What are Lyric Species?

Alexander Pearson
What are Lyric Species?

The lyrical species are the different subgenres that make up lyrical poetry. A lyric consists of a verse or poem that can be sung with the accompaniment of a musical instrument or that expresses an intense personal emotion with the style of a song.

In Ancient Times, these poems were generally accompanied by the lyre. Lyrical poetry contrasts with narrative and dramatic verses. Its intention is to express the thoughts and feelings of the poet.

Although it is still associated with musical accompaniment today, it also invokes a literary production that is read, not sung. This can represent the expression of a personal feeling, or be an alternative to expressive reading. Sometimes a poem is considered lyrical simply because it is short.


One of the most important lyrical species is the elegy. This type of poetry, which began as an ancient Greek metric form, is traditionally written as a lament for the death of a person..

It has a function similar to the epitaph, the ode or the eulogy. However, it differs from them because the epitaph is very short, the ode is used to exalt, and the eulogy is written more in the formal prose style..

In terms of its elements, a traditional elegy reflects three stages of mourning. First, the speaker expresses grief and pain through lamentation.

Second, praise and admiration are presented then praise and admiration in which the dead are idealized.

Finally, comfort and resignation are expressed.


… Ahead of time and almost in cut flower.

You would have seen the ivy cry blood

when the saddest water passed a whole

night watching a soulless helmet,

to a dying helmet on a rose

born in the mist that sleeps the mirrors of castles

at that hour when the driest tuberose remember their life

seeing the dead violets leave their boxes

And the lutes drown from cooing themselves.

How are there lights that so soon decree the agony of the swords

if you think that a lily is guarded by leaves that last much longer?

Living little and crying is the fate of the snow that mistakes its route.

In the south the cold bird is always cut almost in flower.

(Elegy to Garcilaso by Rafael Alberti)


The ode is another of the lyrical species of the poetic genre. In its definition, due to the fact of having a long history, there are several models.

Originally it served two models: the Greek and the Roman. The first is a praise poem about a public subject, such as athletes participating in the Olympics..

The second has the tendency to be more meditative. Over time, the praises spread from subjects of public life to every conceivable thing, from living creatures and inanimate objects to abstract concepts..


Thanks to the word

what thanks,

thank you thank you


how much this word

melts snow or iron.

The world seemed threatening

until soft

like feather


or sweet like sugar petal,

from lip to lip


Thank you,

big to full mouth

or whispering,

barely whispered,

and the being became a man again

and no window,

some clarity

entered the forest.

it was possible to sing under the leaves.

Thank you, you are the pill


the cutting oxides of contempt,

the light against the altar of hardness.

(Part of the Ode to Thanks by Pablo Neruda)


Sonnets were one of the most popular lyrical species in Shakespearean times. These poems have very particular characteristics: 14 verses, a strict rhyme scheme and written in iambic pentameter..

The latter is a poetic metric with 5 pairs of verses formed alternate syllables without accented and unstressed.

A sonnet can be divided into four stanzas. The first three contain four verses each and use an alternate rhyme scheme. The final stanza consists of only two lines that both rhyme.



The sin of loving me takes hold

of my eyes, of my soul and of me everything;

and for this sin there is no remedy

because in my heart it took root.

I think my face is the most beautiful,

my form, among the pure, the ideal;

and my value so high I think

that for me dominates all merit.

But when the mirror presents me,

just as I am, cracked by the years,

in the opposite direction my love I read

that loving each other being like this would be wicked.

It's you, another myself, that I praise,

painting my old age with your beauty.

(Part of Love Sonnets by William Shakespeare, version by Manuel Mujica Láinez)


  1. Jackson, V. and Prins, Y. (2014). The Lyric Theory Reader: A Critical Anthology. Maryland: JHU Press.
  2. Lyric. (2014, March 11). Encyclopædia Britannica. Recovered from britannica.com.
  3. Elegy: Poetic Form. (2014, February 20). Poets organization. Recovered from poets.org.
  4. Redmond, J. (2009). How to Write a Poem. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing.
  5. Jamieson, L. (2017, March 02). What Is a Sonnet? Thought Co. Recovered from thoughtco.com.

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