Comprehensive Essay on the Types of Poetry

2. The Sonnet:

A sonnet can be defined as a fourteen iambic pentameter lines lyric, mostly dealing with the theme of love. Each line in a sonnet has ten syllables. Each two successive syllables from a foot, in each foot the first syllable are accented and the second is unaccented.

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So far so, all sonnet, present uniformity. Depending on the structure and the rhymes used there are two types of sonnets. The first one is known as the Italian or Petrarchan. It is so named because this form was first used by Petrarch in the fourteenth century Italy. Dante and Petrarch widely adopted and popularized this form. The Italian sonnet has two parts or sections.

Lines one to eight form one section. This is called the octave. Lines nine to fourteen constitute what is known as the sestet. The two parts are marked as distinct from each other by the use of strong caesura or punctuation mark like a semicolon, colon or full stop at the end of line 8. The rhyme scheme in the octave is abba, abba. In other words lines one, four, five and eight rhyme with each other and so do lines two, three, six and seven. The rhyme scheme in the sestet is cde, dce or some variation of it. The thought is expressed in the octave. The sestet expresses the consequence of the thought.

The other from of the sonnet is known as the English or the Shakespearean form. This form was introduced in England by Surrey and widely popularized by William Shakespeare. The Shakespearean sonnet has three quatrains and a couplet. A quatrain is a four-lined stanza.

A unit of two limbic pentameter lines rhyming with each other is called a couplet. The rhyme scheme in a Shakespearean sonnet is abab, cdcd, efef, and gg. Spenser composed sonnets in which he used the rhyme scheme abba, bcbc, cdcd, and ee. It is to be noticed that the Italian sonnet has five rhymes whereas a Shakespearean sonnet has seven rhymes.

The sonnet was introduced into English poetry during the Renaissance by Wyatt and Surrey. Since then the form has been used by poets in all ages of English literature with the only exception of he Augustans of the eighteenth century England. Though love was pre-eminently used as the theme in the sonnet to begin with later other themes like war, nature and so on were used.

3. The Ode:

An ode is an elaborate lyric expressing feeling of enthusiasm or exaltation. It is a poem addressed to and in praise of something. There are two types of ode-the Pindaric Ode and the Horetian Ode. The Pindaric Ode owes its name to the ancient Greek poet Pindar. His odes overflew with passion and were therefore irregular in pattern. Horatian Ode derives its title from Horace, an Italian classical poet.

Horatian odes are more regular and balanced than Pindaric odes. The Pindaric ode is also known as the Dorian ode. It was choric and was sung to the accompaniments of dance. It consisted of three parts, the Strophe, the Antistrophe and the Epode.

The Horatian ode was otherwise known as the Lesbian ode. It was simpler and consisted of a number of short stanzas, similar or uniform in length and arrangement. Both these forms have been limitated in English.

However, the genuine English ode has not been strictly bound by classical traditions. It has followed a course of its own in theme, style and pattern etc. It is either regular or irregular in its stanzaic pattern. The regular ode consists of a series of exactly similar stanzas. The odes of John Keats (Ode to Nightingale, Ode to the Gracian Urn, Ode to Psyche and to autumn) and P.B. Shelley (Ode to the West Wind) belong to this category. So does William Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality. Dryden’s A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day has a different arrangement. But all these odes have exalted themes and considerable length and are addressed directly to the person or the object they treat of.

4. The Elegy:

In Greek and Roman literature, the elegy was any poem composed in a special elegiac meter. In England, until the seventeenth century, the term was often applied to any poem of solemn meditation. Now the term refers to a formal and sustained poem of lament for the death of a particular person, such as Tennyson’s.

In Memoriam on the death of Arthur Hallam and W.H. Auden’s. “In Memonry of W.B. Yeats.” Sometimes the term is more broadly used for meditative poems, such as Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Pastoral Elegy represents both the mourner and the one he mourns. The most notable English pastoral elegies are Milton’s Lycidas, Shelley’s Adonais and Matthew Arnold’s Thyrsis. The pastoral elegists, from the Greeks through the Renaissance, developed elaborate conventions. The conventions are, as illustrated hereunder with reference to Lycidas are:

1. The lyric speaker begins by invoking the muses, and goes on to make frequent reference to other figures from classical mythology.

