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Anacreontic Ode & Anacreontic Couplets

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
The Ode
Greek Poetry
The Anacreontic Ode is proof that an ode need not be long and lofty. The Greek poet Anacreon often wrote odes in praise of pleasure and drink, a Dithyramb or Skolion. Often the odes were made up of 7 syllable, rhymed couplets known as Anacreontic couplets. Some of Anacreon's poems were paraphrased by English poet Abraham Cowley in 1656 in which he attempted to emulate Greek meter. The main concern of several 17th century poets was that the poem avoid "piety" by "Christian" poets who would tame the spirit and make the form worthless.Although the Anacreontic Ode has been defined as a series of Anacreontic couplets, Richard Lovelace's The Grasshopper is thought to be a translation of an Ode by Anacreon, it does fit the subject matter but the translation is written in iambic pentameter quatrains with alternating rhyme. Here is the first stanza. O though that swing'st upon the waving hairOf some well-filled oaten beard,Drunk every night with a delicious tearDropped thee from heaven, where now they art reared.%5BLIST%5D

  • The Anacreontic couplet is named for the ancient Greek poet Anacreon who tended to write short lyrical poems celebrating love and wine, a genre known as Dithyramb. By 1700 English poet John Phillips defined the form to be written in 7 syllable rhyming couplets.

    The defining features of the Anacreontic couplet are:

    1. stanzaic, written in any number of couplets,
    2. preferably short. The Anacreontic Ode is often made up of a series of Anacreontic couplets.
    3. syllabic, 7 syllables for each line.
    4. rhymed. aa bb etc.
    5. composed to celebrate the joys of drinking and love making. Some Anacreontic verse tends toward the erotic or bawdy.

      "Busy, curious, thirsty fly,
      Drink with me, and drink as I;
      Freely welcome to my cup,
      Could'st thou sip and sip it up.
      Make the most of life you may;
      Life is short and wears away."
                              --- William Oldys (1696-1761)

      Anacreon's Creed by Judi Van Gorder

      Let the amber liquid flow
      forget pain in your big toe
      We will wallow in our lust
      without thought of what we must.
      Down the brew until we hurl
      enjoy the buzz, give sin a whirl.

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