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Best Famous Epic Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Epic poems. This is a select list of the best famous Epic poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Epic poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of epic poems.

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Written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | |

THE GARLANDS.

 KLOPSTOCK would lead us away from Pindus; no longer 
for laurel
May we be eager--the homely acorn alone must content us;
Yet he himself his more-than-epic crusade is conducting
High on Golgotha's summit, that foreign gods he may honour!
Yet, on what hill he prefers, let him gather the angels together,
Suffer deserted disciples to weep o'er the grave of the just one:
There where a hero and saint hath died, where a bard breath'd his 
numbers,
Both for our life and our death an ensample of courage resplendent
And of the loftiest human worth to bequeath,--ev'ry nation
There will joyously kneel in devotion ecstatic, revering
Thorn and laurel garland, and all its charms and its tortures.
1815.
*


Written by Constantine P Cavafy | |

Darius

 The poet Phernazis is composing
the important part of his epic poem.
How Darius, son of Hystaspes, assumed the kingdom of the Persians.
(From him is descended our glorious king Mithridates, Dionysus and Eupator).
But here philosophy is needed; he must analyze the sentiments that Darius must have had: maybe arrogance and drunkenness; but no -- rather like an understanding of the vanity of grandeurs.
The poet contemplates the matter deeply.
But he is interrupted by his servant who enters running, and announces the portendous news.
The war with the Romans has begun.
The bulk of our army has crossed the borders.
The poet is speechless.
What a disaster! No time now for our glorious king Mithridates, Dionysus and Eupator, to occupy himself with greek poems.
In the midst of a war -- imagine, greek poems.
Phernazis is impatient.
Misfortune! Just when he was positive that with "Darius" he would distinguish himself, and shut the mouths of his critics, the envious ones, for good.
What a delay, what a delay to his plans.
And if it were only a delay, it would still be all right.
But it yet remains to be seen if we have any security at Amisus.
It is not a strongly fortified city.
The Romans are the most horrible enemies.
Can we hold against them we Cappadocians? It is possible at all? It is possible to pit ourselves against the legions? Mighty Gods, protectors of Asia, help us.
-- But in all his turmoil and trouble, the poetic idea too comes and goes persistently-- the most probable, surely, is arrogance and drunkenness; Darius must have felt arrogance and drunkenness.


Written by G K Chesterton | |

To Belloc

 For every tiny town or place
God made the stars especially;
Babies look up with owlish face
And see them tangled in a tree;
You saw a moon from Sussex Downs,
A Sussex moon, untravelled still,
I saw a moon that was the town's,
The largest lamp on Campden Hill.
Yea; Heaven is everywhere at home The big blue cap that always fits, And so it is (be calm; they come To goal at last, my wandering wits), So is it with the heroic thing; This shall not end for the world's end And though the sullen engines swing, Be you not much afraid, my friend.
This did not end by Nelson's urn Where an immortal England sits-- Nor where your tall young men in turn Drank death like wine at Austerlitz.
And when the pedants bade us mark What cold mechanic happenings Must come; our souls said in the dark, 'Belike; but there are likelier things.
' Likelier across these flats afar These sulky levels smooth and free The drums shall crash a waltz of war And Death shall dance with Liberty; Likelier the barricades shall blare Slaughter below and smoke above, And death and hate and hell declare That men have found a thing to love.
Far from your sunny uplands set I saw the dream; the streets I trod The lit straight streets shot out and met The starry streets that point to God.
This legend of an epic hour A child I dreamed, and dream it still, Under the great grey water-tower That strikes the stars on Campden Hill


More great poems below...

