Types of Poetry for AP English Literature (page 2)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Apr 4, 2011

The Lyric

Lyric poetry is highly personal and emotional. It can be as simple as a sensory impression or as elevated as an ode or elegy. Subjective and melodious, it is often reflective in tone.

The following is an example of a lyric:

A Red, Red Rose

by Robert Burns

      O my luve's like a red, red rose,
      That's newly sprung in June;
      O my luve's like the melodie
      That's sweetly played in tune.
      As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
      So deep in luve am I;
      And I will luve thee still, my dear,
      Till a' the seas gang dry.
      Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
      And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
      O I will luve thee still, my dear,
      While the sands o' life shall run.
      And fare the weel, my only luve,
      And fare the weel awhile!
      And I will come again, my luve,
      Though it were ten thousand mile.

Now answer the following questions:

  1. The stanza form is __________
  2. The rhyme scheme is __________
  3. The meter of line 6 is __________
  4. The first stanza depends on similes. Underline them. __________
  5. Cite assonance in stanza one. __________
  6. Line 8 is an example of __________
  7. Highlight alliteration in the poem __________
  8. Did you recognize iambic trimeter? How about hyperbole? __________

The following are wonderful lyric poems. Read a few.

      Edna St. Vincent Millay—"Childhood Is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies"
      Emily Dickinson—"Wild Nights, Wild Nights"
      Dylan Thomas—"Fern Hill"
      Matthew Arnold—"Dover Beach"
      Andrew Marvell—"To His Coy Mistress"

The Ode

The ode is a formal lyric poem that addresses subjects of elevated stature. One of the most beautiful odes in English literature is by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Ode to the West Wind

      O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
      Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
      Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
      Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
      Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
      Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
      The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
      Each like a corpse within the grave, until
      Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
      Her clarion*'er the dreaming earth, and fill
      (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
      With living hues and odors plain and hill:
      Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
      Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!
      Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky's commotion,
      Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed,
      Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,
      Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
      On the blue surface of thine aery surge,
      Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
      Of some fierce Maenad,*even from the dim verge
      Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
      The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
      Of the dying year, to which this closing night
      Will be the dome of a vast sepulcher,
      Vaulted with all thy congregated might
      Of vapors, from whose solid atmosphere
      Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh, hear!
      Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
      The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
      Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams
      Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
      And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
      Quivering within the wave's intenser day,
      All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
      So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
      For whose path the Atlantic's level powers
      Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
      The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
      The sapless foliage of the ocean, know
      Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
      And tremble and despoil themselves: oh, hear!
      If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
      If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
      A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share
      The impulse of thy strength, only less free
      Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
      I were as in my boyhood, and could be
      The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
      As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
      Scarce seem a vision; I would ne'er have striven
      As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
      Oh, lift me as a wave, a leave, a cloud!
      I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
      A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
      One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.
      Make me thy lyre,* even as the forest is:
      What if my leaves are falling like its own!
      The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
      Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
      Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
      My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
      Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
      Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
      And, by the incantation of this verse,
      Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
      Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
      Be through my lips to unawakened earth
      The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
      If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

As always, read the poem carefully. (Find a private place and read it aloud. You'll be carried away by the beauty of the sounds and imagery.) Now answer the following questions.

  1. Look at the configuration of the poem. It is divided into five sections. What function might each section serve? __________
  2. Count the lines in each section. How many? _____Name the two stanza forms you encountered. __________
  3. Check the rhyme scheme. Did you come up with a b a b c b c d c d e d e e? The first four tercets are written in a form called terza rima. Notice how this rhyme scheme interweaves the stanzas and creates unity throughout the poem. Did it cross your mind that each section might be a variation on the sonnet form? __________
  4. Check the meter. You should notice that it is very irregular. (Freedom of form was a tenet of the Romantic Movement.)
  5. Stanza one: Did you catch the apostrophe? The direct address to the wind places us in the poem's situation and provides the subject of the ode. Highlight the alliteration and trace the similes in line 3. __________
  6. Stanza two: What are the "pestilence-stricken multitudes"? In addition to leaves, could they be the races of man? __________
  7. Stanza three: See how the enjambment pulls you into this line. Find the simile. Alliteration can be seen in "azure," "sister," "Spring," "shall."
  8. Stanza four: What images are presented? _____Locate the simile. _____Find the contrast between life and death. _____Highlight the personification.
  9. Identify the essential paradox of the poem and life itself in the couplet.

We are not going to take you through the poem line by line. You may isolate those lines that speak to you. Here are a few of our favorites that are worth a second look:

  • Lines 29–31
  • Lines 35–42 for assonance
  • Lines 53–54
  • Lines 55–56
  • Lines 57–70

You should be able to follow the development of ideas through the five sections. Were you aware of:

  • The land imagery in section 1.
  • The air imagery in section 2.
  • The water imagery in section 3.
  • The comparison of the poet to the wind in section 4.
  • The appeal for the spirit of the wind to be the poet's spirit in section 5.

After you have read the poem, followed the organization, recognized the devices and images, you still have to interpret what you've read.

This ode has many possibilities. One interpretation linked it with the French Revolution and Shelley's understanding of the destructive regeneration associated with it. Another valid reading focuses on Shelley's loss of faith in the Romantic Movement. He asks for inspiration to breathe life into his work again. Try to propose other interpretations for this "Ode to the West Wind."

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