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One of the problems with defining 'classical' poetry is that the term is used to mean two
very different things. All the poetry of the Greeks and Romans is called Classical, but there
are not really any common characteristics to such a varied canon of work.
The other use of the term 'Classical' is to distinguish the main movement in European
writing between the end of Renaissance Humanism and the beginning of the Romantic
Movement. These writers are also called Augustans, and in French they run from about
Ronsard to about Chateaubriand, in English from probably Dryden to Coleridge.
In this sense, Classical writers tend to focus on social issues, where Romantic writers tend
to foreground the individual. Pope writes about the literary scene in London (the Dunciad),
whereas Wordsworth writes about going for a lonely walk and finding some daffodils.
Classical writers tend to overvalue clear and precise thinking (Pope's Essay on Criticism),
Romantic writers are more interested in dream states (Coleridge' Ancient Mariner). At a
formal level, Classical writers favour strict meters (almost all Dryden's important work is in
heroic couplets) where Romantic writers prefer free rhythms (Wordsworth's Ode on the
Intimations of Mortality).
Classical poetry has the best renditions of love poems, and that’s where I want to begin. Of
anything that has the potential to inspire the sleeping spirit, the telling of love can
invigorate those childlike ideals and fairytale notions most of us have long forgotten
The major characteristics of the classical poetry are:
1. Concentration
Concentration refers to the hold of one idea or line of argument. Concentration is
common in many classical poets such as Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, Donne, Pope, etc.
The principle argument makes the theme of the poetic piece.

2. Extension of Epigram
No word is wasted in the classical masterpiece of poetry. The style is sinewy. Verses
are always enforcing the sense of the theme.

3. Conceit
Conceit is the major characteristic of the classical poetry. Conceit is basically a
simile, or comparison between two dissimilar things. In a conceit, the dissimilarity
between the things compared is so great that the reader is always fully conscious of
it even while having to concede the likeness implied by the poet. Donne’s poetry is
the best example of use of conceit.

4. Wit
Classical poetry shows formidable wit. Wit displays the hardcore of logic. Wit is
evident in the paradoxes employed in the poetry. Wit describes the underlying
meaning. Wit used in classical poetry is subtle and striking.

5. Combination of Passion and Thought

Most of the classical work shows a combination of passion and thought. There is
unification of sensibility. Classical poetry shows intellectual analysis of emotion.
Arguments and reasoning balances the passion. The tone of the classical poetry is a
blend of love, emotion and intellect.

6. Use of Colloquial Speech

Most of the classical work implies colloquial speech. The diction of the text is grand
and magnanimous. The content and the style is verbose and long sentences are
used to describe in detail.

7. Realism
Realism means the revelation of truth of life as a poet sees it. Though much of the
classical poetry is full of allegory and dreamy atmosphere but Chaucer has a marked
realism in his Canterbury Tales. It is a picture of the real life of the 14th Century.

8. Chivalry
Medieval poetry reflects the chivalric spirit of the time. The characters are mostly
knights and the brave heroes. Ancient literature shows various characters like King
Priam, Hector, and Odysseus etc. The classic poetry is actually a collection of stories
of heroes, knights and warriors. Although it includes social, moral, ethical and
political issues covering mostly the 17th and 18th century.

9. Allegory
Allegory is the term used for description with two meanings. One is the apparent
meaning and the other is the underlying meaning. Allegory is often the result of
reactionary mood. Spencer’s “Faerie Queene” is the best example of the allegory.

10. Grandeur of Thought

Grandeur of thought springs from great souls. The true eloquent must not free
from ignoble and low thoughts. This is the key feature of the classical poetry.

11. Skillful selection and organization of material

The sublimity of the style comes from wise and systematic selection of the most
important elements and their combination into a single whole.

12. Use of Figures

Classical poets first see imaginatively what they describe, and then try to produce a
similar allusion in his readers. The aim of the poetical images is to astound and
startle the readers; the aim of rhetorical images is to impart vividness and clearness.
Both, however, seek to stir the passions and the emotion.

13. Noble Diction

The choice of proper and striking words is essential element of the classic work
because it is through words that a writer expresses himself. Beautiful words are the
very light of lofty thought.
14. The Use of Metaphors
The use of metaphors is another key feature of the classical poetry. Metaphors are
used in impassioned and descriptive style. Metaphors are best used when the
passion rolls like a torrent and sweeps a multitude of them down their resistless
flood. The use of metaphors is determined by the occasion.
15. Dignified Composition
Classical poetry is of dignified composition and arrangement. There is a rhythm in
lines of the poems. The words are harmoniously set and their harmony is natural
instrument not only of persuasion and pleasure but of lofty emotions as well. Such
harmonious combination of words appeals to the soul, and enable the readers to
share in the emotions of the author. Prof. A.R. Somroo