Epic poetry

An epic poem, epic, epos, or epopee is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily involving a time beyond living memory in which occurred the extraordinary doings of the extraordinary men and women who, in dealings with the gods or other superhuman forces, gave shape to the moral universe that their descendants, the poet and his audience, must understand to understand themselves as a people or nation.[1]

Another type of epic poetry is epyllion (plural: epyllia), which is a brief narrative poem with a romantic or mythological theme. The term, which means "little epic", came into use in the nineteenth century. It refers primarily to the erudite, shorter hexameter poems of the Hellenistic period and the similar works composed at Rome from the age of the neoterics; to a lesser degree, the term includes some poems of the English Renaissance, particularly those influenced by Ovid. The most famous example of classical epyllion is perhaps Catullus 64.

British Museum Flood Tablet
Tablet containing a fragment of the Epic of Gilgamesh

Etymology

The English word epic comes from the Latin epicus, which itself comes from the Ancient Greek adjective ἐπικός (epikos), from ἔπος (epos),[2] "word, story, poem".[3]

Overview

Originating before the invention of writing, primary epics were composed by bards who used complex rhetorical and metrical schemes by which they could memorize the epic as received in tradition and add to the epic in their performances. Hence aside from writers like Dante, Camões, and Milton, Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautica and Virgil in Aeneid adopted and adapted Homer's style and subject matter, but used devices available only to those who write, and in their works Nonnus' Dionysiaca and Tulsidas' Sri Ramacharit Manas also used stylistic elements typical of epics.

The oldest epic recognized is the Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2500–1300 BCE), which was recorded In ancient Sumer during the Neo-Sumerian Empire. The poem details the exploits of Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk. Although recognized as a historical figure, Gilgamesh, as represented in the epic, is a largely legendary or mythical figure.[4]

The longest epic written is the ancient Indian Mahabharata, which consists of 100,000 ślokas or over 200,000 verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), as well as long prose passages, so that at about 1.8 million words it is about four times the length of the Rāmāyaṇa, and roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined.[5][6][7]

Famous examples of epic poetry include the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, the ancient Indian Mahabharata and Rāmāyaṇa, the Tamil Silappatikaram, the Persian Shahnameh, the Ancient Greek Odyssey and Iliad, Virgil's Aeneid, the Old English Beowulf, Dante's Divine Comedy, the Finnish Kalevala, the German Nibelungenlied, the French Song of Roland, the Spanish Cantar de mio Cid, the Portuguese Os Lusíadas, John Milton's Paradise Lost, and Adam Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz.

Oral epics

The first epics were products of preliterate societies and oral history poetic traditions. Oral tradition was used alongside written scriptures to communicate and facilitate the spread of culture.[8] In these traditions, poetry is transmitted to the audience and from performer to performer by purely oral means. Early twentieth-century study of living oral epic traditions in the Balkans by Milman Parry and Albert Lord demonstrated the paratactic model used for composing these poems. What they demonstrated was that oral epics tend to be constructed in short episodes, each of equal status, interest and importance. This facilitates memorization, as the poet is recalling each episode in turn and using the completed episodes to recreate the entire epic as he performs it. Parry and Lord also contend that the most likely source for written texts of the epics of Homer was dictation from an oral performance.

Milman Parry and Albert Lord have argued that the Homeric epics, the earliest works of Western literature, were fundamentally an oral poetic form. These works form the basis of the epic genre in Western literature. Nearly all of Western epic (including Virgil's Aeneid and Dante's Divine Comedy) self-consciously presents itself as a continuation of the tradition begun by these poems. Classical epic poetry employs a meter called dactylic hexameter and recounts a journey, either physical (as typified by Odysseus in the Odyssey) or mental (as typified by Achilles in the Iliad) or both. Epics also tend to highlight cultural norms and to define or call into question cultural values, particularly as they pertain to heroism.

