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epic,long, exalted narrative poem, usually on a serious subject, centered on 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; such is the foundation of the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, of the Iliad and the Odyssey of the Greek 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; a course of action in which the hero performs great and difficult deeds; a whole era in the history of civilization; the intervention and recognition of divine or supernatural powers; the concern with eternal human problems; and a dignified and elaborate poetic style. Other works classified as epics are the Indian Mahabharata and Ramayana, the French Song of Roland, the Spanish Song of the Cid, the Germanic Niebelungenlied, Dante's Divine Comedy, Tasso's Gerusaleme Liberta, Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, Spenser's Faerie Queene, and Camões's Lusiads. A mock epic is a form of satire in which trivial characters and events are treated with all the exalted epic conventions and are made to look ridiculous by the incongruity. The plot of Pope's Rape of the Lock, one of the most famous mock epics, is based on a quarrel over the theft of a lady's curl.
See studies by Sir C. M. Bowra (1961), H. V. Routh (2 vol., 1927; repr. 1968), C. A. Yu (1973), J. Ingalls (1984), and J. K. Newman (1986).
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See also Saga.Aeneid
Virgil’s epic poem glorifying the origin of the Roman people. [Rom. Lit.: Aeneid]
Old English epic poem of sixth-century Denmark. [Br. Lit.: Beowulf]
Dante’s epic poem in three sections: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. [Ital. Lit.: Divine Comedy]
allegorical epic poem by Edmund Spenser. [Br. Lit.: Faerie Queene]
Esaias Tegner’s poetic version of the Norse Saga of Frithiof the Bold. [Nor. Lit.: Haydn & Fuller, 275]
Gosta Berling’s Saga
Babylonian epic of myth and folklore, centered on the king, Gilgamesh. [Babyl. Myth.: Gilgamesh]
Selma Lagerlof’s story of the legendary life of an early nineteenth-century character. [Swed. Lit.: Gosta Berling’s Saga in Benét, 412]
medieval account of the kings of Norway from legendary times to the twelfth century. [Norw. Hist.: Haydn & Fuller, 322]
Homer’s epic detailing a few days near the end of the Trojan War. [Gk. Lit.: Iliad]
Tasso’s celebrated romantic epic written during Renaissance. [Ital. Lit.: Jerusalem Delivered]
alliterative epic poem of Finland. [Finn. Lit.: Kalevala]
medieval account of two Icelandic families and their feud. [Icel. Lit.: Benét, 572]
celebrates Portuguese heroes and wars. [Port. Lit.: Magill II, 608]
Indian epic poem of the struggle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. [Indian Lit.: Mahabharata]
medieval German epic poem of Siegfried and the Nibelung kings. [Ger. Lit.: Nibelungenlied]
greatest of the Icelandic sagas, based on the historical adventures of two families. [Icel. Lit.: Haydn & Fuller, 524]
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Homer’s long, narrative poem centered on Odysseus. [Gk. Lit.: Odyssey]
encompasses the sweep of Latin American history. [Lat. Am. Lit.: Gabriel Garcia Marquez One Hundred Years of Solitude in Weiss, 336]
Ariosto’s romantic epic; actually a continuation of Boiardo’s plot. [Ital. Lit.: Orlando Furioso]
Boiardo’s epic combining Carolingian chivalry and Arthurian motifs. [Ital. Lit.: Orlando Innamorato]
Milton’s epic poem of man’s first disobedience. [Br. Lit.: Paradise Lost]
Song of Igor’s Campaign
epic poem of ancient India. [Indian Lit.: Ramayana]
Song of Roland
Old Russian epic poem of 12th-century Prince Igor. [Russ. Lit.: Song of Igor’s Campaign]
Song of the Cid
chanson de geste of Roland and Charlemagne. [Fr. Lit.: Song of Roland]
epic poem of Spain by an anonymous author. [Span. Lit.: Song of the Cid]
combines the myths and history of twenty centuries of Western civilization. [Lat. Am. Lit.: Carlos Fuentes Terra Nostra in Weiss, 458]
cycle of Scandinavian legends, major source of Niebelungenlied. [Scand. Lit.: Benét, 1064]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
1. a long narrative poem recounting in elevated style the deeds of a legendary hero, esp one originating in oral folk tradition
2. the genre of epic poetry
3. any work of literature, film, etc., having heroic deeds for its subject matter or having other qualities associated with the epic
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
EPIC(Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing) The parallel architecture used in Intel's IA-64 chips. It was originally developed by HP. See IA-64.
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