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Apollo with a lyre

As lyric ( ancient Greek λυρική (ποίησις) lyrike (poiesis) , German , the game for the Lyra belonging seal ' ) is referred to the seal in verse, the third literary genre in addition to the Epic and the drama represents. Lyric works are also called poems (or obsolete poems ).

Concept history

Alkaios and Sappho. Side A of an Attic red-figure Kalathos, around 470 BC From Akragas (Sicily).


The distinction between the literary genres of poetry, epic and drama goes back to Greek antiquity , in particular to the poetics of Aristotle . The regulatory term lyric (in the form of lyrical poetry ) has been used as a generic term since the 18th century, and since the 19th century it has also been used synonymously with poetry , poetry and (less often) poetry. The author of poetic texts formulates feelings and thoughts of a lyrical subject (see also lyrical self ) who can, but does not have to, correspond to the perspective of the author. Relationships between the subject and the world around it are often reflected and abstracted to a high degree. Lyrical texts are usually rich in rhetorical stylistic devices ( tropical and figures ,) rhythm , sometimes rhyme and, occasionally associated with music, which refers to its origin: In ancient Greece, the presentation of poetry in general from a was lyre or kithara accompanied .


The term “poem” was originally used to describe everything that was written ; in the word “poetry” something of this meaning has been preserved. Since around the 17th century, the term has only been used in today's sense for poetic texts belonging to the genre of poetry. The etymologically related term "geticht (e)" was used for the first time by Martin Opitz in his " Buch von der Deutsche Poeterey " published in 1624 as texts that are characterized by a poem.

An extensive (often multi-part) lyric work with possibly epic elements is called a long poem , a cyclical one is called a cycle of poems . A historical special form of the long poem is the poem .

Linguistic form criteria

Lyric texts differ linguistically and formally from epic and dramatic ones mainly in their brevity, their stricter linguistic form, their semantic density (expressiveness) and linguistic economy ( conciseness ), their subjectivity and their relation to a lyrical subject (e.g. a lyrical me , you or we). For this purpose, rhetorical and formal means of expression are used to a greater extent and on different levels (see for example rhyme , rhetorical figure , metaphor ), which often leads to an arrangement of words, word groups and sentences that deviates from the usual. The phonetic qualities of the language material used also play a special role, from simple assonances to forms of onomatopoeia ; In the 20th century, numerous forms of sound poetry developed that focus on this aspect. With individual authors of ancient and medieval lyric poetry, but above all in Baroque poetry and later in literary avant-garde of the 20th century, such as concrete poetry , the graphic form of the text is elevated to an independent, sometimes dominant formal element (see also Visual Poetry ).

As a rule, lyric texts also differ from those in prose in their external form ( verse , meter , stanza structure ). In the course of the history of the genre, however, this criterion lost its importance; poems without rhyme and with free rhythms can already be found in Goethe's poetry , which were then cultivated in France in the 19th century as vers libre . With the extensive renunciation of the rules of metrics and the orientation towards living speech, free verse approaches prose. The central distinguishing feature and formal element of lyrical texts ultimately remains the verse itself, which is created by deliberate, meaningful line breaks (e.g. in the form of the enjambment ) - in contrast to this, the line breaks in prose texts are purely technical, do not follow any logic inherent in the text and are for the constitution of the text's meaning irrelevant.

From the point of view of linguistically oriented lyric theories, a lyric text is understood as an over-structured text. This over-structuring relates to the levels of every linguistic utterance such as phonology , semantics or syntax . So rhymes are viewed as phonological over-structuring, metaphors as semantic, etc.

Aspects of form

Poetic texts come in numerous linguistic forms. At various levels of linguistic design, a distinction is made between the foot of verse ( anapaest , dactyl , iambus , trochaeus, etc.), meter ( alexandrines , blank verse , hexameter , pentameter, etc.), stanza form (odenstrophes such as alcaline stanza , asclepiadic stanza and sapphic stanza , chevy chase stanza , Distichon , Sestine , Stanze (with special forms such as Siciliane , Nonarime , Huitain , Spenserstrophe ), Terzine, etc.) and - formally differently strictly defined - poem forms ( ballad , elegy , epigram , Ghazel , Haiku and Senryū , hymn , song , ode , ritornello , Sonett , Villanelle and others).

In addition, there are poetic texts that result from dealing with language as material, such as linguistic collage and montage , forms of list poem and flarf , as well as forms that result from a certain organization of the text, such as anagram , lipogram and palindrome , acrostic , Picture series poem , role poem and forms of prose poem .

The 14 sonnets and a “master sonnet ” comprehensive form of the sonnet wreath go beyond the individual text . B. the Japanese chain poem . Poems that elude these and similar provisions often have an explicitly open form .

Historical poem forms that are hardly used today are u. a. Dithyrambos , canzone , madrigal and rondeau .

Genres and Subgenres

Thematically and / or stylistically specific genres and subgenres of poetry are among others. a. Confessional poetry , dinggedicht , children's poetry , love poetry , nature poetry and political poetry . In addition, there are numerous, mostly formally determined varieties of so-called nonsense poetry (e.g. Clerihew , Klapphornvers , Leberreim , Limerick , Wirtinnenverse ) and occasional poetry .

Historical lyrical genres include a. Trobadordichtung , Minnesang , Sang Spruchdichtung , Bukolik or Schäfer seal and Meistersang , as well as time-bound sub-genres, such as the macaronic language .

Cross-genre forms of bound speech include ballad , romance and haibun . Contemporary mixed forms can be found u. a. in spoken word . Also lyrics (all genres) and hip-hop and rap have in common with poetic lyrics.

History of poetry

Poetry is one of the early literary forms. Even if the earliest surviving lyrical texts were not understood as poems in the modern sense - the occurrence of rhyme or alliteration, a metric or a linguistic rhythm is sufficient to classify the Merseburg Spells or early religious texts as lyrical texts.

The current concept of poetry goes back to the ancient Greek culture; there the lyric was initially the song sung with the lyre , which had its “ seat in life ” in the choirs of ancient dramas and in religious cults . To this day, poetry has a certain relationship to music and song.

Antiquity and antiquity

European Middle Ages

In the vernacular Middle Ages , individual personalities particularly emerge in minstrels and poetry : the Provencal trobadours from the end of the 11th century, Heinrich von Veldeke , who is considered the first German-speaking poet, and Walther von der Vogelweide in the 12th century, Heinrich von Morungen and Frauenlob in the 13th century, Oswald von Wolkenstein in the - late medieval - 15th century. Medieval poetry was mainly sung and passed on orally; the sources, initially manuscripts and later also prints, on which today's knowledge of the poetry of the Middle Ages is based, often emerged long after the texts were written. Their original versions and the transformations to which they were subjected before they were written can only rarely be reconstructed by comparing sources. Spiritual poetry (e.g. the sequences ) and the Latin vagante poetry are often anonymously passed down in larger collections, such as the Carmina Burana (11th / 12th centuries). The Mastersingers of the late Middle Ages (including Hans Sachs , 16th century) staged their poetry as a learnable and testable syllable and tone craft.

Developments from the late Middle Ages

German-language poetry

English language poetry

In the old English epic Beowulf , a scope sings about the creation of the world. The poem The Battle of Maldon (Battle of Maldon) can already be dated to the 11th century. After the Christianization of England, numerous religious poems were written, with some elegies such as The Wanderer still making the upheavals of the time noticeable. Natural poems like The Seafarer incorporate pagan and Christian motifs. One of the first well-known lyricists is Cynewulf . After the conquest of England by Norman troops in 1066, Old English disappeared as a general literary language. The work Brut by the poet Layamon , written in Middle English, is one of the most important poems of the 13th century. It is not only interspersed with Anglo-Saxon vocabulary, but also marks the beginning of Arthur’s literary reception in England, which also includes the well-known poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight . Allegories and poems such as Piers Plowman , Patience and Pearl emerged in the 14th century .

