Only the rare and exceptional genius of Vergil and Milton could use the Homeric medium without loss of individuality: and this quality none of the later epic poets seem to have possessed.
In Ionia and the islands the epic poets followed the Homeric tradition, singing of romantic subjects in the now stereotyped heroic style, and showing originality only in their choice of legends hitherto neglected or summarily and imperfectly treated.
Milton says that the lyric poet may drink wine and live generously, but the epic poet
, he who shall sing of the gods and their descent unto men, must drink water out of a wooden bowl.
The epic poets
, griots, psalmists, and troubadours wove the two in performance, and the vocal music repertoire of cantatas, oratorios, masses, and opera is one of the richest legacies in our culture.
But many of the epic poets
still insisted on adopting Milton's machinery of angels and demons; some of them even borrowed his specific cast of angels and demons, so one finds such figures as Moloch, Belial, Gabriel, Ithuriel, Death, and Mammon strutting around Ogden's Emmannuel, Cumberland's Calvary, Ogilvie's Britannia, and Burges' Richard I.
He writes that John Milton shares the throne as one of the world's broadest-gauged epic poets
; Homer being the other.
89-109), centred upon Virgil's relation to other epic poets
and his universally praised elocutio.
Gregory's book investigates the challenge that Renaissance epic poets
faced when they could no longer depend on the polytheistic system available to the ancient poets but had to represent divine action that conformed to the Christian beliefs of their time.
In her book The Romance Epics of Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso: From Public Duty to Private Pleasure, Jo Ann Cavallo engages in an impressive comparative study of the Italian Renaissance's greatest epic poets
, otherwise known as the "three crowns of Ferrara." She successfully places each author in his political and literary historical context while discussing their respective didactic agendas, agendas which differ greatly and in many ways reflect the cultural climate of each author.
It was not Alfred or Charlemagne, but a group of personages from an even more "distant and dark age" that constituted the most striking instance of a theme equally beloved of painters and epic poets
. A listing published in 1974 identifies no fewer than 126 artistic depictions of the ancient Gaelic bard Ossian or scenes from his poems, although most of the latter were simply concocted by James Macpherson in the 1760s.