Epigram Poems

katapel-epigram-witticismsmAn epigram is a concise poem expressing a single thought or observation about a subject others can relate to.

  • imparts wisdom
  • satirical or witty – a twist in the tail.
  • written as a couplet, quatrain, or one-liner.
  • rhyme optional. 

Samuel Taylor Coleridge offered the following, by way of a shining, defining example;

What is an Epigram? A dwarfish whole,
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.
(Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Other notable examples are;

I am not young enough to know everything.
(Oscar Wilde)

I can resist everything but temptation.
(Oscar Wilde)

Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put and end to mankind.
(John F. Kennedy)

The following epigram has been attributed to both Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Alexander Pope, so I won’t even hazard a guess – but it’s too good an example to leave out because of uncertainty, especially given its reference to poets and poetry.

Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool,
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every fool is not a poet.

My two offerings are;

Ridicule and criticism
make a mock of witticism
(© Kathryn Apel)

Those who bank on their wealth to buy friends, are poor.
When funds dry up, fake friends withdraw.
(© Kathryn Apel)

The term epigram is derived from the Greek word epigramma meaning inscription. Epigrams, with their witty words and wisdom, were often scattered through Autograph Books. I’d love you to sign my Autograph Book, below, with your own sage words.


  1. Pingback: Epigram How-To | Kathryn Apel

  2. Don’t forget Mark Twain:

    It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

    Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.

    It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

    Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.


  3. Pingback: To Know Much | Friendly Fairy Tales

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