The Structure of the Ode

Allen Ginsberg’s 1980 Basic Poetics class continues

AG: Strophe (is that pronounced strophee or strophe?)

Student: Strophee, I think

AG: Strophee – or Strophee/Antistrophee maybe – and  Epode. So the anti-strophe or antistrophe would be simply a mirror image of it, perhaps responding, responding to the first statement, and then the epode would be a variation on the form, (not necessarily the same but making use of the similar kinds of lines). And it’s good for certain kinds of formal poems, or occasional poems, or political poems. Like, I wrote Plutonian Ode (but I wasn’t paying attention to the form, actually, but, formally speaking, you can do a number like that that’s quite interesting, if you want to take the trouble, and if you take that much trouble, it probably repays the effort, because it’s a logical form, and you get a chance to repeat certain heart-felt rhythms).

In this case,  (Ben Jonson’s “To The Immortal Memory and Friendship of That Noble Pair, Sir Lucius Cary and Sir Henry Morison”),  I was looking at it and the way it goes is really easy. It’s “clear/year” “crown/town”, “about/out”, “return/earn”, “mankind/find” – (so it’s just rhymed couplets – and it’s four beats, four beats, five beats, five beats, three beats, three beats, five beats, four beats, five beats, five beats – (or five feet, per line) – “Thy com/-ing forth/ in that/ great year” (that’s four, four beats). In other words, just a series of couplets with varying length three, four, and five main stresses (three, four, and five main feet). And then, if you notice, what he calls “the turn” for the strophe (strophee), (“the counter-turn”  for the anti-strophe) – the counter-turn has the same, exactly the same pattern of four, four, five, five, three, three, four, five, five,. And then “the stand”, as he calls the epode or third part, the tail of it, the end of it, is a different mixture of three…, no, five, three, five, three, three, five, three, four , five, five.

Just.. I’m just pointing out the structure (of this) .It’s no big deal you know. It’s nothing you have to memorize (you can always go back and check this, or check any.. any ode, of which there are a number in this book,[sic] to see how to do it, if you ever get interested) . Then you repeat it a number of times, repeat the triad as many times as you want (I think later on we’ll run into some in the book that have.. they have slightly different names for “turn”, “counter-turn”, and “stand”) – I’m… It’s a little bit boastful to use “turn”, “counter-turn”, and “stand” rather than just write an ode and not label it like that, just leave it, leave it as a form, might be more interesting.

[Audio for the above can be found here, beginning at approximately ten-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately fourteen minutes in]


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