Lyric Poetry: Meaning, Types & Examples (2023)

Today, when you hear the word 'lyric' you may think of words that accompany a song. You probably wouldn't think of a form of poetry that dates back thousands of years! The more modern use for the lyric has its roots in ancient Greece when artists first merged words with music. Here we will take a look at what lyric poetry is, its characteristics and some famous examples.

Lyric poetry: meaning and purpose

Lyric poetry is traditionally accompanied by music. The name lyric takes its origins from the ancient Greek instrument, the lyre. A lyre is a small harp-shaped string instrument. As a result, lyric poems are often thought of as song-like.

Lyric poetry is normally short poems where the speaker expresses their emotions or feelings. Traditional, classical Greek lyric poetry had strict rules for rhyme and meter. Today lyric poetry encompasses many forms with different rules regarding how they are structured.

In ancient Greece, lyric poetry was seen as an alternative to dramatic verse and epic poetry. These forms both contained a narrative. Lyric poetry did not necessitate narrative, allowing poets to concentrate on a speaker's feelings and emotions. Lyric poems have always been considered emotional and expressive.

Many different poetry forms are considered to be lyric poetry. The sonnet, ode and elegy are famous examples of poetry forms that fall under the category of lyric. This can make lyric poetry difficult to classify.

(Video) Lyrical Poetry

Lyric poetry: characteristics

It can be difficult to define lyric poetry due to the wide range of poetic styles it encompasses. Though there are some common themes found in most lyric poetry. They are often short, expressive and song-like. Here we will look at some common characteristics.

The first-person

Often, lyric poems are written in the first-person. Because of their expressive nature and the exploration of emotion and feelings. The first person point of view allows the speaker of the poem to express their innermost thoughts on a chosen subject. Often lyric poems will speak of love or adoration and the use of the first-person point of view enhances its intimacy.


Lyric poetry is usually short. If the lyric poem happens to be a sonnet, it will contain 14 lines. If it is a villanelle then it would contain 19. The poetry form of the 'ode' is normally longer and could contain up to 50 lines. Lyric poems do not have to follow the strict rules of these forms and although their length can vary they are usually short.


Considering its origins, it should be no surprise that lyric poetry is considered song-like. Lyric poems use many different techniques that make them sound like song. They can sometimes use rhyme schemes and verses, techniques used in modern-day music. Lyric poetry often uses repetition and meter, which will give the poems a rhythmic quality.


Most lyric poetry uses some form of meter. Meter in poetry is a regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. In the Elizabethan sonnet, iambic pentameter is the most common form. Iambic meter is the use of one unstressed syllable followed by one that is stressed. These pairs of syllables are collectively known as feet. Other forms may use a dactylic meter, like the traditional elegy.


Another characteristic of lyric poetry is the use of emotion in the poems. In its origins, ancient Greek poets such as Sappho wrote lyric poetry about love. Often the subject of sonnets is love, both Elizabethan and Petrarchan. The poetry form of elegy is a lament on a person's death and the ode is a statement of adoration. Despite the many forms of lyric poetry, they are almost always emotive.

(Video) types of lyric poetry

Think of these characteristics when reading poetry. Can the poem you are reading be considered lyric?

Lyric poetry: types and examples

As mentioned previously, lyric poetry encompasses many forms. Each of these forms have their own set of rules. There are so many different forms of lyric poetry, here we will look at the more common of these types and their features.


Traditional sonnets consist of 14 lines. The two most common forms of the sonnet are the Petrarchan and the Elizabethan. Traditional sonnets are always in the first person are often on the subject of love. The Petrarchan sonnet's 14 lines are split into two stanzas, an octave and a sestet. The Elizabethan sonnet is split into 3 quatrains with a couplet at the end. An example of the Elizabethan sonnet is William Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 18' (1609). A famous example of the Petrarchan sonnet is 'When I Consider How My Light is Spent' (1673) by John Milton.

A quatrain is a stanza or whole poem that is made up of four lines.


Odes are a longer form of lyric poetry that expresses adoration. The object of the speaker's adoration can be nature, an object or a person. Odes do not follow formal rules, although they often use refrains or repetition. The poetry form of the ode dates back to ancient Greece with Pinder being a notable poet. A famous example of the ode poetry form is John Keat's 'Ode to a nightingale' (1819).

(Video) Introduction to Lyric Poetry


Elegy was traditionally a short poem named after its meter, the elegiac meter. The elegiac meter would use alternating lines of dactylic hexameter and pentameter. Since the 16th century however, elegy became a term for mournful poems that lament someone or something's death. An example of the contemporary elegy is American poet Walt Whitman's 'O Captain! My Captain!' (1865).

