(ᾠδή, a song) originally meant any lyrical piece adapted to be sung. In the modern use of the word, odes are distinguished from songs by not being necessarily in a form to be sung, and by embodying loftier conceptions and more intense and passionate emotions. The language of the ode is therefore abrupt, concise, and energetic; and the highest art of the poet is called into requisition in adapting the meters and cadences to the varying thoughts and emotions; hence the changes of meter and versification that occur in many odes. The rapt state of inspiration that gives birth to the ode leads the poet to conceive all nature as animated and conscious, and instead of speaking about persons and objects, to address them as present.
Among the highest examples of the ode are the Song of Moses and several of the Psalms. Dryden's Alexander's Feast is reckoned one of the first odes in the English language. We may mention, as additional specimens, Gray's Bard; Collins's Ode to the Passions; Burns's Scots wha hae; Coleridge's Odes to Memory and Despondency; Shelley's Ode to the Skylark; and Wordsworth's Ode on the Recollections of Immortality in Childhood. SEE HYMN; SEE PSALM; SEE SONG.