Types of Poetry.

If you like to read poetry, you may as well like to know more about it. Poetry can either be subjective or objective. In subjective poetry, the poet expresses his own feelings and reflects his thoughts. Whereas in objective poetry, the poet talks about other things other than himself – like external objects, sceneries, events and so on. Though poetry is classified as above, it doesn’t completely belong to one type. This is to say that even the most objective poetry may contain some of the poet’s feelings. Poetry is further divided into several types as follows.


This is of Greek origin and is a song often sung by a single person backed by a lyre in the ancient times. It carries a single emotion and is musical in composition. Later ages found that this form of poetry can be made musical just by the use of words without any music to back it. Vowels and consonants were arranged musically for this purpose. A lyric tends to be quite short for its effect is weakened by huge length. 


 It is also of Greek origin. The subject and treatment is serious and exalted. It often addresses something or someone. The opening lines either contain apostrophe appeal. Eg: Shelley’s ‘Ode to the west wind’ starts with ‘O wild west wind…”. There are two types of odes namely the Dorian or Pindaric ode and the Lesbian or Horatian ode. 


As everyone knows, sonnet is a short poem. It is divided into two – the Italian Sonnet and the English sonnet. The Italian or Petrarchan sonnet contains fourteen lines concerning one single feeling or idea. It is divided into two parts – the Octave (contains eight lines) and the Setset (contains six lines). At the end of the eight line, there is a Caesura (a pause) followed by a Volta (a turn in thought). When this form was adopted by the English, it was altered. The fourteen lines were divided into three quatrains (stanzas of four lines) with a couplet to end. This is the form practiced by Shakespeare. 


 Though this form bore a different meaning in older times, in modern connotation, it refers to a poem which takes up grim and doleful themes. It is often written in the memory of the dead but it can also take up other sorrowful subjects. There is another form called the Pastoral elegy in which the poet represents himself as a shepherd mourning the death of his friend. As the word ‘pastoral’ indicates, the setting and language are borrowed from countryside and country people.


 It is a long story told in verse with all the character, language, setting and treatment exalted. It often has a lofty theme and has divine interventions for most parts. The classical examples are Homer’s ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’. Mock Epic, as the name suggests, treats the most trivial theme in an epic manner. 


It can be considered as one of the oldest forms of poetry as it developed during the early stages of civilization. The ballad is a short story in verse containing simplest subjects and themes. It takes its subject from the external world and nothing of the poet is known through the ballad. It is an objective poetry.


It is a composition intending to attack a folly or vice. It attacks the sin and not the sinner. It is to create a light atmosphere even when it is scornful.  Some of the best English satirists were Dryden, Pope, and Byron.

This is just a basic introduction to the types of poetry. The study of poetry is exciting and engrossing. The book referred for the purpose of the article is ‘A Background to the Study of English Literature’ by B. Prasad.