Epics come in different styles. Secondary or literary epics include Virgil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Spenser’s Faerie Queen, and Milton’s Paradise Lost (among others). Although these poems adopted the conventions and strategies of the epic, they are written poems meant to be read rather than spoken aloud or sung. Alexander Pope said, “Homer makes us hearers, and Virgil makes us readers.”
In Epic Traditions in the Contemporary World, it’s noted, “Epic conceived as a poetic narrative of length and complexity that centers around deeds of significance to the community transcends the oral and literary divide that has long marked the approach to the genre.”
In this stanza from Don Juan, Byron dispenses a little playful satire to describe the epic apparatus he employs:
My poem’s epic, and is meant to be
Divided in twelve books; each book containing,
With Love, and War, a heavy gale at sea,
A list of ships, and captains, and kings reigning,
New characters; the episodes are three:
A panoramic view of Hell’s in training,
After the style of Virgil and of Homer,
So that my name of Epic’s no misnomer.”
Based on Byron’s words above, choose one line and write a poem about what might be happening in the brief scene he’s written. Post your mini literary epic in the comment section below. We’ll be reading!
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here is a poem from Andrew we enjoyed:
Great thunder booms like pounding hooves –
Such tremors of celestial beasts!
Surely the lightning is the strike-of-stone
Of those who on electric steeds must roam,
And hence the great deluge will come
To rid us of the paling sun –
For who can look a lily in the eye
When time has come, when we must die?
Great thunder! Ye gods, do you make sport?
Is that the back and forth of power,
Darting as does the thread of life
Along the border of a knife?
Such crackles! Smite me now, be done of all
The woes which trickle as the rives does,
For I am done with you, great blasts and blows!
Come you once more, my ancient foes.
Like dawn! Like pain! Like hate! Like darkness, and like life,
Give me your strife, give me your strife.
I wandered long beneath a cloud, to sing a song
Not knowing that to have no rain is wrong.
So string me up and hang me as one hangs their coat,
My moving pen moves on, and what it knew it wrote-
I’ve nothing left. So sing with me, you thunder lords,
Sing the song of the clouds that housed these lightning swords!
As does the mellow flower look up at the sun,
Yet shield his shying head from moonlight’s glow,
So too I love the Lightning Seams of life,
The darkness showing light through strife,
Yet fear more gentle fords were I may row
In peace with all the things below –
So no! The gods will let me ride the horse
That rides the lightning’s jagged course!