The UVic Writer's Guide


A lyric is a relatively short non-narrative poem in which the first-person speaker expresses thoughts and feelings--not necessarily those of the poet. (See persona and point of vew. )

The lyric may consist of solitary contemplation, or be addressed to someone else, as in Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" (1798) (see dramatic lyric, and dramatic monologue ).

The lyric is the most common type of poetry, ranging from short expressions of a speaker's mind to the lengthy elegy and ode; it may include statements of personal values (Milton's "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso" [1631]), observations and meditations (Arnold's "Dover Beach" [1867]), and expressions of love. These excerpts from Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" (1681) and Shelley's "Mutability" (1816) are examples respectively of lyrics which are dramatic and meditative:

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain....
* * * * * *

We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly!--yet soon
Night crosses round, and they are lost for ever....

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated May 13, 1995