A lyric is a poetic description of a sensation, idea or emotion. Lyric poetry is written in verse form, using a poetic meter (as in the Bible, ‘The Book of Ruth’) to describe the flow of the writing. The majority of lyric poems do not tell a story, although there are some exceptions. “Go, Lovely Rose” by Robert Graves, is an example of a lyric poem, telling the story of a man who marries his much loved wife and lives happily ever after. “She said she would never leave me, But I told her I loved her too” is another example.
In the early nineteenth century, American poet and critic Dr. William Murray Hamilton wrote an article on “Lyrical Poetry”. He described it as a form of “aesthetic poetry”, one which glorifies the senses and its effects on the human mind. Lyric poetry has its roots in Romanticism, the philosophy which upholds the aesthetic value of beauty in art. In fact, Romanticism is a movement towards a form of poetry called lyric, which according to Hamilton was not a separate movement, but rather a continuation of other similar poetic forms. “Lyric poets delight in the attractive gaiety of fancy, the lovely harmonies of thought, and the amiable intercourse of sight and touch.”
According to Alexander Smith, an American academician of the late eighteen hundreds who was highly regarded for his ability to read and analyze popular literature, “The lyric artist, like the poet of tragedy, tries to evoke, by means of certain expressive words, those moods, feelings, or sensations, which inspire action.” In his study of Greek poetry, he found that the best lyric poems evoked such emotions as love, sorrow, hope, courage, and joy. He also believed that “the lyric heart was the language of the soul, and that the soul enjoyed the effects of its favorite songs.” After studying both Greek and English lyric works, Smith came to the conclusion that ” lyric poetry, though not essentially different from dramatic poetry, owed something to the former and owed something to the latter in the cultivation of a more natural and holistic tone.”