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PART TWO-LYRIC POETRY
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.
ALEXANDER'S FEAST: OR THE POWER OF MUSIC
A SONG IN HONOR OF ST. CECILIA'S DAY
John Dryden, 1697
'Twas at the royal feast for Persia won
On his imperial throne;
His valiant peers were placed around,
The praise of Bacchus then the sweet musician sung,
The jolly god in triumph comes;
Sound the trumpets, beat the drums;
Flushed with a purple grace
Now give the hautboys breath; he comes, he comes.
Drinking joys did first ordain;
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,
He sung Darius great and good,
Fallen from his high estate,
The various turns of chance below:
And, now and then, a sigh he stole,
The mighty master smil'd to see
Softly sweet, in Lydian measures,
Never ending, still beginning,
If the world be worth thy winning,
Take the good the gods provide thee.
Gaz'd on the fair
Who caused his care,
And sigh'd and look'd, sigh'd and look'd.
Now strike the golden lyre again;
And rouse him, like a rattling peal of thunder.
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,
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
Behold how they toss their torches on high,
And the king seized a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
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,