Written by William Matthews | |

Homers Seeing-Eye Dog

 Most of the time he worked, a sort of sleep
with a purpose, so far as I could tell.
How he got from the dark of sleep to the dark of waking up I'll never know; the lax sprawl sleep allowed him began to set from the edges in, like a custard, and then he was awake, me too, of course, wriggling my ears while he unlocked his bladder and stream of dopey wake-up jokes.
The one about the wine-dark pee I hated instantly.
I stood at the ready, like a god in an epic, but there was never much to do.
Oh now and then I'd make a sure intervention, save a life, whatever.
But my exploits don't interest you and of his life all I can say is that when he'd poured out his work the best of it was gone and then he died.
He was a great man and I loved him.
Not a whimper about his sex life -- how I detest your prurience -- but here's a farewell literary tip: I myself am the model for Penelope.
Don't snicker, you hairless moron, I know so well what faithful means there's not even a word for it in Dog, I just embody it.
I think you bipeds have a catchphrase for it: "To thine own self be true, .
.
.
" though like a blind man's shadow, the second half is only there for those who know it's missing.
Merely a dog, I'll tell you what it is: " .
.
.
as if you had a choice.
"


Written by Sarojini Naidu | |

To My Children

 Jaya Surya

GOLDEN sun of victory, born 
In my life's unclouded morn, 
In my lambent sky of love, 
May your growing glory prove 
Sacred to your consecration, 
To my heart and to my nation.
Sun of victory, may you be Sun of song and liberty.
Padmaja Lotus-maiden, you who claim All the sweetness of your name, Lakshmi, fortune's queen, defend you, Lotus-born like you, and send you Balmy moons of love to bless you, Gentle joy-winds to caress you.
Lotus-maiden, may you be Fragrant of all ecstasy.
Ranadheera Little lord of battle, hail In your newly-tempered mail! Learn to conquer, learn to fight In the foremost flanks of right, Like Valmiki's heroes bold, Rubies girt in epic gold.
Lord of battle, may you be, Lord of love and chivalry.
Lilamani Limpid jewel of delight Severed from the tender night Of your sheltering mother-mine, Leap and sparkle, dance and shine, Blithely and securely set In love's magic coronet.
Living jewel, may you be Laughter-bound and sorrow-free.


Written by Rabindranath Tagore | |

The Gardener XXXVIII: My Love Once upon a Time

 My love, once upon a time your poet
launched a great epic in his mind.
Alas, I was not careful, and it struck your ringing anklets and came to grief.
It broke up into scraps of songs and lay scattered at your feet.
All my cargo of the stories of old wars was tossed by the laughing waves and soaked in tears and sank.
You must make this loss good to me, my love.
If my claims to immortal fame after death are scattered, make me immortal while I live.
And I will not mourn for my loss nor blame you.


Written by Edgar Lee Masters | |

John Horace Burleson

  I won the prize essay at school
Here in the village,
And published a novel before I was twenty-five.
I went to the city for themes and to enrich my art; There married the banker’s daughter, And later became president of the bank— Always looking forward to some leisure To write an epic novel of the war.
Meanwhile friend of the great, and lover of letters, And host to Matthew Arnold and to Emerson.
An after dinner speaker, writing essays For local clubs.
At last brought here— My boyhood home, you know— Not even a little tablet in Chicago To keep my name alive.
How great it is to write the single line: “Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll!”


Written by Edgar Lee Masters | |

William H. Herndon

 There by the window in the old house
Perched on the bluff, overlooking miles of valley,
My days of labor closed, sitting out life's decline,
Day by day did I look in my memory,
As one who gazes in an enchantress' crystal globe,
And I saw the figures of the past,
As if in a pageant glassed by a shining dream,
Move through the incredible sphere of time.
And I saw a man arise from the soil like a fabled giant And throw himself over a deathless destiny, Master of great armies, head of the republic, Bringing together into a dithyramb of recreative song The epic hopes of a people; At the same time Vulcan of sovereign fires, Where imperishable shields and swords were beaten out From spirits tempered in heaven.
Look in the crystal! See how he hastens on To the place where his path comes up to the path Of a child of Plutarch and Shakespeare.
O Lincoln, actor indeed, playing well your part, And Booth, who strode in a mimic play within the play, Often and often I saw you, As the cawing crows winged their way to the wood Over my house-top at solemn sunsets, There by my window, Alone.


Written by Andrew Barton Paterson | |

A Song of the Pen

 Not for the love of women toil we, we of the craft, 
Not for the people's praise; 
Only because our goddess made us her own and laughed, 
Claiming us all our days, 
Claiming our best endeavour -- body and heart and brain 
Given with no reserve -- 
Niggard is she towards us, granting us little gain: 
Still, we are proud to serve.
Not unto us is given choice of the tasks we try, Gathering grain or chaff; One of her favoured servants toils at an epic high, One, that a child may laugh.
Yet if we serve her truly in our appointed place, Freely she doth accord Unto her faithful servants always this saving grace, Work is its own reward!


Written by Robert William Service | |

The Revelation

 The same old sprint in the morning, boys, to the same old din and smut;
Chained all day to the same old desk, down in the same old rut;
Posting the same old greasy books, catching the same old train:
Oh, how will I manage to stick it all, if I ever get back again?

We've bidden good-bye to life in a cage, we're finished with pushing a pen;
They're pumping us full of bellicose rage, they're showing us how to be men.
We're only beginning to find ourselves; we're wonders of brawn and thew; But when we go back to our Sissy jobs, -- oh, what are we going to do? For shoulders curved with the counter stoop will be carried erect and square; And faces white from the office light will be bronzed by the open air; And we'll walk with the stride of a new-born pride, with a new-found joy in our eyes, Scornful men who have diced with death under the naked skies.
And when we get back to the dreary grind, and the bald-headed boss's call, Don't you think that the dingy window-blind, and the dingier office wall, Will suddenly melt to a vision of space, of violent, flame-scarred night? Then .
.
.
oh, the joy of the danger-thrill, and oh, the roar of the fight! Don't you think as we peddle a card of pins the counter will fade away, And again we'll be seeing the sand-bag rims, and the barb-wire's misty grey? As a flat voice asks for a pound of tea, don't you fancy we'll hear instead The night-wind moan and the soothing drone of the packet that's overhead? Don't you guess that the things we're seeing now will haunt us through all the years; Heaven and hell rolled into one, glory and blood and tears; Life's pattern picked with a scarlet thread, where once we wove with a grey To remind us all how we played our part in the shock of an epic day? Oh, we're booked for the Great Adventure now, we're pledged to the Real Romance; We'll find ourselves or we'll lose ourselves somewhere in giddy old France; We'll know the zest of the fighter's life; the best that we have we'll give; We'll hunger and thirst; we'll die .
.
.
but first -- we'll live; by the gods, we'll live! We'll breathe free air and we'll bivouac under the starry sky; We'll march with men and we'll fight with men, and we'll see men laugh and die; We'll know such joy as we never dreamed; we'll fathom the deeps of pain: But the hardest bit of it all will be -- when we come back home again.
For some of us smirk in a chiffon shop, and some of us teach in a school; Some of us help with the seat of our pants to polish an office stool; The merits of somebody's soap or jam some of us seek to explain, But all of us wonder what we'll do when we have to go back again.


Written by Robert William Service | |

LEnvoi

 My job is done; my rhymes are ranked and ready,
 My word-battalions marching verse by verse;
Here stanza-companies are none too steady;
 There print-platoons are weak, but might be worse.
And as in marshalled order I review them, My type-brigades, unfearful of the fray, My eyes that seek their faults are seeing through them Immortal visions of an epic day.
It seems I'm in a giant bowling-alley; The hidden heavies round me crash and thud; A spire snaps like a pipe-stem in the valley; The rising sun is like a ball of blood.
Along the road the "fantassins" are pouring, And some are gay as fire, and some steel-stern.
.
.
.
Then back again I see the red tide pouring, Along the reeking road from Hebuterne.
And once again I seek Hill Sixty-Seven, The Hun lines grey and peaceful in my sight; When suddenly the rosy air is riven -- A "coal-box" blots the "boyou" on my right.
Or else to evil Carnoy I am stealing, Past sentinels who hail with bated breath; Where not a cigarette spark's dim revealing May hint our mission in that zone of death.
I see across the shrapnel-seeded meadows The jagged rubble-heap of La Boiselle; Blood-guilty Fricourt brooding in the shadows, And Thiepval's chateau empty as a shell.
Down Albert's riven streets the moon is leering; The Hanging Virgin takes its bitter ray; And all the road from Hamel I am hearing The silver rage of bugles over Bray.
Once more within the sky's deep sapphire hollow I sight a swimming Taube, a fairy thing; I watch the angry shell flame flash and follow In feather puffs that flick a tilted wing; And then it fades, with shrapnel mirror's flashing; The flashes bloom to blossoms lily gold; The batteries are rancorously crashing, And life is just as full as it can hold.
Oh spacious days of glory and of grieving! Oh sounding hours of lustre and of loss! Let us be glad we lived you, still believing The God who gave the cannon gave the Cross.
Let us be sure amid these seething passions, The lusts of blood and hate our souls abhor: The Power that Order out of Chaos fashions Smites fiercest in the wrath-red forge of War.
.
.
.
Have faith! Fight on! Amid the battle-hell Love triumphs, Freedom beacons, all is well.


