The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more....
William Wordsworth, Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (1807; first published in this version in 1815)
It often is difficult for folks who do not read poetry on a regular basis to grasp that the poetic tradition that embraces Wordsworth's magisterial ode, above, also embraces Barbara Hamby's more modern Ode on Dictionaries, below:
A-bomb is how it begins with a big bang on page
one, a calculator of sorts whose centrifuge
begets bedouin, bamboozle, breakdance, and berserk,
one of my mother's favorite words, hard knock
clerk of clichés that she is, at the moment going ape
the current rave in the fundamentalist landscape
disguised as her brain, a rococo lexicon
of Deuteronomy, Job, gossip, spritz, and neocon
ephemera all wrapped up in a pop burrito
of movie star shenanigans, like a stray Cheeto
found in your pocket the day after you finish the bag....
But the ode is many things to many people:
As the Academy of American Poets points out,
"Ode" comes from the Greek aeidein, meaning to sing or chant, and belongs to the long and varied tradition of lyric poetry. Originally accompanied by music and dance, and later reserved by the Romantic poets to convey their strongest sentiments, the ode can be generalized as a formal address to an event, a person, or a thing not present:
There are three typical types of odes: the Pindaric, Horatian, and Irregular. The Pindaric is named for the ancient Greek poet Pindar, who is credited with inventing the ode. Pindaric odes were performed with a chorus and dancers, and often composed to celebrate athletic victories. They contain a formal opening, or strophe, of complex metrical structure, followed by an antistrophe, which mirrors the opening, and an epode, the final closing section of a different length and composed with a different metrical structure.... [The Wordsworth ode is an example of the Pindaric ode.]
The Horatian ode, named for the Roman poet Horace, is generally more tranquil and contemplative than the Pindaric ode. Less formal, less ceremonious, and better suited to quiet reading than theatrical production, the Horatian ode typically uses a regular, recurrent stanza pattern....
...The gray lean spiders come, they come and go;
In a tangle of willows without light
The singular screech-owl's tight
Invisible lyric seeds the mind
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Folks interested in collecting examples of this poetic tradition have many options. Odes are represented in the works of numerous individual poets, such as those depicted above, as well as in a wide range of poetry anthologies, such as those depicted below....
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an extinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unwakened earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?