Poetry Discussions, Part 3: Lyric Poems

Note from Erin:  After a technological misunderstanding, Pat has returned to lead more poetry discussions! Thank you, Pat! End note.

Welcome to the third in our series of poetry blogs.  Our first week we read and analyzed several famous sonnets.  Our second week we did the same with famous odes.  This week we’re taking a look at lyric poems.

Lyric poems are a little difficult to define, because most critics have differing definitions of what a lyric poem is.  Therefore, I’m going to try to combine all of them and come up with my own definition.  A lyric poem is any poem that follows a specific pattern, and it may, or may not rhyme.

It is usually pretty easy to pick out the pattern of a lyrical poem, as is the case with these famous poets.  As you read these poems, try to identify the tropes, or devices, used by each.  Enjoy!

My Life Had Stood
By Emily Dickinson

My life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
In Corners – till a Day
The Owner passed – identified –
And carried Me away –

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe –
And every time I speak for Him –
The Mountains straight reply –

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through –

And when at Night – Our good Day done –
I guard My Master’s Head –
‘Tis better than the Eider-Duck’s
Deep Pillow – to have shared –

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –
None stir the second time –
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –
Or an emphatic Thumb –

Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die –

The Clod and the Pebble
By William Blake

“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”

So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

“Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s respite.”

By Christina Rossetti

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet:
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.


22 thoughts on “Poetry Discussions, Part 3: Lyric Poems

  1. Just a quick note for you, Erin – I put the poem by Dickinson in there just for your hubby. I thought he might actually enjoy reading that one, since it’s all about a hunting rifle.

    • LOL, I’ll have to show it to him and see what he thinks!

      I’m curious about all the dashes in Dickinson’s poems. Is it to emphasize the pattern? Or does she have something against commas? I can’t decide if I like the format or not. As for the poem itself, never thought to consider the POV of a gun. The last two lines are my favorite.

      Following in the tradition of odd POVs, the clod vs the pebble! It makes me wonder why the trodden clod would be more optimistic about love than the stout pebble.

      My favorite of the three is the Rossetti poem, which I think I’ve read before. Though again I can’t seem to get past the punctuation. Why is she using colons in those places? Sorry, I know I’m totally missing the whole point of poetry. It’s the little things that kill me. *headdesk*

      • Dickinson never published her poetry. I don’t even remember if she had any education. That might account for her uses of the dashes. I’m not an expert on her. What I do know is that almost all of her poems have them. The last two lines make the poem for me. When I first read it, I thought she was using the POV of the gun as a metaphor for her life, but then comes that last, very powerful, stanza, which shattered that thought.

        Blake is one of my favorite poets. I love how he can twist things around to make a remarkable point. The clod views love that way because he’s a giver. The pebble is a taker, living in a comfortable life, so of course it would view love as selfish.

        The Rosetti poem is my favorite of the three as well. Her poetry tends to be sad, and sometimes dark.

      • Is this why I’m paying you big bucks?? LOL!

        Personification with the clod and pebble as well.

        What about tropes in “Song?”

  2. Here I am (sorry, Uncle Pat – I really have read and enjoyed your blogs!), so look out! 😀

    First of all, reading all these forms really makes me want to write some new forms, so thanks for that.

    Second of all, I’ve loved all of the poems you’ve chosen, Uncle Pat. I think that this week’s series is my favorite so far.

    I admit the dashes confused me, but, oh, well. Confusion makes us curious. Upon reading this poem the first time, I put it into terms of a man/woman having a great future (“loaded gun”) and being taken from Earth to join the Almighty, but it was pretty confusing that way. Some parts make sense, but telling the POV of a gun works better, LOL. I don’t know that I’d usually enjoy that, but it was rather nice this time. The last stanza could easily be qualified as earth-shaking. Awesome.

