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Epigram Poem: A Definition

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Ep´igram (Gr. epi, upon, graphein, to write), in a restricted sense, a short poem or piece in verse, which has only one subject, and finishes by a witty or ingenious turn of thought; in a general sense, a pointed or witty and antithetical saying. The term was originally given by the Greeks to a poetical inscription placed upon a tomb or public monument, and was afterwards extended to every little piece of verse expressing with precision a delicate or ingenious thought, as the pieces in the Greek Anthology. In Roman classical poetry the term was somewhat indiscriminately used, but the epigrams of Martial contain a great number with the modern epigrammatic character. Epigrams flourished in modern times after the Revival of Learning period, and all the Elizabethan versifiers tried their hand at them. Pope was a great master of the epigram, and the art was practised by Clément Marot, Boileau, Voltaire, Schiller, Goethe, Byron, and Moore, and more recently by Sir William Watson.—Cf. Dodd, Epigrammatists of Mediæval and Modern Times.


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