Friday, January 30, 2009

Epigrams - a Poetry Friday post

I've posted about epigrams before, including this one by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

What is an Epigram? A dwarfish whole;
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.

But I was feeling the need for something short and to the point today, so epigrams seem just the thing. An epigram need not rhyme, although poetic ones often do. An epigram is a short, clever, usually witty statement that is memorable. Here is an epigram from Benjamin Franklin, writing as Poor Richard:

Early to bed and early to rise
makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise

Franklin used repetition (early to), internal rhyme (healthy and wealthy) and alliteration (wealthy and wise) as well as end-rhyme, virtually guaranteeing that this would be memorable after only one hearing.

For those of you who read Latin, here's quite an old one:

Admiror, O paries, te non cecidisse ruinis
qui tot scriptorum taedia sustineas.

For those of you who don't read Latin, here's a translation: "I'm astonished, wall, that you haven't collapsed into ruins,/since you're holding up the weary verse of so many poets." Funny, yes?

William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence" is composed almost entirely of phrases that can be pulled out as epigrams.

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, Tomb Raider said these, the first four lines of the poem:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

Hannibal Lecter quoted the next two lines in Red Dragon:

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.

Small sentences, small words - but mighty in their content and staying power.

Got a favorite epigram?

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Fiddler said...

Kelly, I'll be on the lookout for epigrams now. I love the movie references! Thanks for sharing.

Kelly Fineman said...

Fiddler: You are most welcome. Sometimes I wonder at how many movie lines I know, and whether they themselves might not be epigrams.