The key difference between ode and elegy is that ode praises or glorifies someone or something while elegy mourns over the loss of someone or something.
An ode is formal and elaborate, while an elegy is not formal. In odes, the subjects are treated reverently, and throughout the poem, glorification of its subject can be seen. An elegy is more personal and contains emotions like grief, bereavement, woe, and lamentation.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is an Ode
3. What is an Elegy
4. Ode vs Elegy in Tabular Form
What is an Ode?
An ode is a kind of lyrical stanza. It is an intricately structured poem that praises or glorifies nature, people, or abstract ideas. Generally, its subject is treated respectfully. The stanza form or the structure of an ode differs from one another. A classical ode is structured according to three major sections: strophe, antistrophe, and epode. Other than these three, there are different forms of odes such as homostrophic ode and irregular ode.
Originally, Greek odes were poetic pieces performed along with the music. However, whether these odes were sung with or without musical instruments or just recited, after some time, they came to be known as personal lyrical compositions. The lyre and the aulos are the frequently used musical instruments when odes are sung.
Types of Odes
There are three basic forms of odes. They are,
- Pindaric – This is named after the Greek poet Pindar. This takes the form of a public poem that describes athletic victories. These were ecstatic and heroic.
Thomas Gray’s “The Progress of Poesy: A Pindaric Ode”
William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Reflections of Early Childhood.”
- Horatian- This is named after the Latin poet Horace. These odes are written in quatrains and can be considered more philosophical, balanced and detached.
Andrew Marvell’s “Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland”
- Irregular – In these odes, the poet has a lot of freedom to try various concepts since they are without a structure or formal rhyming scheme.
Odes that are written by John Keats and William Wordsworth
Other Examples of Odes
- Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind,
- Keats’s Five Great Odes of 1819 -“Ode to a Nightingale”, “Ode on Melancholy”, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, “Ode to Psyche”, and “To Autumn”.
- Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen, often known as The Ode to the Fallen, or simply as The Ode.
What is an Elegy?
An elegy is a special type of lyric that usually expresses woe, despair, and grief. It is typically a lamentation for the dead. However, it can also be a lament for the lost love, misery, failure and the past. In most elegies, the poet starts from his personal bereavement and then gradually moves on to the futility of life and human suffering.
- Matthew Arnold’s Rugby Chapel – the poet, starts with his grief over his father’s loss and then gradually moves on to the futility of life.
Simplicity, sincerity and briefness can be considered as the main characteristics of an elegy. An elegy usually includes three sections: a mourn that expresses the loss, praise for the subject and a conclusion with a sense of consolation to the listener.
- Poet W. H. Auden’s elegy “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”
What is the Difference Between Ode and Elegy?
The key difference between ode and elegy is that ode praises or glorifies someone or something while elegy mourns over the loss of someone or something. An ode is formal and elaborate in style with little personal involvement, whereas an elegy contains a lamentation over the loss of someone or something and then a conclusion to console the listener.
The following table summarizes the differences between ode and elegy.
Summary – Ode vs Elegy
An ode is a lyrical poem that praises and glorifies its subject. It has a formal and elaborate structure. It treats its subject reverently. Odes can be sung or merely recited with or without music. An elegy is a poem that laments over the death or loss of someone or something. It mourns over things like lost love, failure, and departure and contains emotions like sorrow, misery, grief and woe. It is more personal in nature. Usually, the poet starts the elegy with a personal loss and moves to the futility of life, then praise the subject and finally the conclusion to console the reader. Thus, this is the key difference between ode and elegy.
1. “Elegy.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 May 2021.
1. “William Blake – The Poems of Thomas Gray, Design 107, “Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard.” – Google Art Project” – Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
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