The HyperTexts

English Poetry Timeline and Chronology
English Literature Timeline and Chronology
World Literature Timeline and Chronology


This is a timeline of English poetry and literature, from the earliest Celtic, Gaelic, Druidic, Anglo-Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman works, to the present day. All dates are AD or CE (current era) unless otherwise specified. Some dates are approximations or "educated guesses." Considerable information was extracted from wiki and other public web pages. You can click on any hyperlinked poem title or writer name to "drill down." If you are a student or independent scholar, this page may be a valuable resource and because it is updated frequently, you may want to bookmark it. Here you can find the answers to questions such as: "Who wrote the first English poem, the first sonnet, the first limerick, the first villanelle, the first free verse poem?" You can also learn how a seemingly innocent book of common prayer led to the English Civil War and eventually to King Charles I loosing his crown (not to mention his head!). If you're looking for something in particular, you can use your browser's search function or CTRL-F to find a keyword. If you're a student who "doesn't like poetry" and is only here grudgingly because of a school assignment, please reconsider. Do you like music: pop, rock, country, bluegrass, folk, traditional, hymns, r&b, hip-hop, rap, soul, blues, jazz, classical and/or opera? If so, the vast majority of all such songs are rhyming poems set to music. So unless you dislike all the words of every song you have ever heard, you really do like some poetry, after all! Perhaps you should have an open mind and read a few of the poems you find hyperlinked on this page. ;-)

This page is organized as follows, with the names of the major writers and events either bolded or hyperlinked:

"The Phases of English Poetry" is our most compressed outline, quickly covering the evolution of English poetry from Prehistoric, to Celtic, to Anglo-Roman, to Anglo-Saxon, to Anglo-Norman, and so forth.
"A Brief History of English Poetry" quickly "hits the highlights" with our top 50 events in the evolution of English poetry.
Our "Top Ten" lists allow you quickly find the best poets and poems, in our estimation and in the estimation of other critics and publications.
The following sections then go into considerably more detail, covering each major period from Prehistoric to the more obscure schools of English Modernism, such as Imagism, Vorticism and Projectivism.

As we begin our quest for knowledge, let's keep in mind that the English words "story" and "history" derive from the same Latin root, historia. Before writing existed, all knowledge had to be passed down orally, and much of it was passed down as poetry, because poetry is easier to remember "faithfully" than prose. We can all remember nursery rhymes and the lyrics of our favorite songs (most of which are rhyming poems set to music). Some of the poems on this page, as ancient as they may be in their written forms, may be much older if they were passed down from generation to generation orally. If the first poem of the British Isles that we mention, the Song of Amergin, really dates back to the first Celts who invaded and settled the region, then Robert Graves' suggested date of 1268 BC may be plausible. But the honest truth is that no one really knows how far back in time some of these poems go. The tales of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Gawain (who predates Lancelot) appear to be based on ancient Celtic histories, legends and/or myths that pre-date the chivalric period in which they were later set and recast. There is nothing "wrong" with delighting in (or even preferring) the sanitized and Christianized versions of such stories/histories, but it can be very interesting to explore the mistier (and often darker) originals. I have come to prefer the originals myself, but to each his/her own.―Michael R. Burch, editor, The HyperTexts

The Phases of English Poetry (there is some "crossover" between political and literary periods so our main periods are underlined and bolded)

Our top fifty English language poets in chronological order: Geoffrey Chaucer, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, Robert Herrick, John Milton, William Blake, Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Christian Rossetti, Thomas Hardy, Gerard Manley Hopkins, A. E. Housman, William Butler Yeats, Ernest Dowson, Edward Arlington Robinson, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, D. H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, Robinson Jeffers, T. S. Eliot, Conrad Aiken, Archibald MacLeish, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wilfred Owen, e. e. cummings, Louise Bogan, Hart Crane, Langston Hughes, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Hayden, Dylan Thomas, Robert Lowell, Richard Wilbur, Philip Larkin, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Seamus Heaney

5600 BC — Rising seas separate England from the European mainland; one consequence is that the natives' language begins to evolve separately from (and quite differently to) its continental peers ...
1268 BC — Possible date for the first  Celtic songs and poems such as the Song of Amergin, but dating such orally-transmitted works of the Prehistoric Period (?-55 BC) is a highly speculative endeavor! 
55 BC — Julius Caesar invades England; this begins the Anglo-Roman Period (55 BC-410 AD), in which Latin becomes the primary language of the rulers, clergy and scholars. Native poetry remains oral. 
410 AD— Rome is sacked by Visigoths and the Roman legions no longer occupy and defend England. Germanic tribes soon invade England. Thus begins the Anglo-Saxon or Old English Period (410-1066)
658 — Caedmon's Hymn, the oldest authenticated English poem, marks the beginning of what came to be known as English poetry (although it was Anglo-Saxon and thus heavily Germanic at the time). 
950 — The Exeter Book contains the first English poems likely written by women, Wulf and Eadwacer and The Wife's Lament, with Anglo-Saxon riddles and kennings and the first known English rhyming poem.
1066 — William the Conqueror wins the Battle of Hastings; this Norman Conquest of England begins the Anglo-Norman or Middle English Period (1066-1340). The elites prefer French and Latin to English.
1000 — Now skruketh rose and lylie flour is one of the earliest and best English love poems, circa the 11th century AD.
1154 — The Plantagenet Period (1154-1485) was primarily political and because the Plantagenets were still French Normans, we will mark our next period by a different kind of coronation, in 1340 ...
1200 — How Long the Night ("Myrie it is while sumer ylast") is one of the best rhyming poems of the Middle English period; it remains largely understandable to modern English readers; also the first Ballads.
1260 — Sumer is icumen in and other early rhyming poems include Fowles in the Frith, Ich am of Irlaunde ("I am of Ireland"), Now Goeth Sun Under Wood, Pity Mary, and Alison.
1340 — Birth of Geoffrey Chaucer, the first major poet to write in vernacular English. Thus begins the Late Middle English Period (1340-1503). Poets of note include John Skelton and William Dunbar.
1350 — Around this time there is an Alliterative Revival, led by the Gawain/Pearl poet; important poems of this genre include Piers Plowman, Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Patience and Cleanness.
1430 — A "haunting riddle-chant" from this era is I Have a Yong Suster ("I Have a Young Sister"), an anonymous Medieval English riddle-poem that has also been described as a popular song and a folk song.
1485 — The Tudor Period (1457-1603) ends the Middle Ages; Henry VII has a court where English ruled over French, finally! But we will mark our next period by the birth of the first great modern English poet ...
1503 — Birth of Thomas Wyatt; he and Henry Howard introduce the sonnet, iambic pentameter and blank verse to England, beginning the English Renaissance or Early Modern English Period (1503-1558).
1532 — The English Reformation Period (1532-1649) was more religious and political than poetic, but John Milton was a major voice for reform while Cavalier poets supported the monarchy.
1532 — Birth of Sir Walter Ralegh (or Raleigh), who may have written the first major protest poem, "The Lie." He was sentenced to the Tower of London and beheaded, despite all his services to the crown.
1532 — Birth of Edmund Spenser, a major English poet. He would single-handedly create the modern English style of poetry: "fluid," "limpid," "translucent" and "graceful," while introducing humanism.
1558 — The Elizabethan Period (1558-1603) was incredibly fertile, with major works by Spenser, Ralegh, Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare.
1564 — Birth of William Shakespeare, one of the world's greatest poets, playwrights and songwriters. He is justly famous for Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello and other major works.
1572 — Birth of John Donne, the first and most prominent of the Metaphysical school of poets (1572-1695), which included George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, Richard Crashaw and Henry Vaughn.
1591 — Birth of Robert Herrick, first of the Cavalier school of poets (1591-1674), which included Richard Lovelace, Sir John Suckling and Thomas Carew. They were also called the "tribe of Ben [Jonson]."
1603 — The Jacobean/Caroline/Interregnum/Restoration Period (1603-1690) sees the King James Bible, Shakespeare's later plays, and major works by Milton, including his masterpiece Paradise Lost.
1532 — Birth of John Milton, generally considered to be the second-greatest English poet, after Shakespeare. He is best-known for his epic poems Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.
1620 — The Pilgrims set sail for America in the Mayflower. Harold Bloom has called Tom O'Bedlam's Song "all but High Romantic vision," which would put it around two hundred years ahead of its time!
1690 — The Augustan Period (1690-1756) is marked by the sophisticated, witty work of poets like Alexander Pope, John Dryden, Samuel Johnson and Jonathan Swift. (But it seems like a dry spell today.)
1750 — Edward Young's melancholic Night-Thoughts, later illustrated by William Blake in 1797, would become  a major influence on Romantics to follow, including Blake and Goethe.
1752 — Birth of Thomas Chatterton, called the "marvellous boy" and a primary influence by William Wordsworth. Although he died at age seventeen, Chatterton has been called the first Romantic poet.
1757 — Birth of William Blake, the first major poet of the English Romantic Period (1757-1837); others include Robert Burns, Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.
1836 — Ralph Waldo Emerson is a founder of the Transcendental Club, which includes writers such as Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bronson Alcott and Louisa May Alcott.
1837 — The Victorian Period (1837-1901) is marked by the work of Lord Alfred Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Clare, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
1848 — The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (1848-1882) was founded by the poet/artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and two other artists; aligned poets include Christina Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne.
1855 — Walt Whitman self-publishes Leaves of Grass, a landmark work of Early Modernism (1855-1901) that rocks the Victorians to their whalebone corsets! Emily Dickinson is another unique voice.
1867 — Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach has been called a masterpiece of Early Modernism, employing irregular rhyme and form, skepticism, pessimism, and exhibiting a crisis of faith in both God and mankind.
1890 — Fin-de-siθcle (1890-1900) poets who took notes from the French symbolists include William Butler Yeats, Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, Arthur Symons, Oscar Wilde and Swinburne.
1901 — The Edwardian/Georgian Period (1901-1936) is brief but fecund, with Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, Edward Thomas and Walter de la Mare.
1909 — Two poems published by T. E Hulme are considered to be the beginning of the modernist movement called Imagism (1909-1919); its leading poets and critics would be Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot.
1914 — Ezra Pound quickly became dissatisfied with the work of Imagists like Amy Lowell, and founded a new movement called Vorticism (1913-1918), but it did not take off with the public.
1950 — Charles Olson called Pound and other Imagists "inferior predecessors" and created a new school of poetry, Projectivism (1950-1950), which also did not take off.
1901 — The leading voices of Modernism and Postmodernism (1901-Present) include poets such as William Butler Yeats, Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, D. H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wilfred Owen, e. e. cummings, Louise Bogan, Hart Crane, Langston Hughes, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney. We would also include outstanding singer-songwriters such as Leonard Cohen, Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, Eminem, Woody Guthrie, Michael Jackson, Carole King, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Willie Nelson, Prince, Smokey Robinson, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Hank Williams Sr. Of course there are many other worthy names―too many to mention them all here. So anyone who says that poetry is "dead" or "dying" is obviously just not listening! Phases and schools of poetry in modern times include Imagism (Pound, Eliot), Vorticism (Pound), Projectivism (Olson), Cubism (cummings), Confessionalism (Lowell, Plath, Anne Sexton), New Romanticism (Dylan Thomas), The Beats (Allen Ginsberg), New Formalism (Richard Wilbur), Surrealism, Futurism, Expressionism, Orphism, Purism, Dadism, Constructivism, and other -isms too numerous (and obscure) to name!

A Brief History of English Poetry (if you only have time for the highest of the highlights, these are our top 50 events)

5600 BC — Previously, human beings could walk to England because it was a peninsula of Europe! But rising sea levels due to massive ice melts create an island with around 5,000 stranded hunter-gatherers.
3000 — The first smaller henges are dug out locally at Stonehenge but the native Britons remain prehistoric, lacking any writing. Songs and poems passed down orally are difficult or impossible to date ...
1268 — The
Song of Amergin may be the oldest poem related to the British Isles, but everything about it remains a mystery, so your guess is as good as ours! (Robert Graves provided this speculative date.)
55 — Julius Caesar invades England, creating a Roman beachhead on the coast of Kent. The following year he invades again, bringing a third of England under Roman influence (but not yet under Roman rule).
43 AD — The Roman Emperor Claudius invades England with four legions and Roman rule is established. The Roman city Londinium (London) is founded. Formal writing will hence be in Latin. 
122 — The Roman Emperor Hadrian visits England; construction of Hadrian's Wall begins. The Romans would never conquer the Scottish Picts who lived north of Hadrian's Wall. English elites study Latin.
410 — Rome is sacked by Visigoths: the Roman Empire is collapsing. Emperor Honorius informs Romano-Britons that they must defend themselves. Britons are once again independent, but imperiled ...
449 — Anglo-Saxons under Hengist and Horsa invade England after the Roman legions leave. England will take its name from the Angles, a Germanic tribe, as the lingo slowly becomes more Germanic.
500 — Birth of Gildas, perhaps the first notable English writer we know by name (although he was born in Scotland and wrote in Latin, and thus may not really qualify). Latin remains the language of the elites.
658 — Caedmon's Hymn, the oldest authenticated English poem, marks the beginning of what came to be known as English poetry (although it was Anglo-Saxon and thus heavily Germanic at the time).
680 — Possible date for the composition of the epic poem Beowulf, a masterpiece of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) poetry. The tale is set in the late fifth century but may have been composed later.
735 — Bede's Death Song may have been written on his deathbed by the Venerable Bede, a notable scholar and translator who has been called the "father of English history."
871 — King Alfred the Great unites the Anglo-Saxons, defeats the Danes and becomes the first king of a united England able to "keep things together." He was also a notable scholar, writer and translator.
890 — The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is the first known comprehensive attempt at an English history. It has been called "the single most important source for the history of England in Anglo-Saxon times."
900 — Deor, an Anglo-Saxon scop, is writing poems such as Deor's Lament, perhaps during the reign of King Alfred the Great (849-899), the most literate of the Anglo-Saxon kings.
950 — The Exeter Book may contain the first extant English poems written by women: Wulf and Eadwacer and The Wife's Lament. The Exeter Book also contains Anglo-Saxon riddles and kennings.
1066 — William the Conqueror defeats Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings; this Norman Conquest of England marks the end of the Anglo-Saxon era.
1117 — The University of Oxford is founded.
1200 — How Long the Night ("Myrie it is while sumer ylast") is one of the great early rhyming poems of the Middle English period. The oldest known English ballad is Judas, circa the 13th century.
1215 — The Magna Carta, drafted in French, forces King John to grant liberties and rights to Englishmen in return for taxation. French and Latin remain the languages of choice for nobles and scholars.
1260 — Sumer is icumen in is a medieval English round, or rota. It came with a musical score and instructions for the singing of rounds, in Latin! It is one of the oldest songs that can still be sung today.
1340 — Birth of Geoffrey Chaucer, the first major poet to write in vernacular English (the language the people actually spoke). In that respect, Chaucer was to English as Dante was to Italian.
1455 — The Guttenberg Bible is the first book printed with moveable type. Printed books would lead to an explosion of knowledge and allow education to advance around the world.
1476 — William Caxton prints Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. But it was not the first English book printed with moveable type, as Caxton published his translation of the history of Troy first!

1492 — Columbus discovers San Salvador and the Americas. King James IV of Scotland concludes an alliance with France against England. William Dunbar writes court poetry for James IV.
1503 — Birth of Thomas Wyatt, perhaps the first modern English poet. William Dunbar's stellar Sweet Rose of Virtue and Lament for the Makaris appear in the first book of Scottish poems.

1517 — Martin Luther, a professor of moral theology at Wittenberg, publishes his 95 theses against the Roman Catholic Church, kick-starting the Protestant Reformation.
1534 — Around this time, Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard introduce the English sonnet, modeled after the Petrarchan sonnet. The sonnet would become the most popular English poetic form.
1552 — Births of Walter Ralegh and Edmund Spenser; the latter was perhaps the first great English Romantic poet and the precursor of Milton and the great Romantic poets to come (see 1789).
1564 — Births of the English poets and playwrights Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare; the latter is generally considered to be the greatest English poet and playwright.
1579 — Edmund Spenser's Shepheardes Calender has been called "the first work of the English literary Renaissance." With his liquid rhythms Spenser influenced the modern English poetic style.
1608 — John Milton is born; John Donne writes his Holy Sonnets; Shakespeare completes his sonnets and his plays are being performed: Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, etc.
1611 — The King James Bible is published in still-readable English. It contains some of the earliest and best free verse in the English language, such as the highly poetic Song of Solomon.
1623 — Publication of Shakespeare's First Folio. Ben Jonson and his "tribe" are on the rise: Robert Herrick, Richard Lovelace, Thomas Carew, Sir John Suckling, Edmund Waller, et al.
1649 — King Charles I is found guilty of high treason, then executed by beheading. Oliver Cromwell becomes England's Lord Protector and Regent in 1653. Milton supports and lauds Cromwell.
1658 — As Oliver Cromwell's death throws England back into chaos, John Milton works on his masterpiece, Paradise Lost, perhaps using aspects of the English Civil War for material.
1742 — Thomas Gray begins writing his masterpiece, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. It may have been the first major work of English Romanticism.
1757 — Birth of William Blake, perhaps the greatest of the English Romantic poets and also a great artist and engraver. Blake is perhaps the first anti-establishment poet, but would start a trend!
1759 — Birth of the Scottish Romantic poet Robert Burns, generally considered to be the greatest Scottish poet of all time. Like Blake, he would be a stern critic of kings, state and church.
1776 — American colonists defiantly declare independence with words written in ringing iambic pentameter by Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin: "We hold these truths to be self-evident ..."
1789 — The French Revolution greatly influences English Romantic poets: William Blake, Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.
1798 — Lyrical Ballads, written primarily by William Wordsworth with a few poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, becomes the foundational text of the English Romantic Movement.
1819 — John Keats publishes Ode to a Grecian Urn and Ode to a Nightingale. Lord Byron publishes Don Juan. Birth of the American Romantic poet Walt Whitman.
1830 — Alfred Tennyson publishes his Poems, Chiefly Lyrical. Emily Dickinson, generally considered to be the greatest female American poet, is born.
1846 — Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning are married: they become poetry's first "super couple" a century before Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes!
1855 — Walt Whitman self-publishes his revolutionary book of free verse poems, Leaves of Grass. Ralph Waldo Emerson praises the book, but many puritanical Americans are shocked by Whitman's "sexiness."
1865 — The Civil War ends. Slavery is abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment. Abraham Lincoln is assassinated. Whitman publishes his elegy for Lincoln, When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd.
1888 — T. S. Eliot, perhaps the most influential Modernist poet and critic, is born. Columbia Records, the first major American record label, is founded. The earliest known recording of classical music is by Handel.
1895 — Scott Joplin publishes ragtime compositions. Cornetist Buddy Bolden creates the countermelody of jazz. The world will soon be awash in rhyming poems set to music: pop, rock, country, blues, hip-hop, etc.
1900 — The leading poets of modernism include Thomas Hardy, Gerard Manley Hopkins, A. E. Housman, William Butler Yeats, Ernest Dowson, E. A. Robinson, Stephen Crane, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, D. H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, Robinson Jeffers, Marianne Moore, T. S. Eliot, Conrad Aiken, Archibald MacLeish, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wilfred Owen, e. e. cummings, Louise Bogan, Hart Crane, Langston Hughes, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Hayden, Dylan Thomas, Robert Lowell, Richard Wilbur, Philip Larkin, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Derek Walcott, Geoffrey Hill, Sylvia Plath, Seamus Heaney, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, Hank Williams Sr., John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Carole King, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Joni Mitchell, Willie Nelson, Maya Angelou, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Prince, Mariah Carey, Eminem and Adele. And of course there are many other worthy names―too many to mention them all here. So anyone who says poetry is "dead" or "dying" is obviously just not listening!

Top Ten Lists
Our top ten Ancient and Classical Era poets: Enheduanna, Archilochus, Simonides, Horace, Sophocles, Virgil, Ovid, Pindar, Homer, Sappho (#1)
Our top ten Early Medieval Period poets: Amergin, Caedmon, Bede, Cynewulf, King Alfred the Great, Aldhelm, Deor, Ono no Komachi, the authors of Beowulf and Wulf and Eadwacer (tie, #1)
Our top ten Middle English Period poets: Wace, Layamon, Walter Map, Thomas of Britain, Guillaume de Lorris, John Gower, William Langland, the Archpoet, Francesco Petrarch and Dante Alighieri (#1)
Our top ten Late Medieval Period poets: Robert Henryson, John Lydgate, John Gower, William Langland, the Gawain poet, the Pearl poet, Charles D'Orleans, John Skelton, William Dunbar, Geoffrey Chaucer (#1)
Our top ten Elizabethan poets: George Chapman, Walter Ralegh, Philip Sidney, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, Henry Howard, Thomas Wyatt, John Donne, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare (#1)
Our top ten Cavalier Period poets: George Herbert, James Shirley, John Suckling, Richard Lovelace, Thomas Carew, Edmund Waller, Robert Herrick, Ben Jonson, John Donne, John Milton (#1)
Our top ten Augustan Period poets: Edward Taylor, Christopher Smart, Aphra Behn, William Collins, Andrew Marvell, John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Waller, Thomas Gray (#1)
Our top ten Romantic poets: Thomas Chatterton, Walter Scott, John Clare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, Robert Burns, William Blake (#1)
Our top ten Early Modernism poets: James Joyce, William Carlos Williams, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Vachel Lindsay, Carl Sandburg, Ernest Dowson, Ezra Pound, Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, W. B. Yeats (#1)
Our top ten Modernist poets: E. E. Cummings, Edna St. Vincent Millay, D. H. Lawrence, Louise Bogan, Dylan Thomas, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Hart Crane, Wilfred Owen, Wallace Stevens (#1)
According to the Chicago Tribune, the top ten most-anthologized poems in the English language are: "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" by Robert Herrick, "La Belle Dame sans Merci" by John Keats, "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost, "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, "That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold" by William Shakespeare, "To Autumn" by John Keats, "Sir Patrick Spens" an anonymous ballad, and "The Tyger" by William Blake (#1)
According to William Harmon, the most-anthologized poets are: John Keats, Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy, Alfred Tennyson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Wordsworth, W. B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, John Donne, Anonymous, William Shakespeare (#1)

Now begins our much more comprehensive history of English poetry, with a considerable smattering of prose, music and the other arts ...

Prehistoric or Pre-History Art (all dates are BCE; some are "educated guesses")
2,500,000 BC — Homo Habilis is the first human ancestor to create stone tools; thus begins the Stone Age and the Lower Paleolithic Era, in which human beings are still evolving and use very simple, crude stone tools.
170
,000 — Humans begin to wear clothing, but nothing too stylish yet ... the emergence of clothing, intentional burials and possible concepts of an afterlife religion mark the Middle Paleolithic Era.
133
,000 — Neanderthals had fashion sense, as jewelry made from eagle talons has been discovered at a Neanderthal cave at Krapina, Croatia.
108,000 — Beads made from shells of Nassarius sea snails, found at the Skhul cave in Israel, are the first known jewelry made by modern humans, who are finally catching up to Neanderthals!
68,000 — Stones with crosshatch markings found at the Blombos cave in South Africa may be the first examples of abstract or symbolic art. The Middle Paleolithic Era concludes with modern human behavior.
40,000 — Paleolithic flutes made from bones and mammoth ivory, discovered in a German cave, appear to be the oldest musical instruments. Increasing organization and advancing art mark the Upper Paleolithic Era.
39,000 — The Altamira Cave cave paintings, near El Castillo, Spain, may be the earth's oldest paintings and the earliest carbon-dated examples of human figurative art.
38,000 — The Lφwenmensch figurine, aka the Lion Man of the Hohlenstein Stadel, and the Venus of Hohle Fels may be the earth's oldest statues.
26,000 — The earliest pottery was used not as crockery, but for art: the Venus of Dolnν Věstonice, Moravia (in the modern-day Czech Republic).
10,000 — The first permanent human settlements and the emergence of agriculture and domesticated animals like sheep and goats pave the way for more advanced forms of art to come ...