Composition and conventions

In his work Poetics, Aristotle defines an epic as one of the forms of poetry, contrasted with lyric poetry and with drama in the form of tragedy and comedy.[9]

In A Handbook to Literature (1999), Harmon and Holman define an epic:

Epic: a long narrative poem in elevated style presenting characters of high position in adventures forming an organic whole through their relation to a central heroic figure and through their development of episodes important to the history of a nation or race. (Harmon and Holman)[10]

An attempt to delineate ten main characteristics of an epic:[10]

  1. Begins in medias res.
  2. The setting is vast, covering many nations, the world or the universe.
  3. Begins with an invocation to a muse (epic invocation).
  4. Begins with a statement of the theme.
  5. Includes the use of epithets.
  6. Contains long lists, called an epic catalogue.
  7. Features long and formal speeches.
  8. Shows divine intervention on human affairs.
  9. Features heroes that embody the values of the civilization.
  10. Often features the tragic hero's descent into the underworld or hell.

The hero generally participates in a cyclical journey or quest, faces adversaries that try to defeat him in his journey and returns home significantly transformed by his journey. The epic hero illustrates traits, performs deeds, and exemplifies certain morals that are valued by the society the epic originates from. Many epic heroes are recurring characters in the legends of their native culture.

Conventions of epics:

  1. Proposition: Opens by stating the theme or cause of the epic. This may take the form of a purpose (as in Milton, who proposed "to justify the ways of God to men"); of a question (as in the Iliad, which Homer initiates by asking a Muse to sing of Achilles' anger); or of a situation (as in the Song of Roland, with Charlemagne in Spain).
  2. Invocation: Writer invokes a Muse, one of the nine daughters of Zeus. The poet prays to the Muses to provide him with divine inspiration to tell the story of a great hero.[11] (This convention is restricted to cultures influenced by European Classical culture. The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, or the Bhagavata Purana do not contain this element.)
  3. In medias res: narrative opens "in the middle of things", with the hero at his lowest point. Usually flashbacks show earlier portions of the story.
  4. Enumeratio: Catalogues and genealogies are given. These long lists of objects, places, and people place the finite action of the epic within a broader, universal context. Often, the poet is also paying homage to the ancestors of audience members.
  5. Epithet: Heavy use of repetition or stock phrases: e.g., Homer's "rosy-fingered dawn" and "wine-dark sea".

Form

Many verse forms have been used in epic poems through the ages, but each language's literature typically gravitates to one form, or at least to a very limited set. Ancient Sumerian epic poems did not use any kind of poetic meter and lines did not have consistent lengths;[12] instead, Sumerian poems derived their rhythm solely through constant repetition, with subtle variations between lines.[12] Indo-European epic poetry, by contrast, usually places strong emphasis on the importance of line consistency and poetic meter.[12] Ancient Greek and Latin poems were written in dactylic hexameter.[13] Old English, German and Norse poems were written in alliterative verse,[14] usually without rhyme. Italian, Spanish and Portuguese long poems were usually written in terza rima [15] or especially ottava rima.[16] From the 14th century English epic poems were written in heroic couplets,[17] and rhyme royal,[18] though in the 16th century the Spenserian stanza[19] and blank verse[20] were also introduced. The French alexandrine is currently the heroic line in French literature, though in earlier periods the decasyllable took precedence. In Polish literature, couplets of Polish alexandrines (syllabic lines of 7+6 syllables) prevail.[21] In Russian, iambic tetrameter verse is the most popular.[22] In Serbian poetry, the decasyllable is the only form employed.[23][24]

