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 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 (we do not claim everything here to be stunningly original).

"The Phases of English Poetry" is our most compressed outline; it quickly covers the evolution of English poetry from Prehistoric, to Celtic, to Anglo-Roman, to Anglo-Saxon, to Anglo-Norman, and so forth. The following sections go into more detail, covering each major period from Prehistoric to Postmodernism. Please note that we do not use the terms "England" and "English" in our timelines prior to the arrival of the Angles who gave the island its name ("England"="Angle-Land").

The primary compiler and editor of this timeline is Michael R. Burch but there have been many contributors over the years.

Related pages: Free Verse Timeline, Romantic Poetry Timeline, Timeline of Rhyme

The Phases of English Poetry or a Brief History of English Poetry (the main periods are underlined; the major poets' names are bolded)

For worldwide events, some much earlier, please refer to the following Expanded Timeline.

4500 BC — There is evidence of farming in Britain, along with the development of large earthwork barrows for burials and rituals.
2500 BC — Major work takes place on Stonehenge and the Great Sphinx of Giza. The rise of the Beaker Culture.
2000 BC — Britain enters the Bronze Age; by 1600 BC there will be a lively trade in exported British tin.
1268 BC — This is Robert Graves' date for the Celtic Song of Amergin, but dating oral works of the Prehistoric Period seems iffy to us.
800 BC — Britain enters the Iron Age. Around this time most natives speak Brythonic, a Celtic tongue, as reflected in place names.
55 BC — Julius Caesar invades Britain; the Anglo-Roman Period (55 BC-410 AD) makes Latin the language of rulers, clergy and scholars.
51 BC — Julius Caesar in his Gallic War mentions that Celtic Druids studied poetry and committed a "great number of verses" to memory.
200 — The oldest runic inscriptions, the Elder Futhark, give Germanic tribes a form of writing.
382 — Jerome creates a Latin translation of the Bible known as the Vulgate Bible.
400 — The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc evolve from the Elder Futhark and will be used for written inscriptions in England.
410 — Visigoths sack Rome and the Roman legions depart Britain, leading to the Anglo-Saxon or Old English Period (410-1066).
450 — Anglo-Saxons invade England, which will take its name from the Angles as the lingo becomes more Germanic.

"Anglo-Saxon literature is the oldest of the vernacular literatures of modern Europe." — John Earle, the Rawlinsonian Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford

Evidently, Anglo-Saxon scops, or minstrel-poets, brought their lyres with them, as the oldest lyres found in England date to around this period. The Anglo-Saxon term for the lyre was hearpe, the source of our modern word "harp." We know from Anglo-Saxon literature that scops would literally "sing for their supper" and compete for rings, torcs and other prizes. Anglo-Saxon lyres could be fine musical instruments: for instance, some were made of maplewood with a soundboard of thin oak and a wrist-strap for two-handed playing. The Museum of London Archaeology describes the Anglo-Saxon lyre as the most important stringed instrument of the ancient world. If you see a busker playing a guitar and passing around a hat for tips, you are seeing someone carrying on an ancient Anglo-Saxon tradition.

He sits with his harp at his Thane's feet,
earning his hire, his rewards of rings,
sweeping the strings with his skillful nail;
his hall-mates smile at the sweet song he sings.
—loose translation by Michael R. Burch

500 — Approximate birth of Gildas, the first native writer we know by name (although he was born in Scotland and wrote in Latin).
597 — Sent by Pope Gregory with 40 missionaries, Augustine founds the English Church then becomes Archbishop of Canterbury in 601.
650 — Rhyme is essential to Arabic poetry and apparently goes back at least to the seventh century, perhaps earlier.
658 — Caedmon's Hymn, the oldest known English poem, marks the beginning of English poetry (although it was still largely Germanic).
680 — Possible early date for the composition of the epic poem Beowulf, a masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon poetry, and the shorter poem Widsith.

One thing we see repeatedly in Beowulf and other Anglo-Saxon poems is the thane-warrior relationship, which was based on generosity by the former in return for loyalty by the latter: "The warrior thrives / through daring deeds / and generous gifts." Another important aspect of Anglo-Saxon life was enjoying food, drink and entertainment in the mead-halls, also with the linkage of generosity and loyalty. For instance, in Beowulf the queen, Hrothgar, gives Beowulf a gold neck-ring, then tells those assembled around the great hall of Heorot:

Here heroes honor each other in the hall,
loyal to their Lord, devoted to duty,
heroic in heart, enjoying their mead;
drinking it down, they do as I desire.
—loose translation by Michael R. Burch

700 — The Dream of the Rood; Cynewulf pens four Anglo-Saxon poems: Christ II, Elene, The Fates of the Apostles and Juliana.

In Christ II, Cynewulf describes life metaphorically as:

... a hard and harrowing voyage,
sailing our ships across freezing waters ...

731 — A scholar known as the Venerable Bede writes The Ecclesiastical History of the English People in Latin; Bede's Death Song.
735 — Birth of Alcuin, "The most learned man anywhere to be found" and the prime director of the Carolingian Renaissance.
760 — Hygeburg, author of the Latin Hodoeporicon, is "the first known Englishwoman to have written a full-length literary work."

If you have the impression that our Anglo-Saxon ancestors were "not literate," please don't underestimate them. While it's true that most commoners couldn't read and write, they could remember and recite songs and poems. They left a body of 31,000 lines of poetry that is a "striking anomaly" for Medieval Europe.

800 — Leonine verse, Latin verse employing internal rhyme, would be employed from around 800 to 1200, but would be frowned on by purists.
871 — King Alfred the Great defeats the Danes and becomes the first king of a united England. He was also a scholar, writer and translator.
890 — The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is "the single most important source for the history" of Anglo-Saxon England; Deor's Lament.
950 — The Exeter Book (circa 950-990 AD) has the first English rhymed poem, called, appropriately, "The Rhyming Poem" and "The Rhymed Poem."

The Exeter Book is the first English poetry anthology. It contains two proto-feminist poems, Wulf and Eadwacer and The Wife's Lament, a possibly conciliatory response to the second poem, The Husband's Message, and Anglo-Saxon riddles and kennings. Anglo-Saxon poetry had a "pervasive 'riddlic' quality." Scops, who were soothsayers, would sometimes tell the sod (sooth, or truth) directly, via maxims and proverbs, and sometimes indirectly via analogies and metaphors.

1000 — Now skruketh rose and lylie flour is an early English love poem; also a possible date for the Nowell Codex.
1065 — The death of Edward the Confessor without a clear heir leaves the crown in doubt and the island in peril ...
1066 — William the Conqueror invades and rules; the Norman Conquest begins the Anglo-Norman or Middle English Period (1066-1340).

In one fell swoop, with the Norman Conquest, English becomes a peasant language. Old English will go underground, in a sense, then reemerge around the time of Chaucer as Middle English, with renewed force and respectability. The last Old English poem written in strict form according to the rules of Anglo-Saxon alliterative poetry is a poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle on the death of Edward the Confessor. The poetry to come will have continental influences, such as meter and rhyme. There will be an "alliterative revival" (see the entry for 1350), but by then the English language will be closer to what we speak today. For all intents and purposes, this is the abrupt end of Old English poetry.

1086 — King William commissions the Domesday Book, written in Latin, to catalog his English holdings.
1096 — Teaching begins at Oxford. French and Latin are the primary languages of rulers, clergy, scholars and fashionable poets.
1200 — How Long the Night ("Myrie it is while sumer ylast") is a stellar rhyming poem of the Middle English period; also the first Ballads.
1215 — The Magna Carta, drafted in French, forces King John to grant liberties and rights to Englishmen in return for taxation.
1250 — Early rhyming poems: Sumer is icumen in, Fowles in the Frith, Ich am of Irlaunde, Now Goeth Sun Under Wood, Pity Mary.
1340 — Birth of Geoffrey Chaucer, the first major vernacular English poet; thus begins the Late Middle English Period (1340-1500).
1350 — An "alliterative revival" is led by the Gawain poet with Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Patience, Cleanness.
1362 — The Statute of Pleading replaces French with English as the language of law; English is used in Parliament for the first time.
1370 — William Langland writes Piers Plowman.
1384 — John Wycliffe publishes his English translation of the Bible. English replaces Latin as the main language in schools.
1399 — Henry IV is the first English-speaking monarch since before the Norman Conquest!
1430 — A "haunting riddle-chant" is I Have a Yong Suster, an anonymous Medieval English poem.
1455 — The Guttenberg Bible is the first book printed with moveable type. Printed books will lead to an explosion of knowledge.
1476 — William Caxton prints Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the first book published in England with moveable type.
1485 — The Tudor Period (1457-1603) ends the Middle Ages; English rules Henry VII's court; England now speaks Early Modern English!
1503 — Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard introduce the sonnet, iambic pentameter and blank verse, in the English Renaissance (1500-1558).
1517 — Martin Luther publishes his 95 theses against the Roman Catholic Church, kick-starting the Protestant Reformation.
1532 — The English Reformation (1532-1649) has poets at war: some support the Pope, others the crown.
1552 — Birth of Edmund Spenser, the creator of the modern English style of poetry: "fluid, limpid, translucent and graceful."
1558 — The Elizabethan Period (1558-1603) has Spenser, Walter Raleigh, Philip Sidney, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare.
1572 — Birth of John Donne, major poet of the Metaphysical Period (1572-1695); others were George Herbert, Henry Vaughn, Andrew Marvell.
1579 — Edmund Spenser's Shepheardes Calender has been called "the first work of the English literary Renaissance."
1591 — Birth of Robert Herrick, first poet of the Cavalier Period (1591-1674); others were Richard Lovelace, Sir John Suckling, Thomas Carew.
1603 — The Jacobean/Caroline/Interregnum/Restoration Period (1603-1690) sees the King James Bible, Shakespeare's plays, Milton's epics.
1608 — John Milton is born; John Donne writes his Holy Sonnets; Shakespeare's sonnets and plays Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, etc.
1611 — The King James Bible is published in still-readable English with early English free verse such as the poetic Song of Solomon.
1620 — The Pilgrims set sail for America in the Mayflower. Harold Bloom has called Tom O'Bedlam's Song "all but High Romantic vision."
1623 — Publication of Shakespeare's First Folio. Ben Jonson and his "tribe" are on the rise: Herrick, Lovelace, Suckling, Carew, Waller, et al.
1649 — King Charles I is executed. Oliver Cromwell becomes England's Lord Protector and Regent in 1653. Milton lauds Cromwell.
1658 — Cromwell's death throws England into chaos; Milton works on his masterpiece Paradise Lost.
1690 — The Augustan Period (1690-1756) is marked by the sophisticated work of Alexander Pope, John Dryden and Dr. Samuel Johnson.
1742 — Thomas Gray begins writing his masterpiece, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, a major work of early English Romanticism.
1752 — Birth of Thomas Chatterton, called the "marvellous Boy" by William Wordsworth and also praised by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
1757 — William Blake heads the English Romantic Period (1757-1837) with Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats.
1759 — Birth of the Romantic poet Robert Burns, generally considered to be the greatest Scottish poet.
1776 — Americans declare independence with words written in ringing iambic pentameter by Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident ..."
1798 — Lyrical Ballads, written by Wordsworth with contributions by Coleridge, becomes the foundational text of the English Romantic Movement.
1819 — Keats publishes Ode to a Grecian Urn and Ode to a Nightingale. Byron publishes Don Juan. Birth of the American Romantic poet Walt Whitman.
1830 — Alfred Tennyson publishes his Poems, Chiefly Lyrical. Emily Dickinson, widely considered to be the greatest female American poet, is born.
1836 — Ralph Waldo Emerson founds the Transcendental Club, which includes Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott.
1837 — The Victorian Period (1837-1901) is led by Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Clare, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
1843 — Soren Kierkegaard, the "Father of Existentialism," publishes Either/Or and Fear and Trembling.
1846 — Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning get married: they become poetry's first "super couple" a century before Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.
1848 — The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (1848-1882) is founded by Dante Gabriel Rossetti; aligned poets include Christina Rossetti, Algernon Charles Swinburne.
1855 — Walt Whitman publishes Leaves of Grass, a landmark work of Early Modernism (1855-1901) that rocks the Victorians to their whalebone corsets!
1865 — The Civil War ends. Slavery is abolished. Abraham Lincoln is assassinated. Whitman publishes his elegy for Lincoln, When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd.
1867 — Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach has been called a masterpiece of Early Modernism.
1871 — Birth of Stephen Crane. He would write poems and prose in a minimalist or "spare" style that would influence modernist writers like Ernest Hemingway and Carl Sandburg.
1888 — T. S. Eliot, a major Modernist poet and critic, is born. Columbia Records, the first major American record label, is founded. The first classical music recording, of Handel.
1890 — Fin-de-siθcle (1890-1900) poets influenced by the French symbolists include W. B. Yeats, Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, Arthur Symons, Oscar Wilde and Swinburne.
1895 — Scott Joplin publishes ragtime. Buddy Bolden creates the countermelody of jazz. The world will soon be awash in poems set to music: pop, rock, country, blues, etc.
1901 — The Edwardian/Georgian Period (1901-1936) is brief but fecund with Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke and Edward Thomas.
1909 — Two T. E. Hulme poems begin the modernist movement called Imagism (1909-1919); its leading poets and critics would be Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot.
1919 — The Harlem Renaissance (1919-1940) was led by Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and James Weldon Jones. Paul Dunbar was a major influence.
1920 — The Neo-Romantics (1920-Present) include Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas, Kevin N. Roberts, Michael Pendragon, Carmen Willcox, Mary Rae and Michael R. Burch.
1922 — The Fugitives (1922-1925) aka Agrarians were led by John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, Merrill Moore, Donald Davidson and Randall Jarrell.
1943 — The Beats (1940-Present) include Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Thomas Raine Crowe and Jack Foley.
1950 — The San Francisco Renaissance Poets (1950-Present) include Kenneth Rexroth, Madeline Gleason, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer and Robin Blaser.
1950 — The Confessionals (1950-1977) included Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, John Berryman, W. D. Snodgrass, Sharon Olds and Richard Moore.
1950 — The New York School (1950-Present) includes John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest and James Schuyler.
1950 — Charles Olson calls Pound and other Imagists "inferior predecessors" and creates a new school of poetry, Projectivism (1950-1960).
1985 — The New Formalists (1985-Present) include Richard Wilbur, Anthony Hecht, Dana Gioia, X. J. Kennedy, Richard Moore, Rhina Espaillat, R. S. Gwynn, A. E. Stallings, Jared Carter.
1901 — Other leading voices of Modernism and Postmodernism (1901-Present) include Conrad Aiken, Maya Angelou, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Bogan, e. e. cummings, Robert Frost, Robinson Jeffers, Seamus Heaney, Philip Larkin, D. H. Lawrence, Robert Lowell, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wallace Stevens, Richard Wilbur and William Carlos Williams. We would also include outstanding singer-songwriters like 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. There are many other very worthy names, so anyone who says that poetry is "dead" or "dying" is obviously just not listening! Other labels applied to poets and/or poetry in modern times include: Language Poets, Deep Image, Cubism, Surrealism, Futurism, Expressionism, Orphism, Purism, Dadism, Constructivism, Objectivism and other -isms too numerous (and obscure) to name.