Our top ten ancient and classical era poets: Enheduanna, Horace, Virgil, Ovid, Simonides, Sophocles, Pindar, Archilochus, Homer, Sappho

Pre-English Art (all dates are BCE; some are "educated guesses")
5600 — Previously, human beings could walk to England because it was a peninsula of Europe! But rising sea levels due to massive ice melts create an island with around 5,000 stranded hunter-gatherers.
5000 — The inventions of the wheel, the kiln, smelting (tin, lead and copper) and proto-writing set the stage for the coming Bronze Age and the dawn of poetry and other forms of literature.
3500 — The Stone Age winds down and the Bronze Age revs up as metal tools and weapons begin to predominate; nations develop; writing develops in Sumer (Iraq); thus begins what we call "history."
3000 — Sumerian temple hymns and laments; Egyptian pyramid and coffin texts (early epigrams/epitaphs); invention of paper (papyrus); the first smaller henges are dug out locally at Stonehenge.
2700 — The Egyptian physician Merit-Ptah appears to be the first woman named in the field of medicine, and perhaps all of science. Her portrait appears in a tomb in the Valley of Kings.
2690 — A seal from the tomb of Seth-Peribsen has the first known complete sentence: "The golden one of Ombos has unified the two realms for his son, the king of Lower and Upper Egypt, Peribsen."
2650 — The Egyptian polymath Imhotep has been called the original architect, engineer and physician; he designed the first pyramid, was promoted to a god, and ended up being worshipped by a cult!
2500 — The Sumerian Kesh Temple Hymn and Instructions of Šuruppak may be the earth's oldest surviving literature. Work begins on the mammoth henges of Stonehenge and on the Great Sphinx of Giza.
2285 — Enheduanna, daughter of King Saragon the Great, may be the first named poet in human history and the first known writer of prayers and hymns such as The Exaltation of Inanna.
2100 — The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh appears to be the earth's oldest extant major poem.
2000 — The earth's oldest love poem appears to be the ancient Sumerian poem The Love Song of Shu-Sin. Early Minoan culture on Crete. The first libraries in Egypt. Abraham of Ur becomes a monotheist.
1500 — The Rigveda, a collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns, may be the oldest religious text still in use today.
1400 — A Hurrian Cult Song from Ancient Ugarit includes the first musical score. Composed for the lyre, it records the oldest playable melody. The first written legal codes are those of Hammurabi.
1200 — The Bronze Age evolves into the Iron Age. Iron artifacts dating to around this time or earlier have been found in Anatolia (modern Turkey), Egypt, Jordan, Sumer (Iraq) and Greece. 
1000 — Early Native American poetry such as Mayan and Aztec; early Oriental poetry; possible date for the birth of Homer, author of the epic poems Odyssey and Iliad; the Iron Age begins; Hebrew Song of Deborah.
750 — Birth of Hesiod; Celts reach England; Hebrew proverbs and prophets; oldest Chinese poems in the Shi Jing; Lycurgus of Sparta; first Olympic games; Rome is founded; Nineveh has a library with 22,000 clay tablets.
600 — Possible date for the Bible's poetic book of Job. The births of Archilochus (680), Solon (640), Sappho of Lesbos (630), Aesop (620), Lao-tse (604), Anacreon (582), Buddha (563), Confucius (551), Aeschylus (525), Pindar (522). The pinnacle of ancient Greek poetry was reached between the 7th and 4th centuries B.C. This "poetic movement was part of the greatest cultural and intellectual community in world history. The Greeks developed nearly all of the classic forms that formed the underpinnings of later literature, drama, music and poetry, including the ode, epic, lyric, tragedy, and comedy. As Greek works became disseminated through the Western world, they created the basis for modern literature."
500 — Possible date for the Bible's Song of Solomon and the Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. The births of Pericles (500), Sophocles (497), Euripides (484), Socrates (470), Plato (428), Aristotle (384).
484 — Aeschylus wins first prize for tragedy at the City Dionysia in Athens. Sophocles wins in 468, Euripides in 441, Aristophanes in 425. Talk about tough competition!
100 — The births of Julius Caesar (100), Lucretius (99), Cato the Younger (95), Catullus (84), Virgil (70), Horace (65), Plutarch (47), Ovid (43), Martial (43), Lucan (39), Paul of Tarsus (5), Seneca the Younger (4).
37 — Virgil's reputation is established by his Eclogues.
23 — The first three books of Horace's Odes are published.
16 — A collection of witty erotic love poems, Amores, brings Ovid success while still in his twenties. He is best known today for his poetic collection of around 250 myths, Metamorphoses. His characters include Orpheus, Proserpina, Philomela, Pygmalion, Medea, Heracles, Daedelus and Achilles. Ovid would be an important influence on major early English poets like Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower, and through them, on other English language poets to follow. For instance, several of Shakespeare's plays, including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titus Andronicus, The Tempest and The Comedy of Errors were influenced by Ovid. Other writers influenced by Ovid include Dante, Petrarch, Alexander Pushkin, James Joyce, Bob Dylan and Anne Rice.

The Celtic Period (?-1 BC)
The Celtic period begins in the distant past and extends to the Roman invasions of Britain that began under Julius Caesar in 55 BC. The most famous poem of this period is the "Song of Amergin" although it is not at all certain when or where the poem was composed, or even who composed it. This poem has been ascribed to Amergin, a Milesian Druid who allegedly settled in Ireland, perhaps centuries before the birth of Christ. The "Song of Amergin" appears in the Leabhar Gabhala ("Book of Invasions"). As Douglas Hyde notes in The Story of Early Gaelic Literature: "The three short pieces of verse ascribed to Amergin are certainly very ancient and very strange. But as the whole story of the Milesian Invasion is shrouded in mystery and is quite possibly a rationalized account of early Irish mythology, no faith can be placed in the alleged date or genuineness of Amergin's verses. They are of interest, because Irish tradition has them as being the first verses made in Ireland, so it may very well be they actually do present the oldest surviving lines of any vernacular tongue in Europe except Greece." In other words, Amergin could be the first poet of the British Isles that we know by name, or he could have written in some later period, or he may never have existed at all. Amergin, like Taliesin and Merlin, could be real, a man become legend, or entirely a myth.

The ancient Druids of Britain did not have a written language, but they were dedicated scholars who committed "immense amounts" of oral poetry to memory. Julius Caesar left the following description of the Druids in Book VI of his Gallic Wars: "A large number of young men flock to them for training and hold them in high honour. For they have the right to decide nearly all public and private disputes and they also pass judgement and decide rewards and penalties in criminal and murder cases and in disputes concerning legacies and boundaries ... It is thought that this system of training was invented in Britain and taken over from there to Gaul, and at the present time, diligent students of the matter mostly travel there to study it ... The Druids are wont to be absent from war, nor do they pay taxes like the others ... It is said that they commit to memory immense amounts of poetry. And so some of them continue their studies for twenty years. They consider it improper to entrust their studies to writing ... They have also much knowledge of the stars and their motion, of the size of the world and of the earth, of natural philosophy, and of the powers and spheres of action of the immortal gods ..." So we know that the best-educated poets of the English isles in ancient times did not trust their art to writing! According to Julius Caesar, they remained deliberately prehistoric.

1268 — The Song of Amergin remains a mystery. It was written by an unknown poet at an unknown time at an unknown location. The date given here was furnished by Robert Graves, who translated the Song of Amergin in his influential book The White Goddess (1948). Graves remarked that “English poetic education should, really, begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin The first native language of the Celtic Britons has given us relatively few English words, such as: beak, brat, bog, clan, clout, crock, dad, daddy, dam, doe, knob, nook, slogan, whisky, etc. (with some Celtic words being passed along later, via Scottish, Irish and Welsh influences).

60 — The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the first comprehensive history of the Anglo-Saxons, which was initially composed during the reign of King Alfred the Great, has the year 60 BC as its first dated entry, and describes what happened quite accurately, saying that Gaius Julius crushed the Britons but was unable to establish any empire there. And the date was correct to within five years.

55 — The Roman General Julius Caesar invades England, creating a beachhead on the coast of Kent. At this time the primary language of the native Britons is a Celtic dialect known as Brittonic. The Britons had no form of writing at the time, so in that sense they remained prehistoric and their poetry was oral. The following year, 54 BC, Julius Caesar invades again, this time using diplomacy to bring England within the Roman sphere of influence, but conquering no territory and leaving no Roman troops behind. However, Latin would become the language of business, commerce and international politics. English words of Latin origin include: antenna, capitulate, criminal, decimal, embrace, equestrian, etc. According to research done by AskOxford, around 33% of English words have Latin or Greeks roots, so the Roman influence has been far-reaching.

34 — Caesar Augustus plans invasions of England in 34 BC, 27 BC and 25 BC, but apparently always finds more important things to do. Diplomacy and trade continue, but Rome has its eye set on conquest ...

Romano-British Period (1 AD-449 AD)
The Roman conquest of Britain began in AD 43, during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. Following the subjugation of native Britons, a distinctive Romano-British culture emerged under a provincial government, which, despite steadily extended territorial control northwards, was never able to control Caledonia (Scotland). The Romans demarcated the northern border of Britannia with Hadrian's Wall, completed around the year 128. Fourteen years later, in 142, the Romans extended the Britannic frontier northwards, to the Forth-Clyde line, where they constructed the Antonine Wall, but after approximately twenty years they retreated to the border of Hadrian's Wall. Around the year 197, Rome divided Britannia into two provinces, Britannia Superior and Britannia Inferior. Some time after 305, Britannia was further divided and made into an imperial diocese. For much of the later period of the Roman occupation, Britannia was subject to barbarian invasions and often came under the control of imperial usurpers and pretenders to the Roman Emperorship. By the end of the Romano-British period, it seems that Roman rule was seen as more of a liability than a bonus by the natives.

9 — The seemingly invincible Roman legions suffer their bloodiest defeat in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest and suddenly don't seem so invincible, after all ...

26 — Pontius Pilate is appointed Prefect of Judea, where another revolution is percolating.

28 — John the Baptist is executed by Herod Antipas in Judaea.

32 — Jesus Christ is crucified in Jerusalem. The Christian religion will have tremendous implications for England and its natives.


43 — Emperor Claudius invades England and Roman rule is established. The Roman city of Londinium (London) is established. However, battles continue in Wales and other outposts. And the Scottish Picts are never fully conquered, eventually requiring Hadrian's Wall (see the entry for 122). Romanization is greatest in the southeast, including London, Winchester, Canterbury, Colchester and St. Albans. In the southeast, many people are bilingual and speak both Brittonic and vulgar Latin. In the highlands, there is less Romanization and less use of vulgar Latin. In the Midlands, things are more in the middle, language-wise. Welsh and Cornish are Brittonic languages that survived first the Roman, then later the Anglo-Saxon invasions. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle again records the event quite accurately, and within three years, saying it took place in 46 AD.

56 — Birth of Tacitus (c.56 - c.120), whose Latin histories would be a primary source of historical information about Briton and the early Britons, who at that time did not have any writing in their native languages. Tacitus would favorably contrast the liberty of native Britons with the tyranny and corruption of the Roman Empire.


60 — ABCs written on a wood and wax tablet found in London suggest that a school may have existed there soon after the Roman conquest. There is also evidence that a Roman general named Agricola encouraged his children to go to school a decade or two later. Approximate date for the death of King Prasutagus of the Celtic Iceni tribe. Tacitus wrote that he lived a long and prosperous life, but when he died, the Romans ignored his will and took over, depriving the Iceni nobles of their lands and plundering the kingdom. His widow, Queen Boudicca, was flogged and their daughters raped. Roman financiers, including the famous philosopher Seneca, called in loans that had been forced on them. This led to the revolt of the Iceni, under the leadership of Boudicca. She raises 100,000 troops, then defeats and destroys most of Legio IX so that the Roman procurator Catus Decianus flees to Gaul. She then marches on Londinium, where the Romans flee, and she burns and destroys the city, as she does Colchester and St. Albans. The crisis causes Roman emperor Nero to consider withdrawing the Roman legions from England. However, the Roman general Suetonius manages to win the Battle of Watling Street despite being outnumbered, after which Boudicca either kills herself (perhaps to avoid being raped and flogged?) or dies some other way. Her name appears to derive from the feminine adjective boudīkā ("victorious"), which is in turn is derived from the Celtic noun boudā ("victory"). Later, Queen Victoria identified with Boudicca because their names had the same meaning. Boudicca has appeared in poems, plays, songs and novels by notable artists who include Alfred Tennyson, William Cowper, Enya, John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont. Several ships have been named after her. She also inspired the DC Comics superhero Boodikka.

70 — Destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman legions of Titus.

122 — The Roman Emperor Hadrian visits England. Construction of Hadrian's Wall begins. Resistance to Roman rule continues in England and other hot spots.

208 — Emperor Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla take personal command of the army in Britain. Over a seven-year period of time (208-216), the following things transpire: Severus and Caracalla lead an expedition against the Caledonii (Scottish Picts); the Romans build forts at Cramond and the Tay estuary. Caracalla leads an expedition against the rebellious Maeatae tribe (also Scottish Picts). Severus dies at York while organizing another attack on northern rebels; Caracalla, now emperor, abandons lands north of Hadrian's Wall and returns to Rome. There, he forces 13,000 prisoners of war from his father's campaigns to build the enormous and famous marble "baths of Caracalla" which were completed in Rome in 216.

368 — Attacks by Picts and Saxons force the Romans to abandon Hadrian's Wall. By this time the use of vulgar Latin begins to die out in England. Germanic influences due to the invasions of Angles, Saxons and Jutes will increasingly influence the development of the "local lingo." Roman records reveal that Germanic troops were stationed on Hadrian's Wall, so by this time the influx of Germanic tribes had apparently begun. If so, the trickle would soon become a tide ...

383 — Magnus Maximus, the Roman general assigned to Britain, launches a successful bid for imperial power, crossing over to Gaul with his troops. He rules Gaul and Britain as Augustus. The year 383 is the last date for any evidence of a major Roman military presence in Britain. The withdrawal of most of the Roman legions was an invitation for invasions of Britain by Germanic tribes such as the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, and by the neighboring Picts and Scotti.

407 — Constantine rallies the remaining Roman troops in Britain, leads them across the Channel into Gaul, and establishes himself as the Western Roman Emperor. Romano-Britons, now without Roman troops for protection and having suffered particularly severe Saxon raids in 408 and 409, would expel Constantine's magistrates in 409 or 410. The Byzantine historian Zosimus blamed Constantine for the expulsion, saying that he had allowed the Saxons to raid, and that the Britons and Gauls were reduced to such straits that they revolted from the Roman Empire, rejected Roman law, reverted to their native customs, and armed themselves to ensure their safety. 

410 — Rome is sacked by the Visigoths under King Alaric. Alaric dies shortly thereafter, but the vaunted Roman Empire is falling apart. Emperor Honorius replies to a request by Romano-Britons for assistance with the Rescript of Honorius, which instructed them to see to their own defense.

430 — The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says "This year [430] Patricius [Saint Patrick] was sent from Pope Celestinus to preach baptism to the Scots." Patrick's Confessio (Confession), written in Latin, survives.

444 — The Huns unite under Attila and he, too, sets his sights on Rome. Eight years later, in 452, Attila invades Italy as far as the River Po. Venice is founded when people flee to islands in the Venetian Lagoon to escape the feasome Huns. Attila meets with envoys of Rome who include Bishop Leo I; they persuade Attila not to attack the city, reminding him that Alaric died soon after sacking Rome and perhaps attributing his death to the "wrath of God." Attila dies anyway, the following year. In 455 the Vandals sack Rome, capturing Sicily and Sardinia. The year 476 is generally considered to be the official end of the Western Roman Empire, and the beginning of the Early Medieval Period or Dark Ages. However the idea that things became "dark" after the fall of Rome may have originally been literary criticism! Centuries after the fact, Petrarch would opine that post-fall literature was "dark" compared to the "light" of classical literature. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in 443 when Rome declined to protect Britons from that attacks of Picts because of the encroachments of Attila, the Britons then appealed to the Angles for assistance.

Our top ten early medieval era poets: Amergin, Caedmon, Bede, Cynewulf, King Alfred the Great, Deor, Ono no Komachi, Omar Khayyαm, the authors of Beowulf and Wulf and Eadwacer (the latter in all likelihood a female poet)

Anglo-Saxon or Old English Period (449-1066)
Only four Anglo-Saxon poets are known by name with any degree of certainty: Caedmon, Bede, Cynewulf and King Alfred the Great. The most ancient Old English poetry is actually Anglo-Saxon, or Germanic. The Angles and Saxons were Germanic tribes who migrated to England. (The name England derives from "Angle Land.") The Anglo-Saxon era begins with the withdrawal of Roman troops from England, and ends with the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. From that point forward, Anglo-Norman and Latin poetry and literature were in vogue until the emergence of vernacular English poets like Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard. The defining Anglo-Saxon poems include Caedmon's Hymn, Bede's Death Song and anonymous poems like Wulf and Eadwacer and Beowulf. All extant Old English poems are, to some degree, alliterative, and usually accentual, having four strong stresses per line with any number of weaker stresses. Meter and rhyme in English poetry developed later. Here is an example of alliterative/accentual verse, from a well-known nursery rhyme: "Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?" The bolded words receive the four strongest stresses. The alliteration occurs in the three "b" words and the "y" sounds of "you any" with perhaps a slight soft echo in "wool." Anglo-Saxon poets were known as scops, from the Old English scop, cognate with Old High German scoph "poetry, sport, jest" and Old Norse skop "railing, mockery" as in "scoff." It has been said that Celtic kings feared the satires of poets, so the ability of the ancient scops to scoff must have been formidable indeed! 

449 — Around this time Anglo-Saxons begin to invade England with considerable success, helped by the absence of the Roman legions. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in 448-449 the brothers Hengist and Horsa―described as descendents of Woden (Odin)―were invited by Vortigern to assist him in fighting the Picts. The brothers were victorious in battle and sent a message back to Germany that there were easy pickings to be had. They raised an army of Angles, Saxons and Jutes that won battles and claimed land, with Hengist eventually becoming the King of Kent. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle goes on to say that the people of Essex, Sussex and Wessex descend from the Old Saxons; that the people of East Anglia and Mercia descend from the Angles; and that the people of Kent and the Isle of Wight descend from the Jutes. English words of Anglo-Saxon origin include: abide, babble, care, dare, ear, etc. They represent around 25% of English words, if we include Germanic, Scandinavian and Dutch borrowings. The first version of the English language that we might recognize today (but only in spots) began to emerge in the fifth century AD (400 AD-499 AD) as native, Greco-Roman and Germanic-Scandinavian words and grammar "merged" into what we now call the English language.

500 — Birth of Gildas (c.500-570), perhaps the first notable English writer we know by name (although he was born in Scotland and wrote in Latin). Latin remains the language of the elites and scholars.

521 — Birth of Saint Columba (521–597), an Irish abbot and missionary to Scotland who founded the important abbey on Iona. Three early medieval Latin hymns may be attributed to Columba.

537 — The Battle of Camlan has been suggested as the one where King Arthur fought Mordred and died, but nothing about Arthur seems certain.

596 — Augustine leaves Rome as a missionary to England; he becomes the first Archbishop of Canterbury and baptizes Ethelbert of Kent, the first English king to convert to Christianity.

620 — Vikings begin invasions of Ireland.

627 — Birth of Adomnαn (c.627–704) whose most important work is the Vita Columbae, a hagiography of Columba, the first biography written in Britain, and the most important surviving work written in early medieval Scotland. It is a vital source for knowledge of the Picts, as well as an insight into the life of Iona Abbey and the early medieval Gaelic monk. Adomnαn's Life of Columba contains a story that has been interpreted as the first reference to the Loch Ness Monster!

634 — The monastery at Lindisfarne is founded by Saint Aidan on what came to be called the Holy Isle. Also the birth of Cuthbert, who would become Bishop of Lindisfarne (see the entry for 685).

639 — Birth of Aldhelm (c.639-709), an Anglo-Saxon aristocrat, scholar, abbot and bishop of the Canterbury school. Aldhelm composed "enigmas" or riddles in Latin. He may have composed poems and ballads in English, but if so, they did not survive.

657 — Creation of the first English monastery, Whitby Abbey. Saint Hilda was the founding Abbess. The early abbeys and monasteries became centers of literacy and education. Hilda is considered one of the patron saints of learning and culture, including poetry, due to her patronage of Cζdmon (see the entry for 658).


658 — Caedmon's Hymn, the first English poem still extant today, marks the beginning of what came to be known as English poetry. According to the Venerable Bede, Caedmon was an illiterate herdsman of the Whitby monastery who was given the gift of poetic composition by an angel.

664 — The Synod of Whitby (a council meeting at which decisions about local religious practices were determined). Whitby aligns with the Roman Catholic Church. This heralds a decline of the Celtic Church, and the ascendency of the Roman Catholic Church, in England. Because the church was a center of education and literacy, this would have a major impact on the evolution of English literature and poetry.

673 — Birth of Bede (c.672-735), the great English scholar/poet/historian who came to be known as the Venerable Bede and the "Father of English History."

680 — Possible date for the composition of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf and the shorter poem Widsith, the "Far Traveler." The unknown author of Beowulf was presumably a minstrel, as he mentions reciting his "hall-entertainment" to the music of a harp.

685 — Cuthbert becomes Bishop of Lindisfarne. An anonymous life of Cuthbert written at Lindisfarne may be the oldest extant piece of English historical writing. Written just after or possibly contemporarily with Adomnαn's Vita Columbae, the Vita Sancti Cuthberti (c. 699–705) is the first piece of Northumbrian Latin writing and the earliest piece of English Latin hagiography.

700 — Cynewulf pens and signs four Anglo-Saxon poems: Christ II, Elene, The Fates of the Apostles and Juliana. Runic extracts from The Dream of the Rood, the first dream poem in the English language, are carved on the Ruthwell Cross, establishing the poem's antiquity. Tochmarc Ιtaνne ("The Wooing of Ιtaνn/Ιadaoin") is an early text of the Irish Mythological Cycle, and also features characters from the Ulster Cycle and the Cycles of the Kings. It is partially preserved in the manuscript known as the Lebor na hUidre (c. 1106), and completely preserved in the Yellow Book of Lecan (c. 1401), written in language believed to date to the 8th or 9th century. It tells of the lives and loves of Ιtaνn, a beautiful mortal woman of the Ulaid, and her involvement with Aengus and Midir of the Tuatha Dι Danann. It is frequently cited as a possible source text for the Middle English Sir Orfeo. Harvard professor Jeffrey Gantz describes the text as displaying the "poetic sense of law" in Irish legal society.

709 — Stephen of Ripon authors the eighth-century hagiographic text Vita Sancti Wilfrithi ("Life of Saint Wilfrid"), shortly after her death in 709.

735 — Bede's Death Song may have been written on his deathbed. Birth of Alcuin of York (735-804), who was also called Ealhwine, Alcuinus, Albinus and/or Flaccus. He was an English scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Archbishop Ecgbert at York. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court, where he remained a figure in the 780s and 790s. He wrote many theological and dogmatic treatises, as well as a few grammatical works and a number of poems. He was made Abbot of Tours in 796, where he remained until his death. "The most learned man anywhere to be found", according to Einhard's Life of Charlemagne (ca. 817-833), he is considered among the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the Carolingian era.

757 — Offa becomes King of Mercia. During his reign he extended Mercian supremacy and/or influence over most of southern England, including Kent, Middlesex, London, Sussex, Wessex and East Anglia. Many historians consider Offa to have been the most powerful Anglo-Saxon king before Alfred the Great. However, he never reigned over Northumbria or Wales. Offa is recorded campaigning against the Welsh in 778, 784 and 796. Apparently unable to conquer Wales, Offa ordered the construction of a gigantic defensive earthwork, called Offa's Dyke, between Mercia and Wales. Offa's Dyke has been described as "the largest and most recent great construction of the preliterate inhabitants of Britain," comparable in scope and impressiveness to the much more ancient Stonehenge.

770 — Approximate date for the composition of Waldere, an epic Anglo-Saxon poem about Walther (Walter of Aquitaine) and Hildegund fleeing from Attila the Hun. Unfortunately, only two fragments of the poem survive.

771 — Birth of Egbert of Wessex (c. 771-839), who after the death of King Offa in 796, extended his rule over Mercia and Northumbria, and may have been the first king of a somewhat united England. Approximate birth of Nennius, a Welsh monk and suggested author of the Historia Brittonum. It is the earliest source which presents King Arthur as a historical figure, and is the source of several stories which were repeated and amplified by later authors.

778 — An attack on Charlemagne's army, traditionally at the pass of Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees, becomes the basis for the Chanson de Roland ("Song of Roland").

789 — Egbert is forced into exile in France by King Offa of Mercia and King Beorhtric of Wessex. (At the time Charlemagne rules France and is known to support Offa's enemies.) Scandinavian attacks begin against the northeast English seacoast. The Vikings and Danes in particular would terrorize the Anglo-Saxons, who had once terrorized the Celts, who had once terrorized the native Britons. Vikings would raid the monastery of Lindisfarne in 793.

796 — Death of King Offa.

802 — Death of King Beorhtric of Wessex. With Offa and Beorhtric both dead, Egbert returns from exile and takes the throne of Wessex.

825 — King Ebert of Wessex wins a major victory over Beornwulf of Mercia, at the Battle of Ellendun. His son Ζthelwulf then "drove Baldred, the king of Kent, north over the Thames." As a result, "the men of Kent, Essex, Surrey and Sussex" all submitted to Wessex.

826 — Beornwulf of Mercia attacks East Anglia, and not only loses the battle, but his life. The tables have been turned, and the West Saxons of Wessex now firmly have the upper hand.

829 — King Egbert of Wessex invades and defeats Mercia, driving its new king, Wiglaf, into exile. This victory gives Egbert control of the London Mint, and he issues coins as King of Mercia. It was after this victory that a West Saxon scribe writing in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described him as a bretwalda, meaning "wide-ruler" or "Britain-ruler." Later in 829, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Egbert received the submission of the Northumbrians at Dore (now a suburb of Sheffield). Thus, Egbert may well be described as the first king of a united Anglo-Saxon England. However, his reign was brief, as Wiglaf would re-take the throne of Mercia in 830.