Dactylic hexameter is a type of meter that consists of three syllables, the first stressed and the following two unstressed. Hexameter is each line containing six feet. A line of dactylic hexameter would contain 18 syllables.

Pentameter is a form of meter that consists of five feet (syllables). Each foot could contain 1, 2 or 3 syllables. For example; Iambic feet contain two syllables each and dactylic feet contain three.


Villanelles are poems containing 19 lines dived into five tercets and one quatrain, usually at the end.

They have a strict rhyme scheme of ABA for the tercets and ABAA for the final quatrain. A famous example of the villanelle form is Dylan Thomas' 'Do Not Go Gentle into that Goodnight' (1951).

Dramatic Monologue

A dramatic form of lyric poetry where the speaker addresses an audience. The speaker's audience never responds. Although presented in a dramatic form the poem still presents the speaker's innermost thoughts. Dramatic monologues do not usually follow formal rules. A famous example of a dramatic monologue is 'My Last Duchess' (1842) by Robert Browning.

(Video) What is Lyric || Lyrical Poems || Types of Poetry in English Literature

Lyric poetry: example

Here we can analyse a famous lyric poem, looking at its form and meaning and the lyric characteristics shown.

'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' (1951) - Dylan Thomas

The poem, by Dylan Thomas, was first published in 1951. The poem is seen as a call to those who are sick or elderly to be brave in the face of death. This is shown in the repetition of the line "Rage, rage against the dying of the light.". The poem is dedicated to Thomas' father and the speaker references his father in the opening line of the final verse. The speaker acknowledges that death is inevitable. However, the speaker wishes to see defiance in the face of death. Rather than quietly going "gentle into that good night."

'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' is a famous example of a villanelle poem. Villanelle poems have a very strict form. They have a specific number of stanzas and a particular rhyme scheme. If you can read the poem you can see that it follows these rules. You can see that the five tercets follow the ABA rhyme scheme. The words will always rhyme with either night or light. This is because the final line of each stanza is a refrain. A refrain is a repeated line and is often used in villanelle poems, giving them a song-like quality.

The poem also uses iambic pentameter for almost its entirety. Only the refrain starting "Rage, rage..." is not in iambic meter, because of the repetition of 'rage'. If we look at the characteristics of lyric poetry we can see why 'Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night' can be considered lyric. The poem is narrated in the first person. It is quite short, consisting of 19 lines. The poem's use of a refrain makes it song-like. The poem uses meter and its subject of death is highly emotive. 'Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night' has all the characteristics of a lyric poem.

Lyric poetry - Key takeaways

  • Lyric poetry derived from ancient Greece, where poems were accompanied by music.
  • The word lyric is taken from the name of the ancient Greek instrument, the lyre.
  • Lyric poetry is a short poetic form where the speaker expresses their feelings and emotions.
  • There are many types of lyric poetry, including the sonnet, the ode and the elegy.
  • Lyric poems are usually told in the first person.
(Video) Forms of poetry: The Lyric: kinds of lyric


What are the 3 major types of poetry? ›

Types of Poetry
  • The three main kinds are lyric, narrative, and dramatic.
  • Lyric poetry is the most common type and includes haiku, ode, elegy, and limerick.
  • Narrative poetry tells a story. ...
  • Dramatic poetry lets the poems characters tell the story.
Oct 25, 2016

What are the types of poetry and explain? ›

Different Types of Poetry

The world of poetry is vast. From rhyme and meter to rhyme and imagery, you can find a little bit of everything in this writing genre. However, when you are learning about poems, a few different ones stick out. Popular poetry types include haiku, free verse, sonnets, and acrostic poems.

What is the 7 elements of poetry? ›

These elements may include, voice, diction, imagery, figures of speech, symbolism and allegory, syntax, sound, rhythm and meter, and structure.

What are 4 line poems called? ›

In poetry, a quatrain is a verse with four lines. Quatrains are popular in poetry because they are compatible with different rhyme schemes and rhythmic patterns.

What is 5 line poetry called? ›

A quintain or pentastich is any poetic form containing five lines. Examples include the tanka, the cinquain, the quintilla, Shakespeare's Sonnet 99, and the limerick.

What are the big 6 in poetry? ›

In English literature, the key figures of the Romantic movement are considered to be the group of poets which is known as “Big Six”. In this group the poets are William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and the much older William Blake.

