Kinds of Poetry: Narrative, Lyric, and Dramatic

Kinds of poetry: There are three great kinds of poetic writing: Narrative, Lyric, and Dramatic.

Narrative poetry

Narrative poetry tells a story with a plot, characters, and a setting.

 In its loftiest form is the epic, which deals with gods and heroes. Epic, majestic both in theme and style, is a long narrative poem about the feats of gods or heroes. Epics deal with legendary or historical events of national or universal significance, involving action of broad sweep and grandeur. Most epics deal with the exploits of a single individual, thereby giving unity to the composition. Typically, an epic includes several features: the introduction of supernatural forces that shape the action; conflict in the form of battles or other physical combat; and stylistic conventions such as an invocation to the Muse, a formal statement of the theme, long lists of the protagonists involved, and set speeches couched in elevated language. Commonplace details of everyday life may appear, but they serve as background for the story and are described in the same lofty style as the rest of the poem. The term epic is used in two senses. First, it is employed as a general name to cover all forms of narrative poetry except drama. But it is used more commonly to name that kind of narrative poetry of which Homer's Iliad is the noblest example. Of the many definitions, the following is among the simplest: ''A poem celebrating in stately verse the real or mythical achievements of great personages, heroes, or demigods. It is always long and dignified. In English literature we find but one poem truly deserving the name epic, Milton's Paradise Lost.

In its next elaborate form, with a suggestion of fairy lore, it appears as the theatrical romance. In still simpler form, it comprises the story of a life in ordinary circumstances and is generally termed metrical tale.

In briefest form, it is a single incident from a life and is called a ballad. It is a songlike narrative with stanzas and a refrain. Some of the most fascinating tales in all English literature are found in the form of ballads, which, as the name suggests, were originally short tales intended to be sung. In the eighteenth century when there was a revival of interest in earlier times, the ballads which had been composed and sung throughout England during the Middle Ages were collected and excited great interest because of their simplicity and wonderful dramatic power. They have received loving study ever since. Not a few of our modern poets have imitated these ancient models; but Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, best of these modern attempts, though a great poem, is inferior as a ballad to such originals as Sir Patrick Spens, or A Geste of Rohyn Hode. One of the best collections of English lyrics is Palgrave's Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics, a copy of which everyone should own. In this wonderful treasury are found many varieties. There is the ballad, which though properly classed with narrative poetry, is sometimes so touched with the tender emotion of the narrator that it becomes truly lyrical.

Examples of these four great classes are:

 Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the epic;

Spenser's Faerie Queene, the metrical romance;

Tennyson's Enoch Arden,the metrical tale;

Longfellow's Wreck of the Hesperus,the ballad.

These four types rise in diverging lines from the ballad, an incident in the life of an individual, to the epic, an expression of the countless experiences and ideals of a race.

Lyric poetry

In direct contrast to the story-telling forms of poetry thus far considered is the lyric, the nature of which it is quite necessary that the student understand clearly. We may read all of Shakespeare's plays without becoming a whit the wiser concerning the dramatist's personal joys and sorrows. Scott's Lady of the Lake acquaints the reader with Ellen Douglas, Roderick Dhu, James Fitz James, and other personages real or imaginary, but not, save through inference, with Sir Walter. Lyric poetry also falls into four classes: songs, elegies, odes, sonnets and express the feelings of a single speaker. Lyrics are the most common type of poem in modern literature.

Elegies and odes are elaborate in structure and weighty in object.

The former deal with death, death either in general or as applied to a particular individual; the latter are usually in praise of some person or thing.

The elegy, commonly defined as a "meditative poem of sorrowful theme, usually lamenting the dead,” is well represented by Milton’s Lycidas and Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. The ode, also meditative, differs from other forms in that its structure is complicated or irregular, and the feeling expressed more exalted. Wordsworth's Ode to Duty serves as an example.

Sonnets are confined to fourteen lines, and the idea is developed according to a prescribed scheme. Many of the best Lyrics are written in sonnet form—fourteen
Iambic pentameter lines with a definite rhyming scheme. This was a favorite form with Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth. Songs follow a musical pattern and deal with such a range of topics as love, war, loyalty, patriotism, friendship, nature, and deity.
Sacred songs are called hymns.

Dramatic poetry

Dramatic poetry falls into the two great classes of tragedy and comedy, supplemented by the minor variations of farce, masque, morality play, miracle play, mystery play, interlude, and opera. Dramatic poetry tells a story using a character’s own thoughts or spoken statement.


  1. Dear sir your material is so useful for me,sir if u dont mind please tell me how to make preparation for paper 2nd n 3rd bcoz syllabus is so wast and im confuse what to read?and howto read


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