    I can see why Blake is your favorite poem – wouldn’t mind seeing some of your favorites by him before exploring myself. I like how it sinks in after the last line how those that work for love and always give receive love back much more than those that take and take and drown in selfish love. It’s sad in that aspect, that those that want love but can’t work for it end up miserable instead, but who knows what poem can change a person. 🙂

    I loooooooved this one – definitely the best of this batch, in my humble opinion. 😉 Right when I read it, it reminded me of a song (the words of a poem) that the choir sang this year, called “Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye. It talks about how the deceased one is not in her grave, but in the wind that blows, the gentle rush of birds in flight, the stars that shine. I guess it’s on the same track, sort of. 🙂 This may appear daft and disappoint you, but, as an interpretation online communicates, is the woman really saying that she doesn’t want the man to mourn after her because she’s indifferent to him? I know it’s sad, but it’s even sadder if it’s true. Love is pain?… Someone needs to take the reigns here, *heh heh*, please.

    Rambled enough. End comment. 🙂

    • Vicki!! *tackle-hugs* Thank goodness you showed up to help me!!

      In “Song,” I can’t tell if she’s indifferent or not. As much as I love that poem, the last two lines confuse me: by accident she may remember or forget? What does that mean??

    • Okay, taking the reigns (and probably falling right off the horse onto my rear) regarding Rosetti.

      I think she definitely loves the man and IS NOT indifferent towards him. I think the entire poems shows her love for him.

      In her death, she doesn’t want to cause him pain. She wants him to remember that she’ll be ‘dreaming through the twilight’ even though she cannot feel the rain or hear the nightingale. She wants him, instead of mourning, to be alive (the green grass), but also to nourish her memory (as the dew and rain) – to remember all the good times; but also to forget what should be forgotten.

      At first glance, this is a sad poem. But on closer reflection, it’s a very unselfish poem, filled with hope and a sort of joy.

  3. The two lines “And dreaming through the twilight/ That doth not rise nor set” lend me to believe that she means that it’s up to her subconscious whether she dreams/remembers him or not. What do you think?

    • What is the subconscious of a dead person? The soul? Hmm . . . interesting. Maybe she means that we humans cannot predict what we will be thinking about during the eternal twilight?

      Ooh, thanks for helping jump start my brain, Vicki!

  4. Anytime. 🙂 I guess it’s all up to interpretation – that’s what I love about poetry. It can be anything to anyone. Anyone can enjoy a good poem. 🙂

    Hey, Uncle Pat, I’m having trouble with tropes too. Could you maybe go over them again?

  5. Sorry I wasn’t on here yesterday. Got too busy playing tennis with ‘someone’s’ husband, and then sitting in an easy chair bemoaning my old age.

    First off – Vicki, I agree with you completely! Interpretation is what I love about poetry.

    The major tropes of poetry are; Metaphor (comparing one thing to another); Metonymy (using a characteristic to represent something, or vice versa); Synechdoche (using a part to represent the whole); personification (giving human characteristics to things that aren’t human); irony (portraying the opposite of what is written in a facetious way).

    I personally think that Rosetti uses both metaphor and metonymy. But I want to see if you can tell where.

    “Dreaming” is a typical poetic reference towards heaven, which is what I think she’s referring to here. Death is often referred to as sleeping. The person who has died then is referred to as dreaming. Plus, dreaming has a certain peaceful, joy-filled, atmosphere to it, which I think reflects somewhat what heaven will be like. But that’s just my take.

    • Okay, I’ll blame someone’s husband for distracting you from poetry! LOL. But today Vic and I were distracting each other, so we can hardly point fingers. 😀

      I think the scientist in me is interfering with my poetic side. I keep wanting a right or wrong answer. *headdesk*

      So, tropes in “Song” . . . she tells her dearest to “Be the green grass above me/With showers and dewdrops wet.” That’s maybe a metaphor. And as Pat already pointed out, “And dreaming through the twilight/That doth not rise nor set” could represent heaven and thus be metonymy.

      • Very good!. Also, ‘sing no sad songs’ and ‘plant thou no roses’ could be considered metonymy.

        See, even a logical scientist like you can grow to appreciate poetry. =)

      • That’s always the first step. First you appreciate it, then years later you understand it, then years later you write it.

        It’s been 20+ years since I first appreciated poetry, and I’m still mostly in the first step.

        But I think that’s yet another beautiful thing about poetry – it’s a lifelong love, with all the frustrations and joys that go with that.

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