The language poetry presents a wide variety of compositions such as the ode, sonnet, romance, égloga, among others. Each of these poems has its own versification and characteristics. The epigram is a form of poetry that is based on its small size and brevity, as well as its perspicacity.
Regarding the word epigram, it comes from the Greek and etymologically comes from the prefix epi (over) and graphein (recording or writing). In this way, the epigram is nothing more than a brief and simple poem inscribed on some material support, usually at the foot of a statue, tombstone or monument.
Epigrams in Literary History
It was the Greek poets of the ancient world who initiated the tradition of writing epigrams and did so to proclaim the qualities of illustrious characters, to honor the deceased or to commemorate a historic event. In terms of content, an honorable message was usually communicated , but satire or irony was also used .
The Romans continued this tradition and later epigrams became part of universal literature , although the original stone inscription gradually projected onto paper. In the history of Spanish literature we can find variants of epigrams in the songs of medieval troubadours, in troubadour poetry, in oral and popular tradition or in the poetry of the Golden Age.
From the standpoint of literary criticism, the epigram has been valued as a form of poetry of lesser entity, especially in relation to the sonnet, the ode or the elegy. Because it is a short poem of apparent simplicity, the epigram has on occasion been called the minor genre of poetry.
The epitaphs, a modality of epigrams
The epitaph is a way of understanding the epigram and it is no accident that both terms share the prefix epi. The epitaph is part of a small writing on a person’s headstone . It’s a kind of posthumous tribute and many epitaphs have an indisputable poetic dimension. For this reason, the epitaph is considered a poetic genre. In the conventional epitaph, it is customary to write information about the deceased, but from the Renaissance onwards a new tradition began, the literary epitaph .
Other Small Literature Compositions
From the standpoint of universal literature, the epigram is one of the shortest compositions. Thus, it should be remembered that in the Japanese tradition there are haikus, in the Bible there are psalms, and nowadays there is great prestige in relation to mini-reports and ultra-short stories. The list of these small literary proposals continues with the gregariousness, the apothegm, the nonsense and the aphorism.