epic

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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.

Bibliography

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).

Epic

See also Saga.
Aeneid
Virgil’s epic poem glorifying the origin of the Roman people. [Rom. Lit.: Aeneid]
Beowulf
Old English epic poem of sixth-century Denmark. [Br. Lit.: Beowulf]
Divine Comedy
Dante’s epic poem in three sections: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. [Ital. Lit.: Divine Comedy]
Faerie Queene
allegorical epic poem by Edmund Spenser. [Br. Lit.: Faerie Queene]
Frithiofs Saga
Esaias Tegner’s poetic version of the Norse Saga of Frithiof the Bold. [Nor. Lit.: Haydn & Fuller, 275]
Gilgamesh
Babylonian epic of myth and folklore, centered on the king, Gilgamesh. [Babyl. Myth.: Gilgamesh]
Gosta Berling’s Saga
Selma Lagerlof’s story of the legendary life of an early nineteenth-century character. [Swed. Lit.: Gosta Berling’s Saga in Benét, 412]
Heimskringla
medieval account of the kings of Norway from legendary times to the twelfth century. [Norw. Hist.: Haydn & Fuller, 322]
Iliad
Homer’s epic detailing a few days near the end of the Trojan War. [Gk. Lit.: Iliad]
Jerusalem Delivered
Tasso’s celebrated romantic epic written during Renaissance. [Ital. Lit.: Jerusalem Delivered]
Kalevala
alliterative epic poem of Finland. [Finn. Lit.: Kalevala]
Laxdale Saga
medieval account of two Icelandic families and their feud. [Icel. Lit.: Benét, 572]
Lusiad, The
celebrates Portuguese heroes and wars. [Port. Lit.: Magill II, 608]
Mahabharata
Indian epic poem of the struggle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. [Indian Lit.: Mahabharata]
Nibelungenlied
medieval German epic poem of Siegfried and the Nibelung kings. [Ger. Lit.: Nibelungenlied]
Njál Saga
greatest of the Icelandic sagas, based on the historical adventures of two families. [Icel. Lit.: Haydn & Fuller, 524]
Odyssey
Homer’s long, narrative poem centered on Odysseus. [Gk. Lit.: Odyssey]
One Hundred Years of Solitude
encompasses the sweep of Latin American history. [Lat. Am. Lit.: Gabriel Garcia Marquez One Hundred Years of Solitude in Weiss, 336]
Orlando Furioso
Ariosto’s romantic epic; actually a continuation of Boiardo’s plot. [Ital. Lit.: Orlando Furioso]
Orlando Innamorato
Boiardo’s epic combining Carolingian chivalry and Arthurian motifs. [Ital. Lit.: Orlando Innamorato]
Paradise Lost
Milton’s epic poem of man’s first disobedience. [Br. Lit.: Paradise Lost]
Ramayana
epic poem of ancient India. [Indian Lit.: Ramayana]
Song of Igor’s Campaign
Old Russian epic poem of 12th-century Prince Igor. [Russ. Lit.: Song of Igor’s Campaign]
Song of Roland
chanson de geste of Roland and Charlemagne. [Fr. Lit.: Song of Roland]
Song of the Cid
epic poem of Spain by an anonymous author. [Span. Lit.: Song of the Cid]
Terra Nostra
combines the myths and history of twenty centuries of Western civilization. [Lat. Am. Lit.: Carlos Fuentes Terra Nostra in Weiss, 458]
Volsunga Saga
cycle of Scandinavian legends, major source of Niebelungenlied. [Scand. Lit.: Benét, 1064]

epic

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

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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