What is a 21 line poem called? ›

Structure. The pantoum is a form of poetry similar to a villanelle in that there are repeating lines throughout the poem.

What is the most popular type of poetry? ›

Sonnets are among the most popular forms of poetry. They are fourteen lines long, and typically centre around the topic of love. The rhyme scheme varies depending on the type of sonnet used. Shakespearen sonnets have three quatrains and an ending couplet.

What are 3 line poems called? ›

A poetic unit of three lines, rhymed or unrhymed.

What is a 28 line poem called? ›

Ballade. French. Line usually 8-10 syllables; stanza of 28 lines, divided into 3 octaves and 1 quatrain, called the envoy. The last line of each stanza is the refrain.

How many main types of poetry are there? ›

12 Different Types of Poems

Below is a list of some of the most common types of poetry, their main characteristics, and famous examples of each.

What poem types don't rhyme? ›

Free verse poetry is poetry that lacks a consistent rhyme scheme, metrical pattern, or musical form.

What are the 12 elements of poetry and their meaning? ›

The 12 elements of poetry include structure, form, speaker, sound devices, figurative language, rhyme, meter, theme, tone, mood, syntax, and diction. What is the significance of diction as an element of poetry? Diction is the poet's use of language, word choice, and syntax.

What are 5 7 5 poems called? ›

haiku, unrhymed poetic form consisting of 17 syllables arranged in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively.

What are the 2 classes of poetry? ›

Later aestheticians identified three major genres: epic poetry, lyric poetry, and dramatic poetry, treating comedy and tragedy as subgenres of dramatic poetry.

What are 7 lines in a poem called? ›

Septet. A stanza with seven lines. This is sometimes called a “rhyme royal.”

What is a 2 line poem called? ›

A poem or stanza with one line is called a monostich, one with two lines is a couplet; with three, tercet or triplet; four, quatrain.

What is a 6 line poem called? ›

Sestet. A six-line stanza, or the final six lines of a 14-line Italian or Petrarchan sonnet. A sestet refers only to the final portion of a sonnet, otherwise the six-line stanza is known as a sexain.

What is a 8 line poem called? ›

An octave is a verse form consisting of eight lines of iambic pentameter (in English) or of hendecasyllables (in Italian). The most common rhyme scheme for an octave is ABBA ABBA.

What is a 11 line poem called? ›

Terza Rima A type of poetry consisting of 10 or 11 syllable lines arranged in three-line tercets.

What is a 10 line poem called? ›

The Dizain Stanza

The dizain derives its name from French literature. Dix-pronounced "diz" means "ten" in French. Thus, the dizain stanza form has 10 lines. As other stanza forms, it can stand alone as a complete poem.

What is a 16 line poem called? ›

A quatern is a 16-line poem made up of four quatrains (four-line stanzas) as opposed to other poetic forms that incorporate a sestet or tercet. The quatern poetic form rules are as follows: 1. Four 4-line stanzas: These stanzas written in verse.

What is a poem with 6 syllables per line called? ›

In the accentual-syllabic verse of English, German, and other languages, however, the iambic trimeter is a meter consisting of three iambs (disyllabic units with rising stress) per line, making a line of six syllables.

What are the 8 basic elements of poetry? ›

8 Elements of Poetry
  • Form. Type of poem (see LL) ...
  • Diction (choice of words) ...
  • Organization (structure of words, punctuation, paragraphs, stanzas, ideas) ...
  • Selection of Detail. ...
  • Imagery (appeal to the senses) ...
  • Language Devices (ways the author uses language in structuring other elements) ...
  • Tone (author's attitude) ...
  • Speaker/POV.
Mar 8, 2012

What do you call a poem with 6 stanzas? ›

A sestain is a six line poem or repetitive unit of a poem of this format (musaddas), comparable to quatrain (Ruba'i in Persian and Arabic) which is a four line poem or a unit of a poem. There are many types of sestain with different rhyme schemes, for example AABBCC, ABABCC, AABCCB or AAABAB.

What are 4 line stanzas Called? ›

The structure of a stanza (also called a strophe or stave) is determined by the number of lines, the dominant metre, and the rhyme scheme. Thus, a stanza of four lines of iambic pentameter, rhyming abab, could be described as a quatrain.

What is a 3 6 9 poem? ›

A 3-6-9 is a poem that has three stanzas. Each stanza is formatted with three lines that have a syllable count of 3-6-9. So the first line has three syllables, the second line has six and the final line has nine syllables. Write about anything.

