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What is an Epic Poem?

An Epic is a serious poem that tells a story.
This is at length a narrative piece with heroic events and deeds


The Structure of an Epic Poem

There is no structure to the poem other than it tells a story.


An Example of an Epic Poem

The man awoke upon the morn
To the sunlight streaming down
Down upon the bed through the window pane
The curtains that swathed it having been
Left wide open to the elements
The night before in his haste
To retreat to the land of Nod
He squinted and raised a hand
To shield his vision from the glare
That had so recently disturbed him
From his sojourn in dreamland.
He lay upon the bed awhile
Basking in the morning light
Thinking upon the day before him
He could delay it no longer
The day must be commenced
Despite his reticence and the comfort
To be found amongst the bed sheets.
But then the swirling dust motes caught his eye
As they danced and twirled before him
In the shafts of sunlight streaming down
That had so recently disturbed him
As they performed their ballet
To music beyond his hearing
He admired the twirling journey
Of their dance upon the air
And pondered awhile upon their beauty
And perhaps if it could be used
To aid the work that faced him.
With this reminder he shifted
He really must desist this lazing
Around in bed for half the morn
He had work to be commenced.
He raised his arms above his head
And with a crack stretched out long
Dispelling the vestiges of sleep
From their places in his weary limbs
But as he stretched his gaze lifted
To the roof above him
And upon that roof he happened to spy
A shaft of the morning’s light
That had so recently disturbed him
It sliced the roof in half up high
Two halves of shadow ripped asunder
By this line of blazing glory light
Right above his head.
The sight above him brought to mind
Great canyons in the desert
Or rivers cleaving land in two
Or perhaps, a glimpse between two curtains
As the light spilled from within
Offering the unseen observer
A glimpse into a world
Thought private by its occupants
Yes, he thought, that was good
He’d have to note that down
And remember to use it later
Once his work had been commenced.
He sat up and winced once more
At the light that invaded his room
And wished that he had had the foresight
Last night to draw his own curtains across
And then perhaps he would have been saved
From the insistent morning glow
That had so recently disturbed him.
He swung his legs from under the covers
And stretched once more up high
Still he did not feel ready to face
What lay before him, though he must
His toes lighted upon the wooden beams
Of the floor of his bedroom
And he shuddered, for though the light
Was fierce and bright and white
None of its warmth had thought to reach
The floor upon which he trod
At times such as this (so every morn)
He wished he were the type of chap
To own a pair of slippers to put upon his feet
And protect them from the frost of the floor
It was a while before he found himself
Descending the stairs to the rooms below
For though his work must be commenced
He was not eager to make a start
He prepared himself some food
Because he can’t work on an empty stomach
He prepared himself a drink
Because the mind needs liquid to function
It was a hot drink, so took longer
Because he couldn’t think if he was cold
He returned upstairs for a jumper
Because the hot drink might not be enough
To keep him warm enough
He opened all his letters
And answered every one
Because he would not allow his work
To get in the way of his manners
He washed and dried his dishes
Because the imagination would not be freed
If the shackles of chores lay upon him
And then there was nothing left to do
But work
And so he sat down at his desk
He adjusted his chair just so
He took a fresh sheet of paper
And smoothed it out before him
He took a pencil from the pot
And looking at it, frowned
Then retrieved a sharpener
And would not settle until
It was the perfect sharpness
With no risk of the lead snapping
And interrupting his flow
Such a happening had the potential
To ruin a whole day’s work
And close off his mind to his task
Until the next morn when he would
Be awoken by the sun once more.
He was ready to begin
The paper was blank and crease free
The pencil was ready to scratch
Its lead across the white surface
Leaving behind its trail
There was nothing left to do
Within the house, it had all been done
There was nothing to distract him
From the hours that lay ahead
And those hours did pass
Slowly, sleepily, sloth-like
They ambled on by
Dragging him through the day
One painful minute by minute
Yet still the paper remained
Blank and crease free
Yet still the pencil remained
Sharp and ready to scratch
Its lead across the white surface
Leaving behind the trail
He racked his brain but nothing
He half remembered fleeting thoughts
From when he had first awoken
From when the sun blazed so fiercely down
Upon his sleeping form
And disturbed him from his slumber
Something about the ceiling
And curtains, yes definitely curtains
He was sure the words had flowed
Easily into his mind
Cascading waterfalls of words
But the symphony that had
Accompanied them when they first
Had emerged fully formed inside his head
Now sounded hollow and dull
And merely a racket, no melody at all
He picked up the pencil
But still did not write
He looked down at the lead
And wood creation in his hand
And threw his pencil to the fire
As if it had been its fault
For failing him
He looked at the paper upon his desk
Its blankness accusing him
Mocking him
He scrunched it up into a ball
And threw it after the pencil
He took a fresh sheet of paper
And smoothed it out before him
He took a pencil from the pot
And looking at it, frowned
Then retrieved a sharpener
And would not settle until
It was the perfect sharpness
With no risk of the lead snapping
And interrupting his flow
(If he ever found his flow)
He closed his eyes in concentration
He meditated for relaxation
He thrashed
He wailed
He begged the powers that be
But all to no avail
The words just would not come
And then, in exhaustion, in submission
He finally admitted defeat
After hours in his seat with nothing achieved
And days and weeks of the same
He set down the pencil
That was the perfect sharpness
Upon the paper
That was smooth and blank
And tried to write no more
‘I am a lie, a deceit, a fraud’
He said to the empty air
‘For how can I call myself a poet
When not a single word I write’


Why don't you try writing an Epic poem and enter it into one of our poetry competitions.

For information on poetry types other than an Epic visit our poetry glossary – poetry types.

Poetry Types

Acrostic Epigram Lyric Shakespearean Sonnet
Ballad Free verse Ottava rima Sonnet
Ballade Haiku Pantoum Tanka Poem
Blank verse Horatian Ode Pindaric Ode Terza rima
Cinquain Irregular Ode Riddle Tetractys
Diamante Kennings Rondeau Triolet
Echo Verse Kyrielle Senryu Tyburn
Epic Limerick Shape Poem  
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