2. All nature joins in mourning the shepherd’s death.

3. The mourner charges with negligence the nymphs or other guardians of the dead shepherd.

4. There is a procession of appropriate mourners.

5. The poet raises questions about the justice of divine providence and adverts to the corrupt condition of his own times.

6. Post-Renaissance elegies often include an elaborate passage in which appropriate flowers are brought to decorate the hearse.

7. There is a closing consolation. In Christain elegies, the lyric reversal from grief and despair to joy and assurance occurs when the elegist suddenly realises that death in this world is the entry to a higher life.

In Milton and the other major writers the ancient rituals through considered as improbabilities by Samuel Johnson, are a source of strength. Some of the pastoral conventions continue to be manifest in Walt Whitman’s elegy on Lincoln.

5. The Epic:

The term epic or heroic poem is applied to a work that is

1. A long narrative poem on a great and serious subject,

2. Related in an elevated or grand style, and

3. Centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a tribe, a nation, or the human race.

The traditional epics or folk epics were shaped by a literary artist from historical and legendary materials which had developed in the oral traditions of his nation during a period of expansion and warfare. Homer’s the lliad and the Odyssey and the Anglo Saxon Beowulf are traditional or folk epics. The literary or secondary epics were composed by sophisticated craftsmen in deliberate imitation of the traditional form. Virgil’s The Aeneid and Milton’s Paradise Lost are examples of the literary epics.

Aristotle ranked the epic as second only to tragedy. The Renaissance critics ranked it as the highest genre of all. The literary epic is the most ambitious of poetic types, making immense demands on a poet’s knowledge, invention and the skill to sustain the scope, grandeur, and variety of a poem that tends to encompass the world of its day and a large portion of its learning. Literary epics are highly conventional poems commonly sharing the following features.

1. The hero is a figure of great national or even cosmic importance. In the lliad he is the Greek warrior Achilles, who is the son of Nereid, Thetis. Virgil’s Aeneas is the son of goddess Aphrodite. In Paradise Lost Adam represents the entire human race, or if we regard Christ as the hero. He is both God and man.

2. The setting of the poem is ample in scale, and may be worldwide, or even larger. Odysseus wanders over the Mediterranean basin (the whole of the world known to the author), and in Book XI he descends into the underworld. The scope of Paradise Lost is cosmic. It takes place on earth, in heaven and in hell.

3. The action involves superhuman deeds in battle, such as Achilles’ feats in the Trojan War, or a long and arduous journey intrepidly accomplished, such as the wanderings of Odysseus on his way back to his homeland, despite the opposition of some of the gods. Paradise Lost includes the war in heaven, the journey of Satan through chaos to discover the newly created world, and his desperately audacious attempt to outwit God by corrupting mankind, in which his success is ultimately frustrated by he sacrificial enterprise of Christ.

4. In these great actions the gods and other supernatural beings take an interest or an active part.

5. An epic poem is a ceremonial performance and is narrated in a ceremonial style which is deliberately distanced from ordinary speech and proportioned to the grandeur and formality of the heroic subject matter and epic architecture.

6. The Ballard:

The popular ballad or folk ballad refers to a song, transmitted orally, which tells a story. Probably the original version was composed by a single author, but he is unknown. Since the singer who learns the ballad by word of mouth is apt to introduce changes in both the text and the tune, a popular ballad exists in variant forms. The popular ballad is dramatic and impersonal. The narrator begins with the climatic episode, tells the story tersely, by means of action and dialogue and tells it without expressing his personal, attitudes or feelings. The most common stanza form is a quatrain.

A literary ballad is a narrative poem written by a learned poet in deliberate imitation of the form and spirit of the popular ballad. Some of the greatest of these were composed in the Romantic period. Coleridge Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Scott’s Proud Maisie, Lonchinvar and Keats’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci are examples of the literary ballad.

Besides these there are many other types of verse compositions like the dirge, the mock-epic and the satire etc. A thorough discussion of all such forms would demand a wider canvas than what we can afford in these pages. A reader interested in a thorough study of the various types of poetry can study books on literary forms.