The History and Use of Narrative Poetry

Narrative poetry is one of the three main types of poetry–the others are lyrical and dramatic. A narrative poem is best described as a poem which holds a plot. The poem may be short or long, simple or complex, but it must tell a story. It is often nondramatic and has objective regular scheme and meter. The types of narrative poetry include ballads, epics, idylls, and lays.

Narratives may sometimes exist as an entire novel, but shorter ones are often similar to short stories. Other short narratives may even be divided and collected into interrelated groups, such as Canterbury Tales. Some narratives are largely made of prose but include poetic interludes. An example of this is The Cremation of Sam McGee.

Many narrative poems are used as performance pieces. Narrative poetry has roots in oral tradition, which used poetry as a way of memorization. The meter, alliteration, and kennings would help bards remember stories which were used to tell oral traditions, the happiness of life, and its deepest troubles.

Epics are deemed extremely important to the livelihood of the narrative genre. An epic is a lengthy narrative which contains details of heroic deeds and events which are significant to a culture or nation. Epics have been written at least as long as the time of Homer, whose wrote the epics Iliad and Odyssey, began to roam earth. Today, epics are used to tell both imaginative and re-imagined heroic figures.

Without narratives, many of the stories we love, like Robin Hood and the story of Troy, would be lost in history and much of what we know about ancient warfare and politics would be left only to our imagination.

 
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