What is a poem without line breaks called? ›

Poetry Without Line Breaks

Some poets write in paragraph form rather than using line breaks. These types of poems are called prose poems because they take the appearance of prose writing.

What is the easiest type of poetry to write? ›

Acrostic poetry is considered one of the simpler forms of poetry and is commonly taught to younger students. Acrostic poems are generally quick and easy to write and open students' minds to the understanding that poetry is a non-conventional style of writing which doesn't always have to make perfect sense.

What is the most difficult form of poetry? ›

Also known as “the little sonnet,” the [décima] is one of the most complex forms of popular poetry, consisting of ten-line stanzas with a difficult rhyme scheme.

What is a stanza with 2 lines called? ›

About Stanza

However, there are names for stanzas of certain lengths: two-line stanzas are couplets; three-lines, tercets; four-lines, quatrains.

What is 1 stanza? ›

A stanza is a set of lines that are grouped together in a poem. Stanzas are separated from other stanzas in order to divide and organize a poem. In poetry, stanzas function similarly to how paragraphs function in prose. There are various types of stanzas that are typically defined by the number of lines in the stanza.

What is a verse in a poem called? ›

The basic building block of a poem is a verse known as a stanza. A stanza is a grouping of lines related to the same thought or topic, similar to a paragraph in prose. A stanza can be subdivided based on the number of lines it contains. For example, a couplet is a stanza with two lines.

What is a death poem called? ›

An elegy is a poem that reflects upon death or loss. Traditionally, it contains themes of mourning, loss, and reflection.

What do you call a poem with 9 syllables per line? ›

Today 9-syllable lines are extremely popular. They are iambic or choriambic.

What is it called when a poem has 11 syllables per line? ›

In poetry, a hendecasyllable (sometimes hendecasyllabic) is a line of eleven syllables.

What are the 3 characteristics of poetry? ›

Form - the arrangement of words, lines, verses, rhymes, and other features. Cadence - A rhythmic change in the inflection of sounds from words being spoken. Sometimes referred to the flow of words. Meter - A rhythm that continuously repeats a single basic pattern.

What are the 6 characteristics of poetry? ›

  • Rhyme. * Some poems use rhyming words to create a certain effect. ...
  • Rhythm. * Sometimes poets use repetition of sounds or patterns to create a musical effect in their poems. ...
  • Figurative Language. * Figurative language is often found in poetry. ...
  • Shape. * You can tell you are reading a poem based on the way it looks. ...
  • Mood.

How do you tell what type of poem it is? ›

Identifying form in poetry

Looking at the layout of a poem and listening for sound patterns – particularly rhyme and rhythm – helps to identify the form. Stanzas separate poems into groups of lines. One was of describing is stanzas is by saying how many lines it has: A tercet is a stanza that is three lines long.

What is the only word that doesn't rhyme? ›

There are many words that have no rhyme in the English language. "Orange" is only the most famous. Other words that have no rhyme include: silver, purple, month, ninth, pint, wolf, opus, dangerous, marathon and discombobulate.

What are the 3 types of rhyme scheme? ›

What Are the Different Types of Rhyming Poems?
  • Perfect rhyme. A rhyme where both words share the exact assonance and number of syllables. ...
  • Slant rhyme. A rhyme formed by words with similar, but not identical, assonance and/or the number of syllables. ...
  • Eye rhyme. ...
  • Masculine rhyme. ...
  • Feminine rhyme. ...
  • End rhymes.
Aug 16, 2021

What poetry has rhythm but not rhyme? ›

Blank verse” is a literary term that refers to poetry written in unrhymed but metered lines, almost always iambic pentameter.

What are the two most essential elements of poetry? ›

The structure and form of poetry are two important elements of poetry. How a poem looks on a page is its form and can have an effect on the meaning of a poem. A poem can have many different structures. The basic structure of a poem includes a poem's lines and stanzas.

What are the rules of poetry? ›

Poems are typically written in verses, rather than paragraphs. They can include complete sentences or incomplete sentences and often have a rhythm. Keep in mind, poems do not have to rhyme.

What are the 5 characteristics of poetry? ›

Here are the 4 characteristics of poetry: The four main things that set poetry apart from other creative forms of writing are structure, rhythm, form, and appeal. So if you want to learn all about poetry's characteristics, then this article is for you.

What is the 11 lines of poetry called? ›

Terza Rima A type of poetry consisting of 10 or 11 syllable lines arranged in three-line tercets.


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