Lyrical Poems: Types & Examples

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  • 0:00 The Sense of the Moment
  • 0:50 Sonnet
  • 1:48 Ode
  • 2:38 Elegy
  • 3:32 Dramatic Monologue
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature and is completing a Ph.D. He has taught college English for 6 years.

From Shakespeare to Keats to Tennyson, many of the great masters of poetry have written short, non-narrative poems known as lyrics, which convey an emotion or image in carefully wrought language. We'll look at a few types and examples in this lesson.

The Sense of the Moment

'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?'

'Truth is beauty, beauty truth'

'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all'

Few other genres of writing can evoke more powerful images and moments of emotion than poetry, and in particular lyric poetry. Lyric poetry refers to a poem that is typically short and which does not tell a story, or in other words, is non-narrative. Many of the poems that people think of when they first hear the word 'poetry,' from Shakespeare's sonnets to John Keats' odes, are lyrical poems.

Lyric poetry can come in a lot of forms, but four of the most common types are the sonnet, ode, elegy, and dramatic monologue.


The sonnet is perhaps the most famous type of lyric poetry, thanks primarily to William Shakespeare's famous sonnets, including 'Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?' and 'My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun.' A sonnet is a 14-line poem with a very specific structure. Most sonnets written in English, also known as Shakespearean sonnets, are broken into three stanzas, or groups of lines. The first two are quartets, or four lines each, rhymed A-B-A-B, and the last is a sestet of six lines, rhymed A-B-A-B-C-C. Sonnets typically focus on topics such as love and the passage of time.

Most sonnets, including Shakespeare's, are written as part of a sequence of related poems. In addition to Shakespeare's, other famous sonnet sequences include Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella and Edmund Spenser's Amoretti.


After the sonnet, perhaps the next-best known type of lyric poetry is the ode. English odes were adapted from an ancient form used in Latin poetry. The ode is defined by two characteristics. First, there is its structure. An ode is typically divided into three stanzas: the strophe, which states the subject of the poem; the antistrophe, which responds to the strophe; and the epode, which brings them together. Second, the subject matter of the ode is typically to praise someone or something.

The most famous writer of odes in English is John Keats, who is known for his odes such as 'Ode on a Grecian Urn,' 'Ode to a Nightingale,' and 'To Autumn'. Other notable English odes are Percy Bysshe Shelley's 'Ode to the West Wind' and William Wordsworth's 'Hymn to Duty.'


An elegy is a poem written in mourning at the death of a person. Perhaps the most famous elegy in English is Alfred, Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam A.H.H., written after the death of the poet's close friend Alfred Henry Hallam. In the poem, Tennyson works through his grief at his friend's death and tries to find hope and carry on.

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