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long before they occur with the profusion allowed in verse.”
Poetry may be divided into five principal species—the Lyric, the Pastoral, the Didactic, the Epic, and the Dramatic.
To classify existing poems is very difficult, since some poems will not readily take their place in any list, and others may be classed in several.
The Lyric Poem is an expression of some intense feeling, passion, or emotion. As its name denotes, it originally meant poetry intended to be sung to the accompaniment of the lyre, being either in its tone of feeling, or more commonly in its quick movement and vivacity, suitable for music. It is usually short, and is exemplified in the song, hymn, and ode.
The varieties of lyric poetry may be thus enumerated: (1) The Sacred Song or hymn.
(2) The Secular Song. To this class belong the war song, the political song, the patriotic song, the sentimental song, the comic song, the bacchanalian song, etc.
(3) The Ode, which is the loftiest embodiment of intense feeling, is not intended to be sung. Odes are of four principal kinds: Sacred, Heroic, Moral, and Amatory.
Sacred odes are sometimes called hymns; as Spenser's four hymns, on Love, Beauty, Heavenly Love, and Heavenly Beauty. These average nearly three hundred lines each. Milton's Ode on the Nativity is another example. Byron's Hebrew Melodies and Moore's Sacred Melodies contain pieces of great lyrical beauty.
Heroic odes celebrate the praises of heroes, and are mostly occupied with martial exploits. Of this class are Pindar's odes, in Greek, and Alexander's Feast, by Dryden. Lowell's Commemoration Ode should, perhaps, be mentioned also.
Moral odes express almost every sentiment suggested by friendship, humanity, art, patriotism, etc. Collins' ode The Passions, Gray's Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, and Pope's ode St. Cecilia, are examples of this class of composition.
Amatory odes are more generally known as Love Songs: these are numerous in all literatures. Anacreon among the Greeks, and Horace among the Romans, were the most successful writers of this kind of verse among the ancients. Thomas Moore and Robert Burns have contributed much to this branch of our literature. Coleridge's Genevieve and Byron's Maid of Athens are illustrations.
The Elegy.—This variety may be classed under the head of lyric poetry. Elegiac poetry is usually of a sad and mournful kind, celebrating the virtues of the dead. Gray's Elegy in a Country Church - Yard, Shelley's Adonais
on the death of Keats, Milton's Lycidas-on the death of his friend Edmund King, Tennyson's In Memoriam -on the death of his beloved friend Arthur Henry Hallam, are illustrations.
Pastoral Poetry means strictly that which celebrates shepherd or rustic life; such were the themes of the early pastoral poets, Theocritus among the Greeks and Virgil among the Romans. But modern authors of this verse have used a wider range, and the term Pastoral is now applied
to any poem that deals with the objects of external nature. No poetry is better understood or appreciated, and none is more popular. Flower and leaf and bird and insect and beast of the field, the scenery of mountain and valley and rivers and lakes and clouds, rural life in all its changes, nature in all her moods, are subjects of pastoral poetry.
The pastoral poems of Virgil, called by him Eclogues, though graceful and musical, are inferior in excellence to the Idyls of Theocritus. From these exquisite Idyls arose the term idyllic, which is sometimes applied to pastoral poetry. The poetry of Burns bears the true pastoral stamp; his Cotter's Saturday Night is a fine example. Tennyson's Idyls of the King, Allan Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd, Pope's Pastorals, Shenstone's Ballad in four parts, on Absence, Hope, Solitude, and Disappointment, are further illustrations of this kind of verse.
The Didactic Poem seeks to teach some moral, philosophical, or literary truth. As it directly aims to teach, it is less purely poetical than the other kinds of verse. Didactic poems are often dry and prosaic, as compared with other kinds of poetical composition; but many of them are full of interest, and fitted to lift us to nobler thought and life. Considered as essays in verse, they are among the finest compositions in our language. They are on every subject. Some examples are: Wordsworth's Excursion, Pope's Essay on Criticism and Essay on Man, Young's Night Thoughts, Pollok's Course of Time, Tupper's Proverbial Philosophy, Thomson's Seasons, Campbell's Pleasures of Hope, and Cowper's Task. The Hind and Panther of Dryden is the earliest didactic poem in the language.
Satirical Poetry.-Allied to the didactic poem is the satire, or satirical poem. To this species of poetry the didactic has the same relation which the schools of a country have to its courts of justice. One aims at forming virtue, and imparting wisdom; the other at scourging vice and exposing folly. Satirical poetry is divisible into three classes-Moral, Personal, and Political. Moral satires are those satires on contemporary morals and manners; of these Pope's Moral Essays and the satires of Horace furnish excellent examples. Personal satires are mainly directed against individuals, as Dryden's Mac Flecknoe, which is an attack on a rival dramatist, Byron's English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, which ridicules nearly all the poets of the author's day, and Pope's Dunciad, which vilifies all writers by whom. he had been attacked. Political satires are written in the interest of a party in the state; the most famous instance is Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel; nearly equal in rank is Butler's Hudibras. Under the head of satire may, also, be placed Lowell's Fable for Critics.
Satirists, as a class, seldom attempt to inculcate positively what is good, or to recommend what is right and proper; they leave this task to moralists and public instructors.
The Epic Poem is a poetical recital of some great and heroic enterprise. The events are narrated by the hero or some participant in the scenes. The plot should be interesting and complicated; there should be many actors, many episodes, and the whole should be recounted in elevated language. The epic is the longest of all poetic compositions.
The leading forms of epic poetry are:
(1) The Grand Epic, which has for its subject some great complex action.
The number of grand epics is very limited Most civilized nations have one; few have more than one. The most celebrated are Homer's Iliad, Virgil's Æneid, Dante's Divine Comedy, and Milton's Paradise Lost. English literature possesses but the one great epic poem,Milton's Paradise Lost, a composition which, for grandeur of conception, artistic structure, careful, vigorous treatment, and nobleness of style, is unrivaled in our language. It places Milton as an epic poet, says Coleridge, above Homer and above Dante.
(2) The Metrical Romance, which is inferior in dignity and grandeur to the epic. It is a narrative of adventure, and has nearly every quality belonging to the epic, but has them in a less marked degree. Spenser's Faerie Queene is the highest specimen of this kind of composition; other examples are Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; The Lady of the Lake and Marmion by Sir Walter Scott; Longfellow's Evangeline ; Keats' Eve of St. Agnes, and Moore's Lalla Rookh.
(3) The Historical Poem, or Metrical History, which is a narrative of public events, extending over a period more or less prolonged of a nation's history. This species of poetry relies very much upon the story for its effect. Dryden's Annus Mirabilis belongs to this class. Akin to the historical poem, though in nature more strictly lyrical, are war poems, such as Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome, and Campbell's Hohenlinden and Battle of the Baltic. These, however, might also be given as examples of the Balladthe simplest kind of narrative poetry.