Now begins a more comprehensive history of human art, language and writing, with a focus on the origins and development of English poetry ...

Prehistoric or Pre-History Art (all dates are BCE)
3,700,000,000 BCE — Around 3.7 billion years ago, the first identifiable living organisms appeared, lived and died. So much for a perfect Garden of Eden!
7,000,000 — The first hominins appear and evolve, with smaller teeth, bipedal toes and more upright postures than other primates. We are the only ones left, but for how long?
3,400,000 — Lucy, the most famous specimen of Australopithecus afarensis, lives near what is now Hadar, Ethiopia, and may have used stones as tools.
2,500,000 — Homo Habilis ("Handy Man") may be the first human ancestor to create stone tools; thus begins the Early Stone Age or Lower Paleolithic Era.
1,800,000 — Homo Erectus/Homo Ergaster may be the first human ancestors to control fire and create more complex Acheulean stone tools like hand axes.
1,700,000 — Oldowan obsidian artifacts discovered at Melka Kunture (Ethiopia) suggest "tool kits" were being used and that pre-planning was involved.
1,500,000 — The possible emergence of speech; however, oral language is archaeologically invisible, making it difficult to date accurately.
1,100,000 — There is evidence of the use of fire in the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa's Northern Cape province along with copious stone artifacts.
500,000 — The first manmade artificial shelters (wooden huts with post holes) were discovered near Chichibu, Japan, north of Tokyo.
500,000 — Fauresmith stone blades discovered at Kathu Pan in South Africa were longer, narrower and more complex than Acheulean stone axes.
400,000 — Four wooden spears with tapered points, described as "high tech," were discovered at Schφningen, Germany by Hartmut Thieme.
350,000 — Fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, appear to be the oldest remains of Homo Sapiens or Homo Helmei (similar to modern Australoids).
300,000 — Fossil evidence of Homo Sapiens coincides with ochre works at Olorgesailie, Kenya, where ochre is still used for burials, adornment and art.
300,000 — The Venus of Tan-Tan, discovered in Morocco, may be the oldest human figurine, although its purpose has been debated.
280,000 — The Venus of Berekhat Ram, discovered on the Golan Heights, may be the oldest female figurine, although its purpose has been debated.
200,000 — The first fossil evidence of Homo Sapiens outside Africa appears in Israel's Misliya Cave, but then we vanished there for nearly 100,000 years!
168,000 — Humans begin to wear clothing, but nothing too stylish yet; the Middle Paleolithic Era begins with the emergence of clothing and intentional burials.
133,000 — Neanderthals had fashion sense, as jewelry made from eagle talons has been discovered at a Neanderthal cave near Krapina, Croatia.
120,000 — The Ramle bone fragments, discovered near Ramle, Israel, are believed to be etched with the oldest human symbols discovered to date.
108,000 — Beads made from Nassarius snail shells, found at Israel's Skhul cave, are the first known human jewelry. We are finally catching up to Neanderthals!
100,000 — Homo Sapiens reach China.
71,000 — The earliest known drawing, made with a red ocher "crayon," is found at Blombos, South Africa. The drawing looks like a #hashtag!
68,000 — Stones with crosshatch markings found at Blombos may be the first abstract or symbolic art. The Middle Paleolithic Era concludes with modern human behavior.
62,000 — Maltravieso cave art in Caceres, Spain includes symbols of pigs, deer, humans, and red stencils of ancient hands.
60,000 — Homo Sapiens reach Australia.
50,000 — Homo Sapiens reach the Levant as permanent residents.
50,000 — The "great leap forward" includes abstract/symbolic thinking, long-term planning, cooperative labor, trade, music, elaborate graves, fishing and blade technology.
40,000 — Homo Sapiens reach Europe.
40,000 — Paleolithic flutes made from bones and mammoth ivory are 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 oldest statues. Cave paintings in Borneo.
30,000 — Homo Sapiens reach North America (disputed).
29,000 — The earliest evidence of a human settlement at the Mladec caves (in the modern-day Czech Republic).
26,000 — The earliest known pottery was used not as crockery, but for art: the Venus of Dolnν Věstonice, Moravia (in the modern-day Czech Republic).
21,000 — Evidence of the seeding, cultivation and grinding of grains at the Ohalo II settlement in Israel mark the dawn of human agriculture.
21,000 — Stone, bone, and wood artifacts found in the Meadowcroft Rockshelter (Pennsylvania) are the earliest evidence of human activity in North America.
20,000 — Homo Sapiens survive the Last Glacial Maximum as far north as Siberia in the Arctic Circle.
11,000 — Jericho may be the earth's oldest city.
10,000 — The first non-cave permanent human settlements evolve into ancient cities like Jericho and Byblos; the emergence of full-scale agriculture and domesticated animals pave the way for more advanced art forms to come ...

If we think of history as "man and his story," it requires words to know what our ancestors were thinking and saying. Before writing appears, we can only speculate about human beliefs and thoughts. But with the first extant work of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh (circa 2100 BCE), we know much about the people of that time. We know, for instance, their beliefs about death, the possibility of an afterlife, virtue, morality, etc.

Pre-English Art from the Dawn of History (all dates are BCE)

5400 — The city of Eridu is founded around this time and was considered the first city in the world by the ancient Sumerians.
5000 — The inventions of the wheel, kiln, smelting (tin, lead and copper) and proto-writing set the stage for the coming Bronze Age, poetry and other forms of literature.
4600 — Predynastic Egyptians create dirt mounds to cover their dead; these would evolve into mastabas ("mud benches") and eventually into pyramids.
4200 — Inscriptions cut in stone on Fourth Dynasty tombs of Giza and the Second Dynasty tablet of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford date to around 4200 BC.
3800 — Symbols on Gerzean (Egyptian) pottery have been compared to later hieroglyphics, although the connection is disputed.
3500 — The Stone Age ends as the Bronze Age revs up with metal tools and weapons; nations form; recorded history begins with pictographic, proto-cuneiform writing in Sumer. The Kish Tablet (c. 3500-3200 BC) may be the oldest extant example of Sumerian proto-cuneiform writing. However, the Kish Tablet has not, as yet, been deciphered. Early Egyptian hieroglyphics date to around this time.
3300 — Egyptians create double-reed musical instruments, lyres, cosmetics, glazed ceramic beads, linen, sails, iron works, masonry, even the first board game (Senet).
3200 — The first Pharaoh of a unified Upper and Lower Egypt is Menes (perhaps the same person as Narmer). Egyptians mass-produce mud bricks to build their cities.
3000 — Sumerian temple hymns; Egyptian pyramid and coffin texts (early epigrams); Kushim is the first human name recorded (on 18 proto-cuneiform tablets); invention of paper (papyrus); the first smaller henges are dug out locally at Stonehenge.
2880 — This is Will Durant's date for the work of the first known philosopher, the Egyptian vizier Ptahhotep, author of The Maxims of Ptah-Hotep.
2780 — Egyptian polymath Imhotep has been called the original architect, engineer and physician; he designed the first pyramid and became a god worshipped by a cult!
2700 — Egyptian physician Merit-Ptah appears to be the first woman named in the fields of medicine and science. Her portrait appears in a Valley of Kings tomb.
2690 — A Seth-Peribsen tomb seal has the first known complete sentence: "The golden one of Ombos has unified the two realms for his son ... Peribsen."
2500 — Major work takes place on Stonehenge and the Great Sphinx of Giza. Lyres dating to this period have been discovered in the tombs of the royal family of Ur (a lyric was originally a poem sung or chanted to the strumming of a lyre). The Sumerian Kesh Temple Hymn and Instructions of Šuruppak may be the earth's oldest surviving literature. The Egyptian Tale of a Shipwrecked Sailor has also been dated to around this time. Thus we may consider 2500 BC as the approximate beginning point of literature and songwriting.
2350 — Egyptian funerary texts, known as the Pyramid Texts, date back at least to Pharaoh Unas (c. 2353-2323 BC) and include poems and hymns.
2285 — Enheduanna, daughter of King Sargon the Great, may be the first named poet in human history, for 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 and the first great work of literature.
2000 — The first love poem may be the Sumerian Love Song of Shu-Sin. Early Minoan culture on Crete. The first libraries in Egypt. Abraham of Ur becomes a monotheist.
1800 — The Egyptian Prisse Papyrus is the oldest writing on paper and the first extant book. The Babylonian/Akkadian Enuma ElisAtra-Hasis and Eridu Genesis
1600 — The Egyptian Book of the Dead. The Rigveda, a collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns, may be the oldest religious text still in use today.
1539 — Poems written down during Egypt's New Kingdom (1539-1075 BC) but likely composed much earlier employ metaphors, repetition and other poetic techniques.
1400 — A Hurrian Cult Song from Ancient Ugarit (aka Hurrian Hymn 6) has the first musical score and oldest playable melody. The written legal codes of Hammurabi.
1300 — Shin-Leqi-Unninni (c. 1300-1000 BC) was a Babylonian thought to be the world's first author known by name until the discovery of the works of Enheduanna (c. 2285 BC).
1200 — The Bronze Age evolves into the Iron Age. Iron artifacts dating to this time have been found in Anatolia (Turkey), Egypt, Jordan, Sumer (Iraq) and Greece.
1100 — Tale of Two Brothers and Story of Wenamun (Egypt); Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda (Sanskrit/Indian); Avesta of Zoroastrianism (Avestan/Persian).
1021 — Murasaki Shikibu, a Japanese noblewoman and lady-in-waiting, writes the first known novel, Tale of Genji.
1000 — Early Native American poetry such as Mayan and Aztec; the Iron Age begins; approximate birth of the Duke of Zhou, credited with the I Ching and Book of Poetry.
900 — The Brahmanas and early Upanishads (Sanskrit/Indian).
800 — Possible approximate birth date for Homer, author of the epic poems Odyssey and Iliad.
750 — Birth of Hesiod; Celts reach Britain; Hebrew proverbs; the oldest Chinese poems of the Shi Jing include the first known rhyming poems; Lycurgus of Sparta; first Olympic games; Rome is founded; Nineveh's library has 22,000 clay tablets.
700 — Possible date for the Bible's book of Proverbs.
668 — One of the most ancient extant poems was found in the oldest surviving royal library, that of Ashurbanipal (668-630). The poem is a still viable Neo-Assyrian spell to make a colicky baby sleep: "Belch like a drunkard, snort like a baby gazelle, until your mother comes, strokes you, and picks you up." 
600 — Possible date for the Bible's poetic book of Job. The births of Archilochus (680), Solon (640), Sappho of Lesbos (630) from whom we derive our terms "lesbian" and "sapphic," 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 BC. 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), Herodotus(484), Socrates (470), Plato (428), Aristotle (384), Saint Augustine of Hippo (354) the first writer of an autobiography.
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 Cicero (106), 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).

