The epigram is the most condensed and concentrated form of poetry. Webster defines it as "A short poem treating concisely, pointedly, often satirically, a single thought or event, usually ending with a witticism." The poet of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Samuel Taylor Coleridge, defined it even more concisely:

The epigram may be said to be a miniature lyric, a sharpened arrow of verse. It may be grave or gay or clever, but its real point is - its point. Besides its incisiveness, it must be perfect in form and finish. One can no more imagine a clumsy epigram than a long one. Every word counts, every syllable must be carefully balanced, every rhyme sharply matched. Since the epigram consists of only a few phrases, there can be no fumbling, no uncertainty of aim, no superfluous ideas. The epigram is all essence.

Preston, was a master of the epigram. Here are two of his favorites:

Another expert in the form, Hilaire Belloc, was at his best when he added irony to his rhymes; it was said that he dipped his pen in vitriol instead of ink. Belloc's satirical "Epitaph on the Politician" are three more of his quick-witted epigrams:

Many of Emily Dickinson's poems are actually epigrams. So are Edwin Markham's "Outwitted," "The Avengers," and "Preparedness," Nathalia Crane's "The Dust," and "The Colors."

Other examples show the characteristics of the epigram: speed, point, and perfection of form. Like the flight of the arrow to which it has been compared, the epigram pierces almost as soon as it leaves the pen. A breath, a short flight, and the bolt strikes home.

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