epic simile, dude! / by Anthony Gibbins

Legonium is a long walk from epic poetry, but this page shares something of epic’s character – the love of a good simile. Here is Peter Toohey (Reading Epic) on what defines mythological epic (emphasis mine);

narratives concerning the heroic actions of mythological heroes; a concern with the relation between these heroes and divine powers; length matched with an elevation of style; the use of the hexameter metre; an ostensible glorification of the past – often achieved by repetition of description, by catalogues, and by fixed descriptive formulas. There are, too, shared technical features such as similes, battles, set speeches, invocations of the Muses, councils of the gods and leaders, and the description of shields and other artefacts.

I will give one example from the greatest Latin mythological epic, the Aeneid. Seeing as Marcellus enters the barber shop sicut tempestas like a storm, it seems fitting to present the very first simile that appears in that work. The god Neptune is quelling a storm at sea to rescue Aeneas and his Trojan refugee sailors;

As often, when rebellion breaks out in a great nation,

and the common rabble rage with passion, and soon stones

and fiery torches fly (frenzy supplying weapons),

if they then see a man of great virtue, and weighty service,

they are silent, and stand there listening attentively:

he sways their passions with his words and soothes their hearts:

so all the uproar of the ocean died, as soon as their father,

gazing over the water, carried through the clear sky, wheeled

his horses, and gave them their head, flying behind in his chariot.

The translation is by A. S. Kline.         

Marcellus flies through the door of the barber shop like a storm. “Alan! I have lost an envelope of great importance. Perhaps you have found it?’