Epic simile (Homeric simile)

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018

Epic simile (Homeric simile)

Epic simile (Homeric simile): An extended and elaborate simile (comparison) in which the vehicle (the image used to describe or define the subject, or tenor, of a figure of speech) is itself described at such length that it nearly obscures the tenor. The epic simile is sometimes called the Homeric simile because writers ranging from the Roman poet Virgil to the English poet John Milton consciously patterned their similes after the ornate similes used by the ancient Greek poet Homer in his epics.

EXAMPLE: The following Spenserian stanza from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596) uses an epic simile to describe two knights who have broken their weapons in combat:

As when two rams, stird with ambitious pride,

Fight for the rule of the rich fleeced flocke,

Their horned fronts so fierce on either side

Doe meete, that, with the terror of the schocke,

Astonied,° both stand senceless as a blocke,Astonished

Forgetfull of the hanging victorie:

So stood these twaine, unmoved as a rocke,

Both staring fierce, and holding idely

The broken reliques of their former cruelty.