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The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
—Alfred Noyes, "The Highwayman"
Simply put, a narrative poem is a poem that tells a story. This format is Older Than Dirt — in fact, it may even predate prose. Such poems were popular in ye olden dayes, as the rhymes, rhythms, and alliteration helped the storyteller remember how the story went.
Narrative poems started to decline in popularity with the advent of writing, as it was not quite so necessary to learn stories off by heart when they are written down. However, they persisted in popularity for several hundred years, as the majority of people were illiterate for much of human history.
Nowadays, narrative poems are rarely written.
Subtypes of narrative poetry include:
- A narrative poem that meets the criteria of an epic is an epic poem.
- A shorter narrative poem that uses stanzas is a ballad (especially if it is set to music)
- A Novel written in verse is a verse novel.
Epic poems (including genre parodies)
- The Epic of Gilgamesh is probably the oldest surviving example.
- The Iliad by Homer.
- The Odyssey, also ascribed to Homer.
- The rest of the Trojan Cycle, authors uncertain.
- Batrachomyomachia, a mock-heroic epic poem, i.e. parody of the traditional epic.
- The Aeneid by Virgil
- Statius's Thebaid
- Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon heroic epic.
- The Shahnameh by Ferdowsi
- The Song of Roland, an account of how the title character was betrayed at Roncesvalles.
- The Poem of the Cid on the exile and redemption of El Cid Compeador, (very) loosely based on his real exploits.
- The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.
- Orlando Furioso by Ariosto.
- Os Lusíadas by Luis Vaz de Camões
- The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.
- Paradise Lost by John Milton.
- The Rape Of The Lock by Alexander Pope, another mock-epic.
- The unfinished The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream by John Keats.
- Ludas Matyi is a Hungarian example, adapted to a successful animated film.
- Don Juan by Lord Byron, mock-epic.
- The Kalevala (the Finnish national epic)
- The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
- Evangeline, also by Longfellow.
- Pharsalia by Lucan.
- Eugene Onegin, a Russian novel by Alexander Pushkin
- Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz
- The Golden Gate, a modern novel written in Pushkin sonnets by Vikram Seth.
- Zorgamazoo, a modern novel written entirely in rhyme by Robert Paul Weston.
- Impulse and Identical, Young Adult verse novels by Ellen Hopkins.
Other (includes ballads):
- Enuma Elish — Babylonian creation myth.
- The Homeric Hymns
- The Metamorphoses by Ovid
- The Ballad of Mulan, Chinese ballad.
- The Poetic Edda consists of these.
- Piers Plowman by William Langland
- The anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- The Canterbury Tales and The Book of the Duchess by Geoffrey Chaucer.
- Venus and Adonis and The Rape Of Lucrece by William Shakespeare
- Tam Lin, a Child Ballad
- All the other Child Ballads
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
- Kubla Khan, also by Coleridge.
- Erlkoenig by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
- La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats
- The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes
- Tam o' Shanter, by Robert Burns.
- Terje Vigen by Henrik Ibsen.
- The Charge Of The Light Brigade by Lord Alfred Tennyson.
- The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.
- Robert Browning's Childe Rowland to the Dark Tower Came, basis of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series.
- The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll.
- Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer.
- The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee, both by Robert W. Service.
- The Truant by E.J. Pratt.
- JRR Tolkien wrote quite a few: two long epic poems of tales from the Quenta Silmarillion (The Lay of Leithian and The Lay of the Children of Húrin, respectively), as well as countless shorter ones appearing in his works (e.g. Earendil from The Lord of the Rings).
- Crossing America by Leo Connellan.
- The Adventures And Brave Deeds Of The Ships Cat On The Spanish Maine: Together With The Most Lamentable Losse Of The Alcestis and Triumphant Firing of the Port of Chagres by Richard Adams
- The Sonneteer, an experimental blog-verse narrative by TJ Radcliffe