A narrative poem is a type of lengthier poetry that recounts a whole tale with a beginning, middle, and finish. Narrative poems include all of the components of a fully developed story, such as characters, plot, conflict, and resolution. Typically, these poems are told by a single narrator or speaker. However, some poems contain several voices or sections that can be interpreted as narratives.
Narrative poems originated in Europe around AD 1000. The first written examples of narrative poems in English occur in the 14th century. Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" and Gower's "Confessio Amantis" are two early examples of this genre.
In addition to telling a complete story, narrative poems often offer philosophical reflections on human nature and the transience of life. They may also make social comments about love, death, war, or other topics of interest to their times.
Today, narrative poems remain popular among poets for their ability to reveal aspects of the poet's personality and experience that could not otherwise be expressed in shorter forms.
Characteristics of a Narrative Poem
Narrative poems are characterized by their ability to tell a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. This is in contrast to lyrical poems which tend to focus on one central idea or feeling without necessarily progressing from start to finish. Lyric poems include sonnets, odes, ballads, and songs.
Narrative poetry, with the exception of epic poems, tells a story in a more condensed manner than prose. The primary goal of narrative poetry is to entertain rather than to communicate the poet's thoughts or feelings. Fictional or nonfictional narrative poems can be written. Fiction tends to be written in an attempt to entertain readers with stories that mimic real-life incidents.
Some examples of narrative poems are George Herbert's "Easter Wings" and "Love Song", John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud", Robert Browning's "Pippa Passes", and Oscar Wilde's "The Nightingale". Nonfiction narrative poems include Ben Jonson's "Epic Poem on the Battle of Agincourt" and James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man".
In addition to telling a story, narrative poems often display or comment on various aspects of life such as love, death, religion, etc. By doing so, they seek to entertain their readers while also making certain meanings clear through imagery and language.
Narrative poems are usually composed in lines of iambic pentameter but other types of meters may be used instead. This form of poetry is meant to tell a story by means of rhythmic structure alone; it does not rely on punctuation marks like prose does.
It is a story poem; its structure is similar to a story plot line [i.e., the introduction of conflict and characters, rising action, climax, and denouement]. A story poem usually consists of twenty-four lines divided into three parts: I - VIII, IX - XVI, and XVII - 24.
The first part, I - VIII, often called the "introduction," gives the reader a general idea of what kind of poem this is. It does not always have to include all of these elements but they should be present in some form or another. For example, if the poem were about a girl who was going to a party even though it was raining outside, then the introduction would describe the weather as being bad with no indication that the poem was going to be about a party.
The second part, IX - XVI, is called the "middle" and includes most of the material related to the central character. In addition to describing the character's actions, thoughts, and feelings, the poet also reveals more information about him/her through metaphors and similes. For example, if the character were a dog then the poet could use the words "barking madly" to describe how he/she was acting when angry.
Narrative poetry, like a short novel, begins with an exposition to establish the characters and situation, although ballads, in particular, tend to focus more on the action of a single occurrence. Authors of narrative poetry aim to entertain the reader, but writers of dramatic poetry want to communicate the poet's ideas and feelings. Narrative poems often include descriptions of places, while ballads usually don't. In general, narrative poems are written in iambic pentameter, while dramatic poems are written in blank verse.
A narrative poem will usually have one central idea or plot that it explores through various scenes which together make up the whole work. For example, "The Battle of Hastings" is the central theme of William Shakespeare's play about the battle - it could be considered a short novel in verse. A number of other poems also deal with this subject matter including Edward Thomas' "The Nightingale" and John Clare's "The Battle of Trafalgar".
In contrast, a ballad usually has a simple plot with a small number of verses per page, often set to music. For example, "Greensleeves" is a popular ballad with a simple story: a young man tries to win the love of a beautiful girl by doing good deeds and gifts to her family. It contains several refrains (chorus-like sections) which help to keep the mood upbeat at each turn of the tale.
Dramatic narrative poems are a type of poetry that has a storyline and recounts a tale. Poems in this genre might be brief or long, and they can describe a complicated tale. These poems frequently employ the voices of characters and a narrator, and the plot is generally expressed in metered verse. Many famous poets have written dramatic narratives including John Milton (1608-74), Samuel Johnson (1709-84), Edward Lear (1812-88), and William Blake (1757-1827).
Dramatic narrations are often based on historical events or people. For example, "The Battle of Trafalgar" by Lord Byron describes a battle that took place in 1805 and it is considered one of the best examples of this genre. Dramatic narrations can also be fictional stories that use real people as characters. For example, "Marlborough: His Life and Times" by Charles Mackay is a biography of William Marlborough that uses his life as a framework for discussing political issues such as wars and treaties. Dramatic narrations can even be made up stories written about someone else's life! For example, "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan tells the story of Christian who travels through hell and heaven before being saved by Jesus Christ.