The Pre-Celtic and Celtic Periods (?-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 who composed it. The poem has been ascribed to Amergin, a Milesian Druid who allegedly settled in Ireland, perhaps many centuries before the Romans arrived. 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."

Britain's ancient Druids did not have a written language, but they were prodigious scholars. 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 ... 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 ... "

500,000 BC — Boxgrove Man, discovered in West Sussex, is the first known human being in England.

9000 BC — Britain has been continuously inhabited since the end of the last Ice Age. This is the approximate beginning of the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age period.

8000 BC — Britain's climate warms and birch woodlands spread rapidly. Mesolithic humans occupy the island, but sparsely.

5600 BC — Rising seas separate Britain from the European mainland; thus the natives' language and culture will evolve separately.

4500 BC — There is evidence of farming in Britain, along with the development of large earthwork barrows for burials and rituals.

3838 BC — Earth's oldest known causeway, a timber trackway called the Post Track, is created from ash planks in the Somerset Levels.

3700 BC — A causewayed enclosure called the Neath Barrow is created 2 1/2 miles northwest of Stonehenge.

3000 BC — The first smaller henges are dug out at Stonehenge, but native Britons remain prehistoric, lacking any writing.

2500 BC — The larger henges—sarsens and bluestones—are erected at Stonehenge; the rise of the Beaker People.

2200 BC — Britain enters the Bronze Age; by 1600 BC there will be a lively trade in exported British tin.

1800 BC — The Egyptian Prisse Papyrus (c. 1800 BC) is the oldest writing on paper and thus the first extant book. The Babylonian/Akkadian Enuma ElisAtra-Hasis and Eridu Genesis

1539 BC — Poems written down during Egypt's New Kingdom period (1539-1075 BC), but likely composed much earlier, are "surprisingly direct about love and romance" and employ metaphors, repetition and other modern poetic techniques. "Archaeologists have discovered most of Egypt's love poetry in Deir el-Medina, a village of tomb builders during the New Kingdom. Here, many skilled artisans worked on the tombs of pharaohs such as Ramses II and Tutankhamen. Findings indicate that these villagers may have been remarkably literate for their time. The local community—not just the scribes and students—may have contributed to the poetry of Deir el-Medina. The love poems were likely set to music and used events from daily life and the natural world—growing grain, capturing birds, fishing along the Nile—as metaphors to talk about love. Women's voices were strong in Egyptian poetry—as the narrators of poems or as lovers making choices about their beloveds, for example." Indeed, women may have written some of the poems.

1268 BC — The Song of Amergin remains a mystery. It was written by an unknown poet at an unknown time at an unknown location and may (or may not) be related to the invasion of Ireland by ancient Celts. The date given here was furnished by Robert Graves, who translated the Song of Amergin in his influential book The White Goddess (1948). Graves opined 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.” However, the ultra-early date seems iffy to us. The native language of the Celtic Britons has given us relatively few modern English words, such as: beak, brat, bog, clan, clout, crock, dad, dam, doe, knob, nook, etc. (other Celtic words would be passed on via borrowings from Scottish, Irish and Welsh).

1200 BC — Evidence of the first English villages.

800 BC — Britain enters the Iron Age. A possible rough birth date for Homer (c. 800-700 BC), if he was actually an individual. The Homeric epics probably predated Homer and were communicated orally as songs by ancient Greek minstrels (the Greek word for poet, aiodos, means "singer"). The Homeric epics were finally written down toward the end of the "Dark Ages" of ancient Greece (c. 1100-900 BC). Homer, whether he was one or many, would have a tremendous influence on English poetry, plays and novels.

750 BC — The oldest extant Chinese poems are those of the Shi Jing and they include the first known rhyming poems. It would be around 1,500 years before English poets began to rhyme.

700 BC — The ancient Celts began to arrive from the continent settle in the British isles around 700 to 500 BC. Most of the arrivals speak Brythonic, a Celtic tongue, as reflected in place names. The population of England is around 150,000 souls by 750 BC. While most ancient Hebrew poetry did not rhyme, an example of rhyme and meter in ancient Hebrew poetry dating to perhaps around 700 BC can be found in Proverbs 6:9-10. These verses split into four lines of poetry demonstrate both internal rhymes (common to biblical Hebrew texts) and end rhymes (far less common). The last word of the first line (AD MaTAI ’aTZEL tishKAV) rhymes with the last word of the last line (me’AT KhibBUQ yaDAYM lishKAV). In the third line, the second and fourth words create an internal rhyme: (me’AT sheNOT, me’AT tenuMOT). Also, the first word of the second line (maTAI taQUM mishshena TEKsgha) is identical to the first word of the first line, linking those two lines without an obvious rhyme. The translators of the King James Bible came up with this translation: "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep."

600 BC —  Approximate birth of the first great lyric poet we know by name, Sappho of Lesbos

500 BC — Wooden hill forts, unique to Britain, begin to dominate the island; other innovations include chariots and leather armor.

484 BC — The birth of Herodotus (c. 484-429 BC), called the "Father of History" by Cicero, and the first major writer of Greek and European prose literature. Before Herodotus, "history" was mostly mythology and religion. Herodotus went after the "true past" and applied rational inquiry to the study of history, the way Thales approached physics and Hippocrates did medicine. Herodotus traveled widely, employed "relentless questioning" and tried to sort out fact from fiction. However, dreams, oracles and prophecies do appear in Herodotus's accounts. While he may seem like a fanciful storyteller at times, he states more than once that he is relating what he was told by others during his investigations. He also states at times that he is skeptical. So Herodotus may also be the first investigative journalist that we know by name. Herodotus's probable influence on the Father of English History, the Venerable Bede, can be seen in the way Bede also used eyewitness accounts and revealed his sources.

469 BC — The birth of Socrates.

427 BC — The birth of Plato, who will become the star pupil of Socrates.

399 BC — The trial of Socrates in Athens and his death by poisoning.

384 BC — The birth of Aristotle, who will become the star pupil of Plato and has been called the founder of logic and the father of science.

367 BC — Aristotle begins his studies at Plato's academy.

343 BC — Aristotle becomes the tutor of Alexander the Great.

325 BC — Pytheas of Massalia, a Greek explorer, is the first writer to mention Britain, where people lived in thatched cottages and ate plain fare.

200 BC — According to Julius Caesar, Celts began migrating to Britain during the second century BC. That creates a gap of around 1,000 years between his and Robert Graves' accounts. At this time the Romans know the islanders as Britons and the island as Britannia.

106 BC — The birth of Marcus Tullius Cicero (c. 106-43 BC), one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists, commonly known as Cicero. Cicero's influence was "so immense that the subsequent history of prose, not only in Latin but in European languages up to the 19th century, was said to be either a reaction against or a return to his style."

100 BC — The birth of Gaius Julius Caesar (c. 100-44 BC), a writer of note in addition to his other more famous accomplishments.

99 BC — The birth of the Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99-55 BC), commonly known as Lucretius. Lucretius would influence physics, psychology, empiricism, Epicureanism, Christian humanism, and postulate the existence of atoms.

84 BC — The birth of the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84-54 BC). Catullus would not only influence poets of his era like Ovid, Horace and Virgil, but also English Caviler poets of the distant future like Ben Jonson, Richard Lovelace, Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew, Thomas Campion and Sir John Suckling. Catullus is best known today for erotic love poems he wrote to a woman he called Lesbia. Catullus is also known for rude, sometimes obscene, invectives he hurled at prominent figures of his day, such as Julius Caesar and Cicero. Catullus also wrote one of the rare Latin rhyming poems of his era, known variously as "Catullus 1," "Carmina 1" and "Carmen 1."

82 BC — The birth of Vercingetorix (c. 82-46 BC), the son of Celtillus the Avernian, and the leader of the Gallic (French) tribes against the Roman legions of Julius Caesar. When Vercingetorix and his Celts failed to defeat the Romans, France would become a launching point for the Romans to invade Britain (see the entries for 55 BC, 34 BC and 43 AD).

80 BC — Around this time silver and bronze coins are being used in southeast England. Latin inscriptions suggest Rome's growing influence on the region.

70 BC — The birth of the Roman poet Publius Vergilius Maro (70-19 BC), commonly known as Vergil or Virgil. Virgil is generally considered to be Rome's greatest poet, and his Aeneid has been called Rome's national epic poem. Poets influenced by Virgil include Dante, most prominently, but also major English poets like Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, John Milton and John Dryden.

65 BC — The birth of the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-8 BC), commonly known as Horace. English poets influenced by Horace include Andrew Marvell, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth and Robert Frost.

60 BC — The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the first comprehensive history of the Anglo-Saxons, was initially composed during the reign of King Alfred the Great. Its first entry is dated 60 BC 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.

57 BC — Refugees from Gaul (France) called the Belgae (Belgians) arrive, fleeing the Romans, who are also on their way to Britain ...

55 BC — Julius Caesar invades Britain, creating a Roman beachhead on the coast of Kent. At this time the primary language of the native Britons is a Celtic dialect known as Brythonic. The Britons had no writing, so in that sense they remained prehistoric and their poetry was oral.

54 BC — Julius Caesar invades Britain a second time, using diplomacy to bring a third of Britain within the Roman sphere of influence. Latin would become the language of business, commerce and 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/Greeks roots, so the Roman influence has been far-reaching.

51 BC — Julius Caesar in his Gallic War mentions that Celtic Druids studied poetry and committed a "great number of verses" to memory.

43 BC — The birth of the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-18 AD). A collection of witty erotic love poems, Amores, would bring 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 early English poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower, and through them, on other 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.

37 BC — Virgil's reputation is established by his Eclogues.

34 BC — Caesar Augustus plans invasions of Britain in 34 BC, 27 BC and 25 BC, but apparently finds more important or pressing things to do. Diplomacy and trade continue, but Rome has its eye set on conquest (see the entry for 43 AD).

23 BC — The first three books of Horace's elegant Odes are published.

16 BC — Virgil's epic poem the Aeneid.

16 BC — A collection of witty erotic love poems, Amores, brings Ovid success while still in his twenties. While rhyme was very rare in classical Latin poetry, Ovid did employ rhymes in Amores 1.2.1-4, 39-42.

Romano-British Period (1 AD-441 AD)
The Roman conquest of Britain began in AD 43, during the reign of Claudius. Following the subjugation of native Britons, a distinctive Romano-British culture emerged under a provincial government, which, despite steadily extending its territorial control northwards, was never able to subdue Caledonia (Scotland). The Romans demarcated the approximate northern border of Britannia with Hadrian's Wall, which was started in 122 and completed around 128. Rome eventually divided Britannia into two provinces, Britannia Superior and Britannia Inferior. Some time after 305, Britannia was further divided and made an imperial diocese. During the later period of the Roman occupation, Britannia was subject to barbarian invasions. By the end of the Romano-British period, Roman rule was apparently seen as more of a liability than an asset by the natives.

