Lyric Poem

Lyric Poem Definition

A lyric poem or lyrical poem in literature is a poem in which the poet either expresses his feelings and emotions. The poet also presents a character in the first person to express his emotions. It is a combination of lyrics and poetry where a piece of poetry is written as a lyric. Lyric has been derived from the lyre, a musical stringed instrument used during the Grecian period to accompany the poetry sung during different festivities.

Aristotle used the world lyric or lyrical with reference poetry to categorize it into three distinct types. A lyric poem is often short and non-narrative but keeps some elements of melody. Although odes and elegies are other categories, they, too, are placed under lyric poetry. Lyric poems can follow any metrical pattern, be it iambic, trochaic, or pyrrhic.

History and Origin of Lyric Poetry/Poem

Lyrics originated in ancient Greece. Interestingly, Sappho, a Grecian woman poet, who happened to have lived around 570 BC, is the first lyric poet of the Grecian era. Later, this poetic form became popular in the 4th and 5th BC. In English, A. D. Hebrew is stated to have written good lyrical psalms collected in Hebrew Bible. From there, it entered the English language and spread across the globe. It is also called gazal in Urdu with several replacements or substitutes in other cultures.

Common Meters Used in Lyric Poetry/Poem

Although the metrical pattern for different poems differs greatly such as sonnets have a different metrical pattern and pantoums have a different pattern. Common meter or what is called CM comprising four lines with iambic tetrameter or iambic trimeter is used for ballads and hymns or short lyrics. Therefore, its syllable count is 8.6, 8.6, or 86 86. Its most common examples are “O Little Town” and “Amazing Grace.”

Characteristics of Lyric Poem

There are three major characteristics of a lyric.

  1. It is a private and personal expression of a person.
  2. It is based on music with a good rhyme scheme and metrical pattern.
  3. It is categorized into three major types; vision, thought, and emotions.

Difference Between Narrative and Lyric Poetry

Although sometimes a lyric, too, presents a short or simple story, it is different from narrative poetry in that narrative poetry essentially presents a story. It could be longer than a usual story having ups and downs. However, lyrical poetry focuses only on the expression of emotions and synchronization with the music associated with it through the use of meter and rhyme.

Lyric Poem Examples from Literature

Examples #1

“O, Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast” by Robert Burns

O, WERT thou in the cauld blast

⁠On yonder lea, on yonder lea,
My plaidie to the angry airt,
⁠I’d shelter thee, I’d shelter thee.

Or did Misfortune’s bitter storms
⁠Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
Thy bield should be my bosom,
⁠To share it a’, to share it a’.

These are the first two stanzas of a famous lyric poem by Robert Burns. The very first line expresses the deep emotions of the poet about his beloved. The musical quality of the poem turns it into lyrics that can be sung with some instruments. The expression of feelings in the perfect metrical pattern with love as the subject matter makes it one of the best lyric poems.

Examples #2

“The Pains of Sleep” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“ERE on my bed my limbs I lay,
It hath not been my use to pray
With moving lips or bended knees;
But silently, by slow degrees,
My spirit I to Love compose,
In humble trust mine eye-lids close,
With reverential resignation,
No wish conceived, no thought exprest,
Only a sense of supplication.”

These are the first few lines of the famous lyric poem of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This poem, as the title suggests, is about the pains that the poet has to go through when sleeping. He explains how he loves to go to sleep as his eyes become quite humble before sleeping. These first lines have a perfect metrical pattern and rhyme scheme to make it an excellent lyric poem.

Examples #3

Hymn of Pan” by Shelley

“FROM the forests and highlands
⁠We come, we come;
From the river-girt islands,
⁠Where loud waves are dumb
⁠Listening to my sweet pipings.
The wind in the reeds and the rushes,
⁠The bees on the bells of thyme,

The birds on the myrtle bushes,
⁠The cicale above in the lime,
And the lizards below in the grass,
Were as silent as ever old Tmolus was,
⁠Listening to my sweet pipings.”

This simple introduction of the forest, breeze, and hunger display the lyrical quality of the poem. The repetitive and elliptical structure of these two stanzas points out that the hymn has been actually composed for singing. Therefore, it is also considered one of the best lyric poems having perfect rhyme scheme suitable for singing.

Examples #4

 “A Dream of Fair Women” by Lord Tennyson

“I READ, before my eyelids dropt their shade,
⁠”The Legend of Good Women,” long ago
Sung by the morning star of song, who made
⁠His music heard below;

Dan Chaucer, the first warbler, whose sweet breath
⁠Preluded those melodious bursts that fill
The spacious times of great Elizabeth
⁠With sounds that echo still.”

This is an extract from the lyric poem of Lord Tennyson “A Dream of Fair Women.” This poem is a perfect lyric poem as it shows almost all its features, as it has the musicality due to its rhyming pattern and meter. Its main theme is also the expression of the poet’s emotions. Therefore, it makes a good lyric poem.

Example #5

“Go, Lovely Rose” by Edmund Waller

“Go, lovely Rose-
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.

Tell her that’s young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.”

Edmund Waller speaks to the rose flower he is going to send to his beloved to convey his emotions. The rhyming pattern shows that this lyric poem could be sung on occasion with the accompaniment of some instrument. It also shows the best expression of his personal feelings for his beloved.

Lyric Poem Meaning and Function

A lyric poem provides the poet with space to express his personal feelings he cannot show otherwise in prose or any other form. He is free to address anything and write in a way that it could be sung. It also provides the poet an opportunity to show how he can turn words into emotional outbursts that could be turned into music. The poet can freely compose, repeat and use rhyming patterns for music.

Synonyms of Lyric Poem

The following words can be close synonyms for lyric poem: honeyed words, love song, ode, or lyric, ballad, and romantic phrases. However, these are not their replacements.