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An epic simile is an extended simile that compares one composite action with another. The device was originally used in the poetry of Homer and has since been utilized in other epic works. This passage from the beginning of Beowulf is an epic simile because it relates the story of Beowulf’s past. Readers see the simile introduced with the traditional “like” keyword at the beginning and Beowulf tell his story comparing it to the pain and struggle an old may have had to endure when watching his son executed.
It was like the misery felt by an old man
who has lived to see his son's body
swing on the gallows. He begins to keen
and weep for his boy, watching the raven
gloat where he hangs; he can be of no help.
The wisdom of age is worthless to him.
Morning after morning, he wakes to remember
that his child is gone; he has no interest
in living on until another heir
is born in the hall, now that his first-born
has entered death's dominion forever.
He gazes sorrowfully at his son's dwelling,
the banquet hall bereft of all delight,
the windswept hearthstone; the horsemen are sleeping,
the warriors under ground; what was is no more.
No tunes from the harp, no cheer raised in the yard.
Alone with his longing, he lies down on his bed
and sings a lament; everything seems too large,
the steadings and the fields.
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