40 — Caligula plans to invade England but turns back before reaching the coast of Gaul (France).

43 — Claudius invades Britain and Roman rule is established. The Roman city of Londinium (London) is established. Battles continue in Wales and other outposts. The Scottish Picts are never fully conquered, eventually requiring the construction of Hadrian's Wall (see the entry for 122). Romanization is greatest in the southeast, including London, where many people speak both Brittonic and vulgar Latin, which eventually morphs into British Latin. In the British highlands, there is less Romanization. In the Midlands, things are more in the middle, language-wise. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the Roman invasion quite accurately, saying it took place in 46 AD.

50 — The Bloomberg Tablets are the oldest known examples of writing in Britain. They were created from 50-80 in Roman London and consist of 405 wooden tablets with cursive Latin writing scratched into beeswax. (The ingenious tablets could be erased and reused by melting the wax!) ABCs written on one tablet suggest that a school may have existed in London soon after the Roman conquest. Another tablet contains the first written reference to the city's name. This is also the date of the oldest coins discovered in the Roman city of Bath.

56 — The birth of Tacitus (c. 56-120), whose Latin histories would be a primary source of info about the early Britons. Tacitus favorably contrasted the liberty of Britons with the tyranny and corruption of the Roman Empire.

60 — Romans will construct a temple in Bath some time between 60-70 and over an extended period of time will create an elaborate complex of public baths there. This is an approximate date for the death of King Prasutagus of the Celtic Iceni tribe. His widow, Queen Boudicca, is flogged and their daughters raped. This leads to the Iceni revolting under the leadership of Boudicca. She raises 100,000 troops, then defeats and destroys most of Legion IX, so that the Roman procurator Catus Decianus flees to Gaul. She then marches on and destroys Londinium, Colchester and St. Albans. The crisis causes Roman emperor Nero to consider withdrawing Roman legions from Britain. However, Suetonius manages to win the Battle of Watling Street despite being outnumbered, after which Boudicca either kills herself or dies. Her name appears to derive from the feminine adjective boudīkā ("victorious"), which is in turn is derived from the Celtic noun boudā ("victory"). Queen Victoria would identify with Boudicca because their names had similar meanings. Boudicca has appeared as a character in poems, plays, songs and novels by notable artists such as Alfred Tennyson, William Cowper, Enya, John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont. She also inspired the DC Comics superhero Boodikka.

100 — The Vindolanda Tablets date to around this time. These were thin, post-card-sized tablets made from birch, alder and oak. The text was cursive Latin, handwritten in ink. One tablet, an invitation to a birthday party, may contain the oldest surviving handwriting in Latin by a woman. Other tablets confirm that there was a high degree of literacy in the Roman army and that Roman soldiers wore underpants! The Bath Curse Tablets may also date to around this time. These 130 tablets curse thieves in colloquial Latin, British Latin, and (possibly) in an as-yet-undeciphered British Celtic language. However, there is no scholarly consensus on the latter. Nor is there a consensus on dating the tablets, other than to the second to fourth centuries.

122 — The Roman Emperor Hadrian visits Britain. Construction of Hadrian's Wall begins; it will be substantially finished by 128.

127 — Juvenal writes his Satires, which will influence English writers like Dr. Samuel Johnson.

160 — At its height the Roman province of Britannia spans three-quarters of the island, leaving only the northernmost extremes beyond Roman control.

181 — The stoic Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are published posthumously. He would influence English writers like John Stuart Mill and Matthew Arnold.

208 — Emperor Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla lead an expedition against the Caledonii (Scottish Picts). Severus dies at York. Caracalla, now emperor, abandons the lands north of Hadrian's Wall and returns to Rome.

220 — England's southeastern coast is raided by Saxons, a growing menace.

270 — Construction of forts along the Saxon Shore.

297 — First mention of Picts attacking from the north.

306 — Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus dies at York after campaigning against the Picts. His son Constantine the Great is hailed as successor by the Roman legions at York.

312 — Constantine the Great invades Gaul, then northern Italy, then marches on Rome, where he is crowned emperor.

313 — Constantine with the Edicts of Milan in effect creates and legitimizes the Roman Catholic Church, which will have profound implications for England and its culture, politics and literature.

324 — Constantine declares himself "a bishop established by God" and a "thirteenth apostle" despite remaining an unbaptized worshiper of the Sun God.

325 — Constantine with the first Ecumenical Council at Nicaea unites previously squabbling theologians under one banner, the Nicene Creed, and threatens dissenters with the burning of their books and themselves. So much for tolerance!

350 — The earliest Irish writings are anonymous Ogham inscriptions on stone memorials dating to the fourth century.

368 — Sustained attacks by the Picts, Irish and Saxons force the Romans to abandon Hadrian's Wall.

380 — The birth of Paulus Orosius (c. 380-420), a priest from Braga in Portugal, who wrote his Historiaadversum paganos at the prompting of St. Augustine of Hippo. It is the first Christian history of the world, describing historical events typologically.

382 — Saint Jerome begins his translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible. "In A.D. 382, Damasus, the bishop of Rome, induced Jerome to undertake that work of revision which produced the Latin Bible, which is the only one now generally known, and which is called the Vulgata, that is to say, the received version. Older italic versions, so far as they are extant, are now to us among the most interesting of Christian antiquities. In the early centuries, and throughout the whole Middle Age, the Scriptures took rank above all literature, and their influence is everywhere felt."—John Earle

383 — Magnus Maximus defeats the Scots and Picts in 382 BC, but then launches a bid for imperial power and removes a large part of his legions to the continent to invade Italy. This is the last date for evidence of a major Roman military presence in Britain.

390 — The birth of Saint Simon Stylites (c. 390-459), perhaps the first known Christian hermit and self-mortifying monk to practice real separation from the world. He lived atop a pillar that grew to over 50 feet in height!

400 — Saint Augustine of Hippo writes his Confessions. This is not the Saint Augustine who will lay the foundations of Roman Catholicism in Britain and become the first Archbishop of Canterbury (see the entry for 597).

405 — Saint Jerome finishes his translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible. Some of Jerome's translation errors would end up in English translations such as the King James Bible.

407 — Constantine rallies the remaining Roman troops in Britain, leads them across the Channel into Gaul, and establishes himself as Emperor. Romano-Britons, having suffered early Saxon raids, soon expel Constantine's magistrates.

410 — Rome is sacked by the Visigoths under King Alaric. The vaunted Roman Empire is collapsing. Honorius replies to a request by Romano-Britons for assistance with the Rescript of Honorius, which instructs them to see to their own defense. The last Roman legions are recalled from Britain. Thus begins what has been called the "sub-Roman" phase of Britain's history. The collapse of Rome inspires Augustine of Hippo to write City of God, which has been called "the first attempt at a philosophy of history."

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

433 — The beleaguered British seek help against the Picts from mercenary Angles, but this will backfire on them ...

441 — The Gallic Chronicle of 452 mentions the Anglo-Saxon takeover of Britain. It records this for the year 441: "The British provinces, which to this time had suffered various defeats and misfortunes, are reduced to Saxon rule." According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, when Rome declined to protect Britons from the Picts, they appealed to the Angles for assistance. So the Roman withdrawal from Britain may have led more or less directly to the Anglo-Saxon takeover of the island.

Our top ten early medieval era poets: Amergin, Gildas, Aldhelm, Bede, Caedmon, Cynewulf, King Alfred the Great, Deor, the anonymous authors of Beowulf and Wulf and Eadwacer (the latter in all likelihood a female poet)

Anglo-Saxon/Old English poems: The Ruin, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wife's Lament, Deor's Lament, Caedmon's Hymn, Bede's Death Song, The Seafarer, Anglo-Saxon Riddles and Kennings

Anglo-Saxon or Old English Period (441-1066)
Only four Anglo-Saxon poets are known by name with any degree of certainty: Caedmon, Bede, Cynewulf and King Alfred the Great. 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. Anglo-Saxon poems include Caedmon's Hymn, Bede's Death Song and anonymous works like Wulf and Eadwacer and Beowulf. All extant Anglo-Saxon 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. 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!

But who, exactly, were the Anglo-Saxons?

According to Procopius, generally considered to be the last major historian of the ancient Western world, England was settled by the Britons, Angles and Frisians, each with their own kings. The English language is most closely related to Frisian, a West Germanic language.

Bede, the father of English history, said the Anglo-Saxons came from three tribes: the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. The Angles were from Angeln, in northern Germany; the Saxons were from Lower Saxony, also in northern Germany; and the Jutes were from Jutland, in Denmark. According to Bede, the Angles settled in East Anglia, the Saxons in southern England, and the Jutes in Kent and the Isle of Wight.

While the historians don't agree on every detail, it seems safe to say that some time after Rome completely turned its back on Britain around the year 410, and there was a subsequent takeover of large parts of England by Germanic tribes that included the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians. This takeover would influence the development of the English language. English words of Anglo-Saxon origin include: abide, babble, care, dare, ear, etc. They represent around 25% of English words. Around this time native, Greco-Roman and Germanic-Scandinavian words and grammar are beginning to merge into the language we call "Old English" and "Anglo-Saxon English."

But it didn't happen overnight. Over a period of several hundred years the British isles would host a number of other languages, mostly Celtic language derivatives such as Old Brittonic, Brythonic, Breton, Welsh in Wales, Pictish and Goidelic (Scottish Gaelic) in Scotland, Gaelic in Ireland, Medieval Cornish in Cornwall, Manx on the Isle of Man and Cumbric in Cumbria. The more prevalent non-Celtic languages would include Old Norse in Scandinavian settlements and the Dane Law territories, and Latin and Greek among the better-educated natives.

The four main dialects of Old English would be Kentish, Mercian, Northumbrian and West Saxon, each named after the region from which it originated.

As for Anglo-Saxon poetry, Encyclopaedia Britannica says: Virtually all Old English poetry is written in a single metre, a four-stress line with a syntactical break, or caesura, between the second and third stresses, and with alliteration linking the two halves of the line; this pattern is occasionally varied by six-stress lines. The poetry is formulaic, drawing on a common set of stock phrases and phrase patterns, applying standard epithets to various classes of characters, and depicting scenery with such recurring images as the eagle and the wolf, which wait during battles to feast on carrion, and ice and snow, which appear in the landscape to signal sorrow. In the best poems such formulas, far from being tedious, give a strong impression of the richness of the cultural fund from which poets could draw. Other standard devices of this poetry are the kenning, a figurative name for a thing, usually expressed in a compound noun (e.g., swan-road used to name the sea); and variation, the repeating of a single idea in different words, with each repetition adding a new level of meaning. That these verse techniques changed little during 400 years of literary production suggests the extreme conservatism of Anglo-Saxon culture.

444 — The Huns unite under Attila, who sets his sights on Rome.

449 — This is the year commonly associated with the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon takeover of England. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 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 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 Chronicle says 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.

450 — Anglo-Saxons continue to invade England, which will take its name from the Angles as the lingo becomes more Germanic. The Undley bracteate contains the most ancient Old English runic inscription, possibly about a "reward to a relative." Albert Baugh has suggested 450 as the beginning point of the Old English language.

452 — Attila the Hun invades Italy. Attila meets with Roman envoys who include Bishop Leo I; they persuade him not to attack the city. Attila dies the following year.

455 — The Vandals sack Rome, capturing Sicily and Sardinia.

476 — 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. 

477 — The birth of Boethius (477-524) in Rome. His Consolation of Philosophy, called a "golden volume" by Edward Gibbon, and "of almost incomparable merit" by John Earle, would greatly influence later English poets like John Gower and Geoffrey Chaucer. The birth of Finnian of Movilla (c. 495–589), a Christian missionary whose most notable student was Columba (see the entry for 521).

480 — The birth of Saint Benedict (c. 480-547) whose order of Benedictine monks would influence English religion, culture and literature. For instance, Bede was a Benedictine monk.

500 — The birth of Saint Gildas (c. 500-570), perhaps the first notable English writer we know by name (although he was born in Scotland and wrote in Latin). He was known as Gildas Sapiens ("Gildas the Wise"). Gildas is best known for his De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (“On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain” or simply “On the Ruin of Britain”), a scathing religious polemic "which recounts the sub-Roman history of Britain, and which is the only substantial source for history of this period written by a near-contemporary." This is an excerpt from the opening passage:

“Alas! The nature of my complaint is the general destruction of all that is good, and the wild flourishing of evil throughout the land. Normally, I would grieve with my motherland in her distress and rejoice in her revival. But for now I choose to relate the deeds of an indolent and slothful race, rather than the feats of heroes. For ten years I kept my silence, I confess, with much mental anguish, guilt and a contrite heart, while I debated these things within myself...” — Gildas, The Ruin of Britain, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Gildas has also been credited with the hymn Lorica ("Breastplate"), a prayer for deliverance from evil.

"About A.D. 500, Avitus, bishop of Vienne, wrote a Latin poem on the mighty acts of Sacred History (DeSpiritalis Historiζ Gestis); and this book has been regarded as the original source of some passages in Cζdmon and Milton."—John Earle

521 — The birth of Saint Columba (521–597), who founded an important abbey on Iona and has been credited with three surviving medieval Latin hymns. He was born Colmcille ("Church Dove") in Gartan, northern Ireland. Or perhaps he adopted or was assigned the name later.

529 — Saint Benedict founds the monastery of Monte Cassino the same year the Christian emperor Justinian closes the last "pagan" academy in Athens.

530 — The birth of Dallαn Forgaill, a blind Irish poet who is said to have written Amhra Coluim Cille in archaic Old Irish, in honor of Saint Columba. He is also credited with writing Rop Tϊ Mo Baile ("Be Thou My Vision").

537 — The Battle of Camlan has been suggested as the one where King Arthur fought Mordred.

566 — Around this time Saint Gildas is asked by Ainmericus, high king of Ireland, to restore order to the church in Ireland. Gildas becomes a missionary, building churches and establishing monasteries. The monastery he builds in Brittany is named after him: St. Gildas de Rhuys.

570 — The birth of Mohammed, author of the Koran. The death of Saint Gildas.

589 — The earliest substantial example of English writing is the law code of King Ζthelberht of Kent (reigned c. 589–616), but that work survives in just one manuscript (the Textus Roffensis), dated circa the 1120s. According to Bede, Ζthelberht was the third King to hold imperium over the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle calls him bretwalda or "Britain-ruler."

597 — The death of Saint Columba. Pope Gregory makes Saint Augustine a missionary to England, where he lands on the Isle of Thanet with around 40 monks, founds the English Church, baptizes Ethelbert of Kent, the first English king to convert to Christianity, then becomes the first Archbishop of Canterbury (see the entry for 601).

600 — Possible date for early Irish saga literature. Around this time much of the main island is speaking Anglo-Saxon English.

601 — Saint Augustine founds Christ Church of Canterbury, restores a Roman church building as his cathedral, and becomes the first Archbishop of Canterbury after being formally given jurisdiction over Britain by Pope Gregory. Augustine would be known as the "Apostle to the English." The birth of Hild or Hilda (614–80), a grandniece of Edwin, the first Christian king of Northumbria. Hilda converted to Christianity with Edwin in 627. She presided as abbess at Hartlepool, then at Whitby, which she founded; she also organized a monastery at Hackness. So successful was her foundation at Whitby, the Venerable Bede tells us, writing in 731, that by his day the house had produced five bishops. Her success can be measured by the fact that Whitby was chosen as the site of the great synod of 664

620 — Vikings begin invasions of Ireland and will eventually take much of it over.

627 — The birth of Adomnαn (c. 627–704), whose Vita Columbae ("Life of Columba") is the first biography written in Britain.

628 — The birth of Benedict Biscop, an abbot and bibliophile who would assemble a library of several hundred volumes from his book-buying trips to Rome. This library would be used by Bede to write his history of England.

632 — The Koran employs rhymed prose unique to Arabic called saj.

634 — The monastery at Lindisfarne is founded by Saint Aidan. Also the birth of Cuthbert, who would become Bishop of Lindisfarne (see the entry for 685).

639 — The birth of Aldhelm (c. 639-709), an Anglo-Saxon aristocrat, scholar, abbot and bishop who composed "enigmas" or riddles in Latin. King Alfred the Great considered Aldhelm to be the greatest English poet. The Leiden Riddle (below) is an Old English translation of Aldhelm's Latin riddle Lorica ("Corselet").

The Leiden Riddle
anonymous Old English riddle poem, circa 700
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The dank earth birthed me from her icy womb.
I know I was not fashioned from woolen fleeces;
nor was I skillfully spun from skeins;
I have neither warp nor weft;
no thread thrums through me in the thrashing loom;
nor do whirring shuttles rattle me;
nor does the weaver's rod assail me;
nor did silkworms spin me like skillfull fates
into curious golden embroidery.
And yet heroes still call me an excellent coat.
Nor do I fear the dread arrows' flights,
however eagerly they leap from their quivers.

Solution: a coat of mail.

650 — Up to this point, we have been following the evolution of what has been called Prehistoric Old English or Primitive Old English because there has been no writing in English of which we are aware. But that is about to change with the emergence of the first published Anglo-Saxon poet, Cζdmon, and the first Anglo-Saxon epic poem and major work of literature, Beowulf. We will call the next stage Early Old English, and it will take us to around the year 900.

657 — Hilda founds the first English monastery, Whitby Abbey. Hilda is considered to be a patron saint of learning and culture due to her patronage of Cζdmon (see the entry for 658).

658 — Caedmon's Hymn, the first extant English poem, marks the beginning of English poetry. According to the Venerable Bede, Caedmon was an illiterate cowherd of the Whitby monastery who was given the gift of poetic composition by an angel. Bede considered Caedmon to be the best English poet. The poem is also known as "The Hymn of Creation."

664 — During the Synod of Whitby, the Whitby Abbey aligns with the Roman Catholic Church. This heralds a decline of the Celtic 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.

665 — The birth of Boniface (c. 675–754), a West Saxon whose English name was Wynfrith or Winfrid. Boniface was a scholar who produced an elementary Latin grammar "of some ingenuity" and a "particularly intricate" set of metrical enigmata.  

666 — Theodore of Tarsus, a learned man, becomes Archbishop of Canterbury, a position he will hold until his death in 690.

670 — The birth of Tatwine (c. 670-734), a composer of riddles and Archbishop of Canterbury.

673 — The birth of Bede (c. 672-735), the great English scholar who came to be known as the Venerable Bede and the "Father of English History." Bede would be the major English writer of note before Geoffrey Chaucer and the only Englishman mentioned in Dante's Divine Comedy.

674 — Benedict Biscop founds the monastery at Monkwearmouth where the just-born Bede will become England's most prominent writer, scholar and historian.

680 — Possible early date for the composition of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf and the shorter poem Widsith, the Far Traveler. However, many experts now believe these poems date to the ninth century.

685 — Saint Cuthbert becomes Bishop of Lindisfarne. An anonymous life of Cuthbert written at Lindisfarne may be the oldest extant English historical writing. Written just after or possibly contemporarily with Adomnαn's Vita Columbae, the Vita Sancti Cuthberti ("Life of Saint Cuthbert") is the earliest known 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, dated to the eighth century, and thus firmly establishing the poem's antiquity. The Franks Casket has similar poetic runic inscriptions. Tochmarc Ιtaνne ("The Wooing of Ιtaνn/Ιadaoin") is an early text of the Irish Mythological Cycle featuring characters from the Ulster Cycle of Kings that is preserved in the Lebor na hUidre (c. 1106) and Yellow Book of Lecan (c. 1401). It has been cited as a possible source for the Middle English Sir Orfeo. Anglo-Saxon biblical paraphrases such as Genesis, Exodus, Daniel and the poem Judith. The Old English Latin Alphabet may have begun to evolve around this time and would be used from the eighth to twelfth centuries. This alphabet lacked the letters J, K, Q and Z.

Franks Casket Runes
anonymous Old English riddle, circa 700
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The fish flooded the shore-cliffs;
the sea-king wept when he swam onto the shingle:
whale's bone.

709 — Stephen of Ripon authors Vita Sancti Wilfrithi ("Life of Saint Wilfrid"). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions the death of Aldhelm.

731 — Bede writes The Ecclesiastical History of the English People in Latin. He notes: "At the present time, languages of five peoples are spoken in the island of the Britain ... English, British, Irish, Pictish and the Latin languages."

735 — Bede creates the first English translation of the Bible, his Gospel of St. John. Bede's death and his Death Song. The birth of Alcuin of York (c. 735-804), aka Ealhwine, Alcuinus, Albinus and Flaccus. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court. He was made Abbot of Tours in 796. "The most learned man anywhere to be found", according to Einhard's Life of Charlemagne (c. 817-833), he is considered to be among the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Alcuin’s oeuvre has been called "immense," including works on grammar, rhetoric, orthography, theology, Scripture, and hagiography. Some of his poems are of interest for their affinities to Old English lyric verse. Anglo-Latin verse would be scarce after Alcuin’s day, so he may be considered its apex. Alcuin also produced a Latin translation of the Bible for Charlemagne.

757 — Offa becomes King of Mercia. During his reign he extends Mercian supremacy over most of southern England. Many historians consider Offa to have been the most powerful Anglo-Saxon king before Alfred the Great. However, apparently unable to conquer Wales, Offa constructed a gigantic defensive earthwork 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 to Stonehenge. An anonymous monk includes one of the earliest extant English poems, circa 757-786:

A Proverb from Winfred's Time
anonymous Old English poem, circa 757-786
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Often the deed-dodger avoids ventures,
never succeeds, and dies alone.

Winfrid or Wynfrith is better known as Saint Boniface (c. 675–754). According to Eric Gerald Stanley this little proverb-poem may predate the letter and "may be the oldest of all extant English verse, as it is certainly the oldest in linguistic form of all English proverbs."

758 — The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions the death of Cuthbert, Archbishop of Canterbury.

760 — Hygeburg (floruit 760–780) is "the first known Englishwoman to have written a full-length literary work" and "the only woman author of a saint's life from the Carolingian period." An Anglo-Saxon nun and hagiographer, she was also known as Hugeburc, Hugeberc, Huneberc or Huneburc. She was a nun at the Alemannian monastery of Heidenheim, which had been founded as a monastery for monks in 752 by Wynnebald, an Anglo-Saxon from Wessex. On his death in 761, his sister Walburg inherited Heidenheim and converted it into a double monastery with the introduction of nuns. Hygeburg was, in her own words, "a humble relative" of Wynnebald, Walburg and their brother, Willibald. On June 23, 778, while visiting Heidenheim, Willibald dictated to Hygeburg an account of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the 720s or 730s. She subsequently worked this account into a biography of Willibald, called the Hodoeporicon ("relation of a voyage"), but now known as the Vita Willibaldi ("Life of Willibald"). From her choice of phrase and motif, she apparently had access to the Carmen Paschale, the Vita Bonifatii and the riddles of Aldhelm. Although there was opposition to her writing within the convent, Walburg encouraged it. Hygeburg also wrote a biography of Wynnebald, the Vita Wynnebaldi. Although her two works were a single project, completed by 780, they are textually distinct, indicating her use of oral reports and eyewitness testimony.

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.

771 — The birth of Egbert of Wessex (c. 771-839), who may have been the first king of a somewhat united England. The birth of Nennius, the suggested author of the Historia Brittonum, which presents King Arthur as a historical figure. Charlemagne inherits the Frankish crown.

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

787 — The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions the first Viking attacks on the English coast.

789 — Egbert is forced into exile in France by King Offa of Mercia and King Beorhtric of Wessex.

793 — Vikings attack Lindisfarne. Primarily Danes, the Vikings would add many words to the English vocabulary.

795 — Vikings attack Ireland.

796 — The death of King Offa ends Mercian domination of England.

800 — Pope Leo III crowns Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor of the West. Alcuin's Latin translation of the Bible. A possible later date for the composition of Beowulf. The longest known work of written Old Saxon, the 6,000-line poem Heliand ("Healer"), is believed to have been written early in the ninth century.

802 — The death of King Beorhtric of Wessex. Egbert returns from exile and takes the throne of Wessex.

814 — The death of Charlemagne will have a profound impact on England, due to Viking raids that will result in Normandy being ceded to the Norsemen. It is from Normandy that the Norsemen/Normans will attack and defeat England under William the Conqueror.

