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Martin, F. D., & Jacobus, L. A. (2018). The humanities through the arts. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Chapter 7

The Lyric

The  lyric , usually a poem, primarily reveals a limited but deep feeling about some thing or event. The lyric is often associated with the feelings of the poet, although it is not uncommon for poets to create narrators distinct from themselves and to explore hypothetical feelings, as in Tennyson’s “Ulysses.”

If we participate, we find ourselves caught up in the emotional situation of the lyric. It is usually revealed to us through a recounting of the circumstances the poet reflects on. T. S. Eliot speaks of an  objective correlative : an object that correlates with the poet’s feeling and helps express that feeling. Eliot has said that poets must find the image, situation, object, event, or person that “shall be the formula for that particular emotion” so that readers can comprehend it. This may be too narrow a view of the poet’s creative process, because poets can understand and interpret emotions without necessarily undergoing them. Otherwise, it would seem that Shakespeare, for example, and even Eliot would have blown up like overcompressed boilers if they had had to experience directly all the feelings they interpreted in their poems. But, in any case, it seems clear that the lyric has feeling—emotion, passion, or mood—as basic in its subject matter.

The word “lyric” implies a personal statement by an involved writer who feels deeply. In a limited sense, lyrics are poems to be sung to music. Most lyrics before the seventeenth century were set to music—in fact, most medieval and Renaissance lyrics were written to be sung with musical accompaniment. And the writers who composed the words were usually the composers of the music—at least until the seventeenth century, when specialization began to separate those functions.

John Keats (1795–1821), an English poet of the Romantic period, died of tuberculosis. The following  sonnet  is grounded in his awareness of early death:

When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,

Before high-piled books, in charact’ry,

Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;

When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,

Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace

Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!

That I shall never look upon thee more,

Never have relish in the faery power

Of unreflecting love! then on the shore

Of the wide world I stand alone, and think

Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

Keats interprets a terrible personal feeling. He realizes he may die before he can write his best poems. The epitaph Keats chose for his headstone just before he died, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water,” is one of the most sorrowful lines of all poetry. He was wrong in believing that his poems would not be read by posterity. Moreover, his work is so brilliant that we cannot help wondering what else he might have done. Had Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Proust, or Joyce died at twenty-six, we might not know their names, for their important work was yet to come.

It is not difficult for us to imagine how Keats must have felt. The lyric mode usually relies not on narrative but on our ability to respond to the circumstances described. In this poem, Keats has important resources. One is the fact that since we all will die, we can sympathize with the thought of death cutting a life’s work short. The tone Keats establishes in the poem—one of direct speech, honestly said, not overdone or melodramatic—helps him communicate his feelings. It gives the poem an immediacy: one human being telling another something straight from the heart. Keats modulates the tone slightly, slowing things down enough at the end of the poem for us to sense and share the despairing contemplative mood “to nothingness do sink.”

A different approach is apparent in John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud,” a seventeenth-century poem by one of England’s greatest churchmen. By personifying Death, Donne is able to comment on its power and the company it keeps. This is an example of a witty poem—wit being the imaginative power that finds the comparisons here: of death and sleep, death as a slave to fate, death as yielding to resurrection.

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,

For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,

Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.

From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,

Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,

Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.

Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,

And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,

And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

· Due on 4/4/2021 Sunday 7pm EST

· APA Format

· 1.5 – 2 pages

· Minimum of 1 scholarly source and provide a hyperlink to the article or journal (in addition to the textbook)

· Submit through Turnitin and provide a report


This week you will use your readings from the past week as a point of departure to create your own artistic production and a reflection paper.

Part 1: Art Creation Select a poem or lyric from Chapter 7 in the textbook to use as a point of inspiration. Create a work of poetry or lyrics inspired by your selected art piece.

Part 2: Reflection Write a reflection about the relationship between your art production and the inspiration piece. Include the following in the reflection paper:

· Introduction

· Inspiration Piece

· Include the inspiration poem or lyrics within the document.

· Record the title, artist/author/composer, year, and place of origin.

· Briefly explain the background of the inspiration piece.

· Your Art Piece

· Include your original poem or lyrics within the document.

· Provide a title.

· Explain the background of your piece.

· Connection

· Explain the thematic connection between the two pieces.

· How are they similar and different?

· Are they the same medium? How does the medium impact what the viewer experiences?

Original Artwork Requirements

· Methods: typed poem or lyrics, or recording of musical or dance piece

· No computer-generated pieces

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