See also

References

  1. ^ Michael Meyer, The Bedford Introduction to Literature (Bedford: St. Martin's, 2005), 2128. ISBN 0-312-41242-8.
  2. ^ "epic". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Epic Online Etymology Dictionary
  4. ^ Lawall, Sarah N.; Mack, Maynard, eds. (1999). Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces: The Western Tradition. 1 (7 ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-0-393-97289-4.
  5. ^ James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 399. ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8.
  6. ^ T.R.S. Sharma; June Gaur; Sahitya Akademi (2000). Ancient Indian Literature: An Anthology. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 137. ISBN 978-81-260-0794-3.
  7. ^ Spodek, Howard. Richard Mason. The World's History. Pearson Education: 2006, New Jersey. 224, ISBN 0-13-177318-6
  8. ^ Jack Goody (1987). The Interface Between the Written and the Oral. Cambridge University Press. pp. 110–121. ISBN 978-0-521-33794-6.
  9. ^ Aristotle: Poetics, translated with an introduction and notes by M. Heath, (Penguin) London 1996
  10. ^ a b Taken from William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature, 8th ed., Prentice Hall, 1999.
  11. ^ Battles, Paul (2014). "Toward a Theory of Old English Poetic Genres: Epic, Elegy, Wisdom Poetry, and the "Traditional Opening"". Studies in Philosophy. 111,1: 1–34. doi:10.1353/sip.2014.0001 – via Project MUSE.
  12. ^ a b c Kramer, Samuel Noah (1963), The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character, Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, pp. 184–185, ISBN 978-0-226-45238-8
  13. ^ Hexameter, poetry at Encyclopædia Britannica.
  14. ^ Alliterative verse literature at Encyclopædia Britannica.
  15. ^ Terza rima, poetic form at Encyclopædia Britannica.
  16. ^ Ottava rima, poetic form at Encyclopædia Britannica.
  17. ^ Heroic couplet, poetry at Encyclopædia Britannica.
  18. ^ Rhyme royal, poetic form at Encyclopædia Britannica.
  19. ^ Spenserian stanza, poetic form at Encyclopædia Britannica.
  20. ^ Blank verse, poetic form at Encyclopædia Britannica.
  21. ^ See: Trzynastozgłoskowiec, [in:] Wiktor Jarosław Darasz, Mały przewodnik po wierszu polskim, Kraków 2003 (in Polish).
  22. ^ [Alexandra Smith, Montaging Pushkin: Pushkin and Visions of Modernity in Russian Twentieth Century Poetry, p. 184.]
  23. ^ Meyer, Early Tahitian Poetics.
  24. ^ Robert William Seton-Watson, The Spirit of the Serb.

Bibliography

  • Jan de Vries: Heroic Song and Heroic Legend ISBN 0-405-10566-5.
  • Hashmi, Alamgir (2011). "Eponymous Écriture and the Poetics of Reading a Transnational Epic". Dublin Quarterly, 15.
  • Frye, Northrup (2015) [1957]. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-6690-8.
  • Cornel Heinsdorff: Christus, Nikodemus und die Samaritanerin bei Juvencus. Mit einem Anhang zur lateinischen Evangelienvorlage, Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte 67, Berlin/New York 2003, ISBN 3-11-017851-6.
  • Jansen, Jan and J Henk M.J. Maier, eds. 2004. Epic Adventures: Heroic Narrative in the Oral Performance Traditions of Four Continents (Literatur: Forschung und Wissenschaft, 3.) LIT Verlag.
  • Parrander, Patrick (1980). "Science Fiction as Epic". Science Fiction: Its Criticism and Teaching. London: Methuen. pp. 88–105.
  • Tillyard, E.M.W. (1966) [1954]. The English Epic and Its Background. New York: Oxford UP.
  • Wilkie, Brian (1965). Romantic Poets and Epic Tradition. University of Wisconsin Press.

External links

  • "The Epic", BBC Radio 4 discussion with John Carey, Karen Edwards and Oliver Taplin (In Our Time, Feb. 3, 2003)
Albanian folk poetry

The traditional Albanian poetry includes folk Albanian poetry and songs that are part of Albanian culture.

Calliope

In Greek mythology, Calliope ( kə-LY-ə-pee; Ancient Greek: Καλλιόπη, Kalliopē "beautiful-voiced") is the muse who presides over eloquence and epic poetry; so called from the ecstatic harmony of her voice. Hesiod and Ovid called her the "Chief of all Muses".

Cyclic Poets

Cyclic Poets is a shorthand term for the early Greek epic poets, approximate contemporaries of Homer. We know no more about these poets than we know about Homer, but modern scholars regard them as having composed orally, as did Homer. In the classical period, surviving early epic poems were ascribed to these authors, just as the Iliad and Odyssey were ascribed to Homer. Together with Homer, whose Iliad covers a mere 50 days of the war, they cover the complete war "cycle", thus the name. Most modern scholars place Homer in the 8th century BC. The other poets listed below seemed to have lived in the 7th–5th centuries BC. Excluding Homer's, none of the works of the cyclic poets survive.

Dactylic hexameter

Dactylic hexameter (also known as "heroic hexameter" and "the meter of epic") is a form of meter or rhythmic scheme in poetry. It is traditionally associated with the quantitative meter of classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin and was consequently considered to be the grand style of Western classical poetry. Some premier examples of its use are Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, and Ovid's Metamorphoses. Hexameters also form part of elegiac poetry in both languages, alternating with dactylic pentameters.

Elegiac

The adjective elegiac has two possible meanings. First, it can refer to something of, relating to, or involving, an elegy or something that expresses similar mournfulness or sorrow. Second, it can refer more specifically to poetry composed in the form of elegiac couplets.An elegiac couplet consists of one line of poetry in dactylic hexameter followed by a line in dactylic pentameter. Because dactylic hexameter is used throughout epic poetry, and because the elegiac form was always considered "lower style" than epic, elegists, or poets who wrote elegies, frequently wrote with epic poetry in mind and positioned themselves in relation to epic.

Epic (genre)

An epic is traditionally a genre of poetry, known as epic poetry. In modern terms, epic is often extended to describing other art forms, such as epic theatre, films, music, novels, television series, and video games, wherein the story has a theme of grandeur and heroism, just as in epic poetry. Scholars argue that the epic has long since become "disembedded" from its origins in oral poetry, appearing in successive narrative media throughout history.

Indian epic poetry

Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya (or Kāvya; Sanskrit: काव्य, IAST: kāvyá). The Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which were originally composed in Sanskrit and later translated into many other Indian languages, and The Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature and Sangam literature are some of the oldest surviving epic poems ever written.

Ivan Kosančić

Ivan Kosančić was a Serbian knight who died during the historical Battle of Kosovo in 1389.

Kosovo Maiden

The Kosovo Maiden or Maiden of the Blackbird Field (Serbian: Косовка девојка / Kosovka devojka) is the central figure of a poem with the same name, part of the Kosovo cycle in the Serbian epic poetry. In it, a young beauty searches the battlefield for her betrothed husband and helps wounded Serbian warriors with water, wine and bread after the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 between Serbia and the Ottoman Empire. She finally finds the wounded and dying warrior Pavle Orlović who tells her that her fiancé Milan Toplica and his blood-brothers Miloš Obilić and Ivan Kosančić are dead. Before the battle they had given her a cloak, golden ring and veil for the wedding as a promise of safe return, but they were slain and Pavle pointed to the direction of the bodies. The poem finishes with;

"O wretch! Evil is your fortune!If I, a wretch, were to grasp a green pine,Even the green pine would wither."

The poem became greatly popular as a symbol of womanly compassion and charity. Uroš Predić took up the theme in 1919 with an oil painting of the same title. In 1907, the sculptor Ivan Meštrović created a marble relief of the subject as a part of his Kosovo cycle. Another Croatian artist, Mirko Rački, painted a version of Kosovo Maiden.

Milan Toplica

In Serbian epic poetry, Milan Toplica (Toplica Milan, Milan from Toplica) was a Serbian knight who died during the historical Battle of Kosovo in 1389.According to folk songs, he was born in the Toplica region and was a sworn brother (in Serbian: pobratim) to Miloš Obilić and Ivan Kosančić, and had before the battle promised himself to a girl, the Kosovo Maiden. After the battle, she found Pavle Orlović and heard about the fate of Milan and his sworn brothers, according to a Serbian epic poem recorded and published in the early 19th century by Vuk Karadžić. Honours and titles attributed to him, differ from area to area with the folk songs recorded by Karadžić calling him a duke. In the cycle of Marko Kraljević he is known to hold the title of bajraktar, while Obilić is a vojvode and Kosančić a privenac.Medieval Berkovac, near Valjevo, is commonly called Zamak Toplice Milana.The Topličin Venac Crescent in Belgrade is named after Milan Toplica.

