The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.Simply put, a narrative poem is a poem that tells a story. This format is Older Than Dirt — in fact, it may even predate prose. Such poems were popular in ye olden dayes, as the rhymes, rhythms, and alliteration helped the storyteller remember how the story went. Narrative poems started to decline in popularity with the advent of writing, as it was not quite so necessary to learn stories off by heart when they are written down. However, they persisted in popularity for several hundred years, as the majority of people were illiterate for much of human history. Nowadays, narrative poems are rarely written. Subtypes of narrative poetry include:
Alfred Noyes, "The Highwayman"
- A narrative poem that meets the criteria of an epic is an epic poem.
- A shorter narrative poem that uses stanzas is a ballad (especially if it is set to music)
- A novel written in verse is a verse novel.
Examples of narrative poems:
Epic poems (including genre parodies)
- The Epic of Gilgamesh is probably the oldest surviving example.
- The Iliad by Homer.
- The Odyssey, also ascribed to Homer.
- The rest of the Trojan Cycle, authors uncertain.
- Batrachomyomachia, a mock-heroic epic poem, i.e. parody of the traditional epic.
- The Aeneid by Virgil
- Statius's Thebaid
- Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon heroic epic.
- The Shahnameh by Ferdowsi
- The Song of Roland, an account of how the title character was betrayed at Roncesvalles.
- The Poem of the Cid on the exile and redemption of El Cid Campeador, (very) loosely based on his real exploits.
- The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.
- Orlando Furioso by Ariosto.
- Os Lusíadas by Luis Vaz de Camões
- The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.
- Paradise Lost by John Milton.
- The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, another mock-epic.
- The unfinished The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream by John Keats.
- Lúdas Matyi is a Hungarian example, adapted to a successful animated film.
- Don Juan by Lord Byron, mock-epic.
- The Kalevala (the Finnish national epic)
- The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
- Evangeline, also by Longfellow.
- Pharsalia by Lucan.
- The Eve of St. Agnes by John Keats
- David of Sasun, a traditional Armenian epic.
- The Cantos, by Ezra Pound
- The Fall of the Black and Yellow Warriors
- Eludoran is a parody of one.
- Eugene Onegin, a Russian novel by Alexander Pushkin
- Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz
- The Golden Gate, a modern novel written in Pushkin sonnets by Vikram Seth.
- Zorgamazoo, a modern novel written entirely in rhyme by Robert Paul Weston.
- Ellen Hopkins multiple series of Young Adult verse novels. Crank Trilogy, Impulse, Identical are a few.
- Love Dishonor Marry Die Cherish Perish by David Rakoff
- Eludoran has over 15,000 rhyming couplets spanning 800 pages.
- Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson.
Other (includes ballads):
- Enűma Eliš — Babylonian creation myth.
- The Homeric Hymns
- The Metamorphoses by Ovid
- "The Ballad of Mulan", Chinese ballad.
- The Poetic Edda consists of these.
- Piers Plowman by William Langland
- The anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- The Canterbury Tales and The Book of the Duchess by Geoffrey Chaucer.
- Venus and Adonis and The Rape Of Lucrece by William Shakespeare
- "Tam Lin", a Child Ballad
- All the other Child Ballads
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
- "Kubla Khan", also by Coleridge.
- "The Erlking" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
- "La Belle Dame sans Merci" by John Keats
- "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes
- "Tam o' Shanter", by Robert Burns.
- "Terje Vigen" by Henrik Ibsen.
- Florante at Laura, by Francisco Baltazar, a.k.a. Balagtas (1830s).
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson has a few:
- "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1854)
- "Maud" (1855)
- "Enoch Arden" (1864)
- "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe.
- Robert Browning's "Childe Rowland to the Dark Tower Came", basis of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series.
- "The Hunting of the Snark" by Lewis Carroll.
- "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Thayer.
- "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee", both by Robert W. Service.
- "The Truant" by E.J. Pratt.
- J. R. R. Tolkien wrote quite a few: two long epic poems of tales from the Quenta Silmarillion ("The Lay of Leithian" and "The Lay of the Children of Húrin", respectively), as well as countless shorter ones appearing in his works (e.g. "Eärendil" from The Lord of the Rings).
- "Crossing America" by Leo Connellan.
- The Adventures And Brave Deeds Of The Ships Cat On The Spanish Maine: Together With The Most Lamentable Losse Of The Alcestis and Triumphant Firing of the Port of Chagres by Richard Adams
- The Sonneteer, an experimental blog-verse narrative by TJ Radcliffe
- "The Ballad of the White Horse" by G. K. Chesterton
- Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
- "Lenore" by Gottfried August Bürger
- The Little Laundry Fairy
- Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti
- Mik's Mammoth by Roy Gerrard
- The Wanderings of Oisin, by William Butler Yeats, a retelling of the later part of the Ossian legend, in which the poet travels away to Tir Na Nog and leaves Ireland behind for 400 years, before getting homesick. Memorably, this poem is narrated by Oisin himself to St. Patrick in the Distant Finale. Yes, that St. Patrick. He's a bit of a jerkass, in fact.
- Martín Fierro: The poem is about a Gaucho who recounts his life full of misadventures singing thirteen songs in the first part, and thirty three improvised songs in the second part. This format could be a parody or pastiche (José Hernández was a Cattle Baron who wanted to imitate the style of the gauchos), but Jorge Luis Borges thinks the book could be classified as a novel.
- Shows up from time to time in children's literature, the most well-known of which would be works by Dr. Seuss.