Define lyric poetry. What would cause certain Elizabethan poems to be called lyrics?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The term lyric poetry is used to define a poetic genre. The original use of the term dates back to ancient Greece, in which there were several types of poetry. Epics were long narrative poems recited by a rhapsode. Choral poetry was performed by a chorus of many people (often 50) at religious festivals or other important occasions. Dramatic poetry was another term for plays (all plays of the period were composed in verse). The term lyric poetry is used to refer both to a genre of poems performed by individuals focused on personal topics and a specific subgenre, accompanied by the lyre as opposed to the elegy, which was accompanied by the flute. Thus the term lyric acquired two senses which continue into modern English, that of words intended to be performed to music, and short personal poems as opposed to longer epics or poems about important religious or philosophical topics.

Many poets of the Elizabethan period wrote both types of lyrics; many of the short personal poems we read from that period may have been performed as songs, although others such as Shakespeare's sonnets were probably meant to be read. Elizabethan lyric often is concerned with themes of love, and other personal topics.

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