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Originally, as its Greek name suggests, a lyric was a poem sung to the music of a lyre this meaning a poem

em made for singing is still current today when we use lyrics to mean the words of a popular song

But a lyric as a printed poem is something else defined as a short poem expressing the thoughts and

feelings of a single speaker not often longer than fifty or sixty lines and often only between a dozen and thirty lines ever since the invention of the printing press in the 15th C, lyric poems contain less word-music and more thought and perhaps more complicated feelings Often a poet will write a lyric in the first person I but not always it might describe an object or recall an experience without the speaker ever bringing himself/herself into it

Some lyric poems are outbursts of feelings resembling a song & have musical elements of rhyme, rhythm or sound effects eg The Lake Isle of Innisfree by Yeats Many contemporary poets write short poems to voice their opinions or complicated feelings and call such poems lyrics Lyric poems take various forms:a. An elegy a poem in which a poet mourns the death of a specific person -

Etheridge Knights For Malcolm, A Year After about the activist Malcolm X and A.E.Housmans To an Athlete Dying Young b. An ode a long lyric poem, formal and serious in style, tone and subject matter has a fairly complex stanzaic pattern such as the terza rima (a type of poetry consisting of 10 or 11 syllable lines arranged in three-line "tercets". The Italian poet Dante is credited with inventing terza rima and it has been used

by many English poets including Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Auden) used by Shelley in Ode to the West Wind and John Keatss Ode on a Grecian Urn c. An aubade a poem about morning usually celebrating the coming of dawn Philip Larkins Aubade

d. An occasional poem written to celebrate a particular event or occasion Billy Collins The Names read before a joint session of Congress to

commemorate the 1st anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center d. A meditation a lyric poem that focuses on a physical object using this object as a vehicle for considering larger issues eg Edmund Wallers 17th C poem Go, lovely rose e. A pastoral a lyric poem that celebrates the simple, idyllic pleasures of country life Christopher Marlowes The

Passionate Shepherd to his Love

f. A dramatic monologue a poem whose speaker addresses one or more silent listeners often revealing much more than he or she intends Robert Brownings My Last Duchess and Porphyrias Lover and Alfred Tennysons Ulysses

A type of narrative poetry with roots in an oral tradition originally intended to be sung as a musical accompaniment to a dance, a ballad uses repeated words and phrases, including a refrain to advance its story Any narrative song like Paul Simons Richard Cory may be called a ballad 2 types: folk/traditional ballad & literary ballad

In English some of the most famous ballads are folk ballads anonymous story-songs transmitted orally before they were ever written down

Sir Walter Scott a pioneer collector of Scottish folk ballads drew the ire of an old woman whose songs he had transcribed: They were made for singing and no for reading, but ye hae broken the charm now and theyll never be sung mair the old singer

had a point because print freezes song and tends to hold them fast to a single version but had it not for Scott and others to write them down, many would have been lost

The American scholar Francis J. Child in his monumental work The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (188298) winnowed out 305 folk ballads he considered authentic i.e. creations of illiterate or semiliterate people who

had preserved them orally often called Child ballads, his texts include The Three Ravens, Sir Patrick Spence, The Twa Corbies, Edward, The Cruel Mother and many others still on the lips of singers

Basic characteristics of ballads:-

a. The beginning is often abrupt


b. The language is simple c. The story is told through dialogue and action

d. The theme is often tragic - the stuff of tabloid journalism in the words of ballad scholar Albert B. Friedman sensational tales of lust, revenge and domestic crime unwed mothers slay their newborn babies, lovers unwilling to marry their pregnant mistresses brutally murder the poor women, for which without fail they are justly punished also ballads of the supernatural (The Twa Corbies) and of gallant knights (Sir Patrick Spence) and few humourous ballads, usually about unhappy marriages

e. There is often a refrain Some but not all ballads use the ballad stanza (a four-line abcb stanza consisting of unrhymed first and third lines in iambic tetrameter (4 feet 8 syllables) and rhymed second and fourth lines in iambic trimeter [3 feet 6 syllables]) 8-6-8-6 syllables Eg: Clerk Saunders and Maid Margaret Walked owre yon garden green And deep and heavy was the love That fell thir twa between

