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.
Alfred Noyes, "The Highwayman"
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:
- 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.
Subgroups of ballads that have their own page on this wiki are the Murder Ballad
and the Morality Ballad
. For a related format, see Rock Opera
Examples of narrative poems:
- 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 Compeador, (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
Other (includes ballads):