What is a song? As a literary term, song had acquired particular historical meanings for poets writing in English by the mid-nineteenth century. The ballad and song revival of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries reawakened interest not only in traditional ballads but in nonnarrative songs, both popular and elite—especially the songs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For poets writing in the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, song, in the literary sense, was an inherited tradition exercising a strong countering pressure against the temptation to regard all lyric poems as first-person expressions of subjective feeling.

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