Lyric poetry

Lyric poetry (from Greek lyra, ‘lyre’; hence, a song sung to the accompaniment of a lyre). A literary genre the main purpose of which is to express emotions, not to depict actions or events as in epic poetry or drama. It is difficult to draw a clear line between lyric poetry and epic poetry or drama, for lyrical elements appear in all literary genres—subjective passages in epic poetry and monologues in dramas. The lyrical element plays an important role in Ukrainian folk songs and dumas as well as in the ‘poems’ of the 17th century—love poems, religious cantos, and the so-called worldly songs. In the 17th and 18th centuries satirical and epigrammatic (see Epigram) lyric poetry became widely known, and lyrical features appeared in monologues of religious dramas and baroque homilies. In the Romantic period lyrical verse was even introduced into epic poems; Taras Shevchenko and Panteleimon Kulish, for example, inserted lyrical passages into their Byronic poems. It also played an important role in the mixed genre known as the ballad. Furthermore, all the imitations of lyrical folk songs, including poetic montages of excerpts from folk songs, were essentially lyrical works. At the same time the role of political lyric poetry, particularly in poems by Kulish, gained importance. The practice of imitating folk songs continued in the period of realism; the most apparent example is the frequent use of songs in plays. Reflective lyric poetry, in which the expression of feeling is combined with reflection, appears in Ukrainian literature much later than in other European literatures. Although reflective lyrical poems are not infrequent in Shevchenko and Kulish, they become prominent only in the work of Ivan Franko and Lesia Ukrainka. In the period of modernism, as represented by poets such as Mykola Vorony, Mykola Cherniavsky, and Oleksander Oles, the Romantic tradition of imitating folk songs was replaced by the use of formally perfected lyrical genres and styles. In postrevolutionary poetry the current of lyric poetry, represented by the early collections of Maksym Rylsky, Pavlo Tychyna, and others, was exceptionally strong. The rebirth of Ukrainian poetry in the 1960s was marked by a resurgence of lyricism (Lina Kostenko, Mykola Vinhranovsky, and Ivan Drach). A lyricism of national and social engagement developed in the poetry of the 1970s (Ihor Kalynets, Vasyl Holoborodko). A powerful resurgence of lyric poetry took place in the late 1980s and a multifaceted development of this genre has continued in independent Ukraine.

Beginning in the 17th century, literary lyrical works were in large measure absorbed by the folk oral tradition. Among contemporary folk songs there is a significant number of lyrical works, often considerably altered, of literary origin. The borrowings are not limited to Ivan Kotliarevsky's and Taras Shevchenko's verses, but include poems of other classical poets and even of lesser poets, such as Stepan Pysarevsky, Mykhailo Petrenko, Ya. Komarnytsky, Semen Hulak-Artemovsky, and Petro Nishchynsky. Some works of Polish poets, such as Tymko Padura and K. Cięglewicz, have made their way into the Ukrainian folk tradition.

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Dmytro Chyzhevsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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