Monday, October 27, 2014

What is a lyric ?

The Greeks defined a lyric as a song to be sung to the accompaniment of a lyre (lyra). A song is still called a lyric (the songs in a musical are known as lyrics) but we also use the term loosely to describe a particular kind of poem in order to distinguish it from narrative or dramatic verse of any kind.
A lyric is usually fairly short, not often longer than fifty or sixty lines, and often only between a dozen and thirty lines; and it usually expresses the feelings and thoughts of a single speaker (not necessarily the poet himself) in a personal and subjective fashion. The range and variety of lyric verse is immense, and lyric poetry, which is to be found in most literatures, comprises the bulk of all poetry.
Probably the earliest lyric poetry is Egyptian (c. 2600 BC). The Pyramid texts of this period reveal examples of the funeral song (a kind of elegy), the song of praise to the king (a type of ode), and an invocation to the gods (a form of hymn). Inscriptions on tombs of the same period include the songs of shepherds and fishermen. Later works (C. 1550 BC) include a love-song and an epitaph .
Apart from some Hebrew lyric poetry, the most memorable contribution in ancient times came from the Greeks. Like the Egyptian and Hebrew, the Greek lyric originated in religious ceremonial. Greek lyrics were sung or chanted, sometimes to the accompaniment of a dance. The dithyramb was originally sung and then took on the shape of a formal dance. These dithyrambic rhythms were probably the prototypes of the ode , or song of celebration (with divisions of strophe and antistrophe), which Pindar and Sophocles, among others, were to write.