Literature

Most Famous Odes by Renowned Poets

Ode on Solitude

Poet: Alexander Pope

Type: Horatian

Published: 1709

Written by Pope before he was twelve years old, the poem tells about the virtues of a simple, quiet life where “hours, days, and years slide soft away”. He explains this through the simple, unhurried life of a farmer who has inherited a few acres of land.

Excerpt:-

Blest! who can unconcern’dly find

Hours, days, and years slide soft away,

In health of body, peace of mind,

Quiet by day,

Ode to Duty

Poet: William Wordsworth

Type: Horatian

Published: 1807

In ‘Ode to Duty’ Wordsworth conveys the importance of duty which is like a light that guides us; and a rod which prevents us from erring. Although he recognizes the worth of love and joy, he is now not sure whether blindly trusting them can guide man to all good. He realizes that duty, though stern, is also graceful and divinely beautiful and hence he is willing to serve it more strictly.

Excerpt:-

Stern Daughter of the Voice of God!

O Duty! if that name thou love

Who art a light to guide, a rod

To check the erring, and reprove;

Ode to the Confederate Dead

Poet: Allen Tate

Type: Horatian

Published: 1928

This famous ode is considered by some critics as Tate’s most important work. The poem is about “a man stopping at the gate of a Confederate graveyard on a late autumn afternoon.” Although the narrator grieves the loss of the Confederate soldiers, Tate’s ‘Ode’ is not a straightforward ode. He uses the dead as a metaphor of the narrator’s troubled state of mind and delves into his dark consciousness.

Excerpt:-

What shall we say who have knowledge

Carried to the heart? Shall we take the act

To the grave? Shall we, more hopeful, set up the grave

In the house? The ravenous grave?

Dejection: An Ode

Poet: Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Type: Pindaric

Published: 1802

The poem was initially written to Sara Hutchinson, a woman not his wife, at a time when Coleridge was separated from his family. Published editions, however, have no mention of Hutchinson. The poem describes Coleridge’s poetic paralysis which fuels the mood of dejection and he is unable to enjoy nature. ‘Dejection: An Ode’ is considered one of the finest poems written by Coleridge and bears testimony to his genius.

Excerpt:-

O Lady ! in this wan and heartless mood,

To other thoughts by yonder throstle woo’d,

Ode to a Nightingale

Poet: John Keats

Type: Horatian

Published: 1819

A nightingale built its nest near Keats’ home in the spring of 1819 and inspired by its song Keats wrote this famous ode in a single day. In the poem Keats describes a nightingale that experiences a type of death but does not actually die. The bird is able to live through its song, a fate which is impossible for a human to achieve.

Excerpt:-

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades

Past the near meadows, over the still stream,

Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep

In the next valley-glades:

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?

Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

Ode on a Grecian Urn

Poet: John Keats

Type: Irregular

Published: 1820

Keats believed that classical Greek art was idealistic and captured Greek virtues. This led to him writing ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ which has five stanzas of 10 lines in which he has discoursed on the design of a Grecian urn. At the time of its publication, the poem was not received well by the critics but it is now considered one of the greatest odes in the English language.

Excerpt:-

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know

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