830 — Ono no Komachi wrote tanka (also known as waka), a traditional form of Japanese lyric poetry that, along with haiku, would influence English modernists like Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. Komachi is an excellent representative of the Classical, or Heian, period (circa 794-1185 AD) of Japanese literature, and she is one of the best-known poets of the Kokinshu (circa 905), the first in a series of anthologies of Japanese poetry compiled by Imperial order. She is also one of the Rokkasen — the six best waka poets of the early Heian period. She was renowned for her unusual beauty, and Komachi has become a synonym for feminine beauty in Japan. She is also included among the thirty-six Poetry Immortals. It is believed that she was born sometime between 820-830 and that she wrote most of her poems around the middle of the ninth century. She is best known today for her pensive, melancholic and erotic poems.

842 — Vikings raid London, Rochester, and Southampton.

849 — Birth of King Alfred the Great (c. 849-899), who would be a writer and translator of note, in addition to being one of England's greatest kings (as his appellation suggests). Alfred not only wrote and translated poetry (perhaps assisted by scholars), but he was one of the first known writers of English prose.
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871 — King Alfred the Great unites the Anglo-Saxons, defeats the Danes and becomes the first king of a united England able to "keep things together."

874 — Iceland is settled by Norsemen.

875 — Norsemen attack Paris, are eventually awarded Normandy and become known as the Normans (who later invade and conquer England under William the Conqueror).

890 — The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is the first known comprehensive attempt at an English history. It has been called "the single most important source for the history of England in Anglo-Saxon times."

895 — King Alfred the Great defeats and captures a Danish fleet. Around this time, a Welsh monk named Asser writes a biography of Alfred called the Life of King Alfred. The manuscript survived to modern times in only one copy, which was part of the Cotton library. That copy was destroyed in a fire in 1731, but transcriptions had been made earlier, which together with material from Asser's work preserved by other early writers, have enabled the work to be reconstructed. The biography is the main source of information about Alfred's life and provides far more information about Alfred than is known about any other early English ruler. Asser also assisted Alfred in his translation of Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care, and possibly with other works.

899 — Death of King Alfred the Great.

900 — Deor, a scop, is writing poems such as Deor's Lament.

924 — King Athelstan the Glorious reigns; he takes the title "King of all Britain" after defeating an alliance of Scots, Celts, Danes and Vikings.

937 — King Athelstan's victory at the battle of Brunanburh is celebrated by a poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

950 — Four early poetry manuscripts: Junius, the Vercelli Book, the Exeter Book and Beowulf. A possible first extant English poem written by a woman is Wulf and Eadwacer; another such contender is The Wife's Lament. Other notable poems include The Seafarer, The Wanderer, The Husband's Message, The Phoenix, Widsith and The Ruin. In addition to longer poems, the Exeter Book contains Advent Lyrics and Anglo-Saxon riddles and kennings. Kennings were metaphorical expressions such as "word-hoard" for a scop's lexicon and "whale-path" for the sea. The material of the Eddas, now taking shape in Iceland, derives from earlier sources in Norway, Britain and Burgundy.

955 — Birth of Ζlfric of Eynsham (c. 955 – c. 1010). He was an English abbot, as well as a consummate, prolific writer in Old English of hagiography, homilies, biblical commentaries, and other genres. He is also known variously as Ζlfric the Grammarian (Alfricus Grammaticus), Ζlfric of Cerne, Ζlfric the Homilist and simply Aelfric. In the view of Peter Hunter Blair, he was "a man comparable both in the quantity of his writings and in the quality of his mind even with Bede himself." According to Claudio Leonardi, he "represented the highest pinnacle of Benedictine reform and Anglo-Saxon literature." Aelfric has been described as "the most humane of men" and "full of religious doubt." His writing has been described as "rhythmical prose" that was similar to alliterative poetry, but looser.

978 — King Ethelred the Unready reigns; he loses battles with the Danes, pays Danegeld (tribute) and eventually flees to Normandy.

985 — Eric the Red, exiled from Iceland, begins the Scandinavian colonization of Greenland. His son, Leif Ericsson, would discover North America and winter in Canada around the year 1000, almost 500 years before Columbus.

991 — The Battle of Maldon, a poem about a battle between the English and Danes which took place in 991. The Danes win and the English are forced to pay Danegeld. Losing is getting expensive!

1000 — The first known limerick ("The lion is wondrous strong") appears in France sometime during the 11th century.

1013 — The English continue to lose battles to the Danes. On Christmas Day, the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard is declared King of England. But he dies five months after assuming the English throne, which is then claimed by his son Cnut.

1028 — Birth of William of Normandy, also known as William the Bastard and William the Conqueror. He was of Norse stock, the descendant of Vikings. King Cnut (Canute) rules Denmark, Norway, England and parts of Sweden. He was also know as Canute the Great.

1031 — The Book of Life was a sort of earthly prequel to the heavenly Day of Judgment.

1035 — The death of King Cnut leads to the the loss of Danish influence when his son Harthacnut, reigning as Cnut III, is "forsaken [by the English] because he was too long in Denmark."  Harold Harefoot becomes regent, then assumes the throne of England in 1037. When Harefoot dies in 1040, Cnut III reclaims the English throne, but he then dies in 1042 ...

1042 — King Edward the Confessor reigns as king of all England; he allegedly promises the throne of England to William of Normandy, his first cousin, but later reneges. He is generally considered to have been the last king of the House of Wessex (the West Saxons). He was also the only English king to be officially canonized (declared a saint). It was a dispute over the English crown after his death that lead to the Norman Conquest of England (see the entry for 1066). In Stephen Baxter's view, Edward's "handling of the succession issue was dangerously indecisive, and contributed to one of the greatest catastrophes to which the English have ever succumbed."

1048 — Birth of Omar Khayyαm, a Persian polymath, scholar, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and poet who is widely considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the Middle Ages. He wrote numerous treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy and astronomy. He writes four-line verses, or quatrains, in his spare time. Eight centuries later, Edward FitzGerald (1809–83) would make Khayyαm famous in the West through his translation and adaptations of Khayyαm's quatrains in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

1054 — The Great Schism of the Roman Catholic Church.

1060 — The Arundel Psalter was an Anglo-Saxon, pre-Norman-invasion prayer book.

1065 — Birth of Saint Godric; he became a hermit and was said to have written poems and songs. Reginald of Durham (?-1190) recorded four songs of St Godric's: they are the oldest songs in English for which the original musical settings survive.

1066 — Edward the Confessor dies and Harold Godwinson inherits the English throne. William the Conqueror then defeats Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings and becomes King William I of England; this Norman Conquest of England marks the end of the Anglo-Saxon or Old English era. French and Latin now both rule over lowly English! English words of French origin include: attorney, case, court, judge, justice, parliament, etc. They represent around 28% of English words. Thus the three major invasions of England provided around 87% of the evolving language's words. The remainder come from other languages or are of unknown origins. Anything said or written before the eleventh century (1000 AD-1099 AD) would be difficult or impossible for us to understand with our "modern ears." But still the language is evolving and remains difficult for us to fully understand.

Our top ten poets of the Middle English Period: Wace, Layamon, Walter Map, Thomas of Britain, Guillaume de Lorris, John Gower, William Langland, the Archpoet, Francesco Petrarch, Dante Alighieri

Anglo-Norman or Middle English Period (1066-1332)
During the Anglo-Norman era the English people and their language were subjugated to their conquerors, who preferred Latin and French poetry and literature. But the conquerors were overcome linguistically by Geoffrey Chaucer, who by 1362 was writing poetry in a rough-but-still-usually-understandable version of early modern English. We will call this version of the language Middle English. But please keep in mind that the foremost writers of this period were writing in Latin and/or French, and we only have glimpses of the native English language in anonymous poems and songs like How Long the Night ("Myrie it is while sumer ylast") and Sumer is icumen in.

1068 — The chansons de geste ("songs of heroic deeds"), performed by professional minstrels in castles and manors, celebrate the exploits of Charlemagne―the greatest and most famous of French kings―and his paladins. The earliest works in this genre appear to be the Chanson de Guillaume ("The Song of William"), Chanson de Roland ("The Song of Roland") and Gormont et Isembart. The first half of the Chanson de Guillaume may date from as early as the eleventh century; Gormont et Isembart may date from as early as 1068, according to Urban T. Holmes Jr.; while The Song of Roland probably dates from after 1086 to c.1100. Here is a brief take on how the Provencal Troubadours emerged and evolved: "Like a giant iron cloud, the popes of the Holy Roman Empire – the purveyors of the Middle Ages – clamped down and extinguished creative and artistic expression. However, as the 11th century reached its midpoint, a group of troubadour musicians in southern France began to sing and write striking lyrics. They were influenced by the Arabic civilization and its leading denizens, Omar Khayyam and Rumi, inspired by Latin and Greek poets, and guided by Christian precepts. Three concepts stood above all others: the spiritualization of passion, imagery, and secret love. With a gift for rhythm, meter, and form, the musicians and poets created a masterful style by the 13th century. The Provencal troubadours began as court singer-poets, among them William X, Duke of Aquitaine, Eleanor Aquitaine, and King Richard I of England. They practiced the art, but its undisputed masters were Bertrand de Born, Arnaud Daniel, Guillame de Machant, Christine di Pisan, and Marie de France. During their heyday, these and other poets routinely traveled to communities to deliver poems, news, songs, and dramatic sketches in their masterful lyrical styles. Among those deeply influenced were Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarch, and Geoffrey Chaucer. Forms like the sestina, rondeau, triolet, canso, and ballata originated with the Provencal poets. The Inquisition doomed the Provencal movement in the 13th century, though a few poets continued to produce into the mid-14th century. Most troubadours fled to Spain and Italy, where two new movements flourished – including the Sicilian School."

1077 — Construction of the Tower of London begins. It would, unfortunately, house some of England's leading poets and see a number of them lose their heads.

1085 — Birth of Orderic Vitalis (1075–c. 1142), an English historian and Benedictine monk who wrote one of the great contemporary chronicles of 11th- and 12th-century Normandy and Anglo-Norman England. The modern biographer of Henry I of England, C. Warren Hollister, called him "an honest and trustworthy guide to the history of his times." In the title of his great chronicle, he proudly adds the epithet Angligena ("English-born"). And thus we can see the "Angle" in England!

1086 — William I orders extensive surveys of his English holdings, which are recorded in the Domesday Book. William I notifies the Pope that England owes no allegiance to Rome, the first of many British rifts with the Vatican. Possible earliest date for The Song of Roland.

1087 — William II reigns.

1095 — The First Crusade. Birth of William of Malmesbury, who has been called "the foremost historian of the 12th century." He was the son of a Norman father and an English mother, who wrote his histories in Latin. Wolstan, the Bishop of Worchester, is deposed with the complaint that he is an "English idiot" who "cannot speak French."

1096 — There is evidence of teaching at Oxford, which would become home to the first English university (see the entry at 1117).

1100 — Henry I reigns. Layamon writes Brut, a 32,000-line poem composed in Middle English that shows a strong Anglo-Saxon influence and contains the first known reference to King Arthur in English. Here is an example of Layamon's gift for imagery: "Now he stands on a hill overlooking the Avon, seeing steel fishes girded with swords in the stream, their swimming days done, their scales a-gleam like gold-plated shields, their fish-spines floating like wooden spears." (Loose translation by Michael R. Burch.) Thus nearly a thousand years ago, an English poet was apparently dabbling in surrealism, describing dead warriors who were both men and fish! Also, in an interesting synchronicity, the birth of Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100 – c. 1155), a Welsh cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur. He is best known for his Latin chronicle De gestis Britonum or Historia regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain), which was widely popular in its day and was credited, uncritically, well into the 16th century, being translated into various other languages from its original Latin, but which is now considered historically unreliable. 

1117 — The first English university, the University of Oxford is founded. It has a "growth spurt" when King Henry II bans English students from attending the University of Paris (see the entry at 1167).

1120 — Birth of John of Salisbury (c. 1120-1180), who described himself as Johannes Parvus ("John the Little"). He was an English author, educationalist, diplomat and bishop of Chartres. It appears that he was born of Anglo-Saxon stock, but he wrote in Latin. Indeed, he has been described as "one of the best Latinists of his age" and an "ornament of his age." He has also been described as a cultivated man and an early humanist. Around this time the troubadours of Provence develop a new form of love poetry in French, introducing the art of courtly love and chivalry.

1130 — Possible date for the birth of the Archpoet, who may or may not have been born in Germany. Besides having the coolest pen name ever, not much is known definitively about the Archpoet. This heretical medieval Latin poet may be responsible, to some degree, for our modern conception of the wandering vagabond poet and rogue scholar. The Archpoet's life circumstances must be deduced from the content of his poems. Because he designates Rainald of Dassel as Archbishop of Cologne, the Archpoet was most likely alive between 1159 (when Rainald became archbishop) and 1167 (when he died). Furthermore, all the Archpoet's datable poems fall between 1162 and 1164.

1133 — Birth of Henry II. He was highly literate: it was said that his hands always contained either a bow or a book. However, he remained a Norman with large landholdings in France, and it is doubtful that he spoke English.

1140 — Birth of Bertran de Born, one of the major Occitan troubadours. His poetry was dominated by politics and warfare. "His first datable work is a sirventes (political or satirical song) of 1181, but it is clear from this he already had a reputation as a poet."

1146 — Gerald of Wales (c. 1146-c. 1223) was a Welsh-Norman deacon and historian who wrote in Latin. As a royal clerk to the king and two archbishops, he travelled widely and wrote extensively. He both studied and taught in France and visited Rome several times, meeting the Pope. He was nominated for several bishoprics but turned them down in the hope of becoming bishop of St. David's, but was unsuccessful despite considerable support. His final post was as archdeacon of Brecon, from which he retired to academic study for the remainder of his life. Much of his writing survives. He admired the poetry of his Welsh people and made an early reference to alliteration: "In their rhymed songs and set speeches they are so subtle and ingenious that they produce, in their native tongue, ornaments of wonderful and exquisite invention both in the words and the sentences … They make use of alliteration in preference to all other ornaments of rhetoric, and that particular kind which joins by consonancy the first letters or syllables of words." He also complimented Welsh singers: "In their musical concerts they do not sing in unison like the inhabitants of other countries, but in many different parts … You will hear as many different parts and voices as there are performers who all at length unite with organic melody." He would become the first known foreign lecturer at Oxford (see the entry at 1188).

1150 — The first extant text written in Middle English may have been a sermon given by Ralph d’Escures, Archbishop of Canterbury. The homily begins Se godspellere Lucas sζgπ on ώyssen godspelle (The evangelist Luke says in this gospel). Word order is identical to present-day English, and remains so across much of the text. The origins of the word "gospel" would have been clearer in the 12th century: god (good) combined with spel (news or story).

1154 — Henry II reigns, the first Plantagenet king. The Plantagenets were Normans with large land holdings in France, including Normandy, Anjou, Gascony and Aquitaine. Henry II spent more time in Europe than in England during his reign, including six-and-a-half of the first eight years.

1155 — Wace's Anglo-Norman Roman de Brut.

1160 — Walter Map, an Anglo-Latin poet, is writing poems; Thomas of Britain's Anglo-Norman Tristan. Chrιtien de Troyes and other French authors turn the stories of Arthur and his knights into romances of courtly love

1167 — Henry II bans English students from attending the University of Paris (this seems to have been something to do with his dispute with Thomas Beckett). The ban leads to a "growth spurt" at the only English university at the time, Oxford, when English scholars head home.

1170 — Henry II has Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, assassinated.

1172 — Wace's Anglo-Norman Roman de Rou.

1180 — Joseph Iscan, also known as Joseph of Exeter, was a twelfth-century Latin poet from Exeter, England. Around 1180, he left to study at Gueldres, where he began his lifelong friendship with Guibert, who later became Abbot of Florennes. Some of their correspondence still survives. Joseph Iscan was known for the high quality of his Latin verse and meter and the "beauty and excellence" of his poems. His most famous poem is De bello Troiano ("On the Trojan War") in six books, most of which was written before 1183, but which was finished after 1184. When his friend Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, set off to the Holy Land on the Third Crusade, he persuaded Joseph to accompany him. After Baldwin's death in 1190, Joseph returned home. He immortalized the crusade in his poem Antiocheis, of which only fragments survive. Several other poems, now lost, have been attributed to him, but there is no way of knowing if they were actually his work. He has been called an "ornament of his age."

1188 — Gerald of Wales is the first known foreign lecturer at Oxford University.

1189 — Richard I, aka Richard Cœur de Lion ("Richard the Lionheart") reigns; he joins the Third Crusade; his brother John acts as regent. Like his father Henry II, the young Richard I will be more absent than present in England.

1195 — Richard I returns to England briefly, but soon is off again to fight in France.

1199 — King John reigns after Richard I dies in France.

1200 — How Long the Night ("Myrie it is while sumer ylast") is one of the great early rhyming poems of the Middle English period; it remains largely understandable to modern English readers. The oldest known English ballad is Judas, probably composed sometime in the 13th century. The terms "ballad" and "ballet" have the same root: dance or "the cadence of consenting feet." Ballads were originally written to accompany dances: think of two-stepping to a reel at a hoe-down. At this point English poetry is becoming more song-like, with meter and rhyme. Its primary purpose is entertainment: song and dance. Many of the poets―if not most―are minstrels, perhaps traveling and performing for money or for shelter, food and drink. English folk music has existed at least since the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. The Venerable Bede's story of the cattleman and later ecclesiastical musician Cζdmon indicates that in the early medieval period it was normal at feasts to pass around the harp and sing "vain and idle songs." It is not easy to date the popular ballads, but they clearly had become popular by the close of the Middle English period. Because they were passed down orally, some of them could be considerably older. Perhaps the best we can say is that ballads mentioned here were probably composed sometime from 1200 to 1700: Sir Patrick Spens (Spence), Edward, Lord Randal, Bonny Barbara Allan, The Wife of Usher's Well, The Unquiet Grave, The Three Ravens, The Douglas Tragedy, Mary Hamilton, The Bitter Withy, Lamkin, The Twa Sisters (The Two Sisters), Thomas The Rhymer, Get Up and Bar the Door, Chevy Chase, The Cherry-tree Carol, and the many Robin Hood ballads, just to name a few. One of the oldest extant English poems, possibly predating 1200, is a prayer-poem to the Virgin Mary, written by a hermit, Saint Godric.

1207 — Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, more popularly known simply as Rumi (1207–1273), was a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi's influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions: Iranians, Tajiks, Turks, Greeks, Pashtuns, other Central Asian Muslims, and the Muslims of South Asia have greatly appreciated his spiritual legacy for the past seven centuries. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages and transposed into various formats. Rumi has been described as the "most popular poet" and the "best selling poet" in the United States.

1209 — The University of Cambridge is founded when violence between Oxford townspeople and students makes another campus seem like a good idea.

1215 — The Magna Carta forces King John to grant liberties and rights to Englishmen in return for taxation (but it was still drafted in French).

1216 — Henry III reigns.

1219 — Birth of Roger Bacon (c. 1219/20–c. 1292), who was known by the scholastic accolade Doctor Mirabilis (Latin for "wondrous doctor"). He was an English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empirical methods. He is sometimes credited as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method inspired first by Aristotle and later by scholars such as the Arab scientist Alhazen. Bacon's linguistic work has been heralded for its early exposition of a universal grammar. He became a master at Oxford, lecturing on Aristotle, then taught at the University of Paris. Bacon's major work, the Opus Majus ("Greater Work"), was written in Medieval Latin and sent to Pope Clement IV in Rome in 1267 at the pope's request.

1230 — Guillaume de Lorris writes Roman de la Rose. The Sicilian School of poetry emerges: "Emboldened by the passionate poetics of the Provencal troubadours, a small group of Sicilian poets in the court of Frederick II turned verses of heartfelt love into the first spiritual heartbeat of the Renaissance – and the ancestral work that would explode in England during the Elizabethan and Shakespearean eras. In the twelfth century, Sicily integrated three distinct languages and cultural influences: Arabic, Byzantine Greek, and Latin. The small society was well read in both ancient Greek and Latin, and women were viewed more kindly and tenderly than in other medieval cultures. When Sicilian poets interacted with the Provencal troubadours, they found the perfect verse form for their utterances of the heart: lyric poetry. Beginning with Cielo of Alcamo, the court poets developed a series of lyrical styles that used standard vernacular to make art of poetry. They were aided by Frederick II, who required poets to stick to one subject: courtly love. Between 1230 and 1266, court poets wrote hundreds of love poems. They worked with a beautiful derivative of canso, the canzone, which became the most popular verse form until Giacomo de Lentini further developed it into the sonnet. Besides writing sonnets, de Lentini continuously invented new words in what became a new language – Italian. Among the best-known poets were de Lentini, Pier delle Vigne, Renaldo d'Aquino, Giacomo Pugliese, and Mazzeo Ricco. The Sicilian poets made several changes to Provencal structure, including the discontinuation of repetitive and interchangeable lines. They also wrote poetry to be read, rather than accompanied by music, and created the 14-line sonnet structure, broken into an octet and sestet, which stands to this day. As the 14th century dawned, the Sicilian poets’ canzones, balladas and sonnets came to the attention of Dante and Petrarch, who spread them throughout Bologna, Florence, and other emerging literary centers. By the time the Renaissance arrived, nearly 100 poets were plying their trade throughout the culturally awakening country–and scholars from England, France, Spain, and Germany were watching."

1250 — Nicholas of Guildford writes The Owl and the Nightingale, one of the first comic poems in the English language and a form of the "verse contest" or conflictus that was popular with medieval Latin poets. The Persian poet Sa'di publishes Bustan ("Orchard"), a collection of moral tales in verse.

1260 — Sumer is icumen in is a medieval English round, or rota. It came with a musical score and instructions for the singing of rounds, in Latin! It is one of the oldest songs that can still be sung today. Other early rhyming poems that may predate the first major English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, include Fowles in the Frith, Ich am of Irlaunde ("I am of Ireland"), Now Goeth Sun Under Wood, Pity Mary, Ubi Sunt Qui Ante Nos Fuerunt? ("Where are now those who lived before us?") and Alison. While Germanic, French and Latin influences remain, the robust English language is coming into its own, and is about to claim primacy. Meanwhile, a new form of poetry is being written in northern Italy: the dolce stil nuovo ("sweet new style").

1265 — Birth of Dante Alighieri who is generally considered to be one of the greatest poets of all time. Simon de Montfort summons the first directly-elected English Parliament.

1272 — Edward I ("Longshanks") reigns, and is crowned upon his return from the Ninth Crusade (the last major crusade).

1275 — Jean de Meun extends Roman de la Rose.

1287 — Birth of Richard de Bury (1287-1345), also known as Richard Aungerville or Aungervyle, near Bury St. Edmunds; he was an English priest, bishop, teacher, writer and bibliophile. A patron of learning and one of the first English collectors of books, he is chiefly remembered for his Philobiblon, one of the earliest books to discuss librarianship in depth. The descendent of Normans, he wrote in Latin.

1290 — Birth of Robert Holcot, an important contributor to English semantics. His Book of Wisdom has been proposed as a prime literary source for Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale.

1296 — Edward I defeats the Scots, seizes the throne of Scotland, and removes the Stone of Scone to Westminster.

1300 — Dame Sirith  is the earliest English fabliau. Also the romances Guy of Warwick and Bevis of Hampton. Also Cursor Mundi (Latin for "Runner of the World"), an anonymous Middle-English historical and religious poem of nearly 30,000 lines written around 1300 AD. The poem summarizes the history of the world as described in the Christian Bible and other sources, with additional legendary material drawn primarily from the Historia scholastica. It was extremely popular in its time, as the large number of manuscripts in which it is preserved proves.

1304 — The birth of Francesco Petrarch, one of the earliest humanists and the creator of the sonnet (meaning "little song"). Petrarch would be a major influence on early modern English poets like Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard. They, in turn, would influence other poets, including William Shakespeare.

1305 — William Wallace is executed for treason.

1306 — Robert Bruce is crowned King of Scotland; Edward I dies on his way north to invade Scotland.

1307 — Edward II reigns. Dante begins work on his Divina Commedia ("Divine Comedy").

1314 — Robert Bruce defeats Edward II; the lyrics Alysoun and Lenten ys come with love to toune ("Let us come with love to town").

1320 — Birth of John Wyclif, also known as John Wycliffe. He would be an important translator of the Bible into English.

1321 — Death of Dante Alighieri.

1325 — Cursor Mundi, a verse history of the world; the Luttrell Psalter; approximate births of the English poets John Gower and William Langland. Gower was either the first, or one of the first poets to create an "English style." The great Persina poet Hafez is born around this time in Shiraz, Iran.

1327 — Edward III reigns. Robert Holcot complains that by this time there is no place in England where children can study the English language!

1328 — The Scots win independence from England.

1330 — Sir Orfeo is an anonymous Middle English narrative poem, retelling the story of Orpheus as a king rescuing his wife from the fairy king. The story contains a mixture of the Greek myth of Orpheus with Celtic mythology and folklore concerning fairies, introduced into English via the Old French Breton lais of poets like Marie de France. The Wooing of Etain bears particular resemblance to the romance and was a probable influence.

1332 — English replaces French in the British Parliament and courts, heralding the end of the Anglo-Norman era. From this point forward the most important English poets―Chaucer, Gower, Langland, Skelton, Dunbar, et al―will write in some form of native English, or in multiple languages. For instance, Gower wrote in English, French and Latin.

Our top ten poets of the Late Medieval Period: Robert Henryson, Thomas Hoccleve, John Lydgate, William Langland, the Gawain/Pearl poet, Charles D'Orleans, John Skelton, John Gower, William Dunbar, Geoffrey Chaucer

Late Medieval or Chaucerian Period (1333-1486)
Chaucer made the English vernacular popular in much the same way that Dante and Martin Luther made the Italian and German vernaculars popular. But English poetry was to shape-shift yet again with the appearance of Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, both born in the first decade of the sixteenth century.

1340 — Birth of Geoffrey Chaucer (approximate). Chaucer would become the first major poet to write in vernacular English, or the language the people actually spoke. In that respect, Chaucer is to English as Dante was to Italian. And long before Shakespeare appeared, Chaucer would create unforgettable characters like the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner. Thus in at least two very important ways, Chaucer "led the pack," so to speak, blazing a trail for other English language poets to follow. The population of England is probably around three million souls. Chaucer's language is decidedly English, but still difficult for us to understand in spots: thus the anguish of many high school and college students doing papers on his Canterbury Tales! (I once endured such anguish, then fell in love with ancient English poems and ended up translating my favorites.―MRB)

1341 — Petrarch is crowned Poet Laureate in Rome.

1342 — Birth of Julian of Norwich, whose visions would influence T. S. Eliot centuries later. He would quote what she claimed to hear God tell her: "All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well." Around this time or perhaps a bit later the mystical book The Cloud of Unknowing is written by an unknown author.

1348 — The Black Death kills one-third of the population of England; the Chronicle of the Black Death records what happened.

1349 — Death of Richard Rolle, the author of The Fire of Love.

1350 — Boccaccio's Decameron. Around this time there is an Alliterative Revival in England, with the Gawain/Pearl poet and others employing the methods of the Anglo-Saxon scops, perhaps in a deliberate "turning away" from the French/Latin verses favored by Norman kings and lords. Important poems of this genre include Piers Plowman, Winner and Waster, Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Patience and Cleanness.

1352 — Wynnere and Wastoure ("Winner and Waster") is an alliterative poem that may have been influenced by Old English poetry. This period of "looking back" to Anglo-Saxon methods of poetic composition has been called the "Alliterative Revival."

1356 — Edward III's eldest son, the Black Prince (also named Edward), is victorious in France; England controls most of southwest France.

1357 — Young Geoffrey Chaucer becomes a page to Elizabeth de Burgh, the Countess of Ulster and wife of Prince Lionel, the Earl of Ulster. Chaucer's future wife, Philippa Pan, is also a member of the household.

1359 — Chaucer joins the English army and fights in the Hundred Years' War against France, serving with Prince Lionel. Chaucer attends the wedding of John of Gaunt to Blanche of Lancaster; thus Chaucer appears to have been "well connected."

1360 — Chaucer is captured, held hostage, then ransomed for sixteen pounds (a handsome sum in those days). King Edward III contributes to his ransom.

1362 — Chaucer is writing poems in English; Parliament is opened with a speech in English for the first time; English also replaces French in courts of law.

1367 — William Langland's The Vision of Piers Plowman is an alliterative, allegorical dream poem that is quite unlike any other poem in the English language. For a time, Langland lives within a few hundred yards of Chaucer, in London. Chaucer becomes a member of the royal court, as a valet to King Edward III, with an annuity of twenty marks for life.

1368 — Chaucer's The Book of the Duchess memorializes the death of John of Gaunt's wife, Blanche of Lancaster. Chaucer is paid by his patron when the poem is completed in 1374.

1369 — Birth of the English poet Thomas Hoccleve. Chaucer attends John of Gaunt during his raid on Picardy, in northern France.

1370 — Birth of the English poet John Lydgate.

1372 — John Barbour, a Scottish poet, writes The Bruce, a verse chronicle of about 13,000 lines. Chaucer is commissioned to establish a seaport for Genoese trade and travels to Italy.

1374 — Death of Petrarch. Chaucer completes The Book of the Duchess. John of Gaunt returns from France and takes control of the British government when Edward III shows signs of senility. Chaucer is appointed Comptroller of Wool Customs and Subsidy for the Port of London (an important post). Chaucer and his wife are each given annuities of ten pounds by John of Gaunt.

1376 — Edward III and the Black Prince die within a year of each other; John Gower's Mirour de l'Omme or Speculum Meditantis.

1377 — Richard II reigns, at age eleven. William Langland's Piers Plowman. John Wycliffe is brought on charges before William Courtenay, the Bishop of London, on February 19, 1377. In May a bull is sent by Pope Gregory XI in which he says that 18 theses of Wycliffe's are dangerous to the Church and State. Like Martin Luther but a century earlier, Wycliffe claimed that the Bible is the only authority for Christians and he accused the Roman Catholic Church of theological errors and corruption. Chaucer travels to Flanders and France on secret king's business; he is also involved in negotiations for Richard's marriage.

1378 — The "Western Schism" results in three different popes being elected simultaneously. John Gower has Chaucer's power of attorney while he continues to travel abroad, so two major English poets of their era knew each other quite well.

1379 — Chaucer begins The House of Fame, a poem with 2,000-plus lines. It describes a vision he received in a dream, and is completed the following year.

1380 — Works of the so-called Gawain poet, including Pearl, Patience, Cleanness and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Chaucer is released from a suit of "raptus" regarding a Cecily Champain; "raptus" could have referred to rape, kidnapping or inappropriate seizure.

1381 — The poll tax leads to the Peasants’ Revolt; Watt Tyler and John Ball lead the Peasants' Revolt and march on London. Chaucer begins work on Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucer is awarded 22 pounds for his diplomatic services to Richard II.

1382 — Richard III promises to repeal the poll taxes, but returning rebels are executed; John Wycliffe translates the Bible into English, introducing over 1,000 new words into the language. Chaucer composes the 700-line poem Parlement of Foules (Fowls, or Birds). Around this time, Chaucer also begins work on the epic poem Troilus and Criseyde

1384 — John Wycliffe dies.

1385 — Chaucer completes Troilus and Criseyde, his long poem about a legendary love affair in ancient Troy; it has been called "the first modern novel" although it is written in rhyming verse. Chaucer is appointed justice of the peace in Kent.

1386 — Chaucer becomes a Member of Parliament, representing Kent as a Knight of the Shire. He also begins work on The Legend of Good Women, a poem completed between 1386 and 1388. St. Erkenwald is an alliterative poem that has been ascribed to the Gawain and/or Pearl poet.

1387 — Chaucer begins work on his masterpiece The Canterbury Tales, the first major work of literature created in modern English (i.e., English that is still readable today). Chaucer would work on the poem for around a decade.

1388 — Scots defeat Henry Hotspur at the Battle of Otterburn.

1389 — John of Gaunt returns from a campaign in Spain, and Chaucer is appointed Clerk of the King's Works, with pay of more than thirty pounds per year. He is responsible for construction at Westminster, the Tower of London, and various castles and manors.

1390 — The first English cookbook, the Forme of Cury ("Form of Cookery"). John Gower's completes his best-known work in English, his Confessio Amantis ("Lover's Confession").

1391 — Chaucer is appointed deputy forester of the Royal Forest at North Petherton, Somerset.

1394 — Charles D'Orleans is born; he would write poetry in both French and English.

1399 — Richard III is deposed and dies of starvation in captivity. King Henry IV returns from exile in France to reign. Henry increases Chaucer's annuity to forty pounds.

1400 — The alliterative Morte Arthure ("Death of Arthur"). The Castle of Perseverance is an allegorical drama that has been dated to the early 15th century. The death of Chaucer leaves his Canterbury Tales unfinished. Chaucer is the first poet to be buried in the "Poet's Corner" of Westminster Abbey.

1401 — Owain Glyndwr leads a Welsh revolt against English rule; his treaty with France compounds England's troubles.

1403 — Sir Henry Percy, aka Sir Harry Hotspur or simply Hotspur, is slain at the Battle of Shrewsbury fighting in a rebellion against Henry IV of England. Hotspur would become one of Shakespeare's best-known characters, in his historical play Henry IV. But Shakespeare either employed poetic license or he got some of the facts wrong. For instance, according to the Bard of Avon, Hotspur and Hal were the same age, but in reality Hotspur was 23 years older than the future King Henry V, who was only sixteen when Hotspur died. 

1406 — James I of Scotland, while captive in England, writes The Kingis Quair.

1412 — John Lydgate's Troy Book.

1413 — King Henry V reigns.

1415 — Henry V attacks France in order to win back English territories previously lost there; he captures Harfleur and wins the major battle of Agincourt; he or his son are now in the line of succession to become King of France. One reason for the victory is the English longbow.

1420 — John Lydgate's The Siege of Thebes.

1422 — Henry VI reigns as King of England and France, but is only eight months old; regents are appointed.

1426 — John Lydgate's The Pilgrimage of the Life of Man, a translation of Guillaume de Deguileville's Pθleringe.

1429 — Joan of Arc, a young French peasant girl, begins her campaign to drive the English from France, with considerable success.

1430 — A "haunting riddle-chant" from this era is I Have a Yong Suster, an anonymous Medieval English riddle-poem that has also been described as a popular song and a folk song. A similar haunting poem is the Corpus Christi Carol, which was discovered in a manuscript dated to around 1504, but which could have been composed earlier. The poem has a ballad-like refrain: "Lully, lullay, lully, lullay! The falcon has borne my mak [mate] away."

1431 — Joan of Arc is burned at the stake as a witch; Henry VI is crowned King of France in Paris.

1440 — Eton College is founded and provides free education to 70 scholars. Birth of Henry the Minstrel, aka Blind Harry, a Scottish poet.

1450 — Robin Hood and the Monk appears to be one of the earliest popular ballads about Robin Hood. It has been dated to around 1450. A similar ballad is Robin Hood and the Potter. Both poems are called "Child ballads" because they appeared in a book of 305 popular ballads published by Francis James Child as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads in 1882.

1453 — England loses all its French possession except Calais and the Channel Islands, ending the Hundred Years' War; the Wars of the Roses begin almost immediately, with the houses of York and Lancaster pitted violently against each other.

1455 — The Guttenberg Bible is the first book printed with moveable type.

1460 — Henry VI is captured by Yorkists but is freed by an army raised by his wife Margaret; births of the poets John Skelton and William Dunbar (approximate). William Dunbar would become the first great Scottish poet.

1461 — Henry VI and Margaret are defeated and flee to Scotland; Edward, the son of Richard of York, declares himself King Edward IV. Francois Villon, recently released from prison, writes his Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past.

1462 — The Scottish poet Robert Henryson earns a degree in canon law from the University of Glasgow. His collection of animal fables has been called a masterpiece of medieval literature.

1464 — Henry VI is captured and brought to the Tower of London.

1469 — Edward IV is defeated and flees to Flanders; Henry VI is restored to the throne; Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur ("The Death of Arthur").

1471 — Edward IV returns to England, defeats Margaret's army; Henry VI is stabbed to death in the Tower of London.

1473 — William Caxton prints the first typeset English book, his translation of the History of Troy, in either 1473 or 1474. The birth of Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543).

1476 — William Caxton prints Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Prior to the publication of Caxton's books, reading and writing had been largely confined to monastic centers and the elites who could afford expensive hand-produced manuscripts, but reading and writing were about to spread, resulting in a coming explosion of knowledge. Also, much older poetry and literature was lost due to the scarcity of the manuscripts. As books were more easily duplicated, they were more likely to survive.

1477 — The oldest surviving Valentine's letter in the English language was written by Margery Brews to her fiancι John Paston in February 1477.

1478 — Birth of Sir Thomas More, the author of Utopia.

1480 — Robert Henryson's Fables of Aesop.

1483 — Edward IV dies; his son Edward V reigns briefly but is declared illegitimate and is probably murdered in the Tower of London; Richard III declares himself king; William Caxton prints John Gower's Confessio Amantis ("Lover's Confession").

1484 — William Caxton prints Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde.

1485 — Henry Tudor lands in Wales, where he defeats and kills Richard III in the last major battle of the Wars of the Roses; Henry Tudor becomes King Henry VII. Thus begins the Tudor Period, which marks the end of the Middle Ages in England.

1486 — Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York, uniting the houses of Lancaster and York and cementing the Tudor dynasty; the Wars of the Roses end.

Our top ten Tudor/Elizabethan poets: George Chapman, Sir Walter Ralegh, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, Henry Howard, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Thomas Wyatt, John Donne, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare

Early Modern English: the English Renaissance and the Tudor and Elizabethan Periods (1486-1618)
The Tudor era saw the introduction of the sonnet and blank verse, both of which were based on iambic pentameter. The poetry of Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard may mark the beginning of modern English poetry. This era ended with the deaths of Queen Elizabeth, its most important English monarch, and William Shakespeare, its most important English writer, in the first decade of the seventeenth century. Here's a brief recap of what happened during the Elizabethan Period: "By the time the Italian Renaissance waned, its greatest poetic exports – the ballad and the sonnet – found their way to England through Sir Thomas Wyatt. He introduced the forms to a countryside attuned to lyrical and narrative poetry by the great Geoffrey Chaucer, whose experiences with latter Provencal poets influenced the style credited with modernizing English literature. Sonnets swept through late 16th and early 17th century England, primarily through the works of Wyatt, Sir Philip Sydney, Edmund Spenser, and William Shakespeare. Spenser and Shakespeare took the Petrarchan form that Wyatt introduced to the literary landscape and added their individual touches, forming the three principal sonnet styles: Petrarchan, Spenserian, and Shakespearean. The other fixed verse influence – Provencal and French forms – added to the poetic mix, creating a vast community of poets who recited their works in various forums. In the theater, their verse often preceded Shakespeare and Marlowe dramas – a practice followed nearly four centuries later by many of San Francisco’s 1960s rock musicians, who preceded their concerts with readings from Beat poets. The socially open Elizabethan era enabled poets to write about humanistic as well as religious subjects. The dramatic rise in academic study and literacy during the late 16th century created large audiences for the new poetry, which was also introduced into the educational system. In many ways, the Elizabethan era more closely resembled the expressionism of the Ancient Greeks than the Sicilian and Italian Renaissance schools from which it derived its base poetry."

1491 — Birth of Henry Tudor (Henry VIII). The poet John Skelton would tutor the young Henry VIII for five years.

1492 — Columbus discovers San Salvador and the Americas. John Skelton is made Laureate by the University of Louvain. William Dunbar accompanies an embassy to Denmark and France, but his duties are unknown.

1494 — Birth of William Tyndale.

1497 — John Cabot discovers Newfoundland and North America.

1498 — John Skelton's satire of court life, The Bowge of Courte. It was published twice by Wynkyn de Worde.

1500 — Everyman is an allegorical drama, translated from the Dutch, which has been dated to the early 16th century.

1503 — Birth of Sir Thomas Wyatt, perhaps the first modern English poet. Birth of the English poet John Leland, who may have known Wyatt during their time at Cambridge; Leland would write a book of elegies to Wyatt. William Dunbar's The Thrissill and the Rois and Sweet Rose of Virtue. By this time Dunbar is attached to the court of King James IV of Scotland.

1504 — Leonardo Da Vinci paints the Mona Lisa. Michelangelo finishes his masterpiece of marble sculpture, David. The earliest known version of the Corpus Christi Carol was discovered in a manuscript dated to around 1504, but the poem could have been composed earlier. The poem has a ballad-like refrain: "Lully, lullay, lully, lullay! The falcon has borne my mak [mate] away."

1508 —  Michelangelo begins to paint the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. William Dunbar's The Dance of the Sevin Deidly Synnis, The Goldyn Targe, Lament for the Makaris  and The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen. Several of Dunbar's poems were included in the first books to be printed in Scotland, now known as the the Chepman and Myllar Prints. Poems by John Lydgate and Robert Henryson were also included.

1509 — Henry Tudor marries Catherine of Aragon, then reigns as King Henry VIII.

1510 — William Dunbar's pension was a handsome 80 pounds, so he was evidently held in high regard by King James IV and his court!

1513 — John Skelton is appointed Poet Laureate to Henry VIII. Gavin Douglas, a Scottish poet, translates Virgil's Aeneid.

1515 — William Tyndale, despite being a student of theology, a subdeacon and possessing a Master of Arts, is not allowed to read the Bible! He complains: "They have ordained that no man shall look on the Scripture, until he be noselled in heathen learning eight or nine years and armed with false principles, with which he is clean shut out of the understanding of the Scripture."

1516 — Sir Thomas More's Utopia is published by Erasmus. Birth of Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey; he was a poet and the first cousin of Anne Boleyn. It was Howard who created the poetic form we now call the "Shakespearean sonnet." He was also the first English poet to publish blank verse, which he employed in his translations of  books II and IV of Virgil's Aeneid. Half a century later, Marlowe and Shakespeare would employ blank verse in their most famous plays. 

1517 — Martin Luther, a professor of moral theology at Wittenberg, publishes his 95 theses against the Roman Catholic Church, kick-starting the Protestant Reformation, which would soon have tremendous implications for England ...

1518 — Henry VIII, when he is not beheading his wives, is a musician and composer who creates a royal songbook.

1521 — Lutheran writings are circulating in England. Pope Leo X declares King Henry VIII the Fidei Defensor or Defender of the Faith, in honor of Henry's book Defense of the Seven Sacraments, which attacked Luther's theology and was dedicated to Leo X. But another heretic is about to follow in Luther's footsteps; William Tyndale tells a clergyman: ""I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!" By this time, Tyndale is obviously planning to translate the Bible into English, if he hasn't already started.

1522 — John Skelton seems to have had conflicts with Cardinal Wolsey, and may have been imprisoned by him on one or more occasions.

1522 — John Skelton's A Ballade of the Scottysshe Kynge may be the first printed English ballad.

1525 — William Tyndale is working on his English translation of the New Testament, possibly in Wittenberg (where Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation).

1526 — Lord Chancellor Cardinal Thomas Wolsey orders the burning of Protestant books. Thomas Wyatt travels to Italy and returns with a passion for the sonnets of Petrarch. Wyatt begins to translate the works of Petrarch and Horace into English.

1527 — Henry VIII seeks the Pope's permission to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon but is refused, creating a huge rift and leading to Henry's subsequent "divorce" from the Roman Catholic Church. 

1529 — Henry VIII declares himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England (in effect, the English Pope). The "Reformation Parliament" is so-called because in 1529 the English Parliament passed and enabled major pieces of legislation that led to the English Reformation. Death of John Skelton.

1533 — Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn in defiance of Rome and many of his own bishops and advisors, including Thomas More, his former Chancellor; Pope Clement VII excommunicates Henry. Queen Elizabeth I is born; she would write a number of poems.

1534 — Around this time, Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard introduce the English sonnet, modeled after the Petrarchan sonnet, with 14 lines of iambic pentameter; Howard creates the form that would come to be known as the Elizabethan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet.

1535 — Sir Thomas More is executed after refusing to recognize Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church of England; Thomas Cromwell is made Vicar-General and begins to seize the Roman Catholic Church's lands and other holdings. The first complete English translation of the Bible is created by Miles Coverdale.

1536 — Anne Boleyn is beheaded; Henry VIII marries his third wife, Jane Seymour; Thomas Wyatt, imprisoned in the Tower of London for his alleged affair with Anne Boleyn, may have written his famous poems Whoso List to Hunt and They Flee from Me around this time; William Tyndale is convicted of heresy, strangled to death, then burned at the stake in Antwerp.

1537 — Jane Seymour dies giving birth to Prince Edward (later Edward VI); Henry Howard develops blank verse in his translation of the Aeneid.

1539 — The abbots of Colchester, Glastonbury and Reading are executed for treason as Henry VIII continues to acquire Church holdings. An uprising in Devon and Cornwall known as the Prayer Book Rebellion occurs when Catholics object to the imposition of teachings of the Protestant Reformation.

1540 — Henry VIII marries his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, in January but the marriage is annulled in July; Thomas Cromwell is executed for treason; Henry marries his fifth wife, Catherine Howard.

1542 — Catherine Howard is executed for treason; James V of Scotland dies and is succeeded by his six-day-old daughter Mary (later, Mary Queen of Scots).

1543 — Henry VIII marries the twice-widowed Catherine Parr, his sixth and last wife.

1547 — Henry Howard is decapitated on the order of Henry VIII, who dies the same year; King Edward VI reigns at age nine, but is sickly.

1550 — John Skelton's poem Hereafter foloweth the Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe, better known today as "Philip Sparrow." Skelton's poem Hereafter foloweth a title boke called Colyn Cloute, better known as "Colin Clout." Pierre de Ronsard publishes the first four books of his Odes.

1552 — Births of Walter Ralegh and Edmund Spenser; the latter was perhaps the first great English Romantic poet and the precursor of Milton, Blake, Shelley, Keats, et al.

1553 — Edward VI dies of tuberculosis; his will appoints Lady Jane Grey as his successor; his sister Mary deposes her and reigns as Queen Mary I.

1554 — Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger leads a revolt to depose Mary I, who was Catholic and considering a marriage to the Catholic Philip of Spain; the revolt is crushed and Wyatt and Lady Jane Grey are executed; Mary's sister Elizabeth is sent to the Tower of London; Mary marries Philip of Spain. The birth of the English poets Philip Sidney, John Lyly and Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke.

1555 — "Bloody Mary" begins her brutal persecution of Protestants; she has 283 religious dissenters killed, most of them burned at the stake, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.

1557 — Henry Howard's translation of the Aeneid is published. Tottel's Miscellany, perhaps the first modern English poetry anthology, includes poems by Henry Howard and Thomas Wyatt. The Elizabethans preferred Howard's sweeter strains to Wyatt's "dark words and broken meters." A good indication of this preference is the original title of Tottel's anthology: Songes and sonettes, written by the ryght honorable Lorde Henry Haward late Earle of Surrey, and other. But today Wyatt is generally considered to be the greater and more original poet. Birth of the English poet George Peele.

1558 — Mary I dies childless; Queen Elizabeth I reigns; thus begins the Elizabethan Period. Protestant reforms are reinstituted but Elizabeth is not as bloody as her sister Mary. Birth of the English poets Thomas Lodge and Mary Sidney, sister of Philip Sidney. Birth of the English playwright Thomas Kyd, the author of the play The Spanish Tragedie and perhaps the most influential English playwright before Marlowe and Shakespeare. It has been suggested that Kyd wrote a ur-Hamlet that preceded Shakespeare's famous play.

1559 — Birth of the English poet George Chapman, who would author more than twenty plays and translate Homer.

1561 — Birth of the English poet Robert Southwell, best known for his poem The Burning Babe. Birth of Francis Bacon, his extensive writings covered philosophy, science, ethics, history, law and politics.

1562 — Birth of the English poet Samuel Daniel.

1563 — John Foxe’s The Book of Martyrs, about religious persecutions, is published. The births of the English poets John Dowland and Michael Drayton.

1564 — The births of the English poets and playwrights Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare; the latter is generally considered to be the greatest English poet and playwright (not to mention a talented songwriter). The birth of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who would run afoul of the Roman Catholic inquisition for claiming that the earth revolves around the sun, rather than otherwise. 

1565 — Sir Walter Raleigh, a poet and explorer, brings potatoes and tobacco back from the New World.

1566 — Isabella Whitney's Sweet Nosegay and The Copy of a Letter.

1567 — Births of the English poets Thomas Nashe and Thomas Campion. Campion was also a lutanist who wrote over 100 lute songs. He is remembered for melodious poems like When to Her Lute Corinna Sings and There Is a Garden in Her Face. The first purpose-built London playhouse is the Red Lion, but it apparently did not stand long or house many plays. The owner of the Red Lion, John Brayne, would later collaborate with John Burbage on a more successful theater (see the entry for 1576).

1568 — Mary, Queen of Scots, flees to England and is imprisoned by Elizabeth.

1569 — At age sixteen, a talented and precocious Edmund Spenser has two of his translations of French poems published at the beginning of an anti-Catholic prose tract, A Theatre for Voluptuous Worldlings.

1572 — Births of the English poets John Donne and Ben Jonson. Donne may have been the best English writer of erotic poetry in his youth, and the best writer of religious poetry in his maturity!

1576 — The "Wakefield Master" has been credited with writing mystery plays with biblical and pastoral themes that were performed in the Wakefield area. The first major English playhouse is built in Shoreditch, just outside London, by the actor James Burbage. It is such an original concept at the time that the building is called The Theatre! William Shakespeare is twelve years old. Richard Burbage, the son of James Burbage, will be the leading actor in Shakespeare's plays.

1577 — Birth of the English poet Robert Burton (1577-1640).

1578 — Birth of the English playwright John Webster.

1579 — Edmund Spenser's Shepheardes Calender has been called "the first work of the English literary Renaissance." Sir Philip Sidney's Old Arcadia and Defence of Poetry or An Apologie for Poetrie. Sidney may have been the first important English literary critic. While he was not impressed with most of the English language poetry he read, he did compliment Spenser in his writings on the subject. Birth of the English playwright John Fletcher, who would collaborate with Shakespeare on his last two plays, then succeed him as the playwright for the King's Men after the Bard retired to Stratford-on-Avon.

1580 — Edmund Spenser is made secretary to the new lord deputy of Ireland, Arthur Lord Grey, who was a friend of the Sidney family. Birth of the English playwright Thomas Middleton.

1582 — Shakespeare, eighteen, marries Anne Hathaway, who is eight years older. She is three months pregnant.

1584 — Sir Walter Ralegh founds the first American colony and names it Virginia after Elizabeth (the Virgin Queen).

1585 — James VI of Scotland writes Essays of a Prentice in the Arte of Poesie, citing the poems of Alexander Montgomerie.

1586 — Chidiock Tichborne is hanged, castrated, and disemboweled for treason; the great elegy he wrote to himself while awaiting death in the Tower of London is now known as Tichborne's Elegy. Birth of the English playwright John Ford.

1587 — Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed at Fotheringhay Castle on charges of treason. Birth of the English poet Mary Wroth. Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine is first performed. According to the critic Harold Bloom, thus begins the "richest eighty years of poetry in English" with Marlowe, Shakespeare, Donne, Jonson, Herrick, Carew, Lovelace, Marvell, Herbert, Crashaw, Vaughan and Milton all writing and/or being published within that narrow span of time. (We would suggest 1880-1960 with Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Thomas Hardy, Gerard Manley Hopkins, A. E. Housman, William Butler Yeats, Ernest Dowson, E. A. Robinson, Stephen Crane, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Edward Thomas, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, D. H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, Elinor Wylie, Robinson Jeffers, Marianne Moore, T. S. Eliot, Conrad Aiken, Archibald MacLeish, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wilfred Owen, e. e. cummings, Louise Bogan, Hart Crane, Langston Hughes, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Dylan Thomas, Robert Lowell, Philip Larkin, Geoffrey Hill and Sylvia Plath!)

1588 — A Spanish Armada of 130 ships sailing against England is defeated by bad weather and the English fleet under admirals Francis Drake and John Hawkins; the resulting English dominance of the seas greatly enhances the prospects of the British Empire; Christopher Marlowe writes Doctor Faustus. Edmund Spenser acquires a 3,000-acre plantation called Kilcolman, complete with a castle, close to Cork. Birth of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the author of Leviathan. Hobbes was a royalist who believed monarchs should have absolute power. But he did advance the ideas of natural equality of all men, a "social contract" and representative government based on the consent of the governed.

1589 — William Shakespeare's first play may have been The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Walter Ralegh visits Edmund Spenser's castle, takes an interest in his poetry, and helps him publish the first three books of The Faerie Queene the following year in London, where he meets Queen Elizabeth.

1590 — Shakespeare's plays The Taming of the Shrew, Henry VI, Titus Andronicus, Richard III, Edward III, The Comedy of Errors, Love's Labor Lost, and Romeo and Juliet may have been written between 1590 and 1594. Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene; his Mother Hubberd's Tale is a forerunner of Mother Goose publications to come, but it is also a political satire that gets him in hot water! However, Queen Elizabeth I, to whom The Faerie Queene is dedicated, grants Spenser a pension of 50 pounds, which is more than she granted any other poet. Elizabeth has a starring role in The Faerie Queene as Gloriana. It is one of the longest poems in the English language and was written in what came to be known as Spenserian stanzas.

1591 — Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella is an early sonnet sequence. John Donne is writing satires, elegies, songs and sonnets. The birth of the English Cavalier poet Robert Herrick, whom Swinburne would describe as "the greatest song writer ever born of English race." Unlike the other major Cavalier poets, Herrick was not a courtier. Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd share lodgings in London, and perhaps exchange ideas about plays.

1592 — Shakespeare is making a name for himself, as he is called an "upstart crow" by Robert Greene.

1593 — Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis; the poet/playwright Christopher Marlowe is murdered, perhaps assassinated, at age 29; birth of the English metaphysical poet George Herbert who is known primarily for his religious poetry.

1594 — Richard Burbage assembles a group of actors called the Lord Chamberlain's Men: members of the troupe include his leading-man son Richard Burbage, and William Shakespeare, who played secondary roles. They perform at The Theatre, built by Richard Burbage (see the entry for 1576). Edmund Spenser writes Epithalamion and the Amoretti sonnets for his bride-to-be, Elizabeth Boyle. Epithalamion may be one of the finest love poems in the English language. Thomas Nashe's prose romance novel The Unfortunate Traveller. Spenser creates a version of the English sonnet that now bears his name: the Spenserian sonnet. The best-known Spenserian sonnet is probably his Amoretti sonnet #75, which begins: "One day I wrote her name upon the strand ..."

1595 — Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream. The poet Robert Southwell, a Jesuit priest and missionary, is convicted of treason, hanged, drawn and quartered. His poems were published posthumously and he is known primarily for one stunning poem, The Burning Babe.

1596 — Shakespeare's plays King John and The Merchant of Venice. Birth of the English poet James Shirley, who is best known for his poem Dirge ("The glories of our blood and state / Are shadows, not substantial things ..."). Birth of the English Cavalier poet Thomas Carew. Many of Carew's poems would be sensuous love poems. Edmund Spenser publishes Prothalamion, a nuptial song he wrote for the double marriage of the daughters of the Earl of Worchester, Elizabeth and Katherine Somerset.

1597 — Shakespeare's plays Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Francis Bacon's Essays; John Dowland's The First Booke of Songes or Ayres; George Chapman's translation of Homer's Illiad.

1598 — Shakespeare's plays Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing. Shakespeare acts in Ben Jonson's play Sejanus. Led by the Burbages, the Lord Chamberlain's Men dismantle The Theatre and use its beams to begin work on The Globe theater. Edmund Spenser's castle at Kilcolman is burned by Irish forces opposed to English dominance; according to Ben Jonson, one of Spenser's infant children perished in the blaze. Spenser would die himself within three months.

1599 — Shakespeare's plays Julius Caesar, As You Like It and Twelfth Night. The Globe Theater opens for business in London; Julius Caesar is one of the first plays staged there. The Globe had the best theater, the best actors, the best plays and the best playwright. Shakespeare owned 12.5% of the theater. Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd to his Love is answered by Sir Walter Ralegh's The Nymph's Reply. Edmund Spenser dies and is buried next to Chaucer at Westminster Abbey. At the time of his death Spenser was "widely recognized as the most important living English poet," so his burial next to Chaucer made perfect sense at the time. Later, Shakespeare would claim the most lavish poetic laurels, but Spenser would remain a tremendous influence on important poets to come, including John Milton, Robert Herrick and the Cavaliers, William Blake, Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Lord Byron, Alfred Tennyson and William Butler Yeats.

1600 — The East India Company is founded; Thomas Nashe's best-known poem Litany in Time of Plague with its moving refrain "Lord, have mercy on us!"

1601 — The first performance of Shakespeare's play Hamlet; Thomas Campion's poems My Sweetest Lesbia and When to Her Lute Corinna Sings. Thomas Nashe dies of the Plague in London.

1603 — Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure. Death of Queen Elizabeth I; James VI of Scotland becomes King James I of England, Scotland, and Ireland; thus begins the Jacobean Period; Sir Walter Ralegh is sent to the Tower of London; much of his poetry was written while he was held in the Tower from 1603-1616.

1604 — Shakespeare is granted a coat of arms; Othello is first performed and includes one of the earliest English limericks; James I becomes a patron of Shakespeare's acting company.

1605 — Shakespeare's plays King Lear and Macbeth. Birth of the English poet Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682).

1606 — Ben Jonson's comedic play Volpone. Birth of the English poet William Davenant (1606-1668).

1607 — John Donne's Song, The Sunne Rising and The Cannonization are written around this time. Birth of the English poet Edmund Waller.

1608 — The birth of the English poet John Milton; John Donne writes his Holy Sonnets.

1609 — Shakespeare publishes his Sonnets. Birth of the English Cavalier poet Sir John Suckling.

1610 — Galileo says the earth moves around the sun, comes close to losing his life to the Roman Catholic Church, will spend his remaining days under house arrest. Shakespeare employs limerick meter in Stephano’s drinking song in The Tempest. Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is one of his last major plays.

1611 — The King James Bible is published in still-readable English; it says the earth is immovable with fixed foundations, that there was a perfect garden of Eden, etc. The King James Bible contains some of the oldest and best free verse in the English language, such as the Song of Solomon.

1612 — Heretics are burned at the stake in England for the last time. Anne Bradstreet, perhaps the first notable American poet, is born in Northampton, England. John Webster's play The Duchess of Malfi.

1613 — The Globe Theatre burns during a performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIII, which may have been his last-authored play, co-written with John Fletcher. Shakespeare may have also collaborated with Fletcher on the play The Two Noble Kinsmen. Birth of the English metaphysical poet Richard Crashaw (c. 1613-1649).

1614 — Sir Walter Ralegh's History of the World.

1616  — The death of William Shakespeare; Ben Jonson's Works including On My First Son and Song: To Celia ("Drink to me only with thin eyes"); George Chapman's translation of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Galileo Galilei is forced to stop saying that the sun is the center of the solar system, by the Roman Catholic inquisition.

Our top ten poets of the Cavalier Period: George Herbert, James Shirley, Sir John Suckling, Richard Lovelace, Thomas Carew, Edmund Waller, Robert Herrick, Ben Jonson, John Donne, John Milton

Poets at War with Each Other: The Cavaliers, the Reformation and the Restoration (1617-1674)
The Cavalier Period is marked by poets who praised the virtues of war, honor, chivalry, duty, monarchs, God, church and faith. The Cavalier poets are sometimes called the "tribe of Ben" or the "sons of Ben" because of their admiration for Ben Jonson. Cavaliers like Richard Lovelace and Reformers like Milton were often at war with each other―not only with their pens, but by casting their lots with opposing armies. Milton stands out as the first great Romantic anti-establishment poet: a powerful voice of dissent against the status quo. While he claimed to "justify the ways of God to man," as William Blake pointed out later, Milton actually spoke for the rebellious angels, and made Romantic heroes of Satan, Adam and Eve. Many of the great poets to come would also be dissenters: William Blake, Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, A. E. Housman, Thomas Hardy, Robert Frost, et al.

1617 — Birth of the English Cavalier poet Richard Lovelace. Robert Herrick, the eldest of the Cavalier poets, graduates from Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

1618 — Sir Walter Ralegh fails in his last expedition to find El Dorado and upon his return to England is executed for alleged treason; he probably writes his great poem The Lie while incarcerated in the Tower of London, awaiting an unjust death, after all he had done for England and its monarchy. The Lie put Ralegh at odds with the Cavalier poets who wrote after him. Birth of the English poet Abraham Cowley.

1619 — Michael Drayton publishes perhaps his best-known poem, Sonnet LVI from Idea ("Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part ...").

1620 — The Pilgrims set sail for America in the Mayflower; they land at Cape Cod and found the New Plymouth colony. Harold Bloom called Tom O'Bedlam's Song "the most magnificent Anonymous poem in the language; it was probably written early in the 17th century. Bloom describes the poem as being "all but High Romantic vision," which would put it around two hundred years ahead of its time!

1621 — Edmund Waller, considered to be a Cavalier poet by some, becomes a Member of Parliament. Birth of the English metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), who is best known today for his famous carpe diem ("seize the day") poem To His Coy Mistress.

1622 — Birth of the English metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan.

1623 — Publication of Shakespeare's First Folio of his comedies, histories and tragedies. Ben Jonson's elegy for Shakespeare. Birth of the English poet Margaret Cavendish.

1626 — While studying at Cambridge, John Milton publishes his first poem, Epitaph on the admirable Dramatick Poet, W. Shakespeare.

1628 — Ann Dudley marries, becoming Anne Bradstreet. The birth of the English poet and writer John Bunyan, best known for his allegorical novel Pilgrim's Progress.

1629 — John Milton composes the poem On the Morning of Christ's Nativity on Christmas morning while still a student at Cambridge.

1630 — Thomas Carew, a Cavalier poet, is made a "server" or taster-in-ordinary to the King. Sir John Suckling, also a Cavalier poet, is knighted. Around this time, Suckling is credited with inventing cribbage. He was said to be the most skilled card player and the best bowler in England. He was reported to have won the equivalent of £4 million in modern-day money, playing cribbage! Anne Bradstreet sails to America with her husband Simon and family.

1631 — Richard Lovelace, a Cavalier poet, is sworn in as a Gentleman Wayter Extraordinary to the King, a position for which a fee was paid. Birth of the English poet John Dryden, who has been called "the father of English criticism." Edmund Waller is brought before the Star Chamber, but being a wealthy man, he is able to pay a large fine and remain free. Michael Drayton dies and is buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey, with memorial lines attributed to Ben Jonson.  

1633 — George Herbert's poems are published posthumously, including Redemption, Virtue, The Collar, The Pulley and the title poem The Temple.

1634 — Richard Lovelace enters Oxford and apparently lives up to his name; he was described by one of his peers as "the most amiable and beautiful person that ever eye beheld; a person also of innate modesty, virtue and courtly deportment, which made him then, but especially after, when he retired to the great city, much admired and adored by the female sex." Comus is John Milton's longest poem to date, at just over 1,000 lines.

1637 — John Milton writes the poem Lycidias for a friend and fellow poet who died, Edward King. Birth of the English poet Thomas Traherne (1637-1674), a Church of England priest know for his religious poetry. King Charles I has the Scottish Bishops, with the approval of Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud, draw up an Anglican Booke of Common Prayer for Scotland. It was immediately denounced by the Scottish people and was never put into use. As a matter of fact, the prayer book immediately caused riots ("Don't mess with our faith!"), then eventually led to the Bishop's War of 1639 and the Puritan Revolution of 1645, which ended with Charles losing his crown, and his head.

1638 — Sir John Suckling's poem Song: Why so pale and wan, fond lover? Richard Lovelace's first published poem is an elegy for Princess Katherine. Charles I prepares for war with the Scots, as opposition to his prayer book grows, but he is strapped for cash.

1639 — Charles I raises an army of 20,000 troops and invades Scotland in an attempt to impose his will on the Scottish people. John Milton returns from the continent when the Bishops' Wars in Scotland presage civil war in England. He begins to write prose tracts in service of the pro-reformation Puritans and Parliamentarians. At the same time, Richard Lovelace is fighting on the opposite side, first as a senior ensign, later as a captain, in Lord Goring's regiment. Sir John Suckling sides with King Charles I in Scotland.

1640 — Thomas Carew's poems A Song, Rapture and To My Inconstant Mistress are published in his collected Poems. The birth of the English poet Aphra Behn. The Bay Psalm Book is the first book printed in North America (Cambridge, Massachusetts). King Charles I calls the first Parliament in eleven years, but quickly dismisses the "Short Parliament" when it begins to air grievances and questions his request for funds to fight the Scots. Because he is losing battles and land to the Scots, Charles then calls the "Long Parliament" but it abolishes the King's Star Chamber and imprisons the unpopular Earl of Stafford. Things are heating up. John Milton is appointed Secretary for the Foreign Tongues, an official position in the English government handling diplomatic correspondence. He receives a salary and lodgings at Scotland Yard.

1641 — Richard Lovelace leads a group of men who seize and destroy a petition for the abolition of Episcopal rule, which had been signed by 15,000 people. Lovelace tears up the petition himself, in a meeting at Maidstone, Kent. Sir John Suckling is implicated in the First Army Plot to free the Earl of Stafford from the Tower of London and bring French troops to the King's aid. Suckling flees to France and is found guilty of high treason in his absence. Suckling dies shortly thereafter at an unknown time under disputed circumstances. Between 1641 and 1660, John Milton "produced at least eighteen major prose works on behalf of the Puritan rebellion, supporting its cause, vilifying its enemies."

1642 — The birth of the great English scientist, astronomer, physicist, mathematician and philosopher Isaac Newton, on Christmas Day. Galileo Galilei is placed under house arrest by the Roman Catholic inquisition for saying that the sun is the center of the solar system,. Edward Taylor, one of the better early American poets, is born in Sketchley, England. None of his poems are published in his lifetime; they will be discovered in the Yale University library and published in 1939. The English Civil War officially begins when Charles I raises the royal standard for war against the anti-Royalists. Richard Lovelace presents the House of Commons with a pro-Royalist petition which was supposed to have been burned. Lovelace is imprisoned and writes one of his finest lyrics, To Althea, from Prison. English theaters are closed by the Puritans at the outbreak of the Civil War, a mere 66 years after the opening of The Theater in 1576. The Globe would never re-open and would be pulled down in 1644-1645 to make room for tenements.

1643 — Edmund Waller is arrested in a plot in favor of the King against Parliament, known as "Waller's Plot." To save his life, Waller recants in an abject speech. He is hit with an enormous fine, sent to the Tower of London, then banished. Once again his wealth may have saved him, since two of his fellow conspirators were executed.

1644 — Birth of the great Japanese haiku master, Matsuo Bashō. Haiku would have a tremendous influence on English modernists like Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot; they prized its conciseness, imagery and lack of ornamentation. After the Stationers' Company attempts to censor Milton's Judgment of Martin Bucer, he publishes the impassioned tract Areopagitica in support of a free press.

1645 — Edmund Waller's poems Song: Go, Lovely Rose and On a Girdle are published in his Poems while he is living in exile. John Milton's poems L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, On Shakespeare and How Soon Hath Time are published.

1646 — Richard Crashaw's On the Baptized Ethiopian is one of the first English language poems to express the idea of racial equality. A collection of Sir John Suckling's poems is published posthumously as Fragmenta aurea.

1647 — Robert Herrick is evicted from his vicarage for refusing to sign the "Solemn League and Covenant," a pro-reformation agreement. Birth of the English poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680). Wilmot would write poems about masturbation, premature ejaculation and other taboo subjects.

1648 — Robert Herrick's poems Delight in Disorder; To Daffodils; Upon Julia's Clothes and To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time are published in Hesperides with a dedication to the Prince of Wales. Richard Lovelace is imprisoned for the second time, due to his support of the British monarchy; by the following year he has published his first volume of poems, Lucasta, which includes To Lucasta, Going to the Wars; To Althea, from Prison; and To Amaratha, That She Would Dishevel Her Hair.

1649 — Charles I is found guilty of high treason by the Rump Parliament, is sentenced to death, then executed by beheading. John Milton writes a tract which defends the right of the people to hold their rulers accountable. He then publishes an explicit defense of the regicide.

1650 — Anne Bradstreet's The Vanity of All Worldly Things (perhaps the first notable poem by an American poet); her book The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America made her the first female writer published in England and the New World. Henry Vaughn's poems Regeneration and The Retreat are published.

1651 — John Milton loses his eyesight and is completely blind. One of his secretaries is the poet Andrew Marvell. Around this time Milton probably writes his famous sonnet On His Blindness ("When I consider how my light is spent ..."). Edmund Waller is allowed to return to England by the Rump Parliament.

1652 — John Milton publishes a defense of the English people in Latin. He also publishes a sonnet dedicated to Oliver Cromwell ("Cromwell, our chief of men ...").

1653 — Oliver Cromwell is England's Lord Protector and Regent.

1655 — Henry Vaughan's Regeneration and The Retreat.  Edmund Waller publishes A Panegyric to my Lord Protector and is made a Commissioner for Trade a month or two later. 

1657 — Richard Lovelace dies in London.

1658 — Oliver Cromwell's death throws England back into chaos. As the republic begins to disintegrate, Milton continues to write treatises in favor of a non-monarchial government. Milton begins work on his masterpiece, Paradise Lost, perhaps using aspects of the English Civil War and its primary figures for material.

1659 — James Shirley's The Glories of Our Blood and State; Sir John Suckling's Out Upon It!

1660 — King Charles II is handed the British crown and throne in the Restoration. John Milton goes into hiding for his life, then is briefly jailed after copies of his books are burned by the Hangman of London (public executioner). He is fined and pardoned in December. Andrew Marvell protests in Parliament that Milton's jail fees (£150) are excessive. Edmund Waller writes To the King, upon his Majesty's Happy Return. When Charles asked Waller to explain why this new piece was inferior to Waller's eulogy for Cromwell, the poet smartly replied: "Sir, we poets never succeed so well in writing truth as in fiction!" Samuel Pepys begins his diary on January 1, 1660. The birth of the first English novelist, Daniel Defoe (1660-1731). Defoe also wrote satirical verse.

1661 — Birth of the English poet Annie Finch (1661-1720), Countess of Winchilsea. Edmund Waller rejoins the House of Commons as the MP for Hastings.

1662 — Richard Herrick is restored to his vicarage at Dean Prior. Milton's sonnet to Sir Henry Vane is published; Vane is executed for defending the sovereignty of Parliament. Massachusetts minister Michael Wigglesworth outlines the doctrines of Puritanism in his epic poem "The Day of Doom." Snapped up and memorized by 17th-century colonists, the fiery work is widely considered America's first bestseller.

1663 — John Milton marries for the third and last time. His new wife is 24, less than half his age. (Milton's daughters object, but are overruled.)

1664 — John Milton completes Paradise Lost. Birth of the English poet Matthew Prior.

1665 — John Milton and his wife move to a cottage in Buckinghamshire to avoid the plague. While King Charles II is holding court in Oxford to avoid the plague, the first newspaper is published: the Oxford Gazette. When Charles returns to London the following year, he takes the newspaper with him, where it becomes the London Gazette (a newspaper that is still being published).

1666 — Although John Milton had completed Paradise Lost by 1664, publication was delayed by a paper shortage caused by the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Great Plague (during which over eighty London printers died), and the Great Fire of London of 1666, which destroyed many of the city's presses. One of the houses destroyed in the fire is Milton's father's house on Bread Street. Aphra Behn works as a spy for King Charles II in Antwerp. This is the first well-documented report we have of her activities. Everything about her prior life seems shrouded in mystery: "Her code name is said to have been Astrea, a name under which she later published many of her writings."

1667 — John Milton's masterpiece Paradise Lost is published in ten books. Because Milton had gone blind, he dictated the epic-length poem to his wife and daughters. Paradise Lost has been described as "an epic without a hero." The poet and critic John Dryden is said to have remarked: "This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too." Milton's agreement with printer Samuel Simmons is the earliest author's contract preserved (Lindenbaum). Dryden's Song ("Ah, fading joy ...") from the play The Indian Emperor is published. Birth of the English poet and satirist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).

1668 — Edward Taylor emigrates to the Massachusetts Bay Colony; he is the only major American poet to have written in the metaphysical style. John Dryden is British Poet Laureate.

1669 — John Milton's Accidence Commenced Grammar is published. 

1670 — John Milton's portrait is painted in pastels, then engraved, by William Faithorne. Milton's History of Britain is published, with the Faithorne engraving as a frontispiece. Aphra Behn becomes the first Englishwoman to make a living by writing; her first play The Forc'd Marriage premiers.

1671 — John Milton's Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes are published. After Aphra Behn's third play doesn't do well at the box office, she disappears from the public record for three years. It has been suggested that she returned to spying, perhaps to make money!

1672 — Anne Bradstreet dies. John Milton publishes Art of Logic.

1673 — John Milton's poems Methought I Saw and When I Consider How My Light Is Spent are published.

1674 — Robert Herrick dies at age 83, having written around 2,500 poems. John Milton dies shortly after overseeing the publication of the second edition of Paradise Lost, which includes commendatory poems by "S.B" and Andrew Marvell.

Our top ten poets of the Augustan Period: Edward Taylor, Christopher Smart, Aphra Behn, William Collins, Andrew Marvell, John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Waller, Thomas Gray

The Augustan or Metaphysical Period (1675-1749)
The Augustan poets may have over-valued wit and extravagant, sometimes strained metaphysical "conceits." As a result, the poems of the era's major poets, John Dryden and Alexander Pope, may strike modern readers as being fanciful, boring and overly didactic. As A. E. Housman later observed, that this was a "dry period" in English poetry. Here's a recap of the Metaphysical Period: "A century after the height of the Elizabethan era, a subtler, provocative lyric poetry movement crept through an English literary countryside that sought greater depth in its verse. The metaphysical poets defined and compared their subjects through nature, philosophy, love, and musings about the hereafter – a great departure from the primarily religious poetry that had immediately followed the wane of the Elizabethan era. Poets shared an interest in metaphysical subjects and practiced similar means of investigating them. Beginning with John Dryden, the metaphysical movement was a loosely woven string of poetic works that continued through the often-bellicose 18th century, and concluded when William Blake bridged the gap between metaphysical and romantic poetry. The poets sought to minimize their place within the poem and to look beyond the obvious – a style that greatly informed American transcendentalism and the Romantics who followed. Among the greatest adherents were Samuel Cowley, John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, Abraham Cowley, Henry Vaughan, George Chapman, Edward Herbert, and Katherine Philips." (We question whether the metaphysical movement began with John Dryden; we think it more likely began with John Donne, who was born roughly 60 years before Dryden. Even in his early erotic poems, Donne indulged in "conceits" such as comparing the exploration of his lover's body to exploring America! Donne strikes us as the first, best and most prominent of the metaphysical poets.)

