Some of the best examples of palinodes come from ancient Greek poetry and the work of authors like Socrates and Stesichorus. In fact, the word “palinode” comes from the Greek παλινῳδία from πάλιν, meaning “back” and “song.”
Explore the Palinode
A palinode is a type of ode that’s written to retract something the author included in a previous poem. They are less common today than they were in the past, but versions of palinodes are still written with new, contemporary twists.
What is an Ode?
In order to better understand what palinodes are, it’s important to have a solid foundation in odes. An ode is a song of dedication. They are often written with musical-sounding language or in a lyrical style. They celebrate something, like another person, object, feeling, experience, etc, and sing its praises. For example, some of the many things one might write an ode about include:
- Love generally or for a specific person
- Nature generally or a specific aspect (like a flower or tree)
- A type of music
- An object, like a favorite coat
- Youth or old age
- Night or day
- A god or goddess
- An item of food or a drink
Examples of Palinodes
Retraction by Geoffrey Chaucer
‘Retraction’ by Chaucer is a famous example of a palinode that’s found at the end of the ‘The Canterbury Tales.’ It was penned as an apology, asking that readers forgive him for the vulgar and darker parts of his past works. It includes the lines:
Wherfore I biseke yow mekely, for the mercy of God,
that ye preye for me that Crist have mercy on me and me my giltes;
and namely of my translacions and enditynges of worldly vanitees, the whiche I revoke in my retracciouns:
He specially mentions what he wrote in ‘Troilus’ and ‘Fame,’ saying that his works are “sownen into synne.” Some have suggested that Chaucer didn’t write the palinode as a genuine retraction of his past works but in an effort to continue the themes in the ‘Parson’s Tale’ or even advertise what he’d written in the past, knowing that audiences would be attracted to “sinful” content.
Discover more Geoffrey Chaucer poems.
Phaedrus by Socrates
In Socrates’ ‘Phaedrus’ he wrote about the “mania” or the god Eros, also known as Cupid. His initial writings dismiss the concept of mania, while later, in another major speech, he contradicts himself. He says his previous works were false and changed his opinion of Cupid or Eros.
Nothing makes me sicker by Ogden Nash
Nash’s ‘Nothing makes me sicker’ is a retraction he penned that changes his perspective on candy and liquor. The poem expresses his distaste for liquor and candy while in another piece, ‘Reflections on Ice Breaking.’ The original poem used the phrase “candy / is dandy” and “liquor / is quicker,” and the second contrast this short four-line poem with the lines:
Nothing makes me sicker
The next lines say that candy is “too expandy,” which suggests the ill effects of candy on one’s health.
Explore more Ogden Nash poems.
Ode or Palinode?
Palinodes are odes on their own terms. But, they are judged based on what the author wrote in the past. For example, a poem is considered a palinode if it contradicts or retracts something the author wrote before. For example, if a poet, in their youth, wrote an ode about their love for a romantic partner. Then, later in life, he penned another poem about how their feelings changed and turned from love to hate. The latter is considered a palinode.
A palinode is a poem that retracts something the poet wrote in the past. It will contradict a previously held position or statement of love, dedication, or celebration. The best-known examples were written by Chaucer and greek poets like Socrates and Stesichorus. Palinodes were far more popular in ancient Greece than they are today.
A sonnet palinode is a version of a retraction ode that is written in sonnet form. A writer might choose to retract something they previously wrote in another poem by penning a sonnet that expresses that fact. For example, a sonnet that declares their love for someone or something has changed. Some of William Shakespeare’s sonnets might be classified this way, particularly those that express his speaker’s wavering and emotional love for the Fair Youth.
The word “pelenode” is an alternative spelling of the literary term “palinode.” It is an ode, or sometimes another type of poem, that’s written in order to declare an author’s changed opinion.
Poets write palinodes in order to express a change in their opinion. A poet might want to share a new idea or share how their ideas have changed over time.
Related Literary Terms
- Lyric Poetry: a musically inclined, short verse that speaks on poignant and powerful emotions.
- Ode: a formal lyric poem that is written in celebration or dedication. They are generally directed with specific intent.
- Horatian Ode: one of three common ode forms. It is a simple stanza form in which all stanzas use the same pattern chosen by the poet.
- Irregular Ode: a common ode form that does not conform to the characteristics of the Pindaric or Horatian ode forms.
- Pastoral: a genre or mode of poetry that refers to works that idealize country life and the landscape they take place in.
- Alba: a genre of lyric poetry from the Old Occitan period, also known as the Old Provençal.
- Lai: a medieval lyric poem that was written in France in octosyllabic couplets. There are a few examples of this specific poetic form in English.
- Watch: The Ode
- Watch: Palinode Literary Term
- Listen: Greek Lyric Poetry