Lesson no 8

We ended the latest lesson with the Elegy (The song of lamentation)
and will now discuss some formal well known signs from the Hymn and
the Ode.
If we consider the Elegy as the dramatic actions and a story telling of the Epic elements, we will in the Hymn and Ode meet the pathos and
outbursts of feelings for the Heroic poetry, often knitted to the Christian tradition. The Elegy is lamenting, the nostalgic looking back and discursive,
while the Hymn is a song about the present time ( the moment) and the future.
The stylistic signs are also much different. The Hymn does not have any needs for metrical forms, and no limits what so ever to find a place in any metrical foot, which of course opens up frames for the immeasurable we find in the
style of Hymns.
In the memory of genres in the world, the Hymn is just as old as the Elegy.
A forerunner to the Hymn is already in the Sumerian and Egyptian poetry of culture and in the Old Testament Psalm poetry.
Under the Greek antique time, the Hymn is reaching its literary highest point, and is to be found in a vast and different metrical forms and also in prose.
Closer to our own time, the middle age Christian Hymn tradition, become very important, and still the Hymn is carrying this stamp of the liturgics and cult inheritance, from the great Choir lyrics in Greek antique time.
In our modern society it is not so common to separate a Hymn from the Ode.
In English literature the Hymn has got a place, and is reserved for religious poetry, while the Ode is used rather wildly.
The Ode was already in Greek tradition a close neighbour to the Hymn, but more precise in its form. Example of the most common lyrical metres are
Asklepiadeic stanza ( difficult to explain,but should be something like this: /Write now a stanza, brother Asklepios/.) and the Alcaic stanza often in four
lines orderly together, the third line a bit slower in rhythm and a falling ending.
The contents were less heroic and more sensitive, often like a ceremonial public poem for special occasions.
The Ode is counted as a secular form of the Hymn, which we can find in many
poets use of the genre. Many examples of the Hymn carrying the Ode as
a title but both are verses to praise someone or something.
The capacity to describe closeness in the Hymn is mostly lying on the Apostrophe (the accentuation of a rhetoric figure) also very central in the Elegy.

A great example of the apostrophe and the Hymn praising we can find in
Percy Bysshe Shelley´ s “Ode to the West Wind” (1819).

O WILD West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being–
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes!–O thou
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o´er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill–
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere–
Destroyer and Preserver– hear, O hear!

The poem consists of five parts like the first one hear above,
and each on 14 stanzas and the verse meter is a combination of
a sonnet in the length of verses and lines and a rhyme structure ,
of Terza rima. In England considered as the best example of the terse.
The theme of the poem is clear and concrete. The Wild West wind,
rolling over Italy in Autumn. The poem is also a speech to this
phenomenon of Nature, which in this Hymn has got an almighty
feature. Shelley is also given the wind a spiritual mind when he is talking about
the “Wild Spirit” and the poem has also some more religious signs, not like a
heroic psalm poem, cause in Shelley’s writing we got so much of romance and
religious doubts. The Poem is a significant Hymn in its praising of the wind telling it to listen. ” Hear, O hear!
There is also an ambivalent tone in Shelley’s Ode. the Wind is blowing out the
organic life and sending it to the grave. “like a corpse within its grave”, but even though the wind is violent and death bringing, it has also a function of giving life and renewal of Nature. This can, at least in my poetic mind, transmit the meaning to a human being and to our capacity and optimistic creating after Autumn’s pessimistic, dead of growing.

Of Shelley’s Hymn and the form of an Epigram, we can see that the Hymn is a great contrast to the Elegy and is functioning as, not for something we have lost, but as an affirmative answer to Reality.

Let us here finish the lesson, with the fact that the Apostrophe is the most obvious form of addressing, which shows the speciality of the poetic speech.

©kerstin centervall