1678 — John Dryden writes his first major satire, Mac Flecknoe.

1679 — John Dryden's Song ("Can life be a blessing ...") from his play Troilus and Cressida is published.

1681 — Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress, his best-known poem, is published in a collection of his work, three years after his death. John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel: a Poem is published.

1682 — John Dryden's satirical poem Mac Flecknoe is published.

1683 — Birth of the English poet Edward Young, best-remembered for his melancholic Night-Thoughts. Published in 1750 and illustrated by William Blake in 1797, Night Thoughts would become "one of the most frequently-printed poems of the eighteenth century." It has been said that if Young did not invent "melancholy and moonlight" in literature, "he did much to spread the fashionable taste for them." As a result, he has been suggested as the first Romantic poet, and as a major influence on Romantics to follow. Some German critics preferred Young's work to Milton's; the young Goethe told his sister in 1766 that he was learning English from Young and Milton; in his autobiography Goethe said that Young's influence had created the atmosphere in which there was such a universal response to his seminal Romantic work The Sorrows of Young Werther. Young's name soon became a battle-cry for the young men of the "Sturm und Drang" movement. Young himself reinforced his reputation as a pioneer of romanticism by precept as well as by example; in 1759, at the age of 76, he published a piece of critical prose titled Conjectures on Original Composition, which put forward the vital doctrine of the superiority of "genius," of innate originality being more valuable than classic indoctrination or imitation, and suggested that modern writers might dare to rival or even surpass the "ancients" of Greece and Rome. The Conjectures was a declaration of independence against the tyranny of classicism and was at once acclaimed as such becoming a milestone in the history of English, and European, literary criticism. It was immediately translated into German at Leipzig and at Hamburg and was widely and favorably reviewed. The cult of genius exactly suited the ideas of the Sturm und Drang movement and gave a new impetus to the cult of Young. (Excerpted from Harold Forster's "Some uncollected authors XLV: Edward Young in translation I").

1685 — Birth of the English poet John Gay (1685-1732).

1687 — Edmund Waller dies.

1688 — Birth of the English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1784).

1689 — Aphra Behn dies. During her life she wrote 19 plays and was second only to John Dryden as a playwright in the 1670s and 1680s. Birth of the English poet Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

1694 — The birth of the highly influential French writer and philosopher Voltaire. His name at birth is Francois-Marie Arouet (see the entry for 1717 regarding his name change). He would be a major figure of the Enlightenment, and one of the world's most influential thinkers, writers and troublemakers! He was also hyper-prolific. Voltaire wrote more than 50 plays, dozens of treatises on science, politics and philosophy, and several books of history on everything from the Russian Empire to the French Parliament. Along the way, he also managed to squeeze in heaps of verse and a voluminous correspondence amounting to some 20,000 letters to friends and contemporaries. Voltaire supposedly kept up his prodigious output by spending up to 18 hours per day writing or dictating to secretaries, often while still in bed. He may have also been fueled by heroic amounts of caffeine: according to some sources, he drank as many as 40 cups a day.

1700 — Rough beginning time for American negro spirituals. John Dryden dies and is buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. Birth of the English poet James Thomson (1700-1748).

1704 — Jonathan Swift's A Tale of a Tub satirizes the abuses of Christianity.

1707 — England and Scotland are―finally!―officially united as the Kingdom of Great Britain. At this time Ireland is not included.

1709 — Alexander Pope's long poem An Essay on Criticism. Birth of the English poet and creator of the first major English dictionary, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784). Sir Richard Steele publishes the Tatler, a literary and society journal.

1711 — Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele publish the Spectator, a daily publication.

1712 — Alexander Pope's long mock-heroic poem The Rape of the Lock. Birth of the French philosopher and early Romantic, Jean Jacques Rousseau, who believed in the value of the individual and his/her capacity for good.

1715 — Alexander Pope's The Temple of Fame is modeled on Chaucer's House of Fame.

1716 — Birth of the English poet and early Romantic, Thomas Gray (1716-1771). Gray is generally regarded as the foremost English-language poet of the mid-18th century. 

1717 — Voltaire is sent to the Bastille for writing scandalous poems (not the first time he will land in hot water for speaking his mind). While in prison or soon thereafter he adopts the name "Voltaire." He never explains what the name means. One theory is "volunteer." According to a family tradition among the descendants of his sister, he was known as le petit volontaire ("determined little thing") as a child, and he resurrected a variant of the nickname. The name also has connotations of energy, speed and daring. But it was just one of 178 pen names that Arouet employed during his long, eventful and storied career. Voltaire mainly argued for religious tolerance and freedom of thought. He campaigned to eradicate priestly and aristo-monarchical authority, and he supported a constitutional monarchy that would protect the people's rights. Unfortunately, these views would not prove popular with church and state! Alexander Pope publishes his collected Works even though he is not yet thirty years old!

1719 — Isaac Watts publishes Our God, Our Help (in Ages Past), a hymn that is still being sung today. Daniel Defoe's The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe has been called the first true novel.

1721 — Birth of the English poet William Collins (1721-59). He was an important poet of the middle decades of the 18th century, second in importance only to Thomas Gray. His lyrical odes mark a turn away from the Augustan poetry of Alexander Pope's generation and towards the Romantic era which would soon follow. The earliest poem attributed to the "graveyard" school of poets is Thomas Parnell's A Night-Piece on Death.

1722 — Birth of the English poets Mary Leapor (1722-1746) and Christopher Smart (1722-1771).

1726 — Voltaire is sent to the Bastille again, this time for planning a duel. He is released when he agrees to leave France for England. Let the English deal with the troublemaker! (But he was just getting warmed up!) While living in exile in England, Voltaire meets the English poets Alexander Pope, John Gay, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Jonathan Swift. Voltaire is strongly influenced by the work of Isaac Newton and may have attended his funeral. He was one of the sources of the famous story about the falling apple and the concept of gravity! Voltaire's work would be instrumental in bringing about general acceptance of Newton's optical and gravitational theories in France. Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

1728 — Birth of Thomas Warton, a future Poet Laureate of England. A child prodigy, Warton did a translation of a Martial poem at age 9 and wrote his most famous poem, "The Pleasures of Melancholy," at age 17. Warton is considered to be one of the "graveyard poets," along with Thomas Gray, Oliver Goldsmith, William Cowper, Thomas Parnell, Robert Blair and Edward Young. The "graveyard poets" are often recognized as precursors of the Gothic and Romantic literary movements. John Gay's The Beggar's Opera has been called the most popular play of the 18th century. The earliest version of Alexander Pope's The Dunciad.

1729 — Voltaire returns to France and quickly figures out how to beat the French lottery system by working with mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine and others. The scheme leaves Voltaire rich, with a windfall of nearly half a million francs, setting him up for life and allowing him to devote himself entirely to his literary career. Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal.

1731 — Birth of the English poet William Cowper (1731-1800).

1730 — James Thomson's georgic poems Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall are published together as Seasons. He continued to expand the poems, which in their final version amounted to around 5,500 lines. Thomson replaced his native lowland Scots with the King's English and wrote Miltonic blank verse. In his day, Seasons was comparable in circulation only to The Pilgrim's Progress and Paradise Lost. Birth of the English poet Oliver Goldsmith (c. 1730-1774).

1732 — Ben Franklin first publishes Poor Richard's Almanac.

1733 — Alexander Pope's long poem An Essay on Man. Also Pope's Imitations of Horace. Voltaire publishes Letters Concerning the English Nation, now called Philosophical Letters. It is seen as an attack on the French system of government and is rapidly suppressed. The book is publicly burned and banned. Voltaire flees Paris to the French countryside. He shacks up with Ιmilie du Chβtelet, a married mother of three who was 12 years his junior and with whom he was to have an affair for 16 years. To avoid arrest, Voltaire took refuge at her husband's chβteau at Cirey-sur-Blaise, on the borders of Champagne and Lorraine. Voltaire paid for the building's renovation and Ιmilie's husband, the Marquis du Chβtelet, sometimes stayed at the chβteau with his wife and her lover. The unusual relationship had a significant intellectual element. Voltaire and the Marquise collected over 21,000 books, an enormous number for the time. Together, they studied these books and performed experiments in the natural sciences, which included an attempt to determine the nature of fire. Voltaire and the Marquise also analyzed the Bible and concluded that much of its content was dubious.

1734 — Alexander Pope's poem Impromptu is dedicated to "Lady Winchelsea" (the poet Annie Finch); it disparages female poets: "Sapphos." Her poem The Answer suggests that he "shock the sex no more" and points out that women "rule the world" because men are "slaves to ev'ry tempting face"!

1736 — Birth of the Scottish poet and early Romantic, James Macpherson. His work would influence major figures of Romanticism like Goethe and Walter Scott. Macpherson was the first Scottish poet to gain an international reputation. Voltaire begins correspondence with Frederick the Great, then Crown Prince of Prussia.

1738 — Samuel Johnson's long poem London, a verse satire in imitation of Juvenal.

1740 — Around this time a teen-aged George Washington pens anguished love poems, one of which is inspired by Frances Alexander; it laments: "Ah! Woe's me that I should love and conceal,/ Long have I wish'd, but never dare reveal." Washington would also be something of a pool shark, recording his winnings in a ledger (although the game at that time was pocketless cushion billiards). Birth of James Boswell, (1740-1795), who would write a famous biography of Samuel Johnson.

1742 — Thomas Gray begins writing his masterpiece, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.

1743 — Alexander Pope's long poem The Dunciad. Voltaire is sent to Frederick the Great's court in 1743 by the French government as an envoy and spy to gauge Frederick's military intentions in the War of the Austrian Succession. On a visit to Paris the same year, Voltaire finds a new love interest—his niece, Marie Louise Mignot. He did live in interesting times! 
 
1744 — The early limerick "Hickory Dickory Dock" appears in Tom Thumb's Pretty Songbook. Alexander Pope dies.

1745 — Voltaire is appointed Royal Historiographer of France.

1746 — Samuel Johnson contracts to produce his landmark Dictionary of the English Language.

1747 — Samuel Johnson's poem Prologue Spoken by Mr. Garrick. Thomas Gray's Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.  

1749 — Samuel Johnson's long poem The Vanity of Human Wishes is perhaps the last major work of the Augustans. The birth of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German poet who has been said to have "sparked" the coming Romantic Movement.

Our top ten poets of the Romantic Era: Thomas Chatterton, Walter Scott, John Clare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, Robert Burns, William Blake

The Romantic Era (1750-1824)
The Romantic Movement brought a sea change in to the world of art, poetry, literature and other creative endeavors. The writers and artists of the Romantic Movement created work that celebrates nature, individuality and (one might suggest) heresy. Emotion, imagination, and independent thinking are three elements commonly found in Romantic poetry. The Romantics broke away from both the "cultural authority of classical Rome" and the "dominance of the Renaissance tradition." The most popular romantic writers with the English book-buying public were Walter Scot and Lord Byron. Other romantic poets like William Blake and John Clare were little known and lightly read in their own time; their reputations were established later. Here is a recap of the Romantic Era: "The third of England’s 'big three' movements completed a three-century period during which the British Isles took the Western poetic mantle from Italy and molded the forms, styles, and poems that fill school classrooms to this day. The Romantic period, or Romanticism, is regarded as one of the greatest and most illustrious movements in literary history, which is all the more amazing considering that it primarily consisted of just seven poets and lasted approximately 25 years – from William Blake’s rise in the late 1790s to Lord Byron’s death in 1824. The Romantics felt that the relationships we build with nature and others defines our lives. In between, the group of poets lived as mighty flames of poetic production who were extinguished well before their time. The core group included Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and a magnificent trio of friends: Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats. While history did not treat Robert Southey so kindly, Byron considered him a key member of the movement. Keats, who wrote "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode to a Grecian Urn," only lived to the age of 26. Shelley died at 30, while Byron succumbed at 36. They wrote together, traveled together–even renting a house at the base of Rome’s Spanish Steps–and commiserated with foreign writers, most notably the older Johann Wolfgang Goethe, whose genius and versatility they idolized. Ironically, the poets held distinctly different religious beliefs and led divergent lifestyles. Blake was a Christian who followed the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenbourg (who also influenced Goethe). Wordsworth was a naturalist, Byron urbane, Keats a free spirit, Shelley an atheist, and Coleridge a card-carrying member of the Church of England. The romantics made nature even more central to their work than the metaphysical poets, treating it as an elusive metaphor in their work. They sought a freer, more personal expression of passion, pathos, and personal feelings, and challenged their readers to open their minds and imaginations. Through their voluminous output, the romantics’ message was clear: life is centered in the heart, and the relationships we build with nature and others through our hearts defines our lives. They anticipated and planted the seeds for free verse, transcendentalism, the Beat movement, and countless other artistic, musical, and poetic expressions. The Romantic movement would have likely extended further into the 19th century, but the premature deaths of the younger poets, followed in 1832 by the death of their elderly German admirer, Goethe, brought the period to an end." (We would add the great Scottish poet Robert Burns to the "Big Six," making it a "Big Seven." That's an impressive number of major poets for such a short period of time. We would rank Thomas Chatterton, Walter Scott and John Clare ahead of Robert Southey, which is no slur on his name because the other poets were that good. And we would suggest that the Romantic period started earlier than 1790, with the early Romantic work of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Gray in 1750. If not then, then very soon thereafter with the poems of Thomas Chatterton, which are about as Romantic as Romantic can get!)

1750 — The French Romantic philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau becomes famous for his Discourse on the Arts and Sciences. Rousseau is a deist, a free thinker and a heretic. Another heretic, Voltaire, moves to Prussia and becomes a salaried member of Frederick the Great's court. Samuel Johnson produces the Rambler, a periodical similar to the Spectator and the Tatler. Thomas Gray completes his masterpiece, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, one of the most perfect long poems in the English language, if not the most perfect. The poem validates the value of Everyman, a major Romantic theme, and may be the first great work of English Romanticism.

1751 — Denis Diderot's Encyclopaedia is published between 1751 and 1772 (in 17 volumes of text and 11 volumes of engravings). Diderot began work on the Encyclopaedia in 1746. It occupied more than twenty years of his life. Many of the contributors were radical thinkers who embodied the ideals of reason and enlightenment that led to the revolution in France. The Encyclopaedia was compiled and written under constant threat of censorship and surveillance. During his editorship Diderot was arrested and imprisoned for three months. Its motivating principles were freedom of thought and criticism of authority, and it was written in a language intended for everyone's understanding. Engels wrote of him, "If ever anybody dedicated his whole life to the enthusiasm for truth and justice...it was Diderot." Important contributors included Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Louis de Jaucourt. Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is published and becomes a "literary sensation."

1752 — Birth of the English poet Thomas Chatterton, called the "marvellous boy" by William Wordsworth. Wordsworth named Chatterton one of his primary influences even though he died at age seventeen. Chatterton has been called the first Romantic poet, although Thomas Gray is also a candidate, as is William Blake. Voltaire has a falling-out with Frederick the Great, leaves his court, then is detained by Frederick's agents for three weeks over the return of a poetry book! The birth of Philip Freneau; his poetry would express sympathy for Native Americans.

1753 — Phillis Wheatley, the first notable African-American poet, is born in West Africa.

1754 — Voltaire is banned from France by Louis XV, and he is unwelcome in Germany, so he takes up residence in Geneva, Switzerland. However, he has a falling-out with Calvinists over his plays, and he buys a large estate in Ferney in 1758, where he will spend most of the remaining 20 years of his life (still stirring up trouble for the state- and religious-minded). Birth of the English poet George Crabbe (1754-1832).

1755 — Rousseau has a significant article on political economy published in Diderot's landmark Encyclopιdie. Dr. Samuel Johnson publishes A Dictionary of the English Language.

1757 — Birth of the English romantic poet William Blake, perhaps the greatest of the English Romantic poets and one of England's greatest visual artists and engravers; Edmund Burke's Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful. Thomas Gray is offered the position of Poet Laureate; he declines it. Christopher Smart is confined to a mental asylum, St. Luke's Hospital for Lunatics.

1758 — Voltaire completes his most famous work and wickedest satire, Candide, or Optimism. Published in 1759, it lampoons the ideas that "this is the best of all possible worlds," that "things work out for the best" and that "God is in control." Voltaire treated the orthodox Christian faith like a very leaky pail, as would notable Romantic and Modernist poets to come.

1759 — Birth of the Scottish romantic poet Robert Burns, generally considered to be the greatest Scottish poet of all time. Christopher Smart's "Jubilate Agno." The first song known to have been written by a native-born American is "My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free" by Francis Hopkinson (who also designed the first American flag and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence). Birth of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), an English writer, philosopher and early advocate of women's rights. She is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Women.

1760 — The beginning of the Industrial Revolution, a significant influence on the artists and writers of the Romantic Movement. The first publication of Mother Goose's Melodies which includes limericks like "Hickory Dickory Dock." Christopher Smart probably writes Jubilate Agno around this time while, confined to a mental asylum for several years; it is an early free verse poem about his cat Jeoffry. Jupiter Hammon, the "property" of a Long Island aristocrat, manages to print his poem, "An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penetential Cries," which is the first work published by an African-American slave.

1761 — Rousseau's novel Julie, or the New Heloise is published. It contains rhapsodic descriptions of nature and becomes an immense success. At age four William Blake begins to have visions: he sees God; he sees angels in a tree; he sees the prophet Ezekiel.

1762 — Rousseau's Emile, or on Education is published. Because it denies original sin and divine revelation, both Catholic and Protestant authorities take offense. In The Social Contract, Rousseau writes: "Christianity preaches only servitude and dependence. Its spirit is so favorable to tyranny that it always profits by such a regime. True Christians are made to be slaves, and they know it and do not much mind: this short life counts for too little in their eyes." The Ossian poems of the Scottish poet James Macpherson have been cited as early Romantic work, and influenced Goethe and Walter Scott, and perhaps William Blake as well. 

1763 — Christopher Smart is released from the mental asylum where he spent more than half a decade. Around the tender age of ten, Thomas Chatterton writes his first poem, On the Last Epiphany, or Christ Coming to Judgment. It appeared in Felix Farley's Bristol Journal on Jan. 8, 1763. Another early poem The Churchwarden and the Apparition, A Fable also appears in the Bristol Journal. At age eleven Chatterton writes a hymn of considerable merit. It begins:

Almighty framer of the skies!
O let our pure devotion rise,
Like incense in Thy sight!
Wrapped in impenetrable shade
The texture of our souls was made,
Till Thy command gave light.

1764 — Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto has been called an early Romantic work and the first gothic novel. The birth of Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823), perhaps the most famous of the gothic novelists. Thomas Chatterton, another author with gothic leanings, writes Apostate Will, Sly Dick and I've Let My Yard and Sold My Clay.

1765 — Two important works appear in London printings that galvanize interest in the ancient ballad: James MacPherson’s The Works of Ossian, the Son of Fingal—a combined two-volume edition of his earlier published fragments and epic poetry—and Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.

1765 — Oliver Goldsmith's novel The Vicar of Wakefield is published

1767 — William Blake's parents send him to Henry Pars Drawing School around age ten; he would go on to become a master engraver. Around the same time, Thomas Chatterton becomes a scrivener (clerk) to a Bristol attorney. By age fifteen, if not earlier, Chatterton was writing poems in an antique style and language, then pretending to have "found" the work of a 15th century monk named Thomas Rowley. But when his employer catches Chatterton writing poetry, he tears it up!

1769 — Now sixteen, Thomas Chatterton offers some of his Rowley poems to Horace Walpole, who declines to help the poor and struggling young poet. Chatterton writes a bitter satirical poem in reply, To Horace Walpole. (Walpole would later say of Chatterton: "I do not believe there ever existed so masterly a genius.") Chatterton is fired by the lawyer he works for, and moves to London hoping to earn a living as a writer. Chatterton's Rowley poem Elinoure and Juga is published by Town and Country Magazine (May 1769) pp 273-74. The poem was probably written when Chatterton was around age eleven or twelve, as it is believed to be the first, or among the first, of his Rowley compositions. Despite his youth, over a period of four months Chatterton appears in eleven of the principal publications then in circulation: the Middlesex Journal, the Court and City Journal, the Political Register, the London Museum, Town and Country, the Christian, the Universal, the Gospel, the London, the Lady's, and the Freeholder's magazines. But some of the publishers either don't pay him, or are tardy, and he is slowly starving to death, to proud to accept offers of meals from his landlady.

1770 — Oliver Goldsmith's most famous poem "The Deserted Village" is published. Birth of the English poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850). Thomas Chatterton, later called the "marvellous boy" by Wordsworth, commits suicide by drinking arsenic at age seventeen. Of all the Romantic poets who died young, he was the first and the youngest. Chatterton would later be mentioned and/or commemorated by some of the most famous Romantic poets: William Blake, Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Walter Scott. Keats dedicated "Endymion" to his memory. Robert Southey edited Chatterton's posthumous collection of poems. Dante Gabriel Rossetti called him "the absolutely miraculous Chatterton" and declared him to be "as great as any English poet whatever." Joseph Warton said that Chatterton was "a prodigy of genius, and would have proved the first of English poets had he reached a mature age." Dr. Samuel Johnson said of him, "This is the most extraordinary young man that has encountered my knowledge." Edmond Malone declared him to be "the greatest genius that England has produced since the days of Shakespeare." (It would eventually be determined that many of Chatterton's poems were "reverse forgeries." He wrote the poems himself, in an antique language, then pretended to have "found" the work of an ancient monk named Thomas Rowley. But then Chatterton was not a "forger" because his poems were his own original compositions! It would also be determined that James Macpherson had done the same thing previously, pretending to have "found" poems written by an ancient bard called Ossian. Later, William Henry Ireland would claim to have "found" poems written by Shakespeare.)

1771 — Birth of the Scottish romantic poet and novelist Walter Scott (1771-1832).

1772 — Birth of the English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). He would also be a major literary critic. Around age sixteen, William Blake engraves “Joseph of Arimathea,” a work that articulates many of the principles and influences from which he would draw inspiration for the rest of his life.

1773 — Phillis Wheatley's Poems is the first book of poetry by an Afro-American slave; her poetry was praised by George Washington. Oliver Goldsmith's play She Stoops to Conquer is first performed.

1774 — Birth of the English poet Robert Southey. William Cowper's "Lines Written During a Period of Insanity" is written. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe publishes his book The Sorrows of Young Werther, perhaps the first major work of German Romanticism; it has also been called the first "best-seller" and made Goethe a celebrity at age 24. 

1775 — British troops sing "Yankee Doodle" to mock American colonists; the colonists defiantly adopt the song as their own. The birth of the English novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817), the author of Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma.

1776 — The American colonies defiantly declare independence with words written in ringing iambic pentameter by Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin: "We hold these truths to be self-evident ..."

1778 — Rousseau dies. Voltaire returns from exile to receive honor in Paris, in the form of the adoration of the masses, then also dies. The birth of William Hazlitt (1778-1830), the foremost literary critic of his day.

1779 — William Blake is admitted to the Royal Academy Schools and studies art under Sir Joshua Reynolds (although Blake had very little positive to say about Reynolds or his aesthetic theories). Blake meets Thomas Stothard and John Flaxman, forming, in Akroyd’s phrase, “a little club or community of shared interests. They were all sons of London tradesmen, all in love with the gothic past, all reading Chatterton and Ossian with profound interest.”

1782 — Rousseau's Confessions is published posthumously.

1783 — Blake's Poetical Sketches is published with the help of John Flaxman. Walter Scott enters the University of Edinburgh at age twelve, meets the blind poet Thomas Blacklock, and is introduced by the older poet to the Ossian poems of James Macpherson.

1783 — Samuel Johnson dies and lies buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey.

1785 — The birth of the English poet Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866).

1786 — Robert Burns has the poems "To a Mouse," "A Winter Night" and "To a Mountain Daisy" published.

1787 — The poem "An Evening Walk" by William Wordsworth is published.

1788 — Birth of the English romantic poet George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824). Goethe called Byron "undoubtedly the greatest genius of our century." William Blake invents the “stereotype” or “infernal method” of creating illuminated books, which requires him to learn to write backwards. He writes and publishes All Religions are One. Blake can now publish his own illuminated books without bowing to the prejudices of the day. And because he kept all his copper plates, his books have been preserved to this day.

1789 — Start of the French Revolution. The upheavals in France greatly influenced the artists and writers of the Romantic Movement. William Blake's Songs of Innocence is published; the poems include "The Lamb," "Holy Thursday" and "The Little Black Boy." Blake illustrates and engraves every page himself. Blake was unique among Christian poets in that he located innocence in the individual's childhood, rather than in the human race's childhood (i.e., Adam and Eve).

1790 — Samuel Taylor Coleridge's first published poem, at age 18, is "Monody on the Death of Thomas Chatterton." Coleridge said that he wrote the initial lines at age thirteen; he worked on the poem over a period of nearly fifty years, revising it at least six times. The final version was published just before his death in 1834.

1791 — Robert Burns publishes Tam O' Shanter. Thomas Paine's Rights of Man. Voltaire's remains are brought to Paris for entombment in the Pantheon; the procession is attended by a million people.

1792 — Birth of the English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women. In an interesting synchronicity, Percy Bysshe Shelley would marry Mary Wollstonecraft's daughter, of the same name, who would become famous as Mary Shelley for writing the gothic horror novel Frankenstein.

1793 — Births of the English poets John Clare (1793-1864) and Felicia Dorothea Hemans [Browne]. Clare's biographer called him "the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self." Although Clare was little-known in his day and was perhaps best known for being confined to an insane asylum, since then he has been proposed as a major poet. In any case, there can be no doubt that he wrote a number of remarkable poems. Felicia Hemans was a child prodigy who had a book of poems published at age fourteen. She earned the interest of Percy Bysshe Shelley, who corresponded with her, and poetic tributes from William Wordsworth and Walter Savage Landor. William Blake denounces the subjugation of women in his Visions of the Daughters of Albion.

1794 — William Cullen Bryant, one of the first notable "home-grown" American poets, is born. William Blake's Songs of Experience is published; the poems include "The Sick Rose," "London" and "The Tyger." According to the Chicago Tribune, Blake's "The Tyger" is the most anthologized poem in the English language. And the “visionary” images of Blake's Europe: A Prophecy may, in fact, be literally visionary. The most famous of these images, that of an ancient man kneeling down from a red orb, measuring the abyss below him with a compass and called the “Ancient of Days,” was inspired by a vision that hovered before Blake at the top of his staircase in Lambeth.

1795 — The births of the English romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) and the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). 

1796 — Robert Burns dies; he was honored with a white marble bust at Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, close to Shakespeare's monument. Walter Scott, who had met Burns in person as a boy, begins to publish his poetry and soon becomes famous for it.

1797 — Robert Southey's poem "Winter" is published. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin is born in England; her mother dies shortly after giving birth. Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes his two best-known poems: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Kubla Khan." While Coleridge is writing "Kubla Khan," a poem that came to him in a dream, a "person from Porlock" shows up, interrupts the poet, and the poem is never completed. And yet it becomes one of the most famous poems in the English language! The birth of Mary Shelley (1797-1851), the author of the "scientific Gothic" novel Frankenstein, and the future wife of the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

1798 — Lyrical Ballads, written primarily by William Wordsworth with a few poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is published. This book becomes the foundational text of the English Romantic Movement. The longest poem included is Coleridge's dark, gothic poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." It would inspire many poems in a similar vein.

1802 — Sir Walter Scott publishes a nationalist collection of ballads, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.

1803 — Ralph Waldo Emerson, an influential American poet and philosopher, is born. He would be a mentor of Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. The Napoleonic Wars begin when Great Britain declares war on France.

1804 — The birth of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), a future Prime Minister of England and author of socio-political novels.

1805 — Sir Walter Scott's poem "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" made him famous, although he is more famous today as a novelist. Poems written by Lord Byron at age 14 are published in Fugitive Pieces, but the book is recalled and burned because some of the poems are too "hot," especially the poem "To Mary."

1807 — Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a notable American poet who rivaled Alfred Tennyson in fame, is born.

1808 — William Blake puts on his own art exhibition but is too far ahead of his time and only sells one painting. People on the street near his home whisper, “There goes the man who talks to spirits and angels!”

1809 — Alfred Tennyson, an English poet, is born. Edgar Allan Poe, an American romantic poet, is born. Poe would be a major influence on later French romantic and modernist poets, such as Charles Baudelaire.

1810 — Walter Scott publishes his popular book of poems The Lady of the Lake. Franz Shubert and Beethoven would later set Scott's lyrics to music.

1811 — The birth of the English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), author of Vanity Fair and Barry Lyndon. The latter was turned into a movie that won four Oscars, directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick.

1812 — Lord Byron publishes Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Byron said that he "awoke one morning and found myself famous." John Clare's poem "The Mores." (Clare, who spent considerable time in a madhouse, would claim to be Byron.) The United States and Great Britain fight the War of 1812. The birth of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), the greatest novelist of the Victorian era (and one of the greatest of any era). Dickens was "the first great writer to tackle the essentially modern problem of the discontents of an urban civilization."

1813 — Walter Scott is offered the position of England's Poet Laureate. He declines and his friend, Robert Southey, becomes Poet Laureate (and will remain so for 30 years until his death in 1843). Percy Bysshe Shelley publishes Queen Mab, a youthful work of political protest.

1814 — Oxford University expels Percy Bysshe Shelley for writing a tract on the necessity of atheism; Lord Byron's poem "She Walks in Beauty (Like the Night)" is published; Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin marries Percy Bysshe Shelley; Walter Scott begins to write novels anonymously, publishing Waverly, and has been called the father of the historical novel. After witnessing the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, Maryland attorney Francis Scott Key writes the poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry," which is later set to the melody of an English drinking song, and becomes the U.S. national anthem!

1815 — Napoleon escapes from Elba and raises an army, but loses at Waterloo and surrenders. This marks the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The birth of Ada Lovelace, also known as Ada Byron, the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, and the future Countess of Lovelace. She has been deemed the first computer programmer and software developer because she formulated the first algorithm for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine (which is generally considered to be the first mechanical computer). The computer language Ada was named after her. Ada Lovelance was an advocate of what she called "poetical science." Babbage called her "Lady Fairy" and the "Enchantress of Numbers."

1816 — Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Christabel." Walter Scott heads a team which rediscovers the lost Regalia (Crown Jewels) of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle. The Prince Regent rewards him with a baronetcy and he becomes Sir Walter Scott! Lord Byron publishes Darkness. Samuel Taylor Coleridge finally publishes his poem "Kubla Khan" in its original, unfinished form. Drat that person from Porlock!

1817 — William Cullen Bryant's poem "Thanatopsis." Walter Scott publishes the historical novel Rob Roy. New Orleans designates "Congo Square" as an official site for slave music and dance. Was this a step toward the blues and jazz?

1818 — The long poem Endymion by John Keats is published, as is the famous sonnet "Ozymandias" by his friend Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley also publishes his translation of Plato's Symposium and begins work on his own Prometheus Unbound. The novel Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, a landmark Gothic/Romantic work, is published. William Cullen Bryant's poem "To a Waterfowl" is an early work of American Romanticism.

1819 — John Keats publishes his famous poems "To Autumn," "Ode to a Grecian Urn" and "Ode to a Nightingale." Most of Keats' best poetry was written in an amazing single year spanning from September 1818 to September 1819. Lord Byron publishes his major work, Don Juan. Sir Walter Scott publishes his most famous historical novel, Ivanhoe, and was paid "unprecedented sums" for his writing. Walt Whitman, an American romantic poet and the first great free verse poet of the English language, is born. Also the birth of Queen Victoria. William Hazlitt's The English Comic Writers. The birth of Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), the author of Alton Locke: Tailor and Poet.

1820 — Percy Bysshe Shelley's poems "To a Skylark," "Ode to the West Wind" and the longer Prometheus Unbound are published. Prometheus Unbound is one of the earliest literary works to forward the idea of peaceful resistance. Victor Hugo is publishing poems, and becomes a major figure of French Romanticism. William Blake moves to No. 3 Fountain Court, his last earthly residence. The young Charles Dickens works a few blocks away and it’s possible they saw one another on the street. They would both be instrumental in bringing the plight of young children forced to work as virtual slaves to the English public's attention. We may be able to attribute child labor laws to their joint influence. In a BBC poll of the hundred greatest Britons of all time, Blake was 38th and Dickens 41st. What a small world! Blake ranks above all English poets other than Shakespeare and above all English painters and other visual artists. That's not bad for an eccentric genius who developed a way to publish his own illuminated books, rather than conform to the silly prejudices of his day.

1821 — John Keats dies at age twenty-five; Percy Bysshe Shelley writes the long poem Adonias as a tribute to him. Shelley also writes his Defence of Poetry.

1822 — Percy Bysshe Shelley drowns in a boating accident at age thirty, with a book of Keats' poems in his pocket.

1823 — The poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (aka "T'was the Night Before Christmas") is published anonymously in a small-town New York paper (authorship is widely attributed to Manhattan classics professor Clement Moore), and helps shape our image of Santa Claus as a round-bellied merry fellow who smokes a pipe, descends chimneys, and travels in a reindeer-drawn sleigh.

1824 — Lord Byron arrives in Greece, ready to fight for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. Byron spends £4,000 of his own money to refit the Greek fleet, then gives "unruly Souliots" some £6,000 pounds more. Byron sells his Rochdale Manor in Scotland to raise more money for the cause. Wars of independence are expensive! But he dies at age thirty-six, due to complications related to a fever (and perhaps the subsequent bloodletting), before he can attack anyone. Huge crowds in England line up to view his coffin, but he is not allowed to be buried at Westminster Abbey because of his "questionable morality." Never mind the "morals" of the licentious kings and bishops buried there! But all ends well, thanks to English schoolchildren, who, 145 years after the great poet's death, raised enough money for a Poets' Corner memorial, in 1969. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony premieres, receiving five standing ovations. Thomas Carlyle translates Goethe's Wilhelm Meister into English. The birth of Wilkie Collins (1824-1829), an English master of the mystery story or "sensation novel."

1825 — William Hazlitt's book of literary criticism, The Spirit of the Age.

1826 — Birth of Stephen C. Foster, who has been called the "father of American music." Ironically, he had never seen the South at the time he wrote some of his most famous songs about a romanticized South, such as "Old Folks at Home" (also known as "Sewanee River"), and "My Old Kentucky Home." He only visited the South one time, in 1852, and that was on a riverboat cruise on his honeymoon (which may not have left much time for sightseeing!).

1827 — Edgar Allan Poe's Tamarlane and Other Poems. William Blake dies; he was honored with a bronze bust at Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. Robert Tatham is reputed to have inherited most of Blake's manuscripts and papers and to have destroyed work that was too erotic or heretical for his tastes. But thankfully Blake kept all his copper plates, so his major works have been preserved and protected from sabotage!

1829 — Through essays like "Signs of the Times" in the Edinburgh Review, Thomas Carlyle emerges as "the dominant social thinker of early Victorian England." Carlyle pointed out the "gulf between the rich and poor" and called for a hero capable of "galvanizing society and forcibly moving history forward."  

1830 — Alfred Tennyson publishes "The Kraken" and other lyrical poems.  Walt Whitman, age eleven, drops out of school but never stops reading.  Emily Dickinson, an American poet, is born. Christina Rossetti, an English poet, is born; her father, sister and two brothers were all writers, so she came from a very literate family.

1831 — "My Country 'Tis of Thee" (also known as: "America") was first sung at Park Street Church in Boston. The words were written by Samuel Francis Smith and set to the tune of "God Save the King."

1832 — John Clare's poem "Remembrances" is published. Sir Walter Scott dies.

1834 — Charles Dickens attacks the 1834 Poor Law with his novel Oliver Twist.

1835 — John Clare's poem "Evening" is published. "Amazing Grace" is published to the tune of "New Britain" in William Walker's The Southern Harmony (this is the version most often sung today). 

1836 — Charles Dickens has success with the serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Ralph Waldo Emerson is a founder of the Transcendental Club. Emerson publishes his first essay, "Nature," anonymously. In his essay, Emerson declared American literary independence and urged American writers to develop their own independent style, rather than imitating European writers. James Russell Lowell, who was a student at Harvard at the time, called it "an event without former parallel on our literary annals." Emerson would eventually "discover" Walt Whitman, who at this time had just taken a job as a schoolteacher, despite having dropped out of school at age eleven! Here is a brief recap of the American Transcendentalists (1836-1860): "Of all the great communities and movements, the American Transcendentalists might be the first to have an intentional, chronicled starting date: September 8, 1836, when a group of prominent New England intellectuals led by poet-philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson met at the Transcendental Club in Boston. They gathered to discuss Emerson’s essay 'Nature' and developed 'The American Soul,' which stated, 'We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds ... A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men.' The Transcendentalists grew from that mission statement, which was inspired by Emerson’s love of Hinduism, Swedenbourg’s mystical Christianity, and Immanuel Kant’s transcendental philosophy. They created a shadow society that espoused utopian values, spiritual exploration, and full development of the arts. They revolted against a culture they thought was becoming too puritanical, and an educational system they thought overly intellectual. Like the Romantics, heart-centered, personal expression was their aim – and so was the development of socialized community. They even had a commune, Brook Farm. These sentiments informed their gatherings, discussions, public meetings, essays, and poetry. Unlike the Romantics, who often clashed because of their personal differences, the Transcendentalists sought commonalities, no doubt influenced by Emerson’s adherence to Hinduism. A number of great authors, poets, artists, social leaders, and intellectuals called themselves Transcendentalists. They included Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Orestes Brownson, William Ellery Channing, Sophia Peabody, and her husband, Nathaniel Hawthorne."

Our top ten poets of the Victorian Era: Anne Reeve Aldrich, Oscar Wilde, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Matthew Arnold, Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman

The Victorian Era and Pre-Modernism (1837-1901)
This is an interesting period because poets like Tennyson and Longfellow were writing in a more traditional style, while poets like Whitman and Dickinson were beginning to "make it new" (to borrow a phrase from Ezra Pound). Whitman, Dickinson and Mark Twain would help free American poetry and literature from what had been largely mimicry of European voices.

1837 — Queen Victoria takes the throne of the United Kingdom, leading to what has become known as tame and staid Victorianism.

1839 — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Voices of the Night.

1842 — Robert Browning's Dramatic Lyrics, including "My Last Duchess."

1843 — The Christy Minstrels form; they perform in blackface and are very popular. The group pays Stephen C. Foster $15,000 for exclusive rights to his song "Old Folks at Home."

1846 — Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning are married: they become poetry's first "super couple." Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte and Anne Bronte publish a joint collection of poems. Walt Whitman becomes an editor and writes a review of the early novels of a young writer named Herman Melville. Adolphe Sax invents the saxophone.

1847 — Tennyson publishes "Tears, Idle Tears." Longfellow publishes "Evangeline." Emily Bronte publishers her dark gothic/romantic masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Her sister Charlotte Bronte publishes Jane Eyre.

1848 — Walt Whitman loses his editing job because he opposes slavery. He returns to New York, where he founds an antislavery newspaper called the Weekly Freeman. The paper's offices are burned after the first issue is published. For the next six years, Whitman works as a freelance journalist while honing his poetic style. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is founded by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, among others. The German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is founded by the poet/artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and two other artists; aligned poets include Christina Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne.

1850 — Tennyson publishes "In Memoriam" and is made Poet Laureate.

1851 — Stephen Foster writes "Old Folks at Home" for a minstrel show; it is published in sheet music.

1854 — Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade."

1855 — Walt Whitman self-publishes his revolutionary book of free verse poems, Leaves of Grass. Ralph Waldo Emerson sends Whitman a letter praising the book and congratulating him on "the beginning of a great career."

1855 — Walt Whitman publishes the second edition of Leaves of Grass, with 32 new poems. He also reprints Emerson's congratulatory letter without permission, angering the elder poet. Whitman makes a career out of revising and updating the book, with more than half a dozen editions in his lifetime.

1859 — The biggest hit song of the era, "Dixie," was ironically written by Daniel Decatur Emmett, a Northerner from Ohio. The song became enormously popular in the South during the Civil War and was also ironically one of Abraham Lincoln's favorite songs. Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species.

1861 — The Confederates attack Fort Sumter, starting the Civil War. Julia Ward Howe writes the poem "Battle Hymn of the Republic" based on the hymn "John Brown's Body." Walt Whitman moves to Washington D.C. and works as a nurse in military hospitals.

1862 — Emily Dickinson's "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" is published; hers is one of the first and most unique voices of modernism.

1863 — Samuel Langhorne Clemens uses the penname "Mark Twain" for the first time; although better known as a novelist and humorist, Twain would write more than 120 poems during his storied career. Twain was another uniquely modern voice and was called the "father of American literature" by William Faulkner.

1865 — The Civil War ends when the Confederate states surrender. Slavery is abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment. Abraham Lincoln is assassinated. Walt Whitman publishes his elegy for Lincoln, "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd." Whitman's boss at the Department of the Interior fires him because of the supposedly obscene content of Leaves of Grass, which Whitman works on during his downtime at the office. He immediately gets another job at the U.S. Attorney General's Office.

1866 — Birth of the American poet and novelist Anne Reeve Aldrich. Her books include The Rose of Flame (1889), The Feet of Love (1890), Nadine and Other Poems (1893), A Village Ophelia and Other Stories (1899) and Songs about Life, Love, and Death (1892). She has been called an American Sappho. Whitman and his friend William D. O'Connor publish The Good Gray Poet, a defense of Whitman in the wake of his firing from the Interior. Fisk University, a black college, is founded in Nashville, Tennessee.

1867 — Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach has been called a masterpiece of Early Modernism, employing irregular rhyme and form, skepticism, pessimism, and exhibiting a crisis of faith in both God and mankind. Birth of Scott Joplin, the African-American pianist and composer known as the "King of Ragtime." Slave Songs of the United States, the earliest collection of African-American spirituals, is published.

1869 — Edward Arlington Robinson, an American poet, is born.

1870 — Charles Dickens dies with his Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished and is appropriately buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey.

1871 — Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. Stephen Crane, an American poet, is born. The Fisk Jubilee Singers are formed.

1874 — Robert Frost, an American poet, is born. Gertrude Stein, an American poet, is born.

1878 — Carl Sandburg, an American poet, is born.

1879 — Wallace Stevens, an American poet, is born. 

1881 — Oscar Wilde's poems are published; he and Whitman were among the first gay poets to "come out of the closet" publicly. Tony Pastor, a former circus ringleader, creates what we now call vaudeville by creating family-friendly acts for his New York theaters. However, over time vaudeville acts would often be less "polite" than what Pastor had envisioned.

1882 — Francis James Child publishes a book of 305 popular ballads as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. The ballads included are often called the "Child ballads." Some probably date back to the 13th century.

1883 — William Carlos Williams, an American poet, is born.

1884 — Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn takes a strong stand against racism and slavery. Huck says he would rather go to hell then turn in his friend Jim, the escaped slave.

1885 — Ezra Pound, an American poet, is born.

1886 — H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), an American poet, is born.

1888 — T. S. Eliot, an American poet, is born. Columbia Records, the first major American record label, is founded.

1889 — William Butler Yeats publishes The Wanderings of Oisin. He would become a leading poet of modernism. Robert Browning dies and is buried next to Alfred Tennyson at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey.

1890 — Emily Dickinson's poems are published posthumously. Fin-de-siθcle (1890-1900) poets who took notes from the French symbolists include William Butler Yeats, Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, Arthur Symons, Oscar Wilde and Charles Algernon Swinburne.

1892 — Whitman prepares the final edition of Leaves of Grass, known as the "Deathbed Edition." In his author's note, he writes that he would like "this new 1892 edition to absolutely supersede all previous ones. Faulty as it is, he decides it is by far his special and entire self-chosen poetic utterance." Whitman dies at age 72, one of the greatest and most influential poets of all time. "Harlem Rag" by the pianist Tommy Turpin is the first known ragtime composition.

1894 — E. E. Cummings, an American poet, is born. /bookmark/

1895 — "America the Beautiful" is a poem written by Katharine Lee Bates that is later set to music by Samuel A. Ward. Scott Joplin publishes two ragtime compositions. Cornetist Buddy Bolden forms a band; he has been credited with the creation of the countermelody of jazz.

1896 — A. E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad. Gay and an atheist, Housman was one of the strongest voices of early modernism. The introduction of radio technology.

1897 — John Philip Sousa composes "Stars and Stripes Forever" and more than 100 popular marches; composers Scott Joplin, James Scott, and Joseph Lamb establish and popularize ragtime, giving birth to America's popular music industry. Jimmie Rogers, known as the "father of country music," is born.

1898 — Thomas Hardy's Wessex Poems. Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

1899 — Ernest Dowson's Decorations: in Verse and Prose. Dowson would be a major influence on T. S. Eliot, and thus on modernism. Hart Crane, an American poet, is born. Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" is published and becomes the first big Ragtime hit with over 100,000 copies sold. Duke Ellington is born.

1900 — William Butler Yeats publishes The Shadowy Waters. Yvor Winters is born. 

Our top ten poets of Early Modernism: James Joyce, William Carlos Williams, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Vachel Lindsay, Carl Sandburg, Ernest Dowson, Ezra Pound, Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, William Butler Yeats

Early Modernism and the Edwardian Period (1901-1910)

1901 — Approximate beginning time for American country music and jazz. Sears, Roebuck and Co. is selling record players to the public, setting the stage for the coming explosion of hit record sales. Charles Booth's performance of J. Bodewalt Lange's "Creole Blues" is recorded for the new Victor label. This is the first acoustic recording of ragtime to be made commercially available. A plaque with Emma Lazarus's poem "The New Colossus" is added to the Statue of Liberty. Laura Riding is born. King Edward VII assumes the British throne, beginning the Edwardian Period.

1902 — Thomas Hardy publishes Poems of the Past and Present. Alfred Noyes publishes The Loom of Years. Hilda Doolittle, aka H.D., meets and befriends Ezra Pound. Ogden Nash is born, synchronistically, in the same year as the earliest-published American limerick, which appeared in 1902 in the Princeton Tiger: This is the popular limerick that starts "There once was a man from Nantucket." Victor Records issues the first known recording of black music, "Camp Meeting Shouts." Pianist Jelly Roll Morton claims to have invented jazz in this year. Buddy Bolden is another candidate, as he creates a fusion of blues and ragtime.

1903 — Wilbur and Orville Wright fly the first airplane at Kitty Hawk. William Butler Yeats publishes In the Seven Woods. Countee Cullen, an American poet, is born. W. C. Handy sees a bluesman playing a guitar with a knife (the first "pick"?). A plaque bearing the sonnet "The New Colossus" by Manhattan socialite Emma Lazarus is mounted inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, greeting newcomers with the lines, "Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

1904 — Thomas Hardy's The Dynasts. Christina Rossetti's Poetical Works. Algernon Charles Swinburne's A Channel Passage and Other Poems. Carl Sandburg's In Restless Ecstasy. Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet, is born.

1905 — Albert Einstein presents his Special Theory of Relativity. Vachel Lindsay peddles his poems on the street, makes 13 cents, and is ecstatic. Ernest Dowson's The Poems of Ernest Dowson. Oscar Wilde's De Profundis (posthumous). Paul Laurence Dunbar's Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow.

1906 — Alfred Noyes's "The Highwayman." Thomas Hardy's The Dynasts II.

1907 — James Joyce's Chamber Music. Sara Teasdale's Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems. Rudyard Kipling, an English poet and novelist, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. W. H. Auden, an English poet, is born. Buddy Bolden is committed to a mental institution without having ever recorded any music. The first wireless broadcast of classical music is produced in New York.

1908 — Ezra Pound's A Lume Spento. Pound, a transplanted American, is considered by many to be the father of English modernism. Pound leaves American for Venice. William Butler Yeats publishes The Collected Works in Verse and Prose. Thomas Hardy publishes The Dynasts III. Theodore Roethke, an American poet, is born. Alcohol is banned in North Carolina and Georgia, presaging Prohibition.

1909 — Two poems published by T. E Hulme are considered to be the beginning of the early modernist movement called Imagism. Hulme forms the Secession Club with F. S. Flint and other poets. Ezra Pound soon joins the club. The poets discuss free verse and employing the methods of Oriental verse forms such as haiku and tanka. Pound publishes Personae and Exultations. William Carlos Williams publishes Poems. Robert Peary reaches the North Pole.

1910 — "Memphis Blues" is composed. Ford Madox Ford publishes Poems from London. Charles Olson, an American poet, is born. The NAACP is founded. Mark Twain dies. Marie Curie isolates radium. King George V assumes the British throne, beginning the Georgian Period.

Our top ten Modernist poets: E. E. Cummings, Edna St. Vincent Millay, D. H. Lawrence, Louise Bogan, Dylan Thomas, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Hart Crane, Wilfred Owen, Wallace Stevens (#1)

The Georgian Period (1910-1936), World War I and the Modernists

1911 — Georgian poets include Rupert Brooke, W. H. Davies, Robert Graves, D. H. Lawrence, Walter de la Mare, John Masefield, Harold Monro, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Edward Thomas, Vita Sackville-West. Wilhelm Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky, who writes under the pen name "Guillaume Apollinaire," is suspected in the theft of the Mona Lisa from The Louvre museum in Paris and is imprisoned for six days. Ezra Pound's Canzoni is published in London. Irving Berlin completes "Alexander's Ragtime Band," his first hit; culmination of ragtime craze.

1912 — Harriet Munroe founds the literary journal Poetry, influenced by Ezra Pound as a foreign editor. Pound, H.D. and Richard Aldington work out the principles of Imagist poetry. The first Imagist poems and essays to be published appear in Poetry. The Titanic sinks. Thomas Hardy's "The Convergence of the Twain." Rudyard Kipling publishes Collected Poems. Walter de la Mare publishes The Listeners and Other Poems. Robinson Jeffers publishes Flagons and Apples. Edna St. Vincent Millay publishes Renascence. Elinor Wylie publishes Incidental Numbers. Northrop Frye is born. The "father of the blues," W. C. Handy, publishes songs titled "Memphis Blues," helps inaugurate a new style based on rural black folk music.

