The Encyclopedia Americana








POETRY. Poetry has been defined in many ways, and in the nature of the case the term means different things under different conditions. In general it may be defined as emotional and imaginative discourse in metrical form; that is, the representation of experiences or ideas with special reference to their emotional significance, in language characterized by imagery and rhythmical sound. On the side of concrete imagery the art of poetry is closely related to the arts of painting and sculpture; but it differs from these in that it is better adapted to the representation of continuity and movement, and also in that it can make use of purely abstract ideas as well as images. On the side of rhythmical sound it is closely related to music; but it differs from the latter in its capacity to represent both concrete and abstract ideas with some exactness. If the subject-matter is viewed by the poet objectively, — as existing outside and apart from his own personality, — the poetry may be narrative or descriptive; if subjectively, — that is, primarily as a personal experience, — the poetry is lyrical. Dramatic poetry combines these two points of view: it is abjective for the poet, but presents the material subjectively through imagined personalities. Since poetry may deal with general as well as concrete subject-matter, there also occurs a type best called expository or didactic; but this, because of its small use of emotional values and imaginative expression, exists, as it were, close to the borders of prose. Further, on these types, see under LITERARY FORMS.

Poetry is the most primitive of the literary arts; that is, it normally develops before prose literature. Two theories of its origin have been proposed: that it arises from the elaboration and beautifying of prose discourse, and that it arises from emotional utterance in connection with song and dance. The latter view is the more widely held, and appears to be supported by evidence still observable among primitive peoples. That is, primitive man often expresses the emotional aspects of common experiences by means, of a kind of communal art which includes music, dancing and simple verse, each element at first inseparable from the others. Indian festival dancer, and groups of singers at negro camp-meetings, still show this combination. As time goes on there is a tendency to differentiate the individual singer, composer or poet from the group, and eventually to differentiate the arts of music, verse and dancing. There is also a marked tendency, as civilization advances, to diminish the physical or sensuous aspects of emotional expression, and to increase the intellectual or reflective; so that poetry, originally existing only for vocal utterance, eventually becomes a thing to be read, and even to be read silently. But the rhythmic form remains as the evidence of its original connection with the other rhythmic arts. The persistence of this element is due, of course, not merely to historic, but also to psychological reasons: for rhythmic form furnishes a means of expressing emotion and at the same time of keeping it in control, and this is an essential condition of art. Moreover, by transforming the movement of ordinary speech, without depriving it of its normal meanings, rhythmic form seems to symbolize that idealization of reality which is another usual condition of artistic expression.

The precise nature of this rhythmic form naturally differs in the case of different peoples and languages, and according as the association between verse and music is more or less close. Thus the rhythms of Greek verse and Greek music appear to have been closely similar, whereas the rhythms of modern English verse and music differ very widely. For the modern Germanic languages, English included, rhythmic form results from the arrangement of speech in such a way that the principally stressed syllables tend to recur at equal intervals of time; the number of syllables within these intervals also tends to be constant, but with many exceptions. In the most common type of English verse two syllables normally occur for each measured stress, — that is for each measure or foot, — and the rhythm may be called double. Frequently, again, the norm is three, giving triple rhythm; less frequently four, giving quadruple. If the rhythm tends to open with an unstressed syllable it is called rising; if with a stressed syllable, falling. The common types of English metre, then, are the double rising, called Iambic; the double falling, called Trochaic; the triple rising, called Anapestic, and the triple falling, called Dactylic. A line of typical verse is made up of a fixed number of these measured stress-units or feet, and thus may be described as "iambic four-foot"(or "four-stress"), "trochaic five-foot" (or "five-stress"), etc. The stanza, is a still larger unit of verse-form, being organized by the grouping of a given number of lines, of length either identical or varied according to a regular pattern, which are also usually linked by terminal rhyme, — that is, by the correspondence, in two words, of the accented vowels and all the following sounds. In the Germanic languages rhyme and stanza are the normal accompaniments of lyrical poetry, while "blank verse" (that is, unrhymed continuous verse, usually iambic five-foot) is the common form for epic and dramatic poetry; in French poetry rhyme is used more insistently, even in dramatic verse.





Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Encyclopedia Americana.
A Library of Universal Knowledge.
In Thirty Volumes.
Volume XXII. New York u. Chicago: Encyclopedia Americana Corporation 1919, S. 276-278.

Unser Auszug: S. 276.

Gezeichnet: Raymond M. Alden.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).

The Encyclopedia Americana (1918-1920)   online








Bendixen, Alfred / Burt, Stephen (Hrsg.): The Cambridge History of American Poetry. New York 2015.

Brandmeyer, Rudolf: Poetiken der Lyrik: Von der Normpoetik zur Autorenpoetik. In: Handbuch Lyrik. Theorie, Analyse, Geschichte. Hrsg. von Dieter Lamping. 2. Aufl. Stuttgart 2016, S. 2-15.

Cook, Jon (Hrsg.): Poetry in Theory. An Anthology 1900 – 2000. Malden, MA u.a. 2004.

Jackson, Virginia: Art. Lyric. In: The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Hrsg. von Roland Greene u.a. 4. Aufl. Princeton u.a. 2012, S. 826-834.

Loveland, Jeff: The European Encyclopedia. From 1650 to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge u. New York 2019.

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Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer