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Narrative Poem

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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—
Riding—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 when no writing existed.

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Despite originally being designed for reciting by heart, narrative poems remained the most popular form of narrative fiction well after writing was invented and popularised. However, they started to decline in popularity with the advent of the printing press as the production of fictional prose became cheaper and easier. They persisted in popularity for several hundred years, and even in the 19th century book-length narrative poems were not unusual.

Nowadays, though, 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.

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Examples of narrative poems:

Epic poems (including genre parodies)

Verse novel

Other (includes ballads):


Alternative Title(s): Epic Poem, Verse Novel, Ballad, Narrative Poetry

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