Lyric poetry

Lyric poetry is a form of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person. The term derives from a form of Ancient Greek literature, the lyric, which was defined by its musical accompaniment, usually on a stringed instrument known as alyre. The term owes its importance in literary theory to the division developed by Aristotle between three broad categories of poetry: lyrical, dramatic and epic.



Much lyric poetry depends on regular meter based either on number of syllables or on stress. The most common meters are as follows:

Iambic – two syllables, with the short or unstressed syllable followed by the long or stressed syllable.

Trochaic – two syllables, with the long or stressed syllable followed by the short or unstressed syllable. In English, this metre is found almost entirely in lyric poetry.

Pyrrhic – Two unstressed syllables

Anapestic – three syllables, with the first two short or unstressed and the last long or stressed.

Dactylic – three syllables, with the first one long or stressed and the other two short or unstressed.

Spondaic – two syllables, with two successive long or stressed syllables.

Some forms have a combination of meters, often using a different meter for the refrain.

A short poem with one speaker (not necessarily the poet) who expresses thought and feeling. Though it is sometimes used only for a brief poem about feeling (like the sonnet).it is more often applied to a poem expressing the complex evolution of thoughts and feeling, such as the elegy, the dramatic monologue, and the ode. The emotion is or seems personal In classical Greece, the lyric was a poem written to be sung, accompanied by a lyre.


Eros shakes my soul: 
a wind on desolate mountains
leveling oaks.
—Sappho, fragment 142, translated by Michael R. Burch

In the ancient world, such poems were accompanied by someone playing the lyre, hence lyric poems and song lyrics are closely related “kissing cousins.” The connection between lyric poems and song lyrics can be clearly seen in the first epigram of  Sappho above, and in this one below:

Now, I shall sing these songs
for my companions.
—Sappho, fragment 3, translated by Julia Dubnoff

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: