We have previously ventured back in time to explore the humble beginnings of poetry, taking us to approximately 3000 BC. It transformed from being a tool to record history in an oral fashion to the ‘art’ form explored by the Greeks and Romans, where Muses had their part to play.
The story continues in the Medieval Age.
A change was encountered in people’s religious beliefs from ‘polytheism’ to ‘monotheism’, several gods to the single Lord. This idea was also mirrored in the preferred topics for poetry.
Myths and legends, although still fascinating to tell, were increasingly replaced with prayers to and praises of the one God.
Poetry was becoming an art form for those who were educated or in the company of wealth. Latin became the only language within Europe in which poetry was written.
That was until English poet Geoffrey Chaucer dared to use vernacular language in the Middle Ages. Known as the father of English Literature he was one of the first poets to be buried in Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey.
Despite the change to the English language, the topics, rhyme and rhythm used in Latin were still evident.
Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
There was a duke that highte Theseus
Of Athens he was lord and governor,
And in his time such a conqueror
That greater was there none under the sun.
Full many a riche country had he won.
(The Knight’s Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer)
Denny Bradbury also makes use of couplet rhyming stanza in her poem ‘Thoughts of Love’ (Denagerie of Poems, 2009), although rather than describing a tale of a gallant knight, it explores the heartache of love.
Poetry in the form of Sonnets had been used since the 13th century however it did not come into its’ own until the Renaissance period.
Described as a poem of 14 lines with a specific rhyme and structure, it evolved over the centuries – Petrarchan Sonnets (Italian – c. 13th century), Shakespearean (English – c. 16th century), also Modern Sonnets to name but a few varieties.
‘Together Apart’ (Denagerie of Poems, 2009) shows Denny’s exploration into the world of sonnets.
Blank-verse (unrhymed) also came into strength during the 16th century with poets such as Henry Howard and Christopher Marlowe. William Shakespeare also used blank-verse in his plays.
One such example of blank-verse from the 17th century, and a style which was copied in the 18th century, is John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’:
Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
(Paradise Lost: Book 01, John Milton)
The Romantic Era emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries, where personal feelings became unleashed. It was an attempt to escape the rules of science and strict ways of life. WilliamWordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge led the movement with their collective works ‘Lyrical Ballards’ (1798). Blake, Keats and Shelley are but a few poets to emerge in this era.
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white moonshine.”
(The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Poetry has never stopped progressing, adapting all the time to the needs of its creators. We are still to encounter the Victorian Era, Surrealism and Imagists. Between now and then, however, I leave you with words from Denny Bradbury:
The countryside is redolent
With stories, loves and lives unspent;
People passing, what’s their story?
Ignorance finds the path to glory.
(Heathland, Denagerie of Poems, Denny Bradbury, 2009)