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Epic Poetry

 

Epic is a long narrative poem, usually on a serious
subject, centered about a heroic figure. The earliest
epics, known as primary or original epics, were shaped from
the legends of an age when a nation was conquering and
expanding. 

Epics date back to prehistoric times. The earliest ones
were sung by poets who accompanied themselves on a stringed
instrument. These epics had no established text. The singer
composed each line as he sang it, following the outline of
a traditional tale. Examples of this are the Babylonian
epic of "Gilgamesh", of the Greek epic, "The Iliad and the
Odyssey" by Homer, and of the Anglo-Saxon, "Beowulf". 

Literary or secondary epics, written in conscious imitation
of earlier forms, are most notably represented by Vergil's
"Aeneid" and Milton's "Paradise Lost". The epic, which
makes great demands on a poet's knowledge and skill, has
been deemed the most ambitious of poetic forms. 

Some of its conventions, followed by epic writers in
varying degrees, include a hero who embodies national,
cultural, or religious ideals and upon whose actions
depends to some degree the fate of his people. The hero
performs great and difficult deeds and is concerned with
eternal human problems.

 




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