The lyric self is the speaker of a poem. Consequently, the lyrical ego emerges only in the lyric, the literary genre of the epic being shown by a narrator. It is important that we differentiate the lyrical self from the author of the text. It is true that the author is the author, but not the authority which speaks in the poem and reveals itself to the reader (compare poetic analysis).
Consequently, the lyric self is rather the fictitious voice or the non-existent speaker of the work. The term was introduced by the poet Margarete Susman in 1910 to create a clearer distinction between the author and the speaker in the work. Previously, it was quite common to equate the two instances and to change the content of a text to the Creator.
Although the attempt can be made to link the poet with the content of a poem, and sometimes texts that allow a reference to the author are usually failing such considerations and are not really effective. In principle, the lyrical ego should be viewed separately from the author. Let us look at an example of Joseph von Eichendorff.
I would often praise you in songs,
The marvelous goodness,
Like you a half-savvy mind
Loving and loving you in a thousand sweet ways,
The man’s balance and perverse life
Through tears smiling to death.
But as the look I turn poetically,
So beautifully still in quiet Harme
If you sit in front of me, the little child in your arms,
In the blue eye, fidelity and peace without end,
And I’ll leave it all when I look at you-
Ah, whoever loves God, he gave such a woman!
The poem An Luise from the pen of Eichendorff makes it easy for us to trace the lyrical ego. Four times is the personal pronoun me and once I emerge. Thus it is quite clear that someone, in this case an ego, is speaking, so the poem is certainly telling.
If, however, we should attempt to equate Eichendorff and the lyric self, it becomes very delicate. Although we could scan his biography for a Luise, the work already points out that the idea would not go away if we looked at the content more closely.
In the first verse of the first verse, there is the note that someone here wanted to praise Luise in songs, but when this one begins and starts with poetry (seventh verse), the intention is abandoned (eleventh verse). Accordingly, the lyric self describes that it is not able to praise her wonderfully goodness when she looks at the woman with the child.
This also means that Eichendorff himself can not be the lyric self. If it were so, we could not read the text at all, since it was not written in any case, because it is not known to the ego. Consequently, the two instances can not be equated.
Note: Nowadays, the term is mostly used to name the speaker or the speaker in a poem analysis and thus to make it clear that the speaker is meant in the poem. Thus, the term has no evaluation or superior features and functions which must be met in a uniform manner. Let us take another example for clarity.
Spring lets its blue ribbon
Again, fluttering through the air
Sweet, well-known fragrances
Stripe well the country
Violets already dream,
Want to come balde
Horch, from afar a quiet Harfenton!
Spring, yes you are!
I heard you!
The poem is titled He’s It and was written by Eduard Mörike (1804-1875), a German poet and priest who mainly worked in the Biedermeier (→ Literaturepochen). This work does not make it easy for us to recognize the speaker. Nevertheless, in the last verse, there is an ego that can be recognized as the voice of the poem.
As a result, the voice characterizes the coming spring, whose well-known scents gravely touch the country. This personification of spring is not to be attributed to the author, that is, to Mörike, but to the lyric self. In the dramatic or epic text there would be a figure or a narrator who could personalize something else. In the lyric, however, we have no narrative subject, but only the voice out of nothing: the lyric self.
The previous examples were quite clear. There was always an ego, which pointed to the existence of a narrative voice. However, it is also a little more complicated, namely, when the lyric self is not quite as clear and we are dealing with only one voice.
Sweet May, you source of life
are so sweet flowers full
Love does not seek in vain
to whom she wreath wreaths …
The above example is a stanza by Clemens Brentano, a German poet and representative of Heidelberg’s Romanticism. Although these stanzas follow more, it is sufficient for our view. In this case, it is noticeable that no personal pronoun refers to an ego or a person. Nevertheless, there is a voice in the text.
This voice is here addressed to the sweet May, speaks to him (→ apostrophe) and describes it in the second verse. It is crucial that we should also speak of the lyric I, even if no ego form can be seen in the work it is therefore the voice of the poem when we call a lyric self. However, this does not have to be clear.
Importantly, a lyrical ego does not always have to be present in the ego form. It is quite possible that we can recognize it as an observer. Let us suppose that the lyric self can also be a neutral voice, which tells the poem, every poem also has a lyric self.
The lyric self in relation to the author and poem
Problems of the lyric self
Basically it was shown that we also speak of a lyric self, if it is not present in the ego form. Then it can appear as a neutral observer or the voice that allows us to look at a situation. Nevertheless, there are problems with the term.
The problem is that the term did not arise until the twentieth century, when Margarete Susman introduced him to separate the author from the poem. This also means that all the works that were written before are not necessarily committed to the concept, and when a lyric self is accepted, we sometimes miss the statement of a poem.
This is due to the fact that the lyrical ego is primarily oriented towards the understanding and the exploration of experience. The experience lyrical, which arose in storm and urge, aims to present impressions abruptly and to let the reader participate in the experience.
There are, however, poems, especially before and after the high level of the experience, which can clearly be seen as lyrical texts, but are not a direct pronunciation of the lyric self. This applies above all to occasional poems or thoughts, but also to modern lyricism, which do not always have the goal of achieving a statement of intention and thus do not use a clear lyric self.
Note: Such a differentiation is not always purposeful. Above all, pupils can usually refer to the linguistic ego as either the lyrical ego is clearly recognizable (me, me, mine, etc.) or, as a neutral observer or fictional voice, communicates the content.
Explicit lyrical ego: The word “I” or another personal pronoun, which refers to an ego, is actually used in the poem.
Implicit lyrical ego: Personal pronouns do not appear, but the subjective description of a fact makes it clear that a voice exists in the work.
How can a lyric self be?
If, in the course of a poem analysis, we want to describe the lyrical ego in a work, there are several possibilities for doing so. For we can describe how the lyrical ego behaves in the text or describes the thing and draws conclusions from it.
Is an experience or a particular thing raised? If yes how?
How does the lyric self speak of it? Is it frightened? Is it happy, grateful, contented, sad, etc.?
Does it express values of the time or does it counteract them?
Is it for a particular group, a world view or is it alone?
Will it appeal or activate the reader? Is it manipulative?
Does it speak ironic, sarcastic, or are the statements serious?
Is it a closed lyric self or does it open to the reader?
Is the chosen language factual, simple, exquisite or even stilted?
The most important thing in the short overview
The lyric self is the voice of a poem. It is this voice that reveals the poem to the reader and shows it to him. It can happen, however, that this voice does not clearly stand out.
This voice is called an explicit lyric self when the word “I” appears in the work. However, if we are able to conclude that a lyric self speaks to us only through the manner and manner of the description, it is called implicit.