Milutin Petrović

Milutin Petrović (Serbian pronunciation: [milǔtin pětroʋitɕ]; Serbian Cyrillic: Милутин Петровић; 1791–1861) was one of the vojvodas (military commanders) of the Serbian Revolutionary forces in the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire, in charge of the Negotin area. His nom de guerre was Era. He and his brother Hajduk Veljko were one of the biggest heroes of the Uprising.

Philippine epic poetry

Philippine epic poetry is the body of epic poetry in Philippine literature. Filipino epic poetry is considered to be the highest point of development for Philippine folk literature, encompassing narratives that recount the adventures of tribal heroes. These epics are transmitted through oral tradition using a select group of singers and chanters.A study revealed that the Philippine folk epics, like those found elsewhere in Asia, are often about a quest for a wife as well as the various ordeals linked to the founding of a family, hamlet, tribe or a kingdom. The narratives would include voyages - on earth, sea, sky, and the underworld - to allow the hero or heroine to overcome the challenges faced. After the ordeal, the protagonists - through an increase or improvement of his or her qualities, becomes the ideal man or woman.

Princess Milica of Serbia

Princess Milica Hrebeljanović née Nemanjić (Serbian: Милица Немањић Хребељановић · ca. 1335 – November 11, 1405) also known as Empress (Tsaritsa) Milica, was a royal consort of Serbia. Her husband was Serbian Prince Lazar and her children included despot Stefan Lazarević, and Jelena Lazarević, whose husband was Đurađ II Balšić. She is the author of "A Mother's Prayer" (Serbian: Молитва матере) and a famously moving poem of mourning for her husband, My Widowhood's Bridegroom (Serbian: Удовству мојему женик).

Rhapsody

Rhapsody or variant may refer to:

A work of epic poetry, or part of one, that is suitable for recitation at one time

Rhapsode, a classical Greek professional performer of epic poetry

Serbian epic poetry

Serb epic poetry (Serbian: Српске епске народне песме/Srpske epske narodne pesme) is a form of epic poetry created by Serbs originating in today's Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro. The main cycles were composed by unknown Serb authors between the 14th and 19th centuries. They are largely concerned with historical events and personages. The instrument accompanying the epic poetry is the gusle.

Serbian epic poetry helped in developing the Serbian national consciousness. The cycles of Prince Marko, the Hajduks and Uskoks inspired the Serbs to restore freedom and their heroic past. The Hajduks in particular, are seen as an integral part of national identity; in stories, the hajduks were heroes: they had played the role of the Serbian elite during Ottoman rule, they had defended the Serbs against Ottoman oppression, and prepared for the national liberation and contributed to it in the Serbian Revolution.

Serbian folklore

Serbian folklore is the folk traditions among ethnic Serbs. The earliest examples of Serbian folklore are seen in the pre-Christian Slavic customs transformed into Christianity.

Serbian poetry

Serbian poetry (Serbian: Srpsko pesništvo, Srpska poezija) dates back to the Middle Ages, with songs dedicated to saints.

Telugu poetry

Telugu poetry is verse originating in the southern provinces of India, predominantly from modern Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and some corners of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Earliest available Telugu poetry has been found on the epigraphs, including victory inscriptions. During the period of patronage of Eastern Chalukya rulers around the 11th century, the language attained its present script, rich vocabulary and grammar rules. This standardization led to development in the quantity and quality of literature of Telugu Language, which was predominantly composed of poetry. This phase of development reached its zenith under the rule of Sri Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagara Empire.

Vratko Nemanjić

Vratko Nemanjić (Serbian: Вратко Немањић, pronounced [ʋrâtko němaɲitɕ]; fl. 1325-1355) was a Serbian warrior and Hero character known as Jug Bogdan (Југ Богдан, pronounced [jûɡ bôɡdaːn]) in Serbian epic poetry.

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