Characteristics of Classical Poetry

Classical poetry brings to mind poets of the past such as Robert Browning, Lord Byron, Emily Dickinson and John Donne. Poems considered to be classic include "Jerusalem" by William Blake and "A Red, Red Rose" by Robert Burns. Certain characteristics identify classical poetry although all of the poetry of the ancient Romans and Greeks is also referred to as classical.

Passion and Thought

Classical poems typically consist of a combination of thought and passion. Emotions are analyzed from an intellectual standpoint and passion is balanced out with reasoning and rationalizations. The result is a blending of emotions, intellect and often love. Classical poems frequently imply colloquial speech because the text diction may be grandiose.

Concentration in Classic Poetry

Concentration, when referred to in terms of classical poetry, means to focus on an idea or a point of argument. Many classical poets such as Virgil, Alexander Pope, Homer and Geoffrey Chaucer used principle arguments that ran throughout their poems as the central theme. The argument may reflect the value of chivalry of the time. The characters were often knights, warriors or courageous heroes such as King Priam and Odysseus.


Wit is revealed in the paradoxes utilized in classical poetry to explain underlying meanings. Wit can be used subtly in classical poems or overtly. Augustan poetry, a type of classical English poetry, was particularly known for its fondness of wit and the urbane, often in regard to Roman values.


Conceit may be the foremost characteristic of classical poetry. Conceit is essentially a simile or comparison between two things that are not alike. When reading a conceit in classic poems, the dissimilarity between the things which are compared is so great that the reader is fully aware of it.

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