Related to traditional folk ballads but displaying characteristics of their own, broadside/street ballads (so called because they were printed on one sheet of paper) often were set to traditional tunes mostly were an early form of journalism made possible by the development of cheap printing and the growth of literate audience sometimes humourous or tear-jerking often they were rimed accounts of sensational news events widespread and often scorned in Shakespeares

days tends to be associated with semiliterate or literate urban communities although many broadsides tend to be doggerel (verse full of irregularities due not to skill but to incompetence) many excellent poets had their work taken up and peddled in the streets Marvell, Swift and Byron Literary ballads not meant for singing written by sophisticated poets for book-educated readers who enjoy being reminded of folk ballads imitate certain features of folk ballads

tell of dramatic conflicts or of mortals who encounter the supernatural use conventional figures of speech or ballad stanzas Keatss La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Coleridges Rime of the Ancient Mariner & Dudley Randalls Ballad of Birmingham Ballad - a poetic form of great antiquity

Apart from those ballads which are presumed to be the main materials for Homers epics the main ballad

tradition in Europe begins to be evident in the late Middle Ages in Denmark 12th C in Russia 13th C in Spain, Scotland and England 14th C by the end of the 14th C the ballad tradition already established in Scandinavia and in South Slav countries

Ballad poet drew his materials from community life, from local and national history, from legend and folklore tales usually of adventure, war, love

death and the supernatural

A very notable cycle combining all these themes & elements is the group of epic ballads which grew up in Serbia as a result of the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 in the British Isles the border conflicts between English and Scots produced many splendid ballads important sources of balladry in England stories and legends of Robin Hood

Derives from the Italian sonetto a little sound or song Closed/fixed form of traditional verse consists of 14 lines usually in iambic pentameters with variation in rhyme scheme 3 basic sonnet forms a. The Petrarchan comprises an octave rhyming abbaabba and a sestet rhyming cdecde or cdcdcd

b. The Spenserian 3 quatrains and a couplet rhyming abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee c. The Shakespearean 3 quatrains and a couplet rhyming abab,cdcd, efef, gg. The Italian form is the commonest -the octave develops one thought; then there is a turn or volta and the sestet grows out of the octave, varies it and completes it The other two forms a different but related idea is expressed in each quatrain; introducing an idea in the 1st

quatrain, developing it in the two remaining quatrains and summing up/ overturning it in a closing couplet Shakespeares sonnets are written predominantly in a meter called iambic pentameter, a rhyme scheme in which each sonnet line consists of ten syllables - the syllables are divided into five pairs called iambs or iambic feet - an iamb is a metrical unit made up of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable

- An example of an iamb would be good BYE. A line of iambic pentameter flows like this: baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM. Eg.: When I / do COUNT / the CLOCK / that TELLS / the TIME (Sonnet 12)

The earliest sonnets are attributed to Giacomo da Lentino (1215-33) of the Sicilian school but the form may have been invented by another poet at the court of the Emperor Frederick II in Sicily

Throughout the Middle Ages, the form was used by all the Italian lyric poets

Guinicelli, Cavalcanti and Dante used it for love poetry and more particularly for that semi-Platonic and semi-religious devotion to the Lady or Donna which subsequently became a clich of love poetry

Francesco Petrarch is the one who established the sonnet as one of the major poetic forms his Canzoniere were a kind of encyclopaedia love and passion

Thereafter, several Italian poets Serafino dallAquila (1466-1500), Bembo (1470-1547), Michelangelo (1475-1564), Castiglione (1478-1529) and Tasso (1544-95) In the 16th century outburst of sonneteering in France most notable sequences du Bellays LOlive (1549) and his Regrets and Antiquites de Rome (1558) and Ronsards Amours (1552) and his Sonnets pour Helene

(1578) In Spain the sonnet was introducede by the Marquis de Santillana (13981458) notable Spanish sonneteers who followed him were Juan Boscan (1490-1552) and Garcilaso de la Vega (1503-36). Two poets who established the sonnet in Portugal in the 16th century Sa de Miranda and Antonio Ferreira The sonnet did not become established in Germany until

somewhat later, mostly through the work of Weckherlin (1584-1653).

