You are on page 1of 6

Nikhita Sagar Professor Lauren Holt ENGL 1102 18 April 2013 Lyric is Timeless M. H.

Abrams describes lyric as ―any fairly short poem, consisting of the utterance by a single speaker, who expresses a state of mind or a process of perception, thought and feeling.‖ This speaker can muse in solitude or as in dramatic lyric, address another presence in a particular situation. Lyric is a feeling confessing itself to itself in moments of solitude by the poet. Its peculiarity lies in the poet’s ―utter unconsciousness of a listener‖ as Mill stated. In my opinion it is the most enduring form of self-expression. Lyric can be about anything: An event, an object, an emotion or anything else. It could describe anything but what sets it apart from all other forms of literature is its eternal quality. Some might argue that all other forms of literature are read through time and are thus timeless but the difference between them and lyric is that one can always tell the setting or the time period in a prose or novel whereas lyric doesn’t need the basis of a setting. It does not provide an explanation, judgment or narrative; what it does provide is feeling, alone and without histories or characters Lyric is almost better described as a moment. When sitting in a park on a warm summer afternoon watching leaves on a tree flutter in the wind, that moment isn’t lyric. It isn’t even lyric after you write it in your journal creating literary art out of the memory. It becomes lyrical precisely when it evokes an emotion. Whether that is when the writer reads it after writing it, or

when another reader shares the experience—along with his or her own emotions and images. The experience of reading poetry makes it timeless for the reader. In Robert Frost’s poem ―The Road not Taken‖ he writes, ―Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and II took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.‖ His lyric provides a revelation of the feeling of dilemma in the human psyche. The few lines provide a further understanding of an elemental truth regarding choices made at every stage of life. We don’t know the outcome of the decisions we take in life when we take them. He describes the human tendency of taking risks. Most poetry manages to evoke a sense of common understanding between the poet and the reader. They give the reader better insight and understanding of hypothetical situations and thus manage to evoke emotion. Lyrics are sometimes a form of escapism for the reader. They let you live next to them, there is a sense of intimacy in lyrics that is missing in one’s daily life. Today, we get the voicemail, the bank teller separated by glass, the text messages – lyrics or poems give us access to someone else’s life. They let the reader put on a mask and inhabit the subject’s position in the poem. Lyric unites the readers and the poets in a common feeling. On reading lyrics a shared understanding is instilled between the reader and the poet. The reader is allowed to look into another mind intimately which provides a feeling of compassion for them. William Wordsworth defined lyric as the ―spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings‖. This is true for both the reader and the writer. Lyrics package a set of feelings in a few lines.

Without using characters or a storyline like in a novel lyric has the power to arouse empathy in the reader just by using wordplay on a few lines of words. That is the uniqueness of lyric that makes it timeless. ―The peculiar nature of lyric poetry is related, not to its verbal brevity, but to the brevity of the human behavior which it depicts. Its verbal brevity, in general, is a consequence of the brevity of its action.‖ – Olson 1964 Despite a lot of it being very brief, Emily Dickinson’s poetry manages to convey a perfect emotional description with only wordplay to support it. In her poem, “Hope” is the thing with feathers, she writes, "Hope" is the thing with feathers -That perches in the soul -And sings the tune without the words -And never stops -- at all –― In just in a few words she manages to describe the feeling of hope uplifting a person’s soul and never dying out. It is a package without much of a background that opens up a Pandora’s Box of emotions for the reader. Even though the poem was written somewhere in the 1800’s it still manages to endear to any reader today. Also, notice how it symbolizes feathers to describe something uplifting. And compares hope to a free bird. This is another feature of most lyrics. They describe emotions without laying them out but rather using symbols and metaphors in the package for the reader to decipher. Lyric is a maze of literature travelling through time to compel the reader to decode its meaning. It isn’t easy to explain, nor is it concrete as many would like it to be, but that is the beauty of lyric. Its definition comes with a variable, like n in an algebraic equation. That allows mathematicians to discover new knowledge and aspects that are

unreachable in an already solved equation. In fact, that’s the active feature—revelation. Lyric is the revealing variable in literary equations that evokes strong images, memories, or feelings to mind—bringing a conclusion that could not otherwise have been attained from regular literature. A good essay can be very educational and revealing but it has a predictable outcome. Lyric lacks that constraint. The evocative nature of lyric is unpredictable. It is the one breaking point where we become the malleable material that’s shaped, shaped by the hands and minds of words, rather than the other way around. The themes of all lyrics are usually universal. That is another fact that makes lyrics timeless. Particular themes of desire or love for example are undying. This characteristic makes lyric transcend geography and time. The readers of lyric are united in a common feeling even if they are separated by time, place or an individual experience. In one of his poems, Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes, ―Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve; And Hope without an object cannot live.‖ Exploring a similar theme, Emily Dickinson writes about hope saying, ―Of this electric Adjunct Not anything is known, But its unique momentum Embellish all we own‖ Both set of lyrics talk about the common theme of hope and are written at different parts of the world during different times. The century or setting doesn’t seem to matter as poetry is written

about human behavior. This quality makes the reader empathize with the text of the lyrics. It makes lyrics relatable for every generation. Blogger Jennifer Nix describes her experience of poetry changing her life during extreme illness. She was dying of kidney failure and before her surgery she wrote ,―These lines from ―The Correct Attitude‖ in Book of Longing spoke to me of the importance of not clinging too hard to life, or to anything, and became a mantra: ―you have the correct attitude / You don’t care if it ends / or if it goes on.‖ On the night before surgery, I calmed myself with these words. If I didn’t wake up, that was okay, too.‖ The poem gave her strength to weather the storm. She wrote, ―Once I invited poetry in, though, it was as if the entire human chorus had started looking out for me and on reading poetry I was exhilarated by the mélange of life and death, sex and longing. I'm always struck by how in tune the poems are with whatever is going on in my life or mind at that moment. I first marvel that some soul once created each poem, and then I’m amazed that these gifts find me without any effort of my own, via a conduit I’ve never met in person. I often dream of poems now, and wake thinking of some line.‖ This is how any lyric influences the reader. Lyric poems are almost like small packages of lines containing messages addressed to no one in particular. They are not meant to reach someone specific nor are they relevant only during a certain time period. They are written without targeting a definite age group of readers and they can be interpreted in any way by the reader. Lyrics manage to always form a connection between the reader and the writer. So whether it is Orpheus or lyrics of Coldplay, all lyrics are still significant today. That is the beauty of lyric which makes it eternal.

Works Cited  Von Hallberg, Robert (2009-05-15). Lyric Powers (p. 3). University Of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.   Brewster, Scott. Lyric. London: Routledge, 2009. Print. Hardy, Barbara Nathan. The Advantage of Lyric: Essays On Feeling in Poetry. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977. Print.  Perrin, Christine. ―Why Study Poetry, The Art of Poetry‖. By Classical Academic Press. May 17, 2012. Electronic.  Baker, David. "I'm Nobody": Lyric Poetry And The Problem Of People." Virginia Quarterly Review 83.1 (2007): 196-203. Academic Search Complete. Web.  Cole, Rachel. "Rethinking The Value Of Lyric Closure: Giorgio Agamben, Wallace Stevens, And The Ethics Of Satisfaction." PMLA: Publications Of The Modern Language Association Of America 126.2 (2011): 383. Web.  Nix, Jennifer. "Finding Poetry in Illness." Poetry Foundation, 9 May 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <>.