As a form innovator, Geoffrey Chaucer replaced the Germanic alliteration with the end rhyme in the 15th century and adapted the originally French ballad verse to the English language. This rhyme royal consists of seven verses, iambic five-key words and the rhyme scheme [ababbcc]. The strong impact of Chaucer was evident in the large number of his imitators, among whom u. a. Count John Gower , John Lydgate and John Hoccleve . Even the Scottish King James I wrote poems in the style of Chaucer.

Sir Thomas Wyatt wrote the first sonnets in English in the 16th century . Sir Phillip Sidney's sonnet cycle Astrophel onstelle finally enforced the English sonnet already laid out in Wyatt's poetry. In addition, the Jesuit Robert Southwell wrote religious poems and Thomas Campion songs. The English sonnet poetry reached its climax with William Shakespeare . Other sonnet writers are Walter Raleigh , Michael Drayton and Samuel Daniel . Edmund Spenser wrote the verses The Shepheardes Calender and The Faerie Queene .

In the 17th century, John Donne's metaphysical poetry was distinguished from the rigid sonnet poetry of the English Renaissance . The Cavalier poets Ben Jonson , Richard Lovelace and Edmund Waller took on secular subjects. In the late 18th century, Thomas Gray and Robert Burns overcame the effects of the Restoration, whose poetry was mostly limited to the translation of Latin classics, and Burns, the later national poet of Scotland, in particular, paved the way for English Romanticism. The romanticism is represented by the poets William Blake , William Wordsworth , Samuel Taylor Coleridge , Percy Bysshe Shelley , Lord Byron and John Keats . Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning are counted to the Victorian era . The main exponent of symbolism was the Irishman William Butler Yeats , but later modern poets such as the Welsh Dylan Thomas can also partly be counted in this direction.

Notable American poets include a. Edgar Allan Poe , Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson in the 19th century, Wallace Stevens , E. E. Cummings , William Carlos Williams , Ezra Pound , Elizabeth Bishop , Sylvia Plath , Ann Sexton , Allen Ginsberg and John Ashbery in the 20th century. Poetry has also played an important role in popular culture since the 1960s, for example with John Lennon , Cat Stevens , Bob Dylan , Leonard Cohen and other songwriters .

French-language poetry

The French-language poetry begins with the Trouvèren in the 12th century, whose works were written in Old French. The Trobadordichtung in southern France was in Provencal language written. Marie de France used verse forms for her Lais , Chrétien de Troyes for his verse narratives Erec et Enide and Le Conte du Graal ou le Roman de Perceval . Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung , the authors of Le Roman de la Rose , used rhyming verses in pairs for their novel. In the 14th century Eustache Deschamps wrote over a thousand ballads, some of whom are even considered to be the founder of this form. His poetry includes traditional love poems, satires and sentences, as well as the poetics L'art de dictier et de fere chançons, ballades, virelais et rondeau . François Villon is considered the most important poet of the time . His main work, Le Testament , which contains sixteen ballads and three rondeaus , has also been received outside the French-speaking area for centuries. His poetry influenced the Pre-Raphaelites in the mid-19th century and the German-speaking naturalists in the 20th century, and later the Expressionists, and shaped casual poetry. Charles de Valois, duc d'Orléans , who took Villon into his castle and later had him thrown into dungeon for a mocking poem, wrote himself in English and French.

Important lyric poets of the Renaissance were Pierre de Ronsard and Joachim Du Bellay , François de Malherbe for French Classical and Jacques Delille for the Enlightenment . In the romance are Alphonse de Lamartine , Alfred de Musset and Victor Hugo of importance about the same time the "Parnassiens" wrote Theophile Gautier and Théodore de Banville . The great French poets of early modernism ( symbolism ) are Charles Baudelaire , Arthur Rimbaud , Paul Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarmé . Important poets at the beginning of the 20th century are Guillaume Apollinaire and Paul Valéry , later André Breton , Paul Éluard , Ivan Goll , Tristan Tzara , Yves Bonnefoy and others. at the

Greek poetry

The most important (new) Greek poets of the modern age were Konstantinos Kavafis , Kostis Palamas , Odysseas Elytis , Giorgios Seferis and Giannis Ritsos .