The sonnet came into the English language via Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey early in the 16th century imported the Petrarchan form the sonnet was only established in England in the last decade of the 16th century

Surrey established the rhyming scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, gg and it

was this form that was most used in England in the later 16th century

The first major sonnet cycle was Astrophil and Stella written by Sir Philip Sidney and printed in 1591 There followed in rapid succession Daniels Delia (1592), Lodges Phillis (1593), Constables Diana (1594), Draytons Ideas Mirror (1594) and Spensers Amoretti (1595)

The greatest sequence of all was Shakespeares sonnets, not printed until 1609 but some had circulated in manuscript for at least eleven years before wrote 154 sonnets By early 17th century the vogue for love sonnets was already over John Donne wrote 19 very fine sonnets on religious themes, grouped together under the title of Holy Sonnets It was not until Milton that the sonnet

received much attention Milton did not write a sequence and he did not write about love his sonnets belong to the genre of occasional verse about a particular event, person or occasion eg When the Assault was Intended to the City, To the Lord General Cromwell and On the Late Massacre in Piedmont

After Milton the sonnet was virtually extinct for well over a hundred years In the 18th century there were few of

merit apart from Thomas Grays Ode on the Death of Richard West, Thomas Wartons To the River London and William Bowless At Ostend

A considerable revival of interest during the Romantic period Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley all wrote splendid sonnets Wordworths are generally thought to be the best esp his Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802, To

Toussaint LOuverture and On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic Keatss most distinguished sonnets On First Looking into Chapmans Homer and his late poem Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art Shelley wrote splendid sonnets Ozymandias and England in 1819

The resurgence of interest in the sonnet during the Romantic period in England is paralleled in other countries

towards the end of the 18th C and during the 19th C

In Italy, Ugo Foscolo (1778-1827) and Carducci (1835-1907) distinguished sonneteers In France the sonnet was revived by Theophile Gautier (1811-72) and Baudelaire (1821-67) other outstanding sonnets were written by Leconte de Lisle, Valery, Mallarme and Rimbaud

In Germany the sonnet was revived by Gottfried Burger (1747-94) the form was later used by German Romantic writers Tieck, Eichendorff and August Graf von Platen-Hallermunde During the Victorian period a large number of poets re-established the sonnet form, in particular the sonnet sequence about love Elizabeth Barrett Brownings Sonnets from the Portuguese (1847-50), Robert Bridges

The Growth of Love (1876), Christina Rossettis Monna Innominata (1881) and her brother Dante Gabriel Rossettis The House of Life (1881) Christina Bossetti and Elizabeth Barrett Browning modified sonnet convention by introducing female desire into a form traditionally written from a male point of view

George Merediths sequence Modern Love (1862) used a sixteen line form -

- a departure but the main innovator in Victorian times was Gerard Manley Hopkins whose poems were not published until after his death in 1918 innovative

In the 20th C a number of poets writing in English have composed a variety of sonnets on many different themes egs Rupert Brooke (wrote anti-sonnet/inverted sonnet beginning with a couplet Sonnet Reversed (1911)), Robert Frost, John Crowe Ransom and W. H. Auden (his best sonnets are on public affairs and famous

men The Ship, his sonnets on A.E. Housman, Arthur Rimbaud and Edward Lear & his Sonnets from China (1937)), Dylan Thomas, George Barker, Robert Lowell, Scottish poet Edwin Morgan (2 fine long sequences with Glasgow Sonnets (1972) and Sonnets from Scotland (1984)), Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh, Geoffrey Hill, Seamus Heaney, James Fenton & Roy Fuller.

In the late 1970s Tony Harrison

emerged as an outstanding talented sonneteer sonnet sequence The School of Eloquence (1978) takes language as a kind of site in the class-war conflict many of his best sonnets about his native Yorkshire land and there are especially moving ones about his father particularly skilled in the use of colloquial and idiomatic language

One of the most remarkable of all modern experiments in sonnet form -

Vikram Seths The Golden Gate (1986) a verse-novel it tells a story comprises 13 chapters and 590 sonnets uses the sonnet form of Onegin stanza first devised by Pushkin for his versenovel Eugene Onegin

During over 700 years the narrow room of the sonnet has been adapted to a remarkable variety of experiment and development and an astonishing range of feeling and themes

Reference: 1.Cuddon, J.A. A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. Oxford: Blackwell Publisher, 1998. 2. Kennedy, X.J. & Gioia, Dana. Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 3. Kirzner, L.G. & Mandell, S.R. Literature Reading, Reacting, Writing. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007.