The main difference between narrative and lyric poetry is that narrative poetry focuses on narrating a story, whereas lyric poetry focuses on expressing the emotions and feelings of the poet.
We can classify poetry into three main categories as narrative poetry, lyric poetry, and dramatic poetry. In this article, we’ll look at narrative and lyric poetry and the difference between them. Narrative poetry includes poems that narrate stories through their verse, while lyric poetry includes highly musical poems that convey powerful emotions and feelings.
Key Areas Covered
Narrative Poetry, Lyric Poetry
What is Narrative Poetry
Narrative poetry is poetry that narrates a story through its verse. Just like a short story or novel, narrative poetry has a plot, characters, and a setting. Since it tells a story, from beginning to end, narrative poetry tends to be longer than other types of poetry. It also involves descriptions, dialogues, and action. Such poems are usually narrated by one narrator but may involve multiple characters. In addition, although some narrative poems are written in blank verse, most narrative poems have a rhyme scheme.
Narrative poetry has its roots in oral traditions. Before the invention of writing, people used elements like repetition and rhyme to make poems and stories more memorable. Such poems were easily passed down to generations because of these elements. Classics like Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales are notable examples of narrative poetry. Furthermore, narrative poems can have different styles. Ballads, epics, and Arthurian Romances are the three traditional forms of narrative poetry.
Examples of Narrative Poems
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?
The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
May’st hear the merry din.’
Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol
He did not wear his scarlet coat,
For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
And murdered in her bed.
He walked amongst the Trial Men
In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.
What is Lyric Poetry
Lyric poetry is a highly musical verse that conveys powerful emotions and feelings. Lyric poems often tend to be short. Historically, they were meant to be sung and set to music. Unlike narrative poetry, lyric poetry does not narrate a story. But it expresses the personal feelings of the poet. Lyric poetry includes a broad category of poems, including odes, elegies, and sonnets. Given below are some examples of lyric poetry.
Examples of Lyric Poetry
Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou, Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
William Wordsworth’s The World Is Too Much With Us
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
Difference Between Narrative and Lyric Poetry
Narrative poetry is poetry that narrates a story through its verse, while lyric poetry is a highly musical verse that conveys powerful emotions and feelings.
The main focus of narrative poetry is on narrating a story, while the main focus of lyric poetry is expressing the feelings and emotions of the speaker.
While narrative poems are long, lyric poems are short.
Ballads, epics, and Arthurian Romances are the three traditional forms of narrative poetry, whereas lyric poetry has many forms, including sonnets, odes, and elegies.
Narrative poetry and lyric poetry are two main forms of poetry. Narrative poetry is poetry that narrates a story through its verse, while lyric poetry is a highly musical verse that conveys powerful emotions and feelings. Therefore, the main difference between narrative and lyric poetry is their focus.
1. “Tragical Ballad 18th century” – Unknown author – Eighteenth Century Collections Online (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia