Cuddon states that a narrative poem tells a story (566). There are three types of narrative poems: epic, romance, and ballad. Early examples of narrative poems are Gilgamesh, the Aeneid by Virgil, and Metamorphoses by Ovid. More recent examples are The Code by Robert Frost, Kazantzakis' The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, and Stephen Vincent Benet's John Brown's Body (Cuddon 569).
Abrams states that to be an epic, a work must meet at least these criteria: it is a long verse narrative on a serious subject, told in a formal style, and centered on heroic figure whose actions depends the fate of many people (81). Examples of great epics are Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.
This form of narrative is principally a source of entertainment (Cuddon 758). These stories were written with elements of love, fantasy, adventure, and extravagance. Some popular works of romantic verse are Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, Don Quixote by Cervantes, and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Harmon and Holman believe this to be the most popular of the three narrative verses (444).
This form of narrative verse tells a story and was a musical accompianment to a dance (Cuddon 71). There are certain characteristics to every ballad. They are:
- the beginning is often abrupt
- the language is simple
- the story is told through dialogue and action
- the theme is often tragic (though there are a number of comic ballads)
- there is often a refrain (Cuddon 71)
There are two types of ballads: the folk or traditional and the literary.
This ballad is transmitted from singer to singer and is annonymous.
This type of ballad is not annonymous and is written down by the author as he writes it.
- Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.
- Cuddon, J.A. The Pengiun Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. London: Penguin Books, 1999.
- Harmon, William and Hugh Holman. Handbook To Literature. 7th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Books, 1996.