It is a rather difficult task explaining the progress of poetry. Although changes are evident between the authors of Ancient Greece, such as Homer, and those of medieval England (Chaucer); the romantics to the breakaway routes of free-verse in the Victorianera, its essence remains the same.
Poetry in one form or another has its roots firmly planted 6000 years ago.
Creators of ‘poetry’ at the time did not see it as a romantic art form as many see it today. Around 3000BC poetry was merely a tool – a means of communication, of storytellingand explanation.
The earliest written work found is the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’, a Sumerian legend datingback to the 4th Millennium BC.
Enkidu had defiled his body so pure,his legs stood still, though his herd was in motion. Enkidu was weakened, could not run as before,but now he had reason, and wide understanding. (Epic of Gilgamesh, translated by Andrew George).
The later introduction of rhythm and rhyme enabled a more memorable form oforal record-keeping. It is believed the ‘lyric’ dates back to this era, where rhythmic storytelling was first added to music – to be accompanied by a ‘lyre’.
Short musical lyrics began to change into long narratives with the likes of Homer in Ancient Greece. The introduction of the written language aided greatly this transition asstories no longer needed to be easily memorised.
Look now how mortals are blaming the gods, for they say that evil comes from us, but infact they themselves have woes beyond their share because of their own follies. (The Odyssey, Homer).
Subject matter of the time tended to relate to the gods and of heroic storytelling.
Although written several thousand years later, poet Denny Bradbury incorporates amodern-day twist to the exaggerated heroic storytelling of the Greeks. Her poem ‘Nunon the Tow Path’ from ‘Denagerie of Poems’ takes a quiet approach to heroism – everyday people affecting the lives of others without question.
Unlike Denny, however, the ‘poets’ of Ancient Greece believed themselves more as translators to the gods (accepting the gift from Muses) than authors in their own right.
Roman poetry was for the most part a continuation of the Greek style. Yet here we start to see an introduction of philosophy and an attempt to blend gods and scientific understanding. And since ’tis thou aloneGuidest the Cosmos, and without thee naught is risen to reach the shining shores of light, Nor aught of joyful or of lovely born, Thee do I crave co-partner in that verse which I presume on nature to compose(On the Nature of Things, Lucretius, translated by William Ellery Leonard)
Poetry in a form continues to change and blossom with every new external influence. We leave it here questioning the power of the gods. They weren’t put there to be remote but to the wise were portals to represent the power of gods and light to earthbound mortals
(Still Standing, Denagerie of Poems, Denny Bradbury, 2009.)