lai - See lay

lament - Often thought of as a folk song, but it is most often in the form of a dirge or an elegy to a dead person.

lampoon - To lampoon a person is to be derisive and abusive in the extreme, with the intention of causing them or their followers distress (See also satire)

lay - The lay has a long history and thus at various times and places has meant very different things. The Breton lay was a romantic tale in octosyllabic verse in the 12th century whereas the somewhat later Provenšal lay was usually a love poem set to music and therefore less rigid in form. In 14th century England the lay was based on the Breton style, and Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale is an example of this. Since then the word has been applied in the UK to any short verse or narrative, such as Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome.

Leonine verse - Called after Leonius, a 12th century poet. It is formed by hexameters or hexameters and pentameters, and an internal rhyme structure (alliteration) is used. (See also hexameters, pentameters, internal rhyme, alliteration)

light verse - A poem which is humorous and light in tone, the principal function being entertainment. The following forms lend themselves to light verse: clerihews, limericks, nonsense poetry, parodies, riddle poems.

limerick - An often rude but humorous light verse form named after a town in Ireland. consisting of five anapaestic lines rhymed aabba. Lines one, two and five have three feet, and lines three and four have two feet. The name is thought to derive from an 18th century suggestive Irish soldier song with the chorus: "Will you come up to Limerick?". We make bold to reconstruct the original limerick:

  • Will you come up to Limerick?

    Me and my buddy, Slim Nick,

    Will find young Lynne

    Who lost my pin

    In the hay of the local quim-rick.


    line - A line in verse consists of one or more metrical feet. Poems are constructed from lines which are built into verses or stanzas. Traditionally each line was started with an upper-case letter; this was to distinguish it as a unit and to underline the distinction between poetry and prose, which because of the early printing techniques often looked similar when printed. This practice is now considered optional.

    literary ballad - This is a poem written in the style of the ancient popular ballad by a professional writer. Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol are examples.

    litotes - (lie-TOE-teez) An understatement, seeking to express a positive by a negative of a negative. As in "not ugly". (See also meiosis, irony)

    long syllable - The same as the accented syllable, it bears the main stress of the word, e.g. the second syllable in "removing": re-MOV-ing.

    lyric verse - One of the four main poetry groups, the others being dramatic, narrative and didactic. In lyric verse, the expression of an emotional element is uppermost, and the poet will use imagery to help the reader share the emotional experiences depicted (See also dramatic, narrative, didactic)

    lyrical - Originally used to describe poetry to be sung to the accompaniment of the lyre, it is now generally used of a moderately short poem expressing personal thoughts and especially feelings, often but by no means always involving description of the countryside.