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01204--What is Epigram?



Epigram, a short poem with a witty turn of thought; or a wittily condensed expression in prose. Originally a form of monumental inscription in ancient Greece, the epigram was developed into a literary form by the poets of the Hellenistic age and by the Roman poet Martial, whose Epigrams (86-102 CE) were often obscenely insulting. 

This epigram by Herrick is adapted from Martial:

Lulls swears he is all heart, but you'll suppose 
By his proboscis that he is all nose.


The art of the epigram was cultivated in the 17th and 18th centuries in France and Germany by Voltaire, Schiller, and others. In English, epigrams have been written by several poets since Ben Jonson's Epigrams (1616), and are found in the prose of Oscar Wilde and other authors, who are thus known as epigrammatists. 

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