820 — Viking raids on Francia begin shortly after Charlemagne's death. The Viking sail up the Seine with 13 ships but retreat when confronted. They will eventually return to attack and sack Paris (see the entry for 845).

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, but loses the battle and his life. The West Saxons now have the upper hand.

829 — King Egbert of Wessex invades and defeats Mercia, driving its king Wiglaf into exile. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described Egbert as a bretwalda, meaning "wide-ruler" or "Britain-ruler." Thus Egbert may have been the first king of a united Anglo-Saxon England. If so, his reign was brief, as Wiglaf would re-take the throne of Mercia in 830.

830 — Ono no Komachi (c. 830-900) will write tanka (also known as waka), a traditional form of Japanese lyric poetry that, along with haiku, will influence English modernists like Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot.

842 — Vikings raid London, Rochester, and Southampton.

845 — Vikings under the Norse chieftain Reginherus (possibly Ragnar Lothbrok) attack and sack Paris with 120 ships, earning 7,000 pounds of gold and silver in tribute from Charles the Bald. This was the first known instance of a "Danegeld" payment and would set the stage for more and greater larceny (see the entry for 885).

850 — Vikings overwinter in England for the first time, on the island of Thanet, Kent.

853 — Viking invaders control large parts of Ireland and rule in Dublin.

849 — The birth of King Alfred the Great (c. 849-899), a writer and translator of note, as well as one of England's greatest kings (as his appellation suggests). Alfred was one of the first known writers of English prose and he is believed to have translated the first fifty Psalms himself, or to have participated with scholars in their translation. Perhaps due in part to Alfred's influence, his Early West Saxon dialect became the standard form of English, or the "King's/Queen's English."

859 — The oldest existing and continually-operating educational institution in the world is the University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco. 

861 — Vikings discover Iceland.

865 — A coalition of Vikings called "The Great Heathen Army" invades England and conquers large parts of the island, including Northumbria.

867 — East Anglia falls to the Vikings.

871 — Alfred defeats the Danes at the Battle of Ashdown. Later in the year his brother King Ethelred dies and Alfred becomes King Alfred of Wessex. The birth of Ζthelflζd (c. 870-918), the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great and his wife Ealhswith. Ζthelflζd would be known as the Lady of the Mercians, and would rule Mercia from 911 until her death. The accession of a female ruler in Mercia has been described by the historian Ian Walker as "one of the most unique events in early medieval history." 

874 — Iceland is settled by Norsemen.

877 — Most of Mercia falls to the Vikings, leaving Wessex as the last English stronghold.

878 — Wessex, the last remaining English kingdom, is largely overrun by the forces of the Danish king Guthrum. But King Alfred the Great defeats Guthrum at the Battle of Edington. Danelaw is established, dividing Britain into an Anglo-Saxon south and a Danish north.

885 — Vikings under Hrolf the Ganger (aka Rollo) besiege Paris with 700 ships, demanding tribute from Charles the Fat, who obliges (see the entry at 911).

886 — King Alfred the Great reoccupies London and begins to restore it.

891 — The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is the first comprehensive attempt at an English history. It has been called "the single most important source for the history of England in Anglo-Saxon times." While it was mostly written in Anglo-Saxon prose, it does have poetic passages. Meanwhile, the most literate of Anglo-Saxon kings, Alfred, brought ecclesiastics from abroad to tutor him and to staff two religious houses he built for men and women. In the preface to his translation of Gregory the Great’s Regula pastoralis, the learned king paints a dismal picture of the state of literacy in his realms, saying only a few souls south of the Humber could translate even a letter from Latin, and not a single person south of the Thames! This Latin illiteracy spurred Alfred to translate Latin works into English in what has been called "the first great flowering of English prose." In his preface Alfred also revealed his goal that the children of freemen should be taught to read English and, in some cases, Latin. This was a radical proposal at the time: "Alfred saw the task of rebuilding the country not simply as a matter of defeating the invaders but of restoring the glory it had seen in former days – a glory expressed to the world most manifestly in the Latin scholarship of Englishmen like Aldhelm, Bede, and Alcuin." And Alfred’s translation program undoubtedly helped dignify the vernacular as a language of scholarship. When someone asks why a small, seemingly insignificant island produced so much of the world's great poetry and prose, the answer may lie here: Thanks to King Alfred the Great, England had a huge head start. It is generally believed that four of the  translations from this period were made by Alfred himself: the Pastoral Care, the Consolation of Philosophy, the Soliloquies, and the prose psalms of the Paris Psalter.   

895 — King Alfred the Great defeats and captures a Danish fleet. Around this time, a Welsh monk named Asser writes the Life of King Alfred. This biography provides far more information about Alfred than is known about any other early English ruler.

899 — The death of Alfred the Great. Edward the Elder takes the title "King of Angles and Saxons." With the death of Alfred the Great, we now enter into the Late Old English phase of the language, which will end abruptly with the Norman Conquest in 1066.

900 — Deor, an Anglo-Saxon scop, composes Deor's Lament.

911 — Charles the Simple grants the Viking chieftain Rollo his daughter's hand in marriage and the duchy of Normandy. In return Rollo becomes the king's champion and warlord. The Norsemen will become known as the Normans and later invade England during the Norman Conquest, under William the Conqueror. Ζthelflζd, the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, rules in Mercia and will be a formidable warrior-queen.

917 — Ζthelflζd and her brother Edward, acting in close concert, launched an offensive that will lead ultimately to the recapture of the Danelaw and the end of all Danish control of England south of the Humber. There are also indications that Ζthelflζd's military strategies were effective at securing Mercia against renewed Viking attacks from the north. In her day Ζthelflζd dominated the politics of the Midlands and the North, and her military accomplishments helped to enable the unification of England for the first time under a single king of the royal house of Wessex. Historians generally agree that Ζthelflζd was a great ruler who played an important part in the conquest of the Danelaw. 

924 — King Athelstan the Glorious reigns; he takes the title "King of all Britain" after defeating an alliance of Scots, Celts, Danes and Vikings. This is the height of Anglo-Saxon power in England.

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

950 — "Beginning in the latter half of the tenth century we see an explosive growth in book production that is responsible for the existence of all but a minuscule fraction of surviving Old English manuscripts." Four vital early Anglo-Saxon poetry manuscripts are: Junius, the Vercelli Book, the Exeter Book and Beowulf. A possible first extant English poem written by a woman is Wulf and Eadwacer; another 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 the first English rhyming poem known as The Rhyming Poem, plus Advent Lyrics and Anglo-Saxon riddles and kennings. Kennings were metaphorical expressions such as "whale-path" and "swan-road" for the sea. The Vercelli Book includes The Dream of the Rood, Elene, Soul and Body, The Fates of the Apostles, and Andreas. Further north, there are the Icelandic Eddas. There is also a monastic revival under Dunstan, Aethelwold and AElfric.

955 — The birth of Ζlfric of Eynsham (c. 955-1010), an English abbot and prolific writer of hagiography, homilies and biblical commentaries who is also known as Ζlfric the Grammarian (Alfricus Grammaticus), Ζlfric of Cerne, and Ζlfric the Homilist. 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. He provided a preface for the Old English Hexateuch (the first five books of the Bible plus the book of Joshua), translated the opening chapters of Genesis, and may have served as the book's editor. Perhaps due in part to his influence the "Winchester standard" or "Late West Saxon" version of the English language became accepted as the "classical" form of Old English. Important poems like Beowulf and Judith, although they were apparently not originally composed in "Winchester standard English," would be written down and passed down that way. It was said that AElfric "represented the highest pinnacle of Benedictine reform and Anglo-Saxon literature."

959 — The reign of King Edgar the Peaceful begins.

966 — The birth of Ζthelred (c. 966-1016), also known as Ethelred the Unready, a future king of England.

970 — The birth of Byrhtferth of Ramsey (c. 970-1020). A student of the scholar Abbo of Fleury, Byrhtferth was a priest and monk who lived at Ramsey Abbey in Huntingdonshire. He had a deep impact on the intellectual life of later Anglo-Saxon England. He wrote many computistic, hagiographic, and historical works. His early scientific textbook, Enchiridion ("Manual"), composed in Latin and Old English, is Byrhtferth's best-known work.

971 — The Blickling Homilies are Anglo-Saxon prose texts.

975 — St. Aethelwold's Regularis Concordia is the earliest evidence of dramatic activity in England.

978 — King Ethelred the Unready reigns at age 11, explaining the "unready." He loses battles with the Danes, pays Danegeld (tribute) and eventually flees to Normandy.

985 — Eric the Red 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.

990 — The Wessex Gospels are the first Old English translations of the four gospels not taken from Latin. They were translated into the West Saxon dialect of Old English from the received Greek text. The Catholic Homilies of Ζlfric are his first known publications, circa 990.

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

993 — The Latin literacy problem mentioned by King Alfred seems to have gotten worse, because in the preface to his Grammar (c. 993), Ζlfric says that a few years earlier, before Dunstan and Ζthelwold restored monastic life, no English priest could compose or fully understand a letter in Latin.

994 — When Ζthelred makes a treaty with the Danes, it marks the first time the word “England” is found in an official document witnessed by an English king.

996 — The highly literate Wulfstan becomes Bishop of London.

1000 — Now skruketh rose and lylie flour is an early English love poem. A possible date for the Nowell Codex. The first known limerick ("The lion is wondrous strong") appears in France. A possible date for the first Easter and Christmas plays. The Anglo-Saxon Gospels and Aelfric's Sermons. Native American poetry dates to around this time; see Native American Poetry Translations.

1002 — The learned cleric Wulfstan becomes Bishop of Worchester and Archbishop of York.

1013 — The English continue to lose battles to the Danes. On Christmas Day, Sweyn Forkbeard becomes King of England. He dies five months after assuming the throne, which would be claimed by his son Cnut.

1014 — Wulfstan II, the Archbishop of York, writes his Sermon of the Wolf to the English. He is considered to be one of the major writers of alliterative prose during the late Anglo-Saxon period in England.

1016 — The Danish prince Cnut is crowned ealles Engla landes cyning—"king of all England." Medieval historian Norman Cantor has called Cnut "the most effective king in Anglo-Saxon history."

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

1031 — The Latin Liber Vitae ("Book of Life") was an earthly prequel to the heavenly Day of Judgment.

1033 — The birth of Anselm (c. 1033-1109) in Upper Burgundy. Anselm was a monk, abbot, theologian and philosopher who has been called the founder of Scholasticism. His philosophical works include the Grammarian and De Veritate ("On Truth"). He was also a prolific writer of dialogues and letters.

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 dies in 1042.

1040 — Macbeth kills Duncan at the battle at Elgin and rules as King of Scots. Shakespeare would write one of his most famous plays about the goings-on.

1042 — King Edward the Confessor reigns as king of all England. His major building campaign is the construction of Westminster Abbey, the first Norman Romanesque church to be built in England. He allegedly promises the English throne to William of Normandy, his first cousin, but later reneges. Edward was the last king of the House of Wessex and the only English king to be canonized (made a saint). A dispute over the English crown after his death led to the Norman Conquest of England (see the entry for 1066).

1048 — The 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. Eight centuries later, Edward FitzGerald (1809–83) would make Khayyαm famous in the West with his acclaimed translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

1054 — The Great Schism of the Roman Catholic Church.

1060 — The Arundel Psalter was an Anglo-Saxon prayer book.

1065 — The birth of Saint Godric (1065?-1170), a hermit said to have written poems and songs. Reginald of Durham (?-1190) recorded four of the songs in his Life of Saint Godric: the oldest English songs for which the music survives. The song A Cry to Mary, which begins "Saintλ Mariλ Virginλ ..." is written in rhyming couplets.

1066 — Edward the Confessor dies and Harold Godwinson inherits his throne. William the Conqueror, who claims to be the rightful heir, defeats King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, becoming King William I of England and being crowned on Christmas Day in Westminster Abbey; this Norman Conquest of England marks the end of the Anglo-Saxon and Late Old English periods. French and Latin now rule over lowly English! At this time the Norman conquerors of England speak Old Norman or Old French. English words of Norman/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 Norse/Norman/French influence on the English language will be profound as it prepares for a comeback with Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1300s.

