Epic Simile
Sung Park


In Apollo & Daphne, Ovid uses an epic simile to help visualize the most important themes of the epyllion, Apollo's love for Daphne and the ensuing chase leading to the significance of the laurel. The love of Apollo is the focus of the epic simile:

As stubble
Burns when the grain is harvested, as hedges
Catch fire from torches that a passer-by
Has brought too near, or left behind in the morning,
So the god burned, with all his heart, and burning
Nourished that futile love of his by hoping (18).
With the simile, Apollo's love is no longer an abstract emotion, but an image of a recently harvested grain field (Apollo having become attached to Daphne) burning and a blazing fire lit by careless travelers (Cupid). Although not every reader can conceptualize what it means to be in love, most readers can visualize Ovid's descriptions of the fires. Moreover, as a fire burns more fiercely with the addition of flammables, readers can visualize Apollo's fire burning more intensely with flammable hope. The comparison between love and fire not only adds visual stimulus, but the senses of touch, smell, and sound. A fire is hot to the touch and immediately leads to the reaction of disengagement, smells with a tinge that leads to tears, and has an unpleasant sound to many people. Because Apollo's love is compared with a fire, it is very easy to visualize Daphne impulsively running away from the fire of Apollo.

The use of visual, tactile, olfactory, and auditory conceptions in epic simile is an effective rhetorical device that highlights the main ideas of certain passages and leaves a lasting, vivid impression of the Metamorphoses. The sensory involvement of the reader lends to the profound nature of the passages using epic simile.