The same trend toward greater personality in expression which changes the import of narrative poetry gives rise to poetry of a different kind and purpose. As the individual emerges out of the mass into consciousness of himself, he is made aware that life comes to him, in contrast to other men, with a difference. The world is his world, passions are his passions, events take their significance as they relate themselves somehow to his own experience. The great sky arches overhead, brightly blue or piled with tossing clouds. Outward in every direction reaches the broad earth, a crowded pageantry of color and form and sound and stir. Just at the center, the meeting point of all these energies, stands a man, thinking, feeling, willing. Upon him as a focus converge all rays of influence from the inclosing world. Responding to their impact, he perceives a sudden harmony within the tumult of sensation and flashing idea, a harmony which is beauty, and his whole being is flooded with emotion. His joy, wonder, worship, surge to expression. Out of the chaos he compels a new order, the image of his perception; and this he bodies forth in material form through the medium of words, shaping it after the pattern of his perception, and moulding it to his mood. The mighty pulse of nature bids him to sing, to voice his insight and his feeling in accordant rhythm. So out of the fullness of his spirit, quickened by the beauty of the world and its inner meaning, wells a song. The lyric is born. It lies not on the sunlit hill Nor in the sunlit gleam Nor ever in any falling wave Nor ever in running stream— But sometimes in the soul of man Slow moving through his pain The moonlight of a perfect peace Floods heart and brain.〖William Sharp.〗

So the external world weaves endlessly its subtle patterns of beauty and meaning, at times well hidden indeed, but yielding finally their secret to the ardent searchings of the human heart. Often the lyric springs, as it seems spontaneously, out of a sheer joy of things. Sumer is icumen in,Lhude〖Loud. The final e’s are pronounced as syllables.〗 sing cuccu! Groweth sed, and bloweth med,And springth the wude〖Wood.〗 nu—〖Now.〗 Sing cuccu! Awe〖Ewe.〗 bleteth after lomb,Lhouth〖Loweth.〗 after calve cu; Bulluc sterteth,〖Leaps.〗 bucke verteth,〖Runs to the greenwood.〗 Murie sing cuccu! Cuccu, cuccu, well singes thu, cuccu:Ne swike〖Cease. The music to which this lyric was sung in the first half of the thirteenth century still exists.〗 thu naver nu; Sing cuccu, nu, sing cuccu,Sing cuccu, sing cuccu, nu!

The bird’s note gives the key. The poet responds, his joy overflows into images, his melody voices the music of Spring! As this is one of the earliest lyrics in our language, so it is also, in spirit, form, and content, a veritable spring song of the lyric mood.

For the lyric poem is born in emotion. Its moving spirit is song.

Piping down the valleys wild,

Piping songs of pleasant glee,

On a cloud I saw a child,

And he laughing said to me:

“Pipe a song about a lamb!”

So I piped with merry cheer.

“Piper, pipe that song again;”

So I piped: he wept to hear.

“Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;

Sing thy songs of happy cheer!”

So I sung the same again,

While he wept with joy to hear.

“Piper, sit thee down and write

In a book that all may read.”

So he vanish’d from my sight;

And I pluck’d a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,

And I stain’d the water clear,

And I wrote my happy songs

Every child may joy to hear.〖William Blake. H.C., xli, 584.〗

The impulse to music is the lyric’s source. But the fragile, delicately wrought vessel of lyrical form is capable of inexhaustible variety and wealth of content. It may hold as an aroma the evanescent mood of a moment; or into it may be poured the accumulated treasures of a ripe experience. The only limitation of a lyric is that it shall sing; otherwise it is free to range earth and sky and the inmost chambers of the heart.

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