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Characteristics of Lyric Poetry.-Lyric poetry is the utterance of the human heart in poetic form. It usually expresses the author's own experiences, moods, reflections, and emotions in musical language. The prose form most nearly like a lyric poem is the essay. In both we are conscious of the standpoint of the author himself and are looking at life through his eyes. In dramatic and narrative poetry, on the other hand, we forget all about the author and are interested more in the action, story, or thing portrayed than in anything else. Sometimes we find both narrative and lyric elements in the same poem, as for instance in "The Cotter's Saturday Night." They are usually separated, however. In the lyric the author seems to be singing to himself. We hear notes of love, hope, grief, despair, joy, patriotism, aspiration, devotion, fear, lamentation, exultation,-indeed all the feelings of the soul. As some one has expressed it, "Though we hear an oration, we seem to overhear a lyric poem." The lyric derives its name from the musical instrument, the lyre, and was primarily intended to be sung. Not all lyrics are singable, although they are all melodious. A great lyric must be sincere, spontaneous, and express strong emotion. It is usually very short, although not necessarily so. The Psalms of King David are the greatest lyrics in the literature of the world. Those beginning "The Lord is my Shepherd," and "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills," are especially fine.

Classes of Lyric Poetry.-Lyric poetry is divided into five types: the ode, the sonnet, the elegy, the song-sacred and secular, and the simple lyric.

1 Psalm XXIII. 2 Psalm CXXI.



Characteristics of the Ode.-The ode is the most exalted form of lyric poetry. The theme is always a noble one and the emotion is high and of great dignity. It may express enthusiasm, lofty praise of some person or thing, deep reflection, or restrained feeling. The ode has been used especially by the poets laureate of England in commemorating great public events. Because of its majestic qualities, the ode is difficult to write and is thus less frequently found than the other lyric types. In structure the ode is usually very irregular, although there are exceptions. The verse length often varies from one to eight feet, and the stanzas are long or short according to the nature of the thought expressed.

Some Examples of the Ode.-Although the ode is an old form of poetry, dating back to the time of Pindar in ancient Greece, it was produced in England in greater numbers during the nineteenth century than in any other period. Probably the finest ode in our language is Milton's "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity," writ ten in 1629. Next to this, Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" (1807) is usually given the highest place. The other great writers of this lyric form are Dry den, Collins, Gray, Shelley, and Keats.



John Dryden, 1697


'Twas at the royal feast for Persia won
By Philip's warlike son.
Aloft in awful state
The godlike hero sate

On his imperial throne;

His valiant peers were placed around,
Their brows with roses and with myrtles bound;

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The praise of Bacchus then the sweet musician sung,
Of Bacchus ever fair, and ever young:

The jolly god in triumph comes;

Sound the trumpets, beat the drums;

Flushed with a purple grace
He shows his honest face;

Now give the hautboys breath; he comes, he comes.
Bacchus, ever fair and young,

Drinking joys did first ordain;
Bacchus' blessings are a treasure.
Drinking is the soldier's pleasure.

Rich the treasure,

Sweet the pleasure,

Sweet is pleasure after pain.










Sooth'd with the sound the king grew vain;

Fought all his battles o'er again;

And thrice he routed all his foes, and thrice he slew the slain.

The master saw the madness rise,
His glowing cheeks, his ardent eyes:
And while he heaven and earth defy'd,
Changed his hand, and check'd his pride.
He chose a mournful Muse,
Soft pity to infuse;

He sung Darius great and good,
By too severe a fate
Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,

Fallen from his high estate,
And welt'ring in his blood,
Deserted at his utmost need
By those his former bounty fed;
On the bare earth expos'd he lies,
With not a friend to close his eyes.
With downeast looks the joyless victor sate,
Revolving in his alter'd soul

The various turns of chance below:

And, now and then, a sigh he stole,
And tears began to flow.


The mighty master smil'd to see
That love was in the next degree:
'Twas but a kindred sound to move,
For pity melts the mind to love.

Softly sweet, in Lydian measures,
Soon he soothed his soul to pleasures.
War, he sung, is toil and trouble;
Honor but an empty bubble;

Never ending, still beginning,
Fighting still, and still destroying;

If the world be worth thy winning,
Think, O think it worth enjoying:
Lovely Thais sits beside thee,

Take the good the gods provide thee.
The many rend the skies with loud applause;
So Love was crown'd, but Music won the cause.
The prince, unable to conceal his pain,

Gaz'd on the fair

Who caused his care,









And sigh'd and look'd, sigh'd and look'd.
Sigh'd and look'd, and sigh'd again.


Now strike the golden lyre again;
A louder yet, and yet a louder strain.
Break his bonds of sleep asunder,

And rouse him, like a rattling peal of thunder.
Hark, hark, the horrid sound

Has rais'd up his head,

As awak'd from the dead, And amaz'd he stares around. Revenge, revenge, Timotheus cries; See the Furies arise;

See the snakes that they rear,
How they hiss in their hair,

And the sparkles that flash from their eyes!

Behold a ghastly band,

Each a torch in his hand!

Those are Grecian Ghosts, that in battle were slain,

And unburied remain
Inglorious on the plain:
Give the vengeance due
To the valiant crew.

Behold how they toss their torches on high,
How they point to the Persian abodes,
And glittering temples of their hostile gods.
The princes applaud with a furious joy;

And the king seized a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
Thais led the way,

To light him to his prey,

And, like another Helen, fired another Troy.


Thus long ago,

Ere heaving bellows learn'd to blow,

While organs yet were mute,

Timotheus, to his breathing flute

And sounding lyre,

Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire.

At last divine Cecilia came,

Inventress of the vocal frame;

The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store,









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