Note from Erin: Pat will continue to guest-blog for this series on poetry. Thank you, Pat! And again, I apologize for the poems’ inaccurate formatting. Asterisks separate stanzas. End note.
Welcome to the second of our poetry blogs. This week we are looking at odes. An ode differs from a sonnet in that while a sonnet typically expresses a deep truth, an ode seeks to express a deep emotion. And whereas sonnets all have a uniform structure and simple rhyming pattern, odes follow a specific pattern, but it can be different for each ode, and they have a complex rhyming pattern. All odes follow a rhyming pattern, though at times it may not strike you at first glance. They are, quite possibly, the most difficult type of poem to write well, and at times the most difficult to understand.
I have selected three shorter, and easier to understand, odes to share with you this week. I hope you enjoy reading them. If you would like to take part in the discussion, feel free to share the emotions you feel when reading each one. Also try to figure out both the rhyme and the meter (or beat) of each ode. Finally, take note of how each poet uses the tropes of poetry. Very few, if any, good odes use irony. On the Sea by John Keats is a metaphor that uses personification within it. Snow-Flakes by Longfellow does the same thing. Dirge by Shirley displays one of the greatest uses of metonymy and synecdoche found anywhere. And also happens to be one of Robert Frost’s favorite poems (I stuck that little tidbit in there just for you, Erin).
On the Sea
by John Keats
It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often ‘tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be moved for days from where it sometimes fell,
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh ye! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody –
Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth and brood,
Until ye start, as if the sea-nymphs quired!
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.
* * *
Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.
* * *
This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.
by James Shirley
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things,
There is no armour against fate,
Death lays his icy hand on Kings;
Scepter and crown,
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made,
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.
* * *
Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurels where they kill,
But their strong nerves at last must yield,
They tame but one another still;
Early or late,
They stoop to fate,
And must give up the murmuring breath,
When they, pale captives, creep to death.
* * *
The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds;
Upon death’s purple altar now,
See where the victor-victim bleeds,
Your heads must come,
To the cold tomb;
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet, and blossom in their dust.