Epiphany is a popular literary term almost every student of literature is familiar with. It means a manifestation or a sign for something to come. Christian thinkers use this term to denote a manifestation of God’s presence in this world.

The term epiphany reminds of James Joyce who employed this word effectively in his work. He adopted this term to secular experience. He used it to signify a revelation at the time of perceiving a commonplace object. His novels and short stories consist of several epiphanies. For instance; a climatic epiphany is a sort of revelation that Stephan, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, experiences seeing a young girl on the seashore.

In modern poetry and fiction, this idea of epiphany is artistically used to denote the sudden flare of revelation of an ordinary object. James Joyce used it as “moments”. Later on, Shelley used it, in his Defense of Poetry (1821), to describe the most cherished moments. Wordsworth also employed this concept and his ideas revolved around some beautiful moments. For instance; his short poetry like The Solitary Reaper deals with a moment of revelation. His Prelude is full of such visionary moments:

’twas a moment’s pause, –
All that took place within me came and went
As in a moment; yet with Time it dwells,
And grateful memory, as a thing divine.

There is a blur differentiating line between reflective and lyrical poetry. It is quite amusing in fact to make a contemplative study of such types of poetry. The whole efforts of this article are geared towards focusing on this very aspect of peeping in to poetry.

The type of poetry that we call lyrics, are basically short and simple. They are direct expressions of the poet’s sentiments, thoughts and feelings. Going back to the ancient Greece, the lyrics were sung to the tune of a musical instrument known as “lyre”. Recently, lyrics are sung with the guitar.

However, there are lyrics you may find inappropriate for singing. Poems such as Pope’s Essay on Man and Wordsworth’s Prelude, are such a long in length that you can not call them lyrics. They are too thoughtful. So, a lyric consists of feeling rather than thought!

Wordsworth’s the Rainbow depicts the beautiful reflection on nature:

“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began,
So it is now I am a man:
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!”

It is lyrical in real sense of the word which expresses the emotions of joy. If the poet had thought of describing the effects of nature on human beings, it would have been reflective poetry and not lyrical.

Thus, you can lightly make a distinction between the two. Lyric is a sort poem expressing feelings and emotions; on the contrary reflective poem is long and quite thoughtful. Even if the subject matter of lyrical poem is love, there are also the sad topics like fear, hatred and death which are dealt with.

The lyrical temper is almost famous in recent times. For instance, Japanese verse known as “haiku” is also a lyric.  Noteworthy lyrics have been  composed by the poets like Robert Frost, Eliot, W. B. Yeats, e. e. cummings and Dylan Thomas.

The poetry of this age carries forward the tradition established by the seventeenth century poets Milton and Dryden. And therefore, the spirit of classicism develops into full bloom. The poets of this age followed the footsteps of Homer, Aristotle and Dryden.

The note of the poetry of this age is objective and impersonal. Here, a poet is much concerned with the society and is much affected by its imperfections. He poses as a reformer of the society. And therefore, as Dryden did in Absalom and Achitophel and other poetry, the poets of this age also adopt satire to chastise the society. Jonathan swift comes on the surface as on of the greatest satirist in the history of English literature.

The image of natures turns into human nature and the classicism considers the image of man as debased entity, as a fallen angel. Because of the social concern, the poetry of the eighteenth century is drawing room poetry that portrays the picture of urban life.

The poetry of this age is characterized by elegance, decorum and wit. As it is typified in the poetry of Pope, it is polished, formal and unimaginative. The closed couplets are the general usage of this time.

The Revival of Romantic Poetry

It is the eighteenth century where we find the seeds of romanticism. Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, Oliver Goldsmith’s Deserted Village, Burke’s poetry, Blake’s mystical poetry all are stepping stone to romantic poetry.

The romantic revival took place with Victor Hugo’s concept “liberalism in literature”. The Romantic Movement is marked by the following:

1.    Strong reaction against the bondage of rule and customs
2.    Call back to nature.
3.    Emphasis on the eternal ideas of youth and appeals to human hearts.
4.    Intense human sympathy – understanding of human heart
5.    The interest in the old sagas and medieval romances

Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton were the inspirational source behind this romantic revival. We cannot find a single poetry of this age where there is no influence of these poets.

Thomas Gray’s following poem is full of gentle melancholy which marks the early romantic poetry.

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day;
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea;
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinkling lull the distant folds.

Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village (1770) glorifies the superiority of agriculture to trade in the national economy. It is a pastoral lyric which glorifies the ecstasy of beholding the joy of peasantry.

The poet revisits Auburn, a village hallowed by the early associations. What he sees is its depopulation and the monopolizing riches, which have driven the peasants to emigration. He laments over the state of society where “wealth accumulates and men decay”. This is a sad impact of urbanization.

The poem The Deserted Village contains charming descriptions of village-life. The poem uses simple diction and melodious versifications. In the poem, sometimes we see proverbial or epigrammatic touch as in the following line:

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay

Some of the inset pictures of the village characters are sketched with affection for instance the account of the village school masters. There are serious portraits such as the accounts of the dispossessed emigrant poor and the “poor houseless shivering female” betrayed by a rich man which is quite sentimental.

The poem contains a note of pathos and the agony of eighteen years is well expressed. The poet hopes that at some time, he might return in his village to die amid the scenes of his childhood and he admits, “I still had hopes.” It is Goldsmith’s happy and satisfied rural community that inspired a protest in Crabbe’s The Village.

A poem is a literary form composed in verse. It normally gives account of personal feelings, emotions and imagination.

Let’s enjoy the following poem:

The Butterfly

There is no story behind it.
It is split like a second.
It hinges around itself.

It has no future.
It is pinned down to no past.
It’s a pun on the present.

It’s a little yellow butterfly.
It has taken these wretched hills
under its wings.

Just a pinch of yellow,
it opens before it closes
and closes before it o

where is it.

Arun Kolatkar, an Indian poet wrote about the place- Jejuri, a temple town. Jejuri is a poor place and the hills in Jejuri show the barrenness of the place. His style is simple (English) in contrast with Mahapatra where he uses English and his ideas very effectively.

Whatever he sees in Jejury they have a story of their own. The poet says there is no story behind the butterfly, the very being he gets us acquainted with in this poem. The idea of “split like a second” is applied to the butterfly. The butterfly is in two parts, a split, hinges around itself. It has no future and is said to be “pinned down to no past”. Because the creatures never think about their past and they don’t have future. They live in the present and that becomes the “pun on the present”, the pun on the entire mankind who has lost the sense of living in the present! It creates a beautiful picture as if the wretched hills are under wings of a little yellow butterfly. Its wings open before they close and close before they open and lo! It’s gone like a beautiful moment!