Our top ten poets of the Early Middle English Period: Orm ("Worm"), Wace, Layamon, Walter Map, Thomas of Britain, Richard Rolle de Hampole, Robert Manning de Brunne, the Archpoet, Francesco Petrarch, Dante Alighieri

The Anglo-Norman or Early Middle English Period (1066-1339)
During the Anglo-Norman era the English people and their language were subjugated to their conquerors, who favored Latin and French. English bishops were replaced by Norman bishops who had no use for a primitive language they couldn't understand. Latin became the "language of all serious writing." English was a language for rural hayseeds! But the conquerors were overcome linguistically by Geoffrey Chaucer, who by 1362 was writing poetry in a mostly-understandable version of "our" English. We will call this language Early Middle English. It had a largely Anglo-Saxon vocabulary, with Norse and other borrowings. Chaucer wrote in what might be called the "London dialect" of this evolving language. We have glimpses of this language in surviving poems and songs such as How Long the Night ("Myrie it is while sumer ylast") and Sumer is icumen in (also known as "The Cuckoo Song").

1067 — Construction of the Tower of London begins. It would unfortunately house some of England's leading poets and see some of them lose their heads.

1068 — The chansons de geste ("songs of heroic deeds"), performed by professional minstrels in castles and manors, celebrated the exploits of Charlemagne―the greatest 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 the eleventh century; Gormont et Isembart may date from as early as 1068; while The Song of Roland probably dates from after 1086. 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 IX, 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."

1071 — The birth of William IX (1071-1127), the Duke of Aquitaine, also known as William of Aquitaine and "The Troubadour." He is the earliest Troubadour whose work survives, in the form of eleven songs. As the first major poet to write in a vernacular language, he would help set the stage for poets to come, like Dante and Chaucer.

1078 — Anselm becomes the Abbot of Bec. Under his direction, Bec would become the foremost seat of learning in Europe.

1085 — The birth of Orderic Vitalis (1075–c. 1142), an English historian and Benedictine monk who wrote a chronicle of 11th- and 12th-century Anglo-Norman England. He called himself Angligena ("English-born"). Thus we see the "Angle" in England!

1086 — William I orders extensive surveys of his English holdings, recorded in the Domesday Book (written in Latin), and notifies the Pope that England owes no allegiance to Rome, the first of many British rifts with the Vatican. This is a possible date for The Song of Roland.

1087 — The death of William I aka William the Conqueror. His English crown and holdings are inherited by William Rufus ("the Red"), who becomes William II.

1088 — The University of Bologna, Italy, was founded in 1088 and is Europe's oldest university.

1090 — The birth of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), who has been attributed three poems that became hymns.

1093 — Anselm becomes the Archbishop of Canterbury, an office he will hold until his death in 1109.

1095 — The First Crusade begins. The birth of William of Malmesbury, who has been called "the foremost historian of the 12th century." 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).  French and Latin remain the primary languages of rulers, clergy, scholars and fashionable poets.

1097 — Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is exiled by William II and his lands are confiscated. Anselm goes to Rome.

1100 — The death of William II during a hunting expedition in the New Forest. Henry I reigns. Anselm returns to England and resumes his position as Archbishop of Canterbury. The birth of Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100-1155), a Welsh cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and tales of King Arthur. Geoffrey is best known for his Latin chronicle De gestis Britonum or Historia regum Britanniae ("History of the Kings of Britain"). Earlier tales in the Welsh Mabinogion survive (but are probably oral tales older than the manuscripts). The Play of Saint Catherine is the first known English miracle play. Icelandic sagas such as Grettirsaga and Volsungsaga. Possible date for the older books of the Nowell Codex, which is actually comprised of two codices. The first codex contains Alfred the Great's translations of Aristotle's Soliloquies, a translation of the Gospel of Nicodemus, the prose manuscript Solomon and Saturn, and a fragment of The Life of Saint Quentin. The second codex contains a unique copy of Beowulf, along with a translation of the biblical book of Judith, plus The Life of Saint ChristopherWonders of the East and Letters of Alexander to Aristotle.

1101 — William of Aquitaine becomes a leader of the Second Crusade, but was apparently a better lover than a fighter. To finance the expedition William had to mortgage Toulouse. He then lost nearly his entire army in a battle with the Turks. On the brighter side, he has been called the first of the troubadours.

1103 — Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is exiled for a second time, this time by Henry I, and his lands are again confiscated. Anselm goes to Rome.

1105 — Under threat of excommunication Henry I meets Anselm in Normandy to settle disputes that had led to Anselm's being exiled from England. An agreement was reached and Aneslm returned to England the following year.

1110 — The death of Anselm. The birth of Wace, perhaps Robert of Wace, a Norman poet and author of Roman de Brut and Roman de Rou.

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

1120 — The birth of John of Salisbury (c. 1120-1180) aka as Johannes Parvus ("John the Little"), an English author, diplomat and bishop of Chartres. He was born of Anglo-Saxon stock but has been described as "one of the best Latinists of his age" and an "ornament of his age." Around this time the troubadours of Provence introduce the art of courtly love and chivalry. Eadmer writes The Life of Anselm.

1130 — Possible date for the birth of the Archpoet. Besides having the coolest pen name ever, not much is known definitively about the Archpoet. Based on the poem "His Confession," this heretical medieval Latin poet may be responsible, to some degree, for our modern conception of the wandering vagabond poet and rogue scholar.

1133 — The 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 — The birth of Bertran de Born, one of the major Occitan troubadours.

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 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."

1150 — The first extant text written in Middle English may be a sermon or homily given by Ralph d’Escures, Archbishop of Canterbury. His 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. Around this time a monk named Orm or Ormin ("Worm") introduces a revolutionary new meter to English poetry, or he at least provides the first extant example. Orm wrote the Ormulum, a long religious verse homily composed in Middle English. It is one of the first English poems to employ ballad meter (also known as common meter or common measure). The only other poem from this era to employ such meter is the Poema Morale, written by an unknown author. The Ormulum also demonstrates what would be called Received Standard English, two centuries before Chaucer (Burchfield). The Ormulum has been very helpful to linguists because Orm was meticulous about spelling words so they could be pronounced properly. Thus we have a good idea how words were being pronounced in the 12th century, thanks to an industrious bookworm!

1154 — Henry II is the first Plantagenet king. Eleanor of Aquitaine becomes Queen Consort of England. The Plantagenets were Normans with large land holdings in France, including Normandy, Anjou, Gascony and Aquitaine. Henry II spent more time in Europe than England during his reign. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is updated for the last time in 1154.

1155 — Wace's Anglo-Norman Roman de Brut is presented by Wace to Eleanor of Aquitaine.

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 (apparently due to his dispute with Thomas Beckett). The ban leads to a "growth spurt" at Oxford, when English scholars head home.

1170 — Henry II has Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, assassinated. Birth of Saint Dominic (1170-1221), founder or an order of preaching friars, and the English poet Thomas d'Angleterre (c. 1170-?), author of Tristram.

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

1176 — John of Cornwall studies under Peter Lombard in Paris and around this time writes Eulogium ad Alexandrum Papam III, quod Christus sit aliquis homo. There will be a second John Cornwall (see the entry for 1385).

1180 — Joseph Iscan, also known as Joseph of Exeter, was a twelfth-century Latin poet from Exeter who 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 while his brother John acts as regent. Like his father Henry II, the young Richard I will be more absent than present in England. A possible early date for the comic Middle English poem The Owl and the Nightingale.

1190 — An approximate date for Layamon's Brut, a 16,096-line poem composed in Middle English and modeled after Wace's Anglo-Norman Roman de Brut. Layamon's Brut shows a strong Anglo-Saxon influence and contains the first known reference to King Arthur in English. This 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 dabbling in surrealism, describing dead warriors who were both men and fish.

1193 — The first Anglo-French war, from 1193 to 1199. England's series of wars with France may have contributed to the rise of English and the decline of French in England's halls of power, but whatever the cause(s), it would take time.

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 readers. The oldest known English ballad is Judas, probably composed sometime during 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. Many poets―if not most―are minstrels who perform for money or food and drink. But the early ballads are notable for their "fierce realism" mixed with eerie supernatural elements. English folk music has existed at least since the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. The Venerable Bede's story of the cowherd-turned-ecclesiastical-musician Cζdmon indicates that it was normal at feasts to pass around the harp and sing "vain and idle songs." Ballads composed between 1200 and 1700 include: Sir Patrick Spens, 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, Thomas The Rhymer, Chevy Chase, The Cherry-tree Carol, and various Robin Hood ballads. Ballads also became an early form of journalism, sometimes subversive, pardon the pun. Traveling minstrels could "spread the news" with their ballads.

1204 — King John loses Normandy to France, perhaps making his father prophetic when he nicknamed his son "Lackland." The Norman kings are now limited to their English holdings but still don't speak English.

1207 — Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (1207–1273), was a Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi has been described as the "most popular poet" and the "best-selling poet" in the United States.

1208 — The University of Cambridge is founded when violence between Oxford townspeople and students makes another campus seem like a good idea.

1210 — The University of Paris is recognized in a papal bull.

1215 — The Magna Carta (Latin for "Grand Charter) forces King John to grant liberties and rights to English nobles in return for taxation (although the document was drafted in French).

1216 — Henry III reigns.

1219 — The birth of Roger Bacon (c. 1219–1292), the Doctor Mirabilis ("wondrous doctor"). He was an English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empirical methods or the modern scientific method. 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.

1224 — The birth of Saint Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-1274).

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 ... 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."

1240 — The birth of the French poet Jean de Meun (c. 1240-1305), who would write a continuation of Guillaume de Lorris's Roman de la Rose.

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. Bevis of Hampton and King Horn are early English romances about "the Matter of England." Sumer is icumen in came with a musical score and instructions for singing it in rounds, although the instructions were written in Latin! Considered a rondel because it is "round" or cyclical in form, it is one of the oldest lyrics that can still be sung to its original melody. 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. Matthew Paris's maps of London are notable for their detail and accuracy.

1258 — Henry III mixes English with French in governmental proclamations; the English language is making a comeback but it will be a gradual process. Henry III is forced to accept the Provisions of Oxford, which establish a Privy Council to oversee the administration of the government. These documents are generally regarded as England's first written constitution. The first English language royal proclamation since the Norman conquest is issued.

1263 — Balliol College is founded at Oxford.

1265 — The birth of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). Dante is generally considered to be one of the world's greatest poets, comparable to Homer and Shakespeare. Simon de Montfort summons the first directly-elected English Parliament.

Dante Translations by Michael R. Burch

1266 — The birth of the Scotsman John Duns or Johannes Duns, better known as Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) and Doctor Subtilis (Subtle Doctor). He is considered to be one of the three most important Western philosopher-theologians of the High Middle Ages, along with Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. Due to his appellation, he is believed to have been born in Duns, Berwickshire, Scotland.

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. The approximate birth of Robert Mannyg (Manning), aka Robert de Brunne, who would write Middle English poetry in rhymed tetrameter couplets fifty years before Chaucer and Gower. Mannyg's two known works are Handlying Synne and Mannyg's Chronicle (also called the Chronicle of England). Dante claims to have met Beatrice Portinari at age nine, and to have immediately fallen in love with her. She would become the focal point of his poetry. It is in her honor that Dante creates the dolce stil nuovo ("sweet new style") of courtly love poetry. Marco Polo enters the service of Kublai Khan.

1277 — Roger Bacon is exiled for heresy.

1287 — The 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. A descendent of Normans, he wrote in Latin.

1288 — Robert Manning de Brunne enters Sempringham Abbey.

1290 — The 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. The love of Dante's life, Beatrice, dies at age 24.

1291 — Duns Scotus is ordained to the priesthood.

1292 — Dante's Vita Nuova ("New Life") explores his love for Beatrice, which appears to have been unrequited.

1295 — The "Model Parliament" is England's first representative parliament (i.e., giving ordinary citizens a voice in their government).

