What Webster_1913 said, except, there's a little more detail.

Yeah, this poem celebrates a marriage, but it has no fixed form (like a sonnet, etc.). However, there generally is several things that are common. The subject is a specific marriage; it praises the bride and groom; it mentions something about the wedding day, and give blessings for the union and wishes for happiness. Sometimes they tell about the bride and groom's past.

Because of all these nice things, they are not generally short poems. It can range from 40 to 400 lines.

Sappho is credited with making this a distinct literary form, even though these poems exists in most cultures. Back then, occasionally the poem was sung by a chorus of girls and boys right outside the honeymooners' room.


The first one in English was written by Sir Philip Sidney, who celebrated his own wedding in 1580.

I think this would be a bad wedding gift, personally.

Forms of Poetry

XXIV. Epithalamium

   He is here, Urania’s son,
Hymen come from Helicon;
God that glads the lover’s heart,
He is here to join and part.
So the groomsman quits your side
And the bridegroom seeks the bride:
Friend and comrade yield you o’er
To her that hardly loves you more.

   Now the sun his skyward beam
Hast tilted from the Ocean stream.
Light the Indies, laggard sun:
Happy bridegroom, day is done,
And the star from Œta’s steep
Calls to bed but not to sleep.

   Happy bridegroom, Hesper brings
All desired and timely things.
All whom morning sends to roam,
Hesper loves to lead them home.
Home return who him behold,
Child to mother, sheep to fold,
Bird to nest from wandering wide:
Happy bridegroom, seek your bride.

   Pour it out, the golden cup
Given and guarded, brimming up,
Safe through jostling markets borne
And the thicket of the thorn;
Folly spurned and danger past,
Pour it to the god at last.

   Now, to smother noise and light,
Is stolen abroad the wildering night,
And the blotting shades confuse
Path and meadow full of dews;
And the high heavens, that all control,
Turn in silence round the pole.
Catch the starry beams they shed
Prospering the marriage bed,
And breed the land that reared your prime
Sons to stay the rot of time.
All is quiet, no alarms;
Nothing fear of nightly harms.
Safe you sleep on guarded ground,
And in silent circle round
The thoughts of friends keep watch and ward,
Harnessed angels, hand on sword.

A.E. Housman, Last Poems

Public domain: first published in 1922.

Ep`i*tha*la"mi*um (?), n.; pl. Epithalamiums (#), L. Epithalamia (#). [L., fr. Gr. , orig. an adj., nuptial; upon, at + bride chamber.]

A nuptial song, or poem in honor of the bride and bridegroom.

The kind of poem which was called epithalamium . . . sung when the bride was led into her chamber. B. Jonson.


© Webster 1913.

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