Written by Patrick Kavanagh | |

Epic

 I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided, who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting "Damn your soul" And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen Step the plot defying blue cast-steel— "Here is the march along these iron stones" That was the year of the Munich bother.
Which Was more important? I inclined To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin Til Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind He said: I made the Iliad from such A local row.
Gods make their own importance.


Written by Robinson Jeffers | |

The Epic Stars

 The heroic stars spending themselves,
Coining their very flesh into bullets for the lost battle,
They must burn out at length like used candles;
And Mother Night will weep in her triumph, taking home her heroes.
There is the stuff for an epic poem-- This magnificent raid at the heart of darkness, this lost battle-- We don't know enough, we'll never know.
Oh happy Homer, taking the stars and the Gods for granted.


Written by Denise Levertov | |

What Were They Like?

 Did the people of Viet Nam
use lanterns of stone?
Did they hold ceremonies
to reverence the opening of buds?
Were they inclined to quiet laughter?
Did they use bone and ivory,
jade and silver, for ornament?
Had they an epic poem?
Did they distinguish between speech and singing?

Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.
It is not remembered whether in gardens stone gardens illumined pleasant ways.
Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom, but after their children were killed there were no more buds.
Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned mouth.
A dream ago, perhaps.
Ornament is for joy.
All the bones were charred.
it is not remembered.
Remember, most were peasants; their life was in rice and bamboo.
When peaceful clouds were reflected in the paddies and the water buffalo stepped surely along terraces, maybe fathers told their sons old tales.
When bombs smashed those mirrors there was time only to scream.
There is an echo yet of their speech which was like a song.
It was reported their singing resembled the flight of moths in moonlight.
Who can say? It is silent now.


Written by Marilyn Hacker | |

Nearly A Valediction

 You happened to me.
I was happened to like an abandoned building by a bull- dozer, like the van that missed my skull happened a two-inch gash across my chin.
You were as deep down as I've ever been.
You were inside me like my pulse.
A new- born flailing toward maternal heartbeat through the shock of cold and glare: when you were gone, swaddled in strange air I was that alone again, inventing life left after you.
I don't want to remember you as that four o'clock in the morning eight months long after you happened to me like a wrong number at midnight that blew up the phone bill to an astronomical unknown quantity in a foreign currency.
The U.
S.
dollar dived since you happened to me.
You've grown into your skin since then; you've grown into the space you measure with someone you can love back without a caveat.
While I love somebody I learn to live with through the downpulled winter days' routine wakings and sleepings, half-and-half caffeine- assisted mornings, laundry, stock-pots, dust- balls in the hallway, lists instead of longing, trust that what comes next comes after what came first.
She'll never be a story I make up.
You were the one I didn't know where to stop.
If I had blamed you, now I could forgive you, but what made my cold hand, back in prox- imity to your hair, your mouth, your mind, want where it no way ought to be, defined by where it was, and was and was until the whole globed swelling liquefied and spilled through one cheek's nap, a syllable, a tear, was never blame, whatever I wished it were.
You were the weather in my neighborhood.
You were the epic in the episode.
You were the year poised on the equinox.