1913 — D. H. Lawrence's Love Poems. Ezra Pound publishes an article about Imagism. Notable imagist poets include Pound, Hulme, F. S. Flint, H. D., Aldington and Amy Lowell. Pound's Des Imagistes is published. Harold Monro founds the Poetry Bookshop in London, where Ezra Pound and Robert Frost will eventually meet. Wallace Stevens and his wife, Elsie, rent a New York City apartment from sculptor Adolph Weinman, who makes a bust of Elsie; her image later is used on the artist's 1916-1945 Mercury dime design. Rabindranath Tagore is awarded the Nobel prize in literature. D. H. Lawrence publishes Love Poems and Others. The word "jazz" first appears in print.

1914 — Great Britain enters World War I by declaring war on Germany. The Panama Canal opens to commercial traffic. Ezra Pound marries English artist Dorothy Shakespear at St Mary Abbots church, Kensington, London. T. S. Eliot meets Pound for the first time, in London. Edward Thomas makes the English railway journey which inspires his poem "Adlestrop" en route to meet Robert Frost; Thomas begins writing poetry for the first time after this summer. BLAST, a short-lived literary magazine of the Vorticist movement, is founded with the publication of the first of its total of two editions, edited by Wyndham Lewis. J. R. R. Tolkien writes a poem about Eδrendil, the first appearance of his mythopoeic Middle-earth legendarium that will, in time, spawn the Lord of the Rings trilogy. At this time Tolkien is an Oxford undergraduate living at Phoenix Farm, Gedling near Nottingham. Thomas Hardy publishes Satires of Circumstance. William Butler Yeats publishes Responsibilities. Robert Frost publishes his first book of poems, North of Boston, at age 46. Wallace Stevens has his first major publication, "Phases" in Poetry at age 35. Carl Sandburg publishes "Chicago" in Poetry. Dylan Thomas, a Welsh poet, is born. Randall Jarrell, an American poet is born. John Berryman, an American poet, is born. Pianist W.C. Handy writes St. Louis Blues.

1915 — T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is published with the help of Ezra Pound by Poetry. Pound is completing the first section of his long poem The Cantos. Herbert Read publishes Songs of Chaos. John McCrea publishes "In Flanders Fields." Edgar Lee Masters publishes Spoon River Anthology. Billie Holliday, an African-American singer, is born. Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity.

1916 — Thomas Hardy's Selected Poems. D. H. Lawrence's Amores. Edward Thomas's first published poetry collection, Six Poems, under the pseudonym Edward Eastway. William Butler Yeats's "Easter, 1916." Robert Frost's Mountain Interval, including his famous poem "The Road Not Taken," written about Edward Thomas. Carl Sandburg publishes Chicago Poems, including his best-known poem, "Chicago." W. H. Davies publishes Selected Poems. John Ciardi, an American poet, is born. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia will have worldwide repercussions.

1917 — The U.S. enters World War I and begins to dominate international affairs. More than 200,000 black men will serve in the U.S. armed forces in segregated units; they can fight and die for their country, but are not equal citizens.

1918 — Wilfred Owen writes his graphic anti-war poem, "Dulce et Decorum Est." He dies just before the armistice that ends WWI. Tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins tours with blues singer Mamie Smith and begins to develop a unique style of playing. The black singer, actor, and civil rights activist Paul Robeson graduates first in his class from Rutgers University.

1919 — George Gershwin's first and biggest hit is "Swanee." It is introduced by the singer Al Jolson, famous for performing in blackface. Physicist Ernest Rutherford, known as the father of nuclear physics, discovers a way to induce the splitting of an atom. This is the first instance of an experiment performing nuclear transmutation, the changing of one chemical element into another. The Original Dixieland Jass Band performs in London.

1920 — Women's suffrage adopted in the U.S. Edna St. Vincent Millay's "First Fig." Jazz is made popular by musicians like Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. Mamie Smith records for Okeh Records; her "Crazy Blues" becomes the first blues hit, beginning the business of "race" recording. The first blues record is recorded on Valentine's Day (February 14, 1920) when Mamie Smith, a black vaudeville performer cuts "Crazy Blues." The records sells "phenomenally" well and record companies are soon "beating the bushes for any black woman who can sing."

1921 — Adolf Hitler is elected leader of the Nazi Party in Germany.

1922 — T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" (considered by many to be a foundational text of English modernism). Edward Arlington Robinson wins the first Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The jazz pianist William "Count" Basie makes his first recordings. The first commercial recordings of what was considered country music were "Arkansas Traveler" and "Turkey in the Straw" by fiddlers Henry Gilliland & A.C. (Eck) Robertson on June 30, 1922 at the office of Victor Records in New York. They were Confederate veterans playing "hillbilly music."

1923 — Wallace Stevens's Harmonium. William Carlos Williams's "The Red Wheelbarrow." W. B. Yeats, an Irish poet, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. Edna St. Vincent Millay wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, the defining performers of classic blues, make their recording debuts. Ralph Peer of Okeh records the music of Fiddlin' John Carson in an empty loft in Atlanta. Carson's record becomes a regional hit and convinces Peer that there is an untapped market for "hillbilly" music. Hiram King "Hank" Williams is born in Olive, Alabama. Hank Williams will become country music's greatest icon and most imitated performer.

1924 — Robert Frost wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Robinson Jeffers' "Shine, Perishing Republic."

1925 — Amy Lowell wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. E. E. Cummings receives the Dial Award. In Nashville the Grand Ole Opry begins radio broadcasts, bringing country and western music to the masses. Blind Lemon Jefferson is first recorded; he will become the dominant blues figure of the late 1920s and the first star of the folk blues.

1926 — Langston Hughes' The Weary Blues

1927 — Show Boat becomes the first hugely popular American musical comedy. Jimmie Rogers, the "father of country music," appears on a radio station for the first time, in Ashville, North Carolina. Rogers then records "Blue Yodel," better known as "T for Texas" and is catapulted to stardom. The Carter family, another country music group, also makes its first recordings. They would employ a black man to find black tunes for them to use. It would be the convergence of black music and country music that would eventually "fuse" into rock and roll in the hands of artists like Elvis Presley. /bookmark/

1928 — Edward Arlington Robinson wins his third Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Thomas Hardy dies and is buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. Or rather, his ashes are buried there and his heart is buried at Stinsford with his wife Emma. (Shades of David Livingston!)

1929 — The Great Depression cripples the American economy, hurting the sales of books, phonographs and records.

1930 — Hart Crane's The Bridge. Conrad Aiken wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas writes his first poem, around age 15. Many of his most famous poems were written as a teenager. Years later, Bob Dylan would take his assumed last name from Thomas's first.

1931 — E. E. Cummings writes the great modernist anti-war poem "i sing of Olaf glad and big."

1933 — Archibald MacLeish wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1934 — Adolf Hitler becomes dictator of Germany.

1936 — Debut of the electric guitar; the dawn of the rock 'n' roll age. Legendary Delta bluesman Robert Johnson begins his short recording career. Rudyard Kipling dies and is buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. King George V dies, ending the Georgian Period.

World War II, the Cold War, Modernism and Postmodernism (1937-Present)

1937 — Robert Frost wins his third Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Joseph Auslander is appointed the first American Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

1939 — Great Britain enters World War II. During the war, pocket-sized collections of poems by writers including Percy Bysshe Shelley, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are distributed to soldiers for comfort and inspiration. (Wilfred Owen is presumably not included.) Yeats dies. W. H. Auden's famous elegy "In Memory of W. B. Yeats." Eddie Durham records the first music featuring the electric guitar; it will influence the development of the blues, which will in turn influence the popular music that came to be known as rock'n'roll.

1941 — T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets." The debut of FM radio stations. Alan Lomax records McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, at Stovall's Farm in Mississippi.

1942 — Wallace Stevens's Of Modern Poetry. The first award of a gold record for a million-selling hit went to Glenn Miller for "Chatanooga Choo-Choo."

1943 — Robert Frost wins his fourth Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Allen Tate is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

1944 — Stephen Vincent Benet wins his second Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Robert Penn Warren  is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

1945 — The end of World War II. Louise Bogan is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

1946 — Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish." Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill." Herman Hesse, a German poet, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. Karl Shapiro is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. The Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun is huge hit. Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup records "That's All Right," a tune that recalls Blind Lemon Jefferson's "That Black Snake Moan" from twenty years earlier. Within a decade, Elvis Presley will cover "That's All Right" for his debut hit (perhaps the first rock'n'roll song as we think of the genre today).

1947 — Robert Lowell wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Bluesman T-Bone Walker plays electric guitar on the recording of his standard "Call it Stormy Monday." Muddy Waters makes his first Chicago recordings, beginning his tenure as the dominant figure in the Chicago blues and a key link between the Mississippi Delta and the urban styles.

1948 — T. S. Eliot wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. W. H. Auden wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Leonie Adams is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Columbia Records introduces the LP ("long playing") vinyl record, or "album." Here is a recap of the Beat movement (1948-1963): "It only lasted 15 years and was known by the masses only in the last six, but the combination of disenfranchisement, wanderlust, and creative expression that inflicted a handful of New York and San Francisco students and young intellectuals resulted in the most influential movement of the past 100 years – the Beat movement. The Beats formed from a wide variety of characters and interests, but were linked by a common thread: a desire to live life as they defined it. The mixture of academia, be-bop jazz, the liberating free verse of William Carlos Williams, and the influence of budding author Jack Kerouac (who coined the term 'Beat Generation' in 1948 at a meeting with Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, and William S. Burroughs) inspired a young Ginsberg to change everything he’d learned about poetry. He wrote throughout the early 1950s in a narrative free verse, joined by the young Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky, and the older Burroughs, who, like Kerouac, opted for fiction – though Kerouac wrote beautiful poetry that has been read and appreciated over the past two decades. By the mid-1950s, the Beats’ mixture of free-expression jazz and socially informed free verse poetry became the anthem for a generation of Greenwich Village youth seeking greater spiritual meaning through visceral experiences and the laying down – or trampling – of their parents’ strict, Depression and World War II-fed mores. In 1956, the scene exploded into the public eye when Ginsberg published Howl, followed a year later by Kerouac’s On The Road, which he’d been shopping to publishers since 1949. Ironically, the explosion was triggered not in New York, the center of early Beat poetry, but across the continent at San Francisco’s Six Gallery. On October 9, 1955, a group of Beat poets from both coasts gathered for what became the 20th century’s most famous single reading – but it was Ginsberg’s reading of Howl that left his peers gasping in amazement and that ignited a subculture. By the time of the Six Gallery reading, San Francisco was host to a burgeoning Beat community that included poets Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Philip LaMantia, and three older influences: Kenneth Rexroth, Lew Welch, and Philip Whalen. In 1947, Rexroth launched the San Francisco Renaissance, a loose poetic movement including he, Whalen, Kenneth Patchen, and William Everson. It directly fed the San Francisco Beats, as did the Black Mountain Poets that included Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov. Another major contributor was former New York poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who owned and operated City Lights bookstore, which in the 1950s sold books that were banned by the U.S. Justice Department. He published Howl, thus creating a legacy as the greatest publisher and distributor of Beat literature. In 1947, Kenneth Rexroth launched the San Francisco Renaissance, which fed into the San Francisco Beats. Beat poets and their works fostered a new era of appreciation and study of poetry. The emerging Baby Boomer generation fanned the fame of the Beats far beyond what any of them imagined. The Beats also influenced East Village poet-musicians Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg (who formed the Fugs), and a group of artistic, musically inclined youth who hung out in San Francisco’s North Beach and Haight-Ashbury districts. That group went on to launch psychedelic rock and the cultural revolution of the late 1960s. Growing fame also brought many fine Beat poets to the surface, such as Diane Di Prima, Joanne Kyger, LeRoi Jones, and Herbert Huncke, who worked in the shadows of their more renowned peers."

1949 — Elizabeth Bishop is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Hank Williams Sr. made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry. Jerry Wexler, an editor at Billboard magazine, coins the term "rhythm and blues" as a substitute for the older term "race records."

1950 — Nat King Cole hits the charts with "Mona Lisa." Little Richard is an electric star. Conrad Aiken is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

1951 — Carl Sandburg wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed uses the term "rock 'n' roll" to promote rhythm and blues to white audiences. Muddy Waters is the king of the blues singers.

1952 — Dylan Thomas's great villanelle for his dying father, "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night." William Carlos Williams is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Kitty Wells with her recording of "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" has the first No. 1 Billboard country hit for a solo female artist. She was the first female singer to sell a million records. Sam Phillips founds Sun Records. B.B. King has his first major rhythm and blues hit with a version of "Three O'Clock Blues."

1953 — Archibald MacLeish wins his second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1954 — Bill Haley and the Comets have the first rock smash with "Rock Around the Clock." Elvis Presley records his first commercial record, a cover of the Arthur Crudup song "That's All Right, Mama," at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Theodore Roethke wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Wallace Stevens' Collected Poems.

1955 — Black artists. sometimes employing racy lyrics, begin to hit the pop charts: Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, the Platters. Chuck Berry's "Maybellene." Buddy Holley watches Elvis perform in Lubbock, Texas, and begins to perform in a similar rockabilly style. Decca Records soon signs Holley, but misspells his last name "Holly." Later the same year, the renamed Holly opens for Elvis and Bill Haley. Wallace Stevens wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" is a precursor of rap and modern performance poetry. Louise Bogan wins the Bollingen award.

1956 — Elizabeth Bishop wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Randall Jarrell is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Elvis tops the pop charts with "Heartbreak Hotel," "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog" and "Love Me Tender." Elvis "the Pelvis" performs "Hound Dog" on the Milton Berle TV show, gyrating his hips and causing girls in the audience to swoon and scream. Black artists have mainstream hits: the Platters, Nat King Cole, Fats Domino, Little Richard.

1957 — San Francisco book publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti is arrested for publishing Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl." The landmark obscenity trial (and not-guilty verdict) essentially leads to the end of U.S. government censorship. Richard Wilbur wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Elvis is "All Shook Up" and doing the "Jailhouse Rock." His rockabilly protιgι Buddy Holly and the Crickets hit the charts with "That'll Be the Day." 

1958 — Robert Penn Warren wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Robert Frost is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Rock hits a high gear with up-tempo classics like "Tequila," "Get a Job" and "At the Hop." Buddy Holly appears on the Ed Sullivan show. Boris Pasternak, a Russian poet, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. Ezra Pound's indictment for treason is dismissed. The Bollingen Prize is awarded to e. e. cummings. Billboard magazine begins its Hot 100 chart, listing popular songs. Ricky Nelson's "Poor Little Fool" is the first No. 1 record. The second gold record for selling a million copies is awarded to Perry Como for "Catch a Falling Star."

1959 — Stanley Kunitz wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Richard Eberhart is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Berry Gordy Jr. founds the Motown record label to mass-market black music; its future stars include the Miracles, Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.

1960 — W. D. Snodgrass wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Sam Cooke scores big with "Chain Gang." Muddy Waters performs at the Newport Jazz Festival to tremendous acclaim.

1961 — Louis Untermeyer is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. The Motown record label has its first number one hit with "Please Mr. Postman" by the girl group The Marvelettes. Roy Orbison has an operatic pop hit with "Cryin'." Ben E. King scores with "Stand By Me" and "Spanish Harlem." Country music singer Patsy Cline becomes a mainstream star.

1962 — Bob Zimmerman changes his name to Bob Dylan, taking his new last name from Dylan Thomas's first. James Brown records "Live At The Apollo." Brown’s drummer Clayton Fillyau introduces a sound  now known as the break beat, which would later inspire the b-boy movement, and rap. Ray Charles tops the charts with "I Can't Stop Lovin' You." Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons hit the high notes on "Sherry." Sylvia Plath's tormented "Daddy." Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays."

1963 — William Carlos Williams wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Howard Nemerov is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Bob Dylan becomes famous for folk songs and protest songs like "Blowin' in the Wind."

1964 — Reed Whittemore is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. The Beatles top the American charts for the first time with "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and Beatlemania has begun. The Beatles appear on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964 with an estimated audience of 73 million. The British invasion also includes the Animals with "House of the Rising Sun" and the Kinks with "You Really Got Me." Other popular British invasion groups include the Rolling Stones, the Who and Herman's Hermits. Ironically, the "invasion" largely consists of white English rockers importing American blues classics and emulations!

1965 — Stephen Spender is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Jim Morrison and The Doors begin to perform, taking their name from poet William Blake's "Doors of Perception." The bad boys of rock'n'roll, the Rolling Stones, score with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Bob Dylan has a major hit with "Like a Rolling Stone" and goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival (receiving boos from the audience and producers). Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) recites one of his first rhymes before defeating Sonny Liston for the heavyweight boxing title. Elizabeth Bishop's "The Armadillo." James Brown is the "godfather of soul."

1966 — James Dickey is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. The Beatles, Monkees, Beach Boys, Supremes, Rolling Stones, Petula Clark and Frank and Nancy Sinatra somehow manage to coexist on the popular charts.

1967 — Anne Sexton wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Lulu, Englebert Humperdink, the Sinatras, the Doors and the Rolling Stones incongruously top the charts together. Dolly Parton begins singing on the Porter Wagoner show. The birth of Kurt Cobain, who would become the leading poet/songwriter/performer of the "grunge movement" and an important spokesman for Generation X.

1968 — At a campaign stop in Indianapolis it falls to democratic presidential candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy to deliver news of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination to a largely black crowd. In his spontaneous eulogy from the back of a flatbed truck, Kennedy quotes his "favorite poet," Aeschylus: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." William Jay Smith is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Cream, the Beatles, Bobby Goldsboro, Herb Alpert, Jeanie C. Riley, Richard Harris and Archie Bell and the Drells top the schizophrenic Billboard charts. Jimi Hendrix becomes a guitar legend and pioneer of psychedelic rock.

1969 — Woodstock features folk and rock poets Arlo Guthrie; Joan Baez; John Fogerty; Sly Stone; Janis Joplin; Jimi Hendrix; and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Hendrix steals the show by playing a hard rock version of "The Star Spangled Banner" on his electric Fender Stratocaster. (But somehow the Archies maintain the number one position on the charts with the sugary pop hit "Sugar, Sugar.") Johnny Cash, who had some problems with the law himself, performs for the inmates of San Quentin.

1970 — William Stafford is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. The Moody Blues, ELO and Pink Floyd invent "art rock."

1971 — Josephine Jacobsen is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Ex-Beatle John Lennon releases his Imagine album with its utopian title song. Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Jesus Christ, Superstar.

1972 — The earliest "rap" musical events are held in the Bronx.

1973 — Great Britain joins the European Union. Daniel Hoffman is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. An estimated one billion viewers watch Elvis Presley's TV concert Aloha from Hawaii. The film American Graffiti is the first major movie about rock 'n' roll.

1974 — Robert Lowell wins his second Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Stanley Kunitz is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. The debut of disco music.

1975 — Queen releases the single "Bohemian Rhapsody" which features surreal, ultra-modernistic lyrics. It is followed by the album A Night at the Opera. Bruce Springsteen is all the rage as the reigning rock poet with "Born to Run." Patti Smith is the pioneer of punk music with "Horses."

1976 — Robert Hayden is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art." James Merrill's The Changing Light at Sandover.

1977 — The movie Saturday Night Fever popularizes disco and makes the Bee Gees major stars. Elvis Presley dies prematurely and unexpectedly, although some of his fans insist that he remains alive.

1978 — William Meredith is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Sony introduces the Walkman and the concept of personal, portable music. The debut of hip-hop music, which is very close to poetry and rap. The debut of Soul Train.

1979 — The Sugarhill Gang’s "Rapper's Delight" is released; it becomes the first rap/hip-hop song/poem to reach the Billboard's Top 40. Robert Penn Warren wins his second Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

1980 — Blondie has the first white rap/hip-hop hit with "Rapture."

1981 — Maxine Kumin is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. MTV debuts with innovative music videos.

1982 — Sylvia Plath wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her collected poems. Anthony Hecht is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Michael Jackson releases his album "Thriller," which becomes the biggest-selling album of all time. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, based on poems written by T. S. Eliot, goes on to become the longest-running Broadway musical of all time. Nineteen-year-old Occidental College student Barack Obama publishes his poem, "Pop," in the school's literary magazine. It reads, in part:

Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagrams, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world.

1983 — Compact discs begin to replace vinyl records. Madonna has her first international hits with "Holiday," "Borderline" and "Lucky Star." Michael Jacksons wows the MTV world with his first public moonwalk during a live performance of "Billie Jean," but the "backslide" had actually been around since the 1930's when it was called the "Buzz" by Cab Calloway. The first recorded performance of the gliding-backwards dance step is a film of Bill Bailey tap dancing then exiting by moonwalking at the Apollo in 1955. The "backslide" was being performed by street dancers when Jackson adopted and renamed it. Other performers of the "backslide" before MJ include Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Dick Van Dyke, Lucille Ball, James Brown, Bob Fosse and Judy the Frog (who called the step the "moonwalk" in a 1969 demonstration on H. R. Pufnstuf.)

1984 — Reed Whittemore is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress for the second time, on an interim basis. Robert Fitzgerald is later appointed Poet Laureate. Marvin Gaye, who wrote the lyric "Father, father, there's no need to escalate" was shot and killed by his father, a preacher. Prince wins an Oscar for the score to "Purple Rain." Madonna becomes an outrageous new kind of liberated female pop star with her album and title song "Like a Virgin."

1985 — Gwendolyn Brooks is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Freddy Mercury and Queen steal the show at Live Aid.

1986 — President Ronald Reagan borrows a few lines from the James Magee Jr. poem "High Flight" in his Oval Office address to comfort a grieving nation following the Challenger disaster, saying the crew had "slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God." Robert Penn Warren is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress for the second time.

1987 — Joseph Brodsky, a Russian poet, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. Richard Wilbur is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

1988 — Howard Nemerov is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress for the second time. Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop," buys a ranch and calls it Neverland.

1989 — Richard Wilbur wins his second Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

1990 — Octavio Paz, a Mexican poet, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. Mark Strand is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

1991 — Nirvana's first single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," helped make grunge cool. Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, dies from complications of AIDS.

1992 — Derek Walcott wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. Mona Van Duyn is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

1993 — Maya Angelou, great granddaughter of an Arkansas slave, becomes the second poet to read at a presidential inauguration when she delivers "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's swearing-in. Rita Dove is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. The Who's rock opera Tommy debuts on Broadway. Kurt Cobain and Nirvana have an epic moment on MTV Unplugged, despite performing only one of their better-known songs ("Come As You Are").

1995 — Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature; Philip Levine wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for The Simple Truth. Robert Hass is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

1996 — Rap poet Eminem releases his debut album, Infinite.

1997 — Robert Pinksy is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Elton John sings "Candle In The Wind" with revised lyrics for the funeral of Princess Diana in Westminster Abby; it quickly becomes the all-time global best-selling single.

1999 —  Gunter Grass, a German poet, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature.

2000 — Stanley Kunitz is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress for the second time. The Internet begins to transform music, poetry and art. The movie O Brother, Where Art Thou rekindles an interest in bluegrass music, especially the hit "Man of Constant Sorrow."

2001 — Following the September 11th attacks, a flurry of poems is pinned to makeshift memorials across New York City and circulates widely on the internet (such as W.H. Auden's "September 1, 1939" which says about the German invasion of Poland: "The unmentionable odour of death / Offends the September night"). "In times of crisis it's interesting that people don't turn to the novel or say, "We should all go out to a movie," then U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins told The New York Times after the tragedy. "It's always poetry." Billy Collins is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Apple releases the iPod, a portable MP3 player.

2003 — Louise Gluck is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Apple introduces its iTunes online store, where songs can be purchased for less than a dollar.

2004 — Ted Kooser is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

2005 — Ted Kooser wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

2006 — Donald Hall is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

2007 — Charles Simic is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

2008 — Kay Ryan is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

2009 — W. S. Merwin wins his second Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Michael Jackson, the "king of pop," dies in the middle of his comeback tour.

2010 — The Pulitzer Prize for poetry is awarded to Versed by Rae Armantrout. W. S. Merwin is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

2011 — The Pulitzer Prize for poetry is awarded to Kay Ryan. Philip Levine is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

2012 — The Pulitzer Prize for poetry is awarded to Tracy K. Smith for Life on Mars. Natasha Trethewey is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

2013 — The Pulitzer Prize for poetry is awarded to Sharon Olds for Stag's Leap.

2014 — The Pulitzer Prize for poetry is awarded to Vijay Seshadri for 3 Sections. Charles Wright is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress.

2015 — The Pulitzer Prize for poetry is awarded to Gregory Pardlo for Digest.

2016 — Great Britain leaves the European Union in a movement known as "Brexit." Donald Trump is elected president of the United States in a shocking upset.

And who can guess what the future will hold? ...

Related Pages in Chronological Order: Song of Amergin, Caedmon's Hymn, Bede's Death Song, Deor's Lament, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wife's Lament, Anglo-Saxon Riddles and Kennings, How Long the Night, Ballads, Sumer is Icumen in, Fowles in the Frith, Ich am of Irlaunde, Tom O'Bedlam's Song, Now Goeth Sun Under Wood, Pity Mary, Sweet Rose of Virtue, Lament for the Makaris

The HyperTexts