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Pindaric Ode

The term “Pindaric” refers to the body of work, and style, of the Greek poet Pindar. It is used to refer, specifically, to his odes and those written in his traditional style. 

This kind of ode is also known as a Greek ode. It derives its name from an Ancient Greek poet, Pindar (of the 5th century BC), who wrote songs performed by dancers and a chorus of singers. These songs were irregular in their length, metrical patterns, and rhyme but were consistently made up of three sections: the stropheantistrophe, and epode

The three parts of the ode corresponded with the movements and song of the chorus. They moved from one side of the stage to the other, pausing in the middle to deliver the final part of the ode— the epode. 

Pindaric pronunciation: pen-dhar-ick

Pindaric Poetry Definition and Examples

Pindaric Ode Definition

Pindaric odes are made up of three parts, as noted above. They are the strophe, antistrophe, and epode. They were often composed and performed for important events, such as athletic victories in ancient Greece. The first part of the ode is a formal opening that uses a complex and changing metrical structure. The middle of the pole mirrors the opening, and the final section is of a different length and uses a different metrical pattern.

These odes were in fashion during the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century in England. Poets like Abraham Kelly are closely identified with the Pindarke form. His publication of Pindarique Odes in 1656 was incredibly influential. 

What is an Ode? 

An ode is a formal lyric poem written in celebration of dedication. They are generally directed with specific intent. There are three main types of odes and many other sub-types. 

They are Pindaric, Horatian, and irregular.

  • The Pindaric ode, which is discussed in this article, is also known as the Greek ode. These songs were irregular in their length, metrical patterns, and rhyme but were consistently made up of three parts—the three sections: the strophe, antistrophe, and epode. 
  • The Horatian ode is another classical ode form. It is a simple stanza form in which all stanzas use the same pattern chosen by the poet. Often, these are quatrains. It is named for the first century BC poet Horace. 
  • The irregular ode is the final, common type of ode. It does not conform to the characteristics of the Pindaric or Horatian ode forms. John Keats is best known for his creation of Horatian and irregular odes.

Examples of Pindaric Odes 

Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Reflections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth

This long poem is a famous example of a Pindaric ode. In this piece, the ode is looking back on the couch and remembering a time in which he was pleased more easily by the natural world. It was capable of easing his heart in a way that it is no longer. Here are a few lines from the poem: 

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

       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.

This ode, like others, is devoted to the celebration of one thing— the natural world. But, the poem also serves as an allergy, mourning the loss of the way nature used to move the poet.

Read more William Wordsworth poems.

The Progress of Poesy by Thomas Gray 

The Progress of Poesy’ is another example of a Pindaric ode. The piece explores the power of English poetry, the different kinds of writing, and its origins. It begins with the lines: 

  Awake, Æolian lyre, awake,

And give to rapture all thy trembling strings.

From Helicon’s harmonious springs

A thousand rills their mazy progress take:

The laughing flowers, that round them blow,

Drink life and fragrance as they flow.

Now the rich stream of music winds along

Deep, majestic, smooth, and strong,

Thro’ verdant vales, and Ceres’ golden reign:

One of the most common subjects that poets, especially those writing in the traditional or classical styles, devoted their odes to is the active writing itself. Such is the case with Thomas Gray’s fame, ‘The Process of Poesy.’ This Pindaric ode suggests that poetry is built upon a strong and ancient foundation and that the Muses that once inspired the ancient Greek poets are still audible to this day. This piece was published in 1757.

Discover more Thomas Gray poems

Purpose of an Ode 

The purpose of the ode is to express serious, sentimental, and sometimes satirical feelings in regard to a certain subject. Often, odes utilize lofty themes that should be universally appealing and inspiring. For example, odes allow writers to celebrate something as ephemeral as love or joy as well as something as physical as one’s athleticism or artistic ability. Although most odes are serious, others are humorous in their exploration of themes related to human experience.


What are the three parts of a Pindaric ode?

The three parts of the Pindaric ode are the strophe, a group of stanzas that uses a change in metrical form, the antistrophe, for the second section of the poem that uses alternating stanzas again and a contrasting metrical form, and finally the epode, that is the concluding section that completes the ode. It was performed in the middle of the stage in its traditional Greek song form.

What is another name for the Pindaric ode?

The Pindaric ode is also known as the “regular ode.” This is due to how commonly writers used the form throughout history. If an ode is labeled as “regular,” it is also Pindaric. This means that readers should be able to pick out the three parts associated with the form.

How long is a Pindaric ode?

This can make identifying the type of a poet is using challenging. But, readers who are familiar with the traditional parts of this form of ode should be able to pick it out among the other common types. 

  • Octave: comes from the Latin word meaning “eighth part”. It is an eight-line stanza or poem.
  • Cadence: the natural rhythm of a piece of text, created through a writer’s selective arrangement of words, rhymes, and the creation of meter.
  • End Rhyme: a common type of rhyme found in poetry. They occur when the last word of two or more lines rhyme.
  • Eye Rhyme: a literary device used in poetry. It occurs when two words are spelled the same or similarly but are pronounced differently.
  • Free Verse: lines are unrhymed and there are no consistent metrical patterns. But, that doesn’t mean it is entirely without structure.
  • Quatrain: a verse form that is made up of four lines with fifteen different possible rhyme schemes.
  • Irregular Ode: a common ode form that does not conform to the characteristics of the Pindaric or Horatian ode forms.

Other Resources 

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