Lyric Poetry in Different Eras

Also Read

      In the ancient Greek literature, lyric was a kind of verse that was accompanied by a lyre, cithara, or barbitos. This was basically sung. It was also known as melic poetry. The lyric or melic poet was distinguished from the writer of plays, the writer of trochaic and iambic verses (which were recited), the writer of elegies (accompanied by the flute, rather than the lyre) and the writer of epic. The scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria created a canon of nine lyric poets deemed especially worthy of critical study. These archaic and classical musician-poets included Sappho, Alcaeus, Anacreon and Pindar. Archaic lyric was characterized by strophic composition and live musical performance. Some poets, like Pindar extended the metrical forms to a triad, including strophe, antistrophe (metrically identical to the strophe) and epode (whose form does not match that of the strophe). Among the major extant Roman poets of the classical period, only Catullus and Horace wrote lyric poetry, which however was no longer meant to be sung but instead read or recited. Catullus was influenced by both archaic and Hellenistic Greek verse and belonged to a group of Roman poets called the Neoteroi (‘New Poets’) who spurned epic poetry following the lead of Callimachus. Instead, they composed brief, highly polished poems in various thematic and metrical genres.

      Lyric in European literature of the medieval or Renaissance period means a poem written so that it could be set to music - whether or not it actually was. Ghazal is such a type of lyrical poetry, which is originated in the 10th century Persian consisting of couplets that share a rhyme and a refrain. Formally, it consists of a short lyric composed m a single meter with a single rhyme throughout. The central subject is love. Notable authors are many, such as Haliz, Amir Khusro, Auhadi of Maragheh, Alisher Navoi, Obeid e Zakani, Khaqani Shirvani, Anvan, Farid al-Din Attar Omar Khayyam, and Rudaki. The ghazal was introduced to European poetry in the early 19th century by the Germans Schlegel, Von Hammer- Purgstall and Goethe, who called Hafiz his ‘twin. A poem s particular stricture, function, or theme might all vary. The lyric poetry of Europe in this period was created by the pioneers of courtly poetry and courtly love largely without reference to the classical past. In this context, it should be mentioned that bhajan or kirtan is a Hindu devotional song. Bhajans are often simple songs in lyrical language expressing emotions of love for the Divine. Notable authors include Kabir, Surdas, and Tulsidas.

      In 16th century Britain, Thomas Campion wrote lute songs and Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, and William Shakespeare popularized the sonnet - a type of lyric. In France, La Pleiade, Pierre de Ronsard, Joachim du Bellay, and Jean-Antoine de Baif and some others aimed to break with earlier traditions of French poetry, and began imitating classical Greek and Roman forms such as the odes. Favorite poets of the school were Pindar, Anacreon, Alcaeus, Horace, and Ovid. They also produced Petrarchan sonnet cycles. Spanish devotional poetry adapted the lyric for religious purposes. Lyrical poetry was the dominant form of 17th-century English poetry from John Donne to Andrew Marvell. Other notable poets of the era writing some types of lyrical poetry include Ben Jonson, Robert Herrick, George Herbert, Aphra Behn, Thomas Carew, John Suckling, Richard Lovelace, John Milton, Richard Crashaw, and Henry Vaughan. In the 18th century lyric poetry declined in England and France. The atmosphere of literary discussion in the English coffeehouses and French salons was not congenial to lyric poetry. Exceptions include the lyrics of Robert Burns, William Cowper, Thomas Gray, and Oliver Goldsmith.

      In Europe, the lyric emerged as the principal poetic form of the 19th century and came to be seen as synonymous with poetry. The 19th century was an age of introspection; the poets of the age were self-conscious and introspective. Lyricism is the expression of introspection. In this time, romanticism and imagination became more or less synonymous. Romantic lyric poetry consisted of first-person accounts of the thoughts and feelings of a specific moment; the feelings were extreme but personal. The traditional sonnet was revived in Britain, with William Wordsworth writing more sonnets than any other British romantic poets. Other important Romantic lyric writers of the period include Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron. The Victorian lyric was more linguistically self-conscious and defensive than the Romantic forms had been. Such Victorian lyric poets include Alfred Lord Tennyson and Christina Rossetti.

      In the early years of the 20th century, the rhymed lyric poetry uses to express the feelings of the poet. In this time it was the dominant poetic form in the United States, Europe, and the British colonies. The English Georgian poets such as A. E. Housman, Walter de la Mare, and Edmund Blunden used the lyric form. The Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore was praised by William Butler Yeats for his lyric poetry; Yeats compared him to the troubadour poets when the two met in 1912. The relevance and acceptability of the lyric in the modern age becomes questionable. The modernist poets such as Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, H.D., and William Carlos Williams rejected the English lyric form of the 19th century, because it relied too heavily on melodious language, rather than complexity of thought. After World War II, the American New Criticism returned to the lyric, advocating a poetry that made conventional use of rhyme, meter and stanzas, and was modestly personal in the lyric tradition. Lyric poetry dealing with relationships, sex and domestic life constituted the new mainstream of American poetry in the late 20th century following the confessional poets of the 1950s and 60s such as Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.

Previous Post Next Post