The Lyrical speaker is the voice or person in charge of narrating the words of a poem or novel. This person should not be confused with the writer, who is the author of the text. Therefore, the lyrical speaker is the character that the author intends to bring to life in his text. Although the author can sometimes refer to himself, he will always do so in the form of a speaker and not directly (Literary Devices, 2016).
The lyrical speaker is the narrative voice of a text, that is, he is who the reader must imagine as the narrator of the text. In this way, if a writer talks about love, the reader must assume that the lyrical speaker, in this case, is a lover who is not necessarily the author of the written words (BrooklynCollege, 2009).
Poets use the figure of the lyrical speaker to have more freedom in their creations, since this narrator can evoke emotions and experiences that are not necessarily linked to the poet. In other words, the lyrical speaker is an invention of the poet who personifies the emotions and events described in the poem.
This narrator can take different voices and attitudes depending on what the author wants to convey. In this way, the lyrical speaker’s voice can be in the first or third person, it can come from the author or the narrator, it can have a melancholic, in love, determined, or sad attitude.
A poem can have one or more lyrical speakers. The narrator can be the speaker, the poet, or an observer who speaks of both the author and the speaker. Either way, the narrator should always be treated as a fictional character.
The narration made by the lyrical speaker in the first person is known as a dramatic monologue. In this figure, the poet creates a fictional character who is in charge of holding a conversation with him as a monologue.
Who is the lyrical speaker?
The lyrical speaker is a conventional literary figure. It is historically associated with the author, although it is not necessarily the author who speaks for himself in the poem. The speaker is the voice behind the poem or novel; It is who we imagine is speaking and to whom we attribute the attitudes and emotions described in the text.
It should be clarified that, even if the text is biographical, the speaker is not necessarily about the author, since the author is choosing what he says about himself as if he were narrating it by an external person. It can be said that the speaker is the actor behind the scenes who describes the writer’s emotions and situations.
The lyrical speaker is the fictional character created by the writer to speak freely from different perspectives on issues outside of him, such as issues of race, gender, and even material objects. This character is the “I” who speaks and can be identified by the reader.
An example of who the lyrical speaker is can be seen in the poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. In this text, the lyrical speaker is a lonely man who misses his lost love (Leonor), not Edgar Allan Poe .
Although the poem is written in the first person, the reader can infer that the speaker is not the author. This does not mean that the author was not inspired by events in his life or that of someone he knew to write the poem.
Difference between lyrical speaker and alter ego
The definition of lyrical speaker is commonly confused with the definition of alter ego. However, these concepts are subtly different. An alter ego, pseudonym or stage name is simply the name that the author adopts to hide his identity or to give it a more memorable and memorable touch (Pfitzmann & Hansen, 2005).
The alter ego, despite being considered a “second self” that inhabits the same body, is not considered a lyrical speaker, since at no time does the alter ego cease to be the author of the text.
In other words, the alter ego continues to represent the author materially, while the speaker represents what the author wants to explore through the emotions and feelings of different fictional characters.
Function of the lyrical speaker
The function of the lyrical speaker is to allow the author to convey his ideas in a more active way. In this way, the lyrical speaker fulfills the function of transmitter of the written message that the writer wants to share with his audience.
It can be said that the speaker is a revealing agent of experiences and the emotions that these experiences inspire (Hazelton, 2014).
The speaker also fulfills the function of giving the writer greater creative freedom, who can project himself as another person and develop a different personality to talk about topics that are not necessarily familiar to him.
When the writer uses this personality to develop and narrate a complete poem, the poem is called a dramatic monologue. This monologue is characterized by being a conversation that the speaker holds with himself (Archive, 2017).
Voice and attitude
- Author’s voice: for this type of voice, the author uses a fragment of his life and his own style.
- Character Voice: This is the voice of the character narrating the text from their own perspective. The writer usually chooses the type of narrator he wants to use to read his writing. He usually speaks in the first or third person.
The lyrical speaker also assumes an attitude when narrating the poem or novel. This can be sad, angry, hopeful, depressed, anxious, malicious, or in love, among others. Once the type of voice that the speaker will have is defined, it is important to choose the type of attitude to take.
It is possible that, if the author has personal memories of the war, the attitude will change and he will be oriented to his personal experiences. It is usually difficult to determine to what extent the text given by the author is purely fiction or actually includes material from his experience.
The voice and attitude of the speaker also depend on the emotion that the writer wants to evoke in the reader. It is possible that, if the author has a strong position in relation to a specific topic, he wants to convey this position to the reader.
Some authors call the attitude of the speaker as the tone that he assumes. One of the most common problems for readers when it comes to identifying tone is finding the word that best describes it. Qualifying adjectives such as “happy” or “sad” are usually used for this purpose (Gibson, 1969).
Steps to identify the lyrical speaker
There are a number of steps that readers can use to identify who the lyrical speaker is in a poem:
Read the entire poem without stopping
Once this first reading is finished, you must write what was the immediate impression you had of the speaker. Similarly, the type of speaker that is being imagined should be noted. The first complete impression that the speaker made should be noted.
Read the entire poem again, stopping to ask “what is the poem about?”
Attention should be paid to the title of the poem, as it almost always gives a clue about the situation and the meaning of the poem. Another key element in answering this question is identifying the points on which the author emphasizes through repetitions.
Sometimes the author reveals the speaker’s emotions and tone by emphasizing the theme of the poem.
Determine the context of the poem
What is happening when the poem starts? What is the topic that is being addressed by the speaker? This scenario must be described in images that allow locating the place where the text takes place. Is it a city, a general or a specific location?
Examine the type of language used by the speaker
Determine the main emotion conveyed by the poem
Is the speaker in a reflective or outgoing tone? Do you read a pessimistic and optimistic attitude? Do you have a fluid or chaotic rhythm? By analyzing the words used by the speaker, different moods, colors, sounds and images can be inferred. This information helps to more accurately determine who the speaker is.
Write a short description of the speaker
Include your physical appearance, age, gender, social class, and any details that allow the reader to bring the speaker to life. If the poem lacks details about the speaker, the context of the poem can be taken to speculate what its appearance may be (Center, 2016).