Portrait of Walt Whitman

Portrait of Walt Whitman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Poetry is a broad term that includes many subtypes, such as sonnet, lyric, pastoral, ballad, song, ode, drama (which may be in either prose or poetry), epic, mock epic, and dramatic monologue. Essentially, poetry is a compressed and often highly emotional form of expression. Each word counts for more than in prose, and the basic arrangement is separate lines rather than paragraphs, although stanzas correspond to paragraphs, and cantos sometimes correspond to chapters. Poetry relies more heavily than prose on imagery, that is, on a comparative, allusive, suggestive form of expression that is applicable to a wide number of human situations. It is this compactness of expression, combined with the broadness of application, that makes poetry unique. Because poetry is so compact, the rhythms of poetic speech become  as vital as the emotions and ideas. Sometimes these rhythms are called the music of poetry. Some poetic forms are fairly free, particularly poetry written since the time of the american poet Walt Whitman. Other forms are carefully arranged and measured into definite, countable units, and often employ rhymes to affect the minds of the readers and listeners. 


      The topic material of poetry can be just about anything. Love, personal, meditations, psychological studies, reviews of folklore, attacks on conspicuous consumption, religious worship, friendship, funerary occasions, celebrations of the seasons, observations on life in the streets or in the home_these are just a few of the topics. While writers of narrative and drama confine themselves exclusively to their respective forms, the poet is free to select any form he or she wishes. Thus some of the best poetry is dramatic (for example, Shakespeare’s plays) and narrative (Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost).


Poetry is classified according to the age it belongs to. There are five ages that poetry: Elizabethan (Renaissance) and also known as the classical poetry, Metaphysical, Romantic, Victorian & Modern. 

Title page of the first edition of John Milton...

Title page of the first edition of John Milton’s “Paradise lost” from 1668. Transcription: Paradiſe loſt. A POEM IN TEN BOOKS. The Author J. M. Licenſed and Entred according to Order. LONDON Printed, and are to be ſold by Peter Parker under Creed Church neer Aldgate ; And by Robert Boulter at the Turks Head in Biſhopſgate-ſtreet ; And Matthias Walker , under St. Dunſtons Church in Fleet-ſtreet , 1668. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Classic and Romantic for the Romans of the second century A.D., Classic meant “a first-class author.” For the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it meant “a writer read in the classroom,”i.e., an ancient author, not necessarily first-class. Today it may not only mean “first-class” and “ancient”, but also “typical”, as when physicians speak of a classic case of measles. Romantic is from a medieval Latin adverb, romanice; scriber romance means to write in Lingua Romanica, a vernacular language derived from Latin. A tale written in the vernacular was a roman, and, because such a tale was frequently filled with unexpected improbable happenings, “romantic” came, by the middle of the seventeenth century, to mean “improbable.” In the eighteenth century the word’s meanings ranged from “silly” to “highly appealing to the imagination.”


   The two words, “classic” and “romantic” are now sometimes applied to contrasting attitudes: the classical mind delights in the probable or typical, the unified, static, the finite. The romantic mind delights in the improbable, the varied, the dynamic, the infinite. The contrast has sometimes been illustrated by comparing a greek temple with a gothic cathedral. T.S.Eliot, an avowed classicist, says in “The Function of Criticism” that the difference “seems to me rather the difference between the complete and the fragmentary, the adult and the immature, the orderly and the chaotic.”





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