Renaissance Poetic Forms

Aubade
It is a poem about dawn; a morning love song; or a poem about the parting of lovers at dawn. From THE SUN RISING, by John Donne

BUSY old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run ?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Ballad
It is a narrative song with a recurrent refrain. From The First Fytte

Lythe and listin, gentilmen,
That be of frebore blode;
I shall you tel of a gode yeman,
His name was Robyn Hode.

Robyn was a prude outlaw,
Whyles he walked on grounde:
So curteyse an outlawe as he was one
Was nevere non founde.

Robyn stode in Bernesdale,
And lenyd hym to a tre,
And bi hym stode Litell Johnn,
A gode yeman was he.

Elegy
It is a mournful poem. From John Milton Yet once more, O ye Laurels, and once more
Ye Myrtles brown, with Ivy never-sear,
I com to pluck your Berries harsh and crude,
And with forc’d fingers rude,
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
Compels me to disturb your season due:
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:
Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
He must not flote upon his watry bear
Unwept, and welter to the parching wind,
Without the meed of som melodious tear.

Epic Poetry
It is a long poem that tells of the adventures of one or more great heroes; epopee. An epic is written in a dignified, majestic style, and often gives expression to the characters and ideals of a nation or race. From The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser. LO! I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
Am now enforst a far vnfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds;
Whose prayses hauing slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broad emongst her learned throng:
Fierce warres and faithfull loues shall moralize my song.

Epigram
It is a witty saying expressing a single thought or observation. From John Heywood.
Haste maketh waste. (1546)
Out of sight out of mind. (1542)
When the sun shineth, make hay. (1546)
Look ere ye leap. (1546)
Two heads are better than one. (1546)
Love me, love my dog. (1546)
Beggars should be no choosers. (1546)
All is well that ends well. (1546)
The fat is in the fire. (1546)

Epitaph
It is basically a summary statement of commemoration for a dead person. The Seven-Year-Old Son of Ben Jonson
Farewell, thou child of my right hand and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy,
Seven years thou wert lent to me and I thee pay
Exacted by thy fate on the just day.
O, could I lose all father, now. For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon scap’d World’s and flesh’s rage,
And, if no other misery, yet age?
Rest in soft peace and ask’d say here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetrie.
For whose sake, henceforth, all his vows be such
As what he loves may never live too much.

Idyll
It is a short descriptive poem of rural or pastoral life. From John Milton’s L’ALLEGRO.
Hence loathèd Melancholy
Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born,
In Stygian cave forlorn,
‘Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy!
Find out some uncouth cell,
Where brooding darkness spreads his jealous wings,
And the night-raven sings;
There, under ebon shades, and low-brow’d rocks,
As ragged as thy locks,
In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell.
But come, thou goddess fair and free,
In Heav’n yclept Euphrosyne,
And by men, heart-easing Mirth,
Whom lovely Venus, at a birth,
With two sister Graces more,
. . . ivy-crowned = an epithet.
To ivy-crownèd Bacchus bore;

Lyric
It is a short poem of song-like quality, meant to be chanted or sung. From Philip Sydney.
But to myself myself did give the blow,
While too much wit (forsooth) so troubled me,
That I respects for both our sakes must show:
And yet could not by rising Morn foresee
How fair a day was near, o punished eyes,
That I had been more foolish or more wise.

Meditation
It is a continuous and profound contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects of a deep or abstruse nature. From John Donne’s Meditation XVII. No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

Ode
It is a poem usually addressed to a particular person, object or event that has stimulated deep and noble feelings in the poet. From Ode to Sir Lucius Gray and Sir H. Morison
Ben Jonson (1572-1637)
It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an Oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear.
A Lily of a day
Is fairer far, in May
Although it fall and die that night;
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measure, life may perfect be.

Pastoral Poetry
A Pastoral Poetry Type is a poem that depicts rural life in a peaceful, idealized way for example of shepherds or country life. It typically draws a contrast between the innocence and serenity of a simple life and the misery and corruption of city and especially court life. Sometimes uses the device of “singing matches” between two or more shepherds and the themes often include love and death.
Example: Marlow’s “Passionate Sheppard to his Love”
COME live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield

Sestina
It is a lyric form that consists of six stanzas of six lines each followed by a three-line conclusion or envoy; this form requires a strict pattern of repetition of six key words that end the lines of the first stanza. From Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender. ‘Ye wastefull woodes beare witnesse of my woe,
Wherein my plaints did oftentimes resound:
Ye carelesse byrds are privie to my cryes,
Which in your songs were wont to make a part:
Thou pleasaunt spring hast luld me oft a sleepe, 155
Whose streames my tricklinge teares did ofte augment.

English Sonnet
It is a sonnet consisting three quatrains and a concluding couplet in iambic pentameter with the rhyme pattern abab cdcd efef gg. From Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Villanelle
It is a short poem of fixed form, written in tercets, usually five in number, followed by a final quatrain, all being based on two rhymes. The English adopted it in the 19th century. From Jean Passerat’s Villanelle. I’ay perdu ma Tourterelle:
Eft-ce point celle que i’oy?
Ie veus aller aprés elle.
Tu regretes ta femelle,
Helas! außi fai-ie moy,
I’ay perdu ma Tourterelle.
Si ton Amour eft fidelle,
Außi est ferme ma foy,
Ie veus aller aprés elle.
Ta plainte fe renouuelle;
Toufiours plaindre ie me doy:
I’ay perdu ma Tourterelle.
En ne voyant plus la belle
Plus rien de beau ie ne voy:
Ie veus aller aprés elle.
Mort, que tant de fois i’appelle,
Pren ce qui fe donne à toy:
I’ay perdu ma Tourterelle,
Ie veus aller aprés elle.