There are different stanza patterns for the odes , which differ from one another in certain points, such as the meter.

There are the following odenstrophs:

  • Alkean Odenstrophe
  • Sapphic Odesstrophe
  • Asclepiadean odenstrophe

In ancient times , the representatives of the odes still strongly adhered to the given stanza forms . The most famous poets at this time were the Greek Pindar and the Roman poet Horace .

Features of odes in terms of style and content

The solemn and positive character is characteristic of odes

Basically, the poem form has a solemn and positive character , which makes the language sublime and artistic . For this reason, the ode’s language style is often exaggerated and emotional .

Although the ode adheres to guidelines with regard to the emphasis on the syllables and the stanzas, a rhyme scheme is not given. In most cases, the ode even has no rhymes at the end of the line. Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Friedrich Hölderlins experimented with the style in the 18th century. Since then you have also found end rhymes in German odes and those that deviate from the meter.

Odes are enthusiastic and mainly deal with joyful topics from the private and social spheres. Exceptions, such as the thematization of grief, also exist in the poem form, but such topics rarely appear.

Common motifs and themes of the ode include:

  • Friendship
  • love
  • moral
  • nature
  • Prince praise
  • Fatherland
  • religion

Differentiation from the hymn

The hymn as a hymn of praise to gods and heroes

Stylistically, the hymn and the ode are very similar. Originally the hymn was a hymn of praise in which heroes, gods or nature were sung about. Similar to the ode, the hymn also has a solemn character.

The biggest difference between the two forms of poetry is the content and subject matter .

While the ode generally has a solemn character and the themes are broad, the hymn sings about heroes, gods and nature. It is a hymn of praise in which these are praised. Especially in the Baroque period, the hymn was about these topics, so that it was easier to differentiate between the two forms.

In the next epochs, however, the topic expanded. In the epoch of Enlightenmentsensitivity and Sturm und Drang it was hardly possible to distinguish it from the ode.

You will find minor differences in the structure and structure of the two poem forms. As a rule, the hymn is free of strict regulations , while odes sometimes have to meet special criteria , for example in the stanza pattern or the meter. Likewise, you will usually find ending rhymes in a hymn. Odes do not have a fixed rhyme scheme, and in most cases no rhymes at the end of a line.

Types of odes and odenstrophes

Depending on the strophic structure and meter, the odes are divided into different forms . Each stanza form has different conditions in the meter and the number of verses or syllables.

Alkean Odenstrophe

The Alkean Odesstrophe consists of a total of four verses . The first two verses are eleven silver, the third verse a nine – and the fourth verse a ten silver . The first two stanzas are usually the same and begin with two iambic feet . A caesura is followed by a dactylus and an incomplete trochee .

In the third verse you will find a four-part iambus and in the last verse two dactyls and two troches. An example of the Alkaean odenstrophe is the poem ‘The Gods’ by Friedrich Hölderlin. In the example we show you a stanza of the poem with the metric and the syllable stress. A stressed syllable is represented with ‘ X ‘ and an unstressed syllable with ‘x’.

You silent aether! You always keep

my soul beautifully in pain, and it ennobles itself

to bravery before your rays,

Helios! Often the indignant breast me.

X x X x / X xx X x X

X x X x / X xx X x X

X x X x X x X x

X xx X xx X xx

Sapphic Odesstrophe

The sapphic odenstrophe also consists of four verses and was named after the Greek poet Sappho. The first three verses begin with a two-part trochee, followed by a dactyl and another trochee. In the last verse you find a dactyl followed by a trochee . An example of a Sapphic odenstrophe can be found in the following poem by Horace .

Iam satis terris / nivis atque dirae

Grandinis misit / pater et rubente

Dextera sacras / iaculatus arcis

Terruit urbem

X x X x X xx X x X x

X x X x X xx X x X x

X x X x X xx X x X x

X xx X x

Asclepiadean odenstrophe

The Asclepiadean odenstrophe consists of four verses . Each verse begins identically with a trochee and a dactyl . In the first two verses you will find a caesura , followed by a dactyl and a trochee. The last two verses are identical, the last verse also has a stressed syllable . An example of this odenstrophe is the poem ‘Der Zürchersee’ by the German poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock .

It is beautiful, Mother Nature, the splendor of your invention

Scattered in the hallways, a happy face more beautiful,


thinks once more of the great thought of your creation.

X x X xx X / X xx X x X

X x X xx X / X xx X x X

X x X xx X x

X x X xx X x X

The ode in music

The ode in music

Originally, the poem form was not delimited from the song . In ancient times, every poem or lyric text that was performed to a piece of music was an ode. The texts were performed either alone or in a choir to a specific melody . Therefore, the poem form in music was also divided into the choral ode and the monodic ode .

Choral ode

The choral ode describes lyrical works of antiquity that were performed in the choir to a melody . The Greek poet Pindar is one of the best-known and most important lyric poets of this form . Hence the choral ode is also called the Pindarian ode . A further feature of this form is to build: A choral ode is in three stanzas divided to three parts. These are called ode, antode and epode in poetry.

Monodic ode

In addition to the choral ode, there is the monodic ode . This musical form describes the ode that is performed in single chant. The poet Sappho is considered one of the most famous poets of antiquity and the monodic ode.

With Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony , the ode is also often associated with musical compositions . In the form of a poem, however, ‘An die Freude’ was written by the German poet Friedrich Schiller and was only incorporated into the symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven after its publication.

Since the 18th century , odes have been separated from musical works. While every lyrical work was called an ode in antiquity, this has been a pure form of poetry without music since the 18th century. Thus, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is not an ode in the narrower sense, but only the poem by Friedrich Schiller.

Effects of the ode

In general, there is something very contagious about the ode . The solemn and pathetic style is very lively , which is why you get carried away with odes. Even if the ode is distinguished from the song, the effect can be compared to a song. Through the character, the ode evokes positive emotions in you .

In many odenstrophes, the meter also plays an important role. The dactyl or trochee is often used. Both meters have a lively character . While the dactyl is described as dancing, the emphasis on the trochee often causes you to sing to yourself, and when you read it, a singsong arises .

Examples of different odes

Odes have been an integral part of poetry since ancient times. Well-known poets of the Odes are, for example, Horace, Pindar, Klopstock and Schiller . In order to get an idea of ​​the poem form, we give you a selection of odes below. These examples are excerpts ; the examples are not the entire poem.

Example 1: Lake Zurich by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock

Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock

The German poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock was a well-known representative of the ode. In his theological studies Klopstock wrote his first poems.

The ode ‘Der Zürchersee’ is not primarily about depicting a landscape. The lyrical self is not interested in the landscape, but in the sensations and perceptions triggered by the landscape. The poet would like to portray these feelings in his ode.

It is beautiful, Mother Nature, the splendor of your invention

Scattered in the hallways, a happy face more beautiful,


thinks once more of the great thought of your creation.

From the floating lake grape

shores , Or, if you fled to heaven again,

Com in reddening streaks

On the wing of the evening air,

Come, and teach my song to be cheerful as a youth,

sweet joy, like you! Like the more animated,

rapid exultation of the young man,

gentle, like the feeling Fanny.

Example 2: Ode 3, 21 by Horace


Horace is one of the most important Roman poets . In his main work Carmina I-IV , the poet published a total of 103 odes . The following ode is the 21st work from the third book .

Oh born with in Manlius

or plaint or jest,

or fight and insane love

or easy, fail brick sleep

quocumque lectum nomine Massicum

seruas, moueri digna bono die,

descende, Coruino iubente

promere languidiora uina.

O dear wine jug, how I came into being as

Manlius consul, be it that you bring complaints

or jokes, arguments, mad love

or a gentle sleep,

for whatever purpose you keep the

exquisite massic, come worthy of

praise on a good day;

Corvinus orders that milder wines be fetched.

Classic example: Ode to Joy and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

Ludwig van Beethoven

‘To Joy’ is one of the most famous international works in the form of an ode. The German poet Friedrich Schiller completed the work in 1785 and was published in the journal thalia the following year.

As Beethoven’s ninth symphony , the ode is also known to many as a composition. After the publication of the ode, the composer Ludwig van Beethoven was inspired by the work , so that he incorporated the poem into the fourth movement of his ninth symphony.

For this purpose, he used a mixed choir and vocal soloists for the first time in the final movement . In 1972 the composition was even designated as the European anthem .

Friends, beautiful spark of gods,

daughter from Elysium,

We enter

heavenly ones, drunk on fire , your sanctuary.

Your spells bind again,

What the sword of fashion shared;

Beggars become brothers of princes,

Where your gentle wing dwells.