What is Anacreontic poetry: Definition, Features and Examples

Anacreontics poetry in the meter is first used by the Greek poet Anacreon of Teos (6th c. BC). This verse form is named him. His later Greek imitators (whose surviving poems are known as the Anacreontea) took up the same themes and used the Anacreontic meter. In modern poetry, Anacreontics are several short lyrical pieces that keep the Anacreontic subject, not the meter. The Anacreontics consist of sixty-odd short poems on love, wine, and song. They had a considerable influence on Ronsard and Belleau in France; on Tasso, Parini, and Leopardi in Italy; and on some 18th c. German lyricists.

In English literature, Anacreontic appears to have been first used by Abraham Cowley who wrote some Anacreontiques. He called a section of his poems “anacreontiques” because they were paraphrased out of the so-called writings of Anacreon into a familiar measure. Then William Oldys also wrote Anacreontiques and so did Thomas Moore in a translation called the Odes of Anacreon.

A famous example is by Thomas Campion (1567-1620):

Follow, follow,
Though with mischief
Armed, like whirlwind
Now she flies thee;
Time can conquer
Love’s unkindness;
Love can alter
Time’s disgrace;
Till death faint not
Then but follow.
Could I catch that
Nimble traitor,
Scornful Laura,
Swiftfoot Laura,
Soon then would I
Seek avengement.
What’s th’avengement?
Even submissely
Prostrate then to
Beg for mercy.

Also read: What is Aubade: Definition and Examples