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greater Romantic lyric


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Horace (65—8 bc) Roman poet of the Augustan period

 

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A term devised by the American scholar M. H. Abrams in his essay ‘Structure and Style in the Greater Romantic Lyric’ (1965; reprinted in Abrams's book The Correspondent Breeze, 1984), to denote an extended lyric poem of description and serious meditation, as practised by some of the English Romantic poets (S. T. Coleridge, William Wordsworth, P. B. Shelley, and John Keats). Abrams justified this new term on the grounds that although several examples are called odes, others are not, despite exhibiting the ode's expected serious meditative development. The earliest examples, indeed, are Coleridge's conversation poems. Other central examples that do not identify themselves as odes are Wordsworth's ‘Tintern Abbey’ (i.e. ‘Lines Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the Wye during a tour. July 13, 1798’) and Shelley's ‘Stanzas Written in Dejection’. The word ‘greater’ in this term derives from the older custom of referring to the Pindaric ode as the ‘greater ode’ by comparison with the less elevated Horatian kind; so it is not an assertion of artistic greatness. Abrams's general claim about this verse genre is that it was a new form developed by the English Romantics, remarkable for its integration of local description and general moral or philosophical meditation. Abrams also indicates that there are later examples of the genre, by Tennyson, Auden, and Stevens, among others of the post-Romantic generations.

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