Add to bookbag
Title: Lyric Poetry
Original Title: Poésie lyrique
Volume and Page: Vol. 12 (1765), p. 839
Author: Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt
Translator: Helen O'Connor [University of Michigan, hnoc@umich.edu]
Subject terms:
Poetry
Original Version (ARTFL): Link
Availability:

This text is protected by copyright and may be linked to without seeking permission. Please see http://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/did/terms.html for information on reproduction.

URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.376
Citation (MLA): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Lyric Poetry." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Helen O'Connor. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2004. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.376>. Trans. of "Poésie lyrique," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 12. Paris, 1765.
Citation (Chicago): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Lyric Poetry." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Helen O'Connor. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2004. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.376 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Poésie lyrique," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 12:839 (Paris, 1765).

Lyric poetry. Let's talk about it again according to Mr. le Batteux. It is a type of poetry totally devoted to sentiment; that's its substance, its essential object. Whether it rises like a trembling flame; whether it seeps in, little by little, and excites us without noise; whether it is an eagle, a butterfly, a bee, it is always sentiment that guides it or carries it along.

In general, lyric poetry is destined to be set to music; it is for this that it is called lyric, and because, in times past, when it was sung, the lyre accompanied the voice. The word ode has the same origin; it means, song, hymn or canticle .

Thence, lyric poetry and music have an intimate connection between them, founded on things themselves, since they both have the same object to express; and if this is so, music being an expression of sentiments from the heart through inarticulate sound, musical or lyric poetry will be the expression of sentiments through articulate sound, that is to say, through words.

So, one can define lyric poetry as that which expresses sentiment in verse that is melodic; but as sentiments are hot, passionate and powerful, warmth must dominate in this genre of work. Thence are born all the rules of lyric poetry, as well as its privileges: that is what allows for the boldness of beginnings, the deviations, the energy of unconventional moments; it is from here that it derives this sublimity, which so specifically belongs to it, and this enthusiasm that brings it close to the divine.

Lyric poetry is as ancient as the world. When man had opened his eyes on to the universe, on the agreeable impressions that he received from all his senses, on the marvels that surrounded him, he raised his voice to pay the tribute of glory that he owed to the supreme benefactor. And that is the origin of hymns, odes, in a word, lyric poetry .

At the base of their holidays, the pagans had the same principle as the worshippers of the true God. It was joy and gratitude that made them institute solemn games to celebrate the gods to whom they believed they were indebted for their harvest. From there came the songs of joy that they devoted to the god of the harvest, and to that of love. If the beneficent gods were the natural material of lyric poetry , heroes, children of the gods naturally had to have their part in this sort of tribute, without counting that their virtue, their courage, or their favors either to a particular people or to the whole human race, made them resemble divinity. It is they who caused the poems of Orpheus, Linus, Alceus, Pindar and some others who have touched the lyre in too brilliant a fashion not to deserve being brought together in one specific article. Thus, see Ode, Lyric poet.

We will only point out here that it is particularly to lyric poets that it is given to instruct with dignity and agreement. Dramatic and fable poetry rarely bring together these two advantages; the ode brings respect to a moral divinity by the sublimity of thoughts, the majesty of cadences, the boldness of figures, the force of expressions; at the same time it wards off distaste by brevity, by the variety of its turns, and by the choice of the embellishments that a skillful poet knows how to use at the right time.