Occasional verse: Verse written to celebrate or commemorate a particular occasion or event, such as births, deaths, inaugurations, and military victories. Occasional verse is often lyric, especially when written for public reading, and is common in literatures the world over, from Arabic to French, Japanese to Persian. Forms often associated with occasional verse include the dirge, a poem of mourning; the epithalamium, written to celebrate a specific marriage; and the ode, typically written to laud or exalt its subject.
EXAMPLES: Edmund Spenser’s Epithalamion (1595), written to celebrate his marriage; Francis Scott Key’s “Defense of Fort M’Henry” (1814), which became “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the American national anthem; Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” (1865), on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln; W. H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939” (1939), on the outbreak of World War II; and Elizabeth Alexander’s “Praise Song for the Day” (2009), written for the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States. Poet Galway Kinnell’s “When the Towers Fell” (2002) — containing a pastiche of quotations from poems by Whitman, François Villon, Hart Crane, Paul Celan, and Aleksander Wat — marked the first anniversary of the September 11th tragedy.