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 "An epigram is a short poem that makes a pithy,
often satirical, usually humorous point.  It's the
poetic equivalent of a punchline - and it needs the
quickness and force of a boxer's jab or uppercut.
In English, epigrams are usually rhymed and in
meter (a law-abiding rhythm that follows a set
pattern of accents and syllables), though they can
be loose and freewheeling.  The couplet is a favorite
form for the epigram: a pair of rhymed lines in the
same meter.  Epigrams are espeically useful for
political satire and for literary or social criticism."

  "Examples of epigrams can be found in The
Greek Anthology
and by the Roman poet Martial,
John Donne, Ben Johnson, Alexander Pope,
William Blake, Robert Frost, and J.V. Cunningham.
Blake's "Auguries of Innocence" is really a long
string of marvelous epigrams: memorable, piercing,
witty, insightful, and passionate.  Here are two other
epigrams by Blake:

    The Errors of a Wise Man make your Rule
    Rather than the Perfections of a Fool

    Her whole Life is an Epigram smack smooth
           & neatly pend
    Platted quite neat to catch applause with a
            sliding noose at the end

Note: Don't confuse epigrams with epigraphs,
the headnotes prefacing a poem, nor with epitaphs,
the words engraved on a tombstone.

(Creating Poetry, John Drury, Writer's Digest Books,
Cincinnati, Ohio.)

"Epigram, in literature, a terse, pointed, frequently
witty observation, often in verse. Ancient Greek
epigrams were inscriptions on tombs or statues.
Latin poets, including Catullus, Juvenal, and especially
Martial, developed the epigram as a short satire in
verse, with a twist or thrust at the end. Among writers
in English regarded as master epigrammatists are John
Donne, Robert Herrick, Ben Jonson, John Dryden,
Jonathan Swift, and especially Alexander Pope, who
in the 18th century perfected a form of epigrammatic
couplet. Samuel Taylor Coleridge used the form early
in the 19th century, and Oscar Wilde was a famous
epigrammatist late in the century. In French, Voltaire
and Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux both wrote memorable
epigrams, as did G. E. Lessing in German. A literary
form similar to the epigram occurs in Chinese and
Japanese literature. The term has also been loosely
applied to any aphorism or short popular saying.

(Encarta® 98 Desk Encyclopedia © & 1996-97
Microsoft Corporation.)

"The punch of epigrams can at times seem evasive
as they sometimes linger on the mind awhile before
the wit of their point is fully understood, as in the
following commentary on human nature:

    Chilidogs and onions, catsup and mustard
        on the bun
    The two I ate just made me sick, next time
        I'll eat just one."

(From Out of Nowhere, Kevin Sorbello, New Poets Press)


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