William Morris' 'The Proud King' as an Epic Poem

William Morris' 'The Proud King' as an Epic Poem

William Morris' The Proud King
An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. The main purpose of an epic is to tell the story or experience of a person or race.

Just like metaphysical poems, epic poems have unique features that distinguish them from other poems. From personal analysis, William Morris' 'The Proud King' can be best classified as an epic poem due to its epic features:

A notable feature of an epic poem is its length. An epic poem is a lengthy narrative that tells the story or experience of a person, people or nation. Inarguably, William Morris' 'The Proud King' is a lengthy narrative of about 849 lines that tells the story or experience of a very influential and affluential king, King Jovinian.

Again, the hero in an epic poem is a figure of great nationality  or even cosmic importance. From the setting of the poem which is a very mighty and prosperous European kingdom, governed by a wealthy and very powerful king, one cannot deny the fact that the hero of the poem, king Jovinian is of great nationality and even cosmic importance, whose powers cannot be compared with that of other kings. Lines 23 and 24 delineate him as a king whose powers are unprecedented and unparalled. He is an absolute monarch who rules over a whole expanse of territory.

Another feature of an epic poem is its setting. The setting of an epic poem is ample in scale and maybe worldwide or even larger. This feature is also evident in William Morris' 'The Proud King.' The poem is set in the medieval period, at a time when kings in Europe ruled as absolute sovereigns of their land. Therefore, the image created in the mind of the reader of this poem is that the location or setting is a very large, mighty and prosperous European kingdom which has an affluent and influential king as its leader. Even in our present society, the European kingdom which is headed by the Queen of England, is a kingdom that is very mighty and influential when compared with other kingdoms in the world.

The actions of epic poems involve superhuman deeds and in this great actions, the gods and other supernatural beings take an interest or an active part. This feature is fully evident in William Morris' 'The Proud King.' There is an active involvement of the supernatural in the poem when King Jovinian due to his achievements, assumes the position of God. He compares himself with God (line  28) and this piques the interest of God in King Jovinian's case just like the case of King Nebuchadnezzar in the bible.  While King Jovinian goes into the forest with his servants, God deceives him with 'a mighty hart' (line 64) which the king follows to a river, leaving his servants behind in the process. God further makes king Jovinian to parade himself naked before his subjects. He makes him unrecognisable and takes over his kingdom until King Jovinian realizes his mistakes and consequently asks for forgiveness. This is a clear indication that the supernatural takes an active part in an epic poem.

In sum, from the aforementioned points, it will be considered an error if anyone fails to consider William Morris' 'The Proud King' as an epic poem.