Lyric Poems

Hymn to Aphrodite

by Sappho

The ‘Hymn to Aphrodite’ by Sappho is an ancient lyric in which Sappho begs for Aphrodite’s help in managing her turbulent love life.

Sappho is one of the earliest known lyric poets, and her songs are not just lyric in name - they were meant to be sung along to the lyre for an audience. Thus, Sappho is one of the best examples of lyric poets in all of history, as her works served as the model for the development of lyric.

The Tables Turned

by William Wordsworth

In ‘The Tables Turned,’ Wordsworth invites us to break free from the constraints of modern society and rediscover the natural world’s beauty and wisdom.

This poem has strong rhyming throughout the poem, with excellent uses of punctuation and word length to keep the pace flowing evenly. In addition, the poem uses excellent wording to convey different emotions in different places in the poem. Both vital writing aspects are what make this poem an amazing lyric poem.

My Mother Would Be a Falconress

by Robert Duncan

‘My Mother Would Be a Falconress’ by Robert Duncan explores a son and mother’s relationship through the lens of a falcon breaking free from his handler.

'My Mother Would Be a Falconress' by Robert Duncan is a great example of a lyric poem, as it is centered around self-reflection, thought, and perception. Additionally, its use of repetition and occasional meter creates a musical feel and cadence as the temp changes with the speaker's emotions and actions.

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

by Emily Dickinson

‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’ by Emily Dickinson is a poem about hope. It is depicted through the famous metaphor of a bird.

This is one of Dickinson's most famous lyric poems. It heavily relies on emotion and imagery.

Bards of Passion and of Mirth

by John Keats

‘Bards of Passion and of Mirth’ by John Keats is one of the poet’s early odes. In it, Keats confirms that bards, or authors, have two souls, with one rising to heaven, and the other staying on earth.

'Bards of Passion and of Mirth' is a good example of lyric poetry in the Romantic period. While it is not the perfect textbook example of lyric, it has a musical rhythm, includes some components of introspection, and conveys the speaker's enthusiasm for literature and storytelling.

The Nightingale

by Philip Sidney

‘The Nightingale’ is a unique love-lyric that exploits the classical myth of Philomel to morph the personal rue of a lovelorn heart into a superb piece of poetry.

A typical Lyric contains musicality, emotional exuberance, mono dimension, continuity, and imagery. And Sidney’s poem perfectly serves the categories. The poem flows like a piece of music, It is mono-dimensional as the poet is the speaker. The base of the poem is love and it is continued from the first till the end of the poem.


by Jean Bleakney

Jean Bleakney’s ‘Consolidation’ is a deeply personal poem about the act of rearranging the cowry shells that the speaker and her children gathered in the past.

This lyrical piece is written from the perspective of a first-person speaker, who is the poet Jean Bleakney herself.

Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,’ is a translation of a Greek lyric poem in which the speaker explains that love constantly (and annoyingly) inhabits their heart.

'Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,' as an English translation of Anacreon's 'To the Swallow,' represents both Greek and English lyric poetry. As such, its musicality, rhyme, and introspective themes of love, make it an excellent example of lyric poetry. Additionally, Anacreon's poetry comprises some of the earliest known Greek lyrics, so we can see this poem as a precursor or forefather of lyric poetry.

Because I could not stop for Death

by Emily Dickinson

‘Because I could not stop for death,’ Dickinson’s best-known poem, is a depiction of one speaker’s journey into the afterlife with personified “Death” leading the way.

This is a famous lyric poem that expresses the speaker's experiences as she's escorted into the afterlife


by Gillian Clarke

 ‘Sunday’ by Gillian Clarke was inspired by the poet’s personal experience of attempting to enjoy a Sunday morning but then being reminded of all the suffering that’s going on in the world. 

The reader experiences the narrator's emotions towards the news they encounter first hand, making it all the more impactful.

“Take me anywhere” (from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

In “Take me anywhere, anywhere;” by Hilda Doolittle, the poet-speaker addresses a lover, expressing the way in which she takes refuge in their affection.

"Take me anywhere, anywhere;" is not your run-of-the-mill lyric poem. Unlike early lyric poetry, this poem is written in free verse and does not make use of meter. Still, that does not exclude it from the lyric genre, as it is a first-person poem with a rhythmical, semi-musical quality. However, it is not a good example of what to look for in lyric.

The Virgins

by Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott’s poem ‘The Virgins’ gives a holistic view of the life, economy, and culture of one of the Virgin Islands of the US, Saint Croix.

Written from the point of view of a lyrical first-person speaker, this poem is a native islander's commentary on the socio-economic scene of the Virgin Islands.

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

by Robert Duncan

‘Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow’ by Robert Duncan is often regarded as the poet’s best work. It analyzes the poet’s dream of a meadow while also exploring the new technique of projective verse.

‘Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow’ is a lyric since it is an intensely personal poem in which the poet reveals his dream and its hidden meaning. While it uses breath and syllable sound rather than meter to create musicality, there is a very peculiar, yet smooth flow to this poem.

The Victor Dog

by James Merrill

‘The Victor Dog’ by James Merrill is a humorous, yet deep poem that puts the listener in the position of a dog listening to music, hearing but not understanding the complexity of its art.

'The Victor Dog' is a lyric poem that intentionally avoids the personal. Instead, the undefined speaker only inserts themself into the poem by asking a series of questions and asserting, at the end of the poem, that "Art is Art." Though very musical in sound and rhythm, the lack of persona makes it not a great example of lyric poetry.


by Hilda Doolittle

‘Circe’ by Hilda Doolittle is a poem that gives voice to Circe, a goddess and master of magical enchantments. Despite her power, she laments that she cannot control love.

Doolittle's lyricism in 'Circe' is actually quite remarkable. By experimenting with various, interesting meters in this poem, Doolittle creates music where there is none, focusing on sound to get the listener through the poem. As such, it should come as no surprise that this poem has a musical rendition in Scott Wheeler's "Turning Back."

Song of the Chattahoochee

by Sidney Lanier

‘Song of the Chattahoochee’ is a 19th century American poem that takes the perspective of the Chattahoochee river as it flows from northern Georgia to the sea.

'Song of the Chattahoochee' is a very musical lyric poem that uses rhyme and a unique combination of meters to create a rhythm that sounds like a river. However, it is not the best example of lyric poetry, as it, very intentionally, does not follow many of the conventions of traditional lyric.

A Muse of Water

by Carolyn Kizer

‘A Muse of Water’ by Carolyn Kizer is a unique poem that places women as a force of nature, like water, that men attempt to control, redirect, and oppress.

'A Muse of Water' is lyric, but it does not follow many of the conventions of traditional lyric poetry. It is bold and unique, which makes it an interesting poem to listen to, but it doesn't feel very musical, and it is more of a satire on lyric poetry.

The Quilting

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

‘The Quilting’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a very short love poem that reveals the speaker’s growing affection for a woman named Dolly.

'The Quilting' is a great brief example of lyric poetry. As this poem deals with internal emotions and perception while using rhyme to create a musical mood, this poem fits the lyric genre to a T. However, this short poem pales in comparison to Romantic lyric or even the longer lyric poems that Dunbar published.


by Kay Ryan

‘Bestiary’ by Kay Ryan is a short, cynical, and witty free verse poem in which the speaker explores the differences between what is good and what is best.

Kay Ryan's poems are almost all lyric, but the poet shies away from using personal pronouns in her poems. The speaker, instead, is objective and critical, looking at the poem from an unemotional vantage point. Thus, this poem is not an excellent example of lyric poetry, which usually uses the first-person "I" perspective.

The Hermit

by Alan Paton

‘The Hermit’ by Alan Paton suggests that it is impossible to find peace by locking out the pain, hunger, and emotions of others. Justice and peace are only possible through human connection and compromise.

'The Hermit' is primarily a lyric poem, as it focuses on the speaker's emotions and has a musical quality. However, this poem plays with the fusion of ballad and lyric, making it a common-people's lyric that tells a moralistic story. While it's not the best example of lyric poetry alone, it has its own interesting take on lyric form.

“Venice — Venus?” (#5 from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

“Venice — Venus?” by Hilda Doolittle is an insightful poem about Doolittle’s reasons for writing despite critiques. Doolittle reveals that her ultimate source of inspiration is divine.

"Venice — Venus?" is a free verse lyric, as it is told in the first person and uses rhythm to create a pace for the audience. However, it is not a great example of lyric, especially when considering that the quintessential lyric poems use meter and more strict structures than this poem.

Morning Swim

by Maxine Kumin

‘Morning Swim’ by Maxine Kumin is a thoughtful lyric poem that’s written in couplets. The poem engages with themes of God and Nature. 

This is a beautiful lyric-style poem that follows a single speaker as she goes for a morning swim while it's still dark and connects with God and nature. The poem is not well-known but it is a wonderful example of the form.

29 April 1989

by Sujata Bhatt

‘29 April 1989’ by Sujata Bhatt is a sweet, little piece about a mother’s sudden found pleasure in nature’s soggy musicality.

3 November 1984

by Sujata Bhatt

In ‘3 November 1984,’ Indian-English poet Sujata Bhatt shows how history plays a vital role in the process of writing poetry, and their interconnectedness.

A Broken Appointment

by Thomas Hardy

Hardy’s poetry focuses on themes such as disappointment, thwarted love, and pessimism. ‘A Broken Appointment’ provokes empathy towards the lyrical voice.

A Butterfly Talks

by Annette Wynne

‘A Butterfly Talks’ is a children’s poem written by the American poet Annette Wynne. In this short poem, the poet emphasizes the splendor of simple things in nature.

A Different History

by Sujata Bhatt

‘A Different History’ by Sujata Bhatt is not a raging piece of protest, rather it teaches how to revisit one’s cultural past in a curious, sensible way.

A Dream within a Dream

by Edgar Allan Poe

Published in 1849, ‘A Dream Within a Dream’ by Edgar Allan Poe examines the subtleties of time. His speaker delves into our perception of it and its effects.

A drop fell on the apple tree

by Emily Dickinson

‘A drop fell on the apple tree’ by Emily Dickinson is filled with joy. It describes, with Dickinson’s classic skill, images of the summer season and how a storm can influence it.

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