Italian poetry

In Italy the renaissance lyric poets Dante Alighieri (13th century) and Petrarch (14th century) were pioneering, other powerful poets were Michelangelo (15th century) and Torquato Tasso (16th century). Giacomo Leopardi (early 19th century) and Gabriele D'Annunzio (19th / 20th century) were each innovator of Italian poetry in their own way; In the 20th century, Giuseppe Ungaretti , Eugenio Montale and Andrea Zanzotto were  groundbreaking - also internationally.

Polish poetry

The national poet of Poland is Adam Mickiewicz (19th century). The most important Polish poets of the 20th century were Czesław Miłosz , Zbigniew Herbert , Tadeusz Różewicz and Wisława Szymborska ; Adam Zagajewski is an important contemporary poet .

Portuguese poetry

The national poet of Portugal is Luís de Camões (16th century), to whom the national holiday is dedicated; next to him is António Ferreira . Influential poets of the 19th century are the romantic Soares de Passos and the symbolist poets Antero de Quental and Cesário Verde . Fernando Pessoa is the most important voice in Portuguese poetry of the 20th century ; another world-class poet is Eugénio de Andrade .

Russian poetry

After the Russian national poets of the 19th century Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov , Sergei Jessenin , Osip Mandelstam , Anna Akhmatova , Marina Tsvetaeva , Boris Pasternak and Vladimir Mayakovsky were outstanding Russian poets in the first half of the 20th century . Velimir Chlebnikov and Alexei Krutschonych were decisive for the development of Russian futurism and subsequent avant-garde . In the second half of the 20th century, many important Russian poets lived outside the country, such as Joseph Brodsky in the USA and Alexeij Parschtschikov in Germany.

Slovenian poetry

France Prešeren is considered to be the Slovenian national poet; other important poets of the 19th century were Dragotinkette and Josip Murn . In the 20th century, Srečko Kosovel and Matej Bor should be mentioned, the most important poets were Dane Zajc and Tomaž Šalamun .

Spanish language poetry

Luis de Góngora and Francisco de Quevedo (16th / 17th centuries) are the most important poets of the Spanish Baroque . Important poets of the 20th century are u. a. Juan Ramón Jiménez , Antonio Machado and the poets of the Generación del 27 Ramón Gómez de la Serna , Rafael Alberti , Vicente Aleixandre , Jorge Guillén , Pedro Salinas , Miguel Hernández and Federico García Lorca .

Major Spanish-language poets in Chile are Pablo Neruda and Nicanor Parra . The most important Spanish-language poet in Mexico is Octavio Paz , the Peruvian César Vallejo .

Czech lyric

Important Czech poets of the 20th century include a. Jiří Wolker , Vítězslav Nezval , Konstantin Biebl , Jiří Orten , František Halas , Vladimír Holan , Jaroslav Seifert , Jan Skácel and Jiří Kolář , more recently a. a. Jáchym Topol and Petr Borkovec .

Japanese poetry

The general term for poem in Japanese is uta ( , also -ka or in combinations ), which also means “song”. Traditionally, a distinction is made between Japanese poems ( waka ) and Chinese poems ( kanshi ) . The main forms of the waka are the short poem, tanka , with 5-7-5-7-7 mores and the long poem, chōka , with 5-7-5-7-… -5-7-7 mors. The chain poem, Renga , emerged from the concatenation of Tanka, the opening verse of which with 5-7-7 moras later became the independent poem form haiku . The Senryū , which outside of Japan is the best-known form of Japanese poetry after the haiku, is similarly short .

