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Examples of Lyric Poetry

Lyric poetry abounds in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Lyric poetry is one of three genres of poetry; the other two are dramatic and narrative.

Sonnets as Lyric Poetry

The word “lyric” comes from the Latin “lyricus” meaning “of or for the lyre.” Some of the best examples of lyric poetry come from Italian and English sonnets. In lyric poetry, the mood is musical and emotional. The writer of a lyric poem uses words that express his state of mind, his perceptions, or his feelings.
Some of the best examples of lyric poetry are sonnets.

James DeFord

Italian Sonnet by James DeFord, written in 1997:

Turn back the heart you’ve turned away

Give back your kissing breath

Leave not my love as you have left

The broken hearts of yesterday

But wait, be still, don’t lose this way

Affection now, for what you guess

May be something more, could be less

Accept my love, live for today.

William Shakespeare

Another good example is this part of Sonnet Number 18, written by William Shakespeare:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed.

Many lyric poems are about love, but they can be about anything which stirs the emotions.

Emily Dickinson

This example of lyric poetry is a poem by Emily Dickinson named I Felt a Funeral in my Brain. It describes a person who is going insane, or thinks they are:

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

And Mourners to and fro

Kept treading – treading – till it seemed

That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,

A Service, like a

Drum -Kept beating – beating – till I thought

My Mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead, again,

Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,

And Being, but an Ear,

And I, and Silence, some strange

Race Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,

And I dropped down, and down –

And hit a World, at every plunge,

And Finished knowing – then –

Dramatic Poetry

Dramatic poetry is written in verse and is meant to be spoken. Its main purpose is to tell a story or describe an event in an interesting and descriptive way.

Rudyard Kipling

Here is an example from Rudyard Kipling’s The Law of the Jungle which is addressed to a wolf:

Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip; drink deeply, but never too deep;

And remember the night is for hunting, and forget not the day is for sleep.

The Jackal may follow the Tiger, but, Cub, when thy whiskers are grown,

Remember the Wolf is a Hunter — go forth and get food of thine own.

Keep peace with the Lords of the Jungle — the Tiger, the Panther, and Bear.

And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the Boar in his lair.

When Pack meets with Pack in the Jungle, and neither will go from the trail,

Lie down till the leaders have spoken — it may be fair words shall prevail.

Robert Browning

The Laboratory by Robert Browning is another example of a dramatic poem:

NOW that I, tying thy glass mask tightly,
May gaze thro’ these faint smokes curling whitely,
As thou pliest thy trade in this devil’s-smithy–
Which is the poison to poison her, prithee?
II
He is with her; and they know that I know
Where they are, what they do: they believe my tears flow
While they laugh, laugh at me, at me fled to the drear
Empty church, to pray God in, for them! — I am here.
III
Grind away, moisten and mash up thy paste,
Pound at thy powder, — I am not in haste!
Better sit thus, and observe thy strange things,
Than go where men wait me and dance at the King’s.
IV
That in the mortar — you call it a gum?
Ah, the brave tree whence such gold oozings come!
And yonder soft phial, the exquisite blue,
Sure to taste sweetly, — is that poison too?

Narrative Poetry

Narrative poems include ballads and epics, and tell of societies and heroic deeds. They can also be very dramatic when telling of a particular situation.

Edgar Allan Poe

Following is an excerpt from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”

Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –

Only this, and nothing more.’

Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, is a classic example of narrative poetry.
There are several different sections or books of the Canterbury Tales. Book I is known as The Knight’s Tale and an excerpt from this section provides a further illustration of narrative poetry:

In days of old there lived, of mighty fame,
A valiant Prince, and Theseus was his name;
A chief, who more in feats of arms excelled,
The rising nor the setting sun beheld.
Of Athens he was lord; much land he won,
And added foreign countries to his crown.
In Scythia with the warrior Queen he strove,
Whom first by force he conquered, then by love;
He brought in triumph back the beauteous dame,
With whom her sister, fair Emilia, came.
With honour to his home let Theseus ride,
With Love to friend, and Fortune for his guide,
And his victorious army at his side.
I pass their warlike pomp, their proud array,
Their shouts, their songs, their welcome on the way;
But, were it not too long, I would recite
The feats of Amazons, the fatal fight
Betwixt the hardy Queen and hero Knight;
The town besieged, and how much blood it cost
The female army, and the Athenian host;
The spousals of Hippolyta the Queen;
What tilts and turneys at the feast were seen;
The storm at their return, the ladies’ fear:
But these and other things I must forbear.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is another example of a lyric poem.
Written in 1966, the poem contains many different chapters.  Chapter 11, for example, covers Hiwatha’s Wedding-Feast.
An excerpt from this chapter tells the story of the wedding, including a special dance:

First he danced a solemn measure,
Very slow in step and gesture,
In and out among the pine-trees,
Through the shadows and the sunshine,
Treading softly like a panther.
Then more swiftly and still swifter,
Whirling, spinning round in circles,
Leaping o’er the guests assembled,
Eddying round and round the wigwam,
Till the leaves went whirling with him,
Till the dust and wind together
Swept in eddies round about him.
 
Then along the sandy margin
Of the lake, the Big-Sea-Water,
On he sped with frenzied gestures,
Stamped upon the sand, and tossed it
Wildly in the air around him;
Till the wind became a whirlwind,
Till the sand was blown and sifted
Like great snowdrifts o’er the landscape,
Heaping all the shores with Sand Dunes,
Sand Hills of the Nagow Wudjoo!


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