The Most Famous Epigrams of the Divine Oscar Wilde

Famous Epigraphs in the Sui Dynasty - Epigraph of Beauty Dong, Su Ci, Yuan Gong, Madame Ji - Classic Chinese Calligraphy (Chinese Edition)


Many famous poems are good sources of examples of epigraph

In 1997 Dublin honored Wilde (who was born there in 1854) with this statue sculpted of semi-precious stones reclining on a boulder of Irish quartz. Surrounding him are some of his most famous epigrams, like this one:

"Be Brief: While the modern epigraph evolved from the lengthy prefaces of early novels like Don Quixote (1605) and Gulliver's Travels (1726), many authors have adopted the less-is-more approach. One of the most famous epigraphs is a mere two words: 'Only connect.' Thus E.M. Forster announced the theme of Howards End (1910) while dispensing valuable life advice. . . . Brevity amplifies truth and seals it in our memories.

Definition and Examples of Epigraphs in English

Alexander Pope's brilliant verse satires ridiculed many kinds of human follies. He was the master of the heroic couplet and a respected literary critic. Pope's biting wit made him one of the most feared writers in England. Because he was Catholic, he was passed over in position and patronage, in spite of his vast talents.
Pope's famous epigrams were generally formed in heroic couplets, a style which Pope has been associated with Pope's name. These bold rhymes are filled with brilliant flashes of wisdom and human insight. They are evidence of Pope's mastery of neoclassical satire, a thematic approach also employed by Pope's, friend Jonathan Swift.
"An Essay on Man" is a long poem composed of Pope's signature heroic couplets. It deals with man's place and purpose in the universe, capturing the complete meaning of "The Great Chain of Being," a belief from this period which placed all of creation in a natural order which can never be broken.

Epigraph Examples and Definition - Literary Devices

The epigrammatic poem above was written by Alexander Pope (1688-1744). Pope wrote many famous epigrams, “To Err is human, to forgive divine,” and, “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep , or taste not the Pierian spring;” both come from his verse book, An Essay on Criticism, delineating his principles of poetic critique. He is the third most quoted of the English poets, just behind Shakespeare and Tennyson.

The writers of epigrams do not always agree with each other. I call such disputes "Epigram Scams" since one of the disputers must be wrong. Here is an example of a dispute that I have with a famous epigrammatist: