Thursday, March 18, 2010

Composition of Odes

There is so much in the content of Keats' works that I honestly could not pick something to write on detail, so I figured I'd talk about something that has had me wondering for a while in a more general sense.

That's the composition of odes. I really like the premise for odes; make an intimate analysis, almost a mental worship of an object or theme that wouldn't typically be the subject of such attention. The stylistic aspect is what throws me off. With sonnets, although the meter can be a bit tough at times to imagine inflection, odes seem to be all over the place. It's hard to read through one without feeling completely disjointed. There is a rhyme scheme but even that seems out of balance with the syllabic rhythm. My only guess as to why the odes seem more "choppy" for lack of a better word is that something that's so deep and based on pure emotional reaction would seem kind of false if time was taken to fit it into a more strict meter, although Keats' sonnets disprove this theory fairly easily.

On a side note, I absolutely love Keats and "When I Have Fears" is probably my favorite poem of all time. That being said, I really didn't like hearing the recordings of it. In one, I think it was the woman's reading, the meter is actually messed up... "piled" is only said as one syllable thus leaving the line with only 9 syllables. In general I think the readers overdid it; the sonnet is meant to be at a more natural rhythm, and pausing for unnatural lengths kind of ruins part of the point, in my opinion.


  1. The ode form is of particular interest to Romantic poets: Coleridge actually described Lyrical Ballads as an ode in which the individual poems were like stanzas. After reading parts of this book, you might suspect that a defining feature of the ode in this period is disjunction. For example, critic James Averill argues that Coleridge was envisioning the collection partaking of an ode's sharp breaks and "impetuosity of transition" to create a disjointed unity, one that relies on the reader to bridge the gaps and supply relations between poems (396). Keats may well be pursuing a similar formal paradigm, one in which fractured form may or may not finally resolve into a synthetic whole.

  2. Since I am a piano major, I couldn't help but think Beethoven's setting of "Ode to Joy" in his ninth symphony and the complete contrast of text! "Ode to Joy" celebrates the unity of all mankind which is something worthy of praise. The seriousness of this text adds to the irony of him calling it an "ode." I agree that they centered on emotion but Keats is more serious in my opinion because of all the hardship he has been through.