Poems are already contained in the two oldest surviving Japanese works, the imperial chronicles Kojiki and Nihonshoki from 712 and 720 AD. In 759 AD, the first anthology of poems appeared with the Man'yōshū , which comprises almost 4,500 poems, some of which go back to the early 6th century AD. Although most of the works in Man'yōshū can be assigned to court poetry, there are also poems from the common people, such as soldier poems. From 905 with the Kokin-wakashū until 1439 with the Shinshokukokin-wakashū, the Japanese emperors had waka anthologies such as the collections from twenty-one eras compiled.

The most important poets up to the 12th century were referred to as " The Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry ". The most important poets of the Edo period (17th - 19th centuries) are Matsuo Bashō , Yosa Buson and Kobayashi Issa , while Hagiwara Sakutarō , Ishikawa Takuboku , Masaoka Shiki , Miyazawa Kenji , Ogiwara Seisensui , Takamura Kōtarō and Yosano Akiko are considered to be the most important poets of the Edo period are to be mentioned.

Persian poetry

Abū ʾl-Qāsim Firdausī (940-1020) is one of the most important Persian poets . The epic poem Shahnama ( Persian شاهنامه, DMG 'Šāhnāma , also Šāhnāmeh , "Book of Kings" or "Book of Kings") is considered the national epic of the Persian-speaking world . With almost 60,000 verses, it is more than twice as extensive as Homer's epics and more than six times as long as the Nibelungenlied . Another outstanding poet is Hafis (14th century), whose work inspired Goethe, among others, to write his West-Eastern Divan . In this way Hafez's poetry also had a lasting influence on European poetry. Other well-known classical poets are Saadi , Nezami , Rūmī and the mathematician Omar Chayyām . Forugh Farrochzad is considered one of the most famous Iranian poets of the 20th century .

Status of Poetry in Islam

In the Koran there is a separate, critical section dedicated to the old Arabic poets who mostly believe in fate. The last four verses of "The Poets" (asch-Schuʿara) called Sura 26 equate them with fortune tellers and aimless wanderers who are possessed by jinn or even Satan himself and who misuse their influence on tribal life. The Prophet Mohammed differentiates himself from them, but certifies (in the last two later revealed or added verses) at least some of them orthodoxy. The entire content of the sura is a summary of the most important prophetic stories of Islam , which are intended to comfort Muhammad and warn the unbelievers. After Mohammed, the Muslim-Arab poets enjoyed the highest protection among the Umayyads , provided they glorified the Quraish and helped to Arabize the non- Arabs. The main theme of the poetry before or until Mohammed was the search of the loving (and therefore wandering) poet for the lost beloved.


In the 21st century, poetry is of great importance worldwide, especially in Arabic literature , but also in many other cultures. In the German-speaking world , poetry never had such a status; in the 20th century, its reception tended to decline even further or to remain at a low level. Independently of this, new forms of lyric and poetic speech are constantly developing. B. on the Internet and in youth cultures ( spoken word , hip-hop , spoken song ). Poetry in the narrower sense has also changed profoundly in the past few decades and expanded in terms of its forms, means and objects. A resumption of metric and rhyming poetry is evident in the American New Formalism .


List of Wikipedia articles on poems

See also


Interpretations and materials

Introductions and further reading

Web links

Wiktionary: Poetry  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Poetry  - Quotes
Wikisource: Poetry collection  - sources and full texts
Wikisource: List of poems  - sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Dieter Burdorf: Introduction to poetry analysis . 3. Edition. JB Metzler, Stuttgart 2015, ISBN 978-3-476-02227-1 , pp. 2 .
  2. Jürgen Link : Poetry as a paradigm of the over-structured text . In: Helmut Brackert and Jörn Stückrath (eds.): Literary studies. Basic course 1 . Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg: 1978, p. 196 f .; 201 f .
  3. ^ Roman poetry - Latin / German , Ed .: Bernhard Kytzler , Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-15-008995-6
  4. Gottfried von Strasbourg : Tristan. Edited by Rüdiger Krohn, 3 volumes, Reclam, 3rd edition Stuttgart 1984, verse 4738 f. ("He inoculated first rîs in tiutscher tongues").
  5. The Lusiads . In: World Digital Library . 1800-1882. Retrieved August 31, 2013.