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

1297 — The Scots, led by William Wallace, defeat the British at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

1300 — Dame Sirith is the earliest English fabliau. Guy of Warwick and Bevis of Hampton are early English romances. Cursor Mundi (Latin for "Runner of the World"), an anonymous Middle-English historical and religious poem of nearly 30,000 lines, is written around this time. The poem summarizes the history of the world as described in the Christian Bible and other sources. It will be extremely popular in its time. Duns Scotus appears to have been at Oxford by 1300. Around this time he composes Ordinatio (also known as the Opus oxoniense), a revised version of lectures he gave as a bachelor at Oxford on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Dante is made Prior of Florence, a position of extreme power. Also, the approximate birth of the English poet, anchorite/hermit and mystic Richard Rolle de Hampole. Rolle began writing poetry in Latin but progressed to English rhymed iambics and thus may have been a transitional poet, since traditional Old English poetry had been alliterative and unrhymed. Rolle was also an early translator of the Bible into English, particularly seven penitential psalms. He also left a paraphrase of the Book of Job, a Lord's Prayer, The Fire of Love, The Melody of Love, The Form of Living and (possibly) The Pricke of Conscience. A "flourishing cult" would center around Rolle after his death and during the 14th and 15th centuries his writings would be read more than Chaucer's. These lines from Rolle's poem "What Is Heaven?" remain understandable 700 years later: "And ther is bright somer ever to se, / And there is nevere wynter in that countrie." Due to his popularity, Rolle helped legitimize the English language for purposes of poetry and religion. However, it is not certain that everything attributed to Rolle was written by him and has passed down to us without alterations.

1302 — Dante falls out of favor and is banished from Florence. He ironically writes an essay in Latin about the need for vernacular Italian! Duns Scotus is lecturing at the University of Paris, but gets expelled for siding with Pope Boniface VIII in a dispute with King Philip IV of France over the taxation of church property.

1303 — Robert Manning de Brunne writes Handlying Synne, a 12,000 thousand line devotional or penitential piece, written in Middle English rhymed couplets.

1304 — The birth of Francesco Petrarch, the creator of the sonnet ("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 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 his Divina Commedia ("Divine Comedy").

1308 — The death of Duns Scotus.

1313 — The birth of Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), an Italian writer, poet and Renaissance humanist.

1314 — Robert Bruce defeats Edward II at Bannockburn; the lyrics Alysoun and Lenten ys come with love to toune.

1317 — Dante's Inferno.

1320 — The birth of John Wyclif or Wycliffe, aka Doctor Evangelicus. He would be an important translator of the Bible into English and an influence on poets like Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower and William Langland. Wycliffe (1320-1384) has been called "England's first European mind." The birth of the Scottish poet John Barbour (c. 1320-1395), the first major literary figure known to have written in Scots. Around this time Richard Rolle returns home from Oxford without his MA, "intending to become a hermit." The illustrated Holkham Bible is produced around this time.

1321 — The death of Dante.

1325 — The illustrated Luttrell Psalter is produced around this time. The great Persian poet Hafez/Hafiz is born in Shiraz, Iran.

1327 — Edward III reigns. Robert Holcot complains that 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. The story mixes the Greek myth of Orpheus with Celtic folklore. Approximate births of the English poets John Gower (c. 1330-1408) and William Langland (c. 1330-1386?). Gower was one of the first poets to create an "English style."

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.

1337 — The beginning of the Hundred Years War between England and France.

1338 — The birth of the radical English Lollard priest and poet John Ball (1338-1381). Robert Manning's Chronicle of England.

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

Late Medieval or Chaucerian Period (1340-1486)
This is the beginning of "our" English poetry. Poets like Chaucer, Skelton, Gower, Langland and the anonymous writers of the early English ballads 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 — The birth of Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340-1400). Long before Shakespeare, Chaucer would create unforgettable characters like the Wife of Bath, the Miller and the Pardoner. These are the first "developed" literary characters in English literature. John Dryden called Chaucer the "father of English poetry" and pointed out that John Milton called Chaucer his original, while Edmund Spenser claimed to be his reincarnation! All Richard Rolle's extant English writings date from 1340 or later.

1341 — Petrarch is crowned Poet Laureate in Rome.

1342 — The birth of Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), an English anchorite, mystic and writer whose visions would influence T. S. Eliot's masterpiece "Four Quartets." She would become the English language's first published female writer (see the entry for 1395). Around this time the mystical book The Cloud of Unknowing is written by an unknown author.

1345 — John Wycliffe is known to have been at Oxford by 1345.

1348 — The Black Death kills one-third of the population of England; the Chronicle of the Black Death records the horror. Richard Rolle's last work was probably his English The Form of Living, written in autumn 1348 at the earliest and addressed to Margaret Kirkby, who became an anchorite on December 12, 1348.

1349 — Richard Rolle dies at a Hampole nunnery on Michaelmas, possibly a victim of the Black Death. During the 14th and 15th centuries Rolle was more widely read that Chaucer and his "works survive in nearly four hundred English ... and at least seventy Continental manuscripts, almost all written between 1390 and 1500."

1350 — The birth of Ralph Strode (c. 1350-1400), an English scholar and philosopher who was called a "poeta nobilis" and has been proposed as the author of Pearl, without any conclusive evidence. 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. Alliterative Revival poems include Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Patience and Cleanness.

1356 — Edward III's eldest son, the Black Prince, is victorious in France; England now controls most of southwest France. John Barbour is promoted to Archdeacon of Aberdeen. John Wycliffe completes his arts degree at Merton College and produces a small treatise, The Last Age of the Church. John Wycliffe completes his arts degree at Merton College as a junior fellow. He also produces a treatise, The Last Age of the Church, in which he saw the Black Death as God's judgment on sinful human beings, including a corrupt clergy. (During the plague the mortality rate among the clergy had been particularly high.)

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

1359 — Chaucer fights in the Hundred Years' War against France, serving with Prince Lionel, the Count of Ulster. Chaucer attends the wedding of John of Gaunt to Blanche of Lancaster; thus he appears to have been well-connected. After Blanche's death, when John of Gaunt remarried, he would become Chaucer's brother-in-law.

1360 — John Wycliffe is described as a "master of Balliol" at Oxford. Chaucer is captured, held hostage, then ransomed for sixteen pounds (a handsome sum in those days). King Edward III contributes to his ransom. Around this time it is believed that Chaucer begins working on a translation of Le Roman de la Rose into Middle English. The translation, The Romaunt of the Rose, is incomplete and there are disagreements among scholars about how much of it was the work of Chaucer. However, he did mention the translation and the title in his poem The Legend of Good Women. It is also believed that Chaucer wrote the acrostic poem The Prayer of Our Lady, also known as Chaucer's ABC, at the request of Blanche of Lancaster, sometime before her death in 1368. If so, it may be his first poem written in English of which we are aware.

1362 — Chaucer is writing poems in English; Parliament is opened with a speech in English for the first time; The Statute of Pleading replaces French with English as the language of law. The first known version (or "A-text") of William Langland's The Vision of Piers Plowman, one of the most popular poems of its day and "the first major literary work to be written in the English language since the Norman conquest." It is an alliterative, allegorical dream poem unlike any English poem before it. For a time, Langland―known as "Long Will" for his height―lives within a few hundred yards of Chaucer, in London. Langland has been called England's first reformer poet; he specialized in allegory and homilies.

1366 — It is forbidden for anyone to listen to the sermons of the poet/priest John Ball, who employed the "common" English tongue rather than Latin.

1367 — Chaucer becomes a member of the royal court, as a valet to King Edward III. The birth of Richard II, who would encourage John Gower to write poetry in English.

1368 — The death of John of Gaunt's wife, Blanche of Lancaster. Chaucer's The Book of the Duchess would commemorate her. This was Chaucer's first major poem was written in the then-new English style of rhyming octosyllabic couplets. Chaucer would go on to employ iambic pentameter, the preferred meter of Shakespeare, in other poems, including his Canterbury Tales.

1369 — The birth of the English poet Thomas Hoccleve (c. 1369-1426), an early confessional poet and one of the first English poets to leave manuscripts written in his own hand. He is the first English poet to speak of himself as himself in his poems. John Wycliffe obtains a bachelor's degree in theology.

1370 — The birth of the English poet John Lydgate (c. 1370-1451), a penner of devotional poems; he was one of the earliest English poets known to have worn spectacles. Chaucer has a second campaign as a soldier, fighting in France under his patron John of Gaunt. James le Palmer creates the first encyclopedia with topics in alphabetic order.

1372 — John Barbour serves in the court of Robert II and begins writing The Bruce, a verse chronicle of 13,000 lines in rhymed couplets about the exploits of his patron's ancestor, Robert I, known as Robert the Bruce. Barbour is considered to be the father of Scottish poetry, holding a position similar to Chaucer's in English poetry. Meanwhile, Chaucer is commissioned to establish a seaport for Genoese trade and travels to Italy. While in Italy he reads and is influenced by Italian poetry. John Wycliffe obtains his doctorate.

1373 — Julian of Norwich is very near death on May 8, 1373. The local curate comes to administer last rites. Julian then has sixteen visions, which she later records in the first book by an Englishwoman (see the entry for 1395). Julian's visions convince her that God's love is unconditional and that God does not condemn human beings. In one of her visions she hears God tell her that "All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well." The birth of Margery Kempe (c. 1373-1440). Kempe was a mystic who also claimed to have conversations with God. Her autobiography, The Book of Margery Kempe, is the earliest autobiography written in English.

1374 — The death of Petrarch. Chaucer completes The Book of the Duchess and begins work on Anelida and Arcite around this time. John of Gaunt returns from France and takes control of the British government when Edward III shows signs of senility. Chaucer and his wife are given annuities by John of Gaunt. Chaucer is given the lucrative job of Comptroller of Customs for the Port of London. John Wycliffe receives the crown living of St. Mary's Church, Lutterworth, which he will hold until his death ten years later. At this point Wycliffe seems to have achieved prominence because his name appears second, after a bishop's, on a 1374 commission the English government sent to Bruges to discuss certain points in dispute between King Edward III and Pope Gregory XI.

1376 — The first record of the York mystery plays; these were English verse plays acted out on pageant wagons with moveable stages. The suspected but unknown author of a number of the plays has been dubbed "The York Realist" and is believed to have been an influence on John Wycliffe (who mentioned them in justifying his translations of the Bible into English) and William Shakespeare, among others. Edward III and the Black Prince die within a year of each other. John Gower's Mirour de l'Omme or Speculum Meditantis, written in French. Wycliffe's Civil Dominion calls for church reforms.

1377 — Richard II reigns at age eleven. He is the nephew of Chaucer's patron, John of Gaunt. Chaucer travels to Flanders and France on king's business; he is also involved in negotiations for Richard's marriage. John Wycliffe is brought before William Courtenay, the Bishop of London, on charges of heresy on February 19, 1377. Street riots on Wycliffe's behalf end the trial in February. Later, in May, Pope Gregory XI issues a bull in which he claims Wycliffe's theses are heretical and dangerous to Church and State. Like Martin Luther but a century earlier, Wycliffe claimed the Bible is the only authority for Christians and he accused the Roman Catholic Church of theological errors and corruption.

1378 — The "Western Schism" results in three different popes being elected simultaneously.

1379 — Chaucer begins The House of Fame, a long poem written in rhyming octosyllabic couplets.

1380 — The Pope charges John Wycliffe with heresy.

1381 — John Wycliffe adds to his heresies by publicly denying transubstantiation. Watt Tyler leads the Peasants' Revolt in response to poll taxes. At Blackheath the radical priest and poet John Ball preaches an open-air sermon that begins with a poem: "When Adam delved and Eve span, / Who was then the gentleman?" Richard II, age 14, retreats to the Tower of London and temporarily abolishes serfdom. After Tyler's assassination, Ball would be hanged, drawn and quartered in the presence of Richard II at St. Albans. John Gower would later write a long poem in Latin, Vox Clamantis, about the revolt. The Chronicles of Jean Froissart described the Peasants' Revolt in detail.

1382 — Richard II promises to repeal the poll taxes, but returning rebels are executed. John Wycliffe translates the Bible into Middle English, introducing over 1,000 new words into the language. John Lydgate enters the Benedictine monastery at Bury St. Edmonds. Chaucer composes the Parlement of Foules.

1384 — John Wycliffe publishes his English translation of the Bible. (To translate the Bible into English was considered both radical and heretical at the time. It was an important step in the legitimization of the English language.) Wycliffe suffers a stroke during mass and dies; his writings would influence the Lollards, Lutherans and Puritans, and Christianity in general.

1385 — Chaucer completes Troilus and Criseyde, his long poem about ancient Troy; it has been called "the first modern novel" although it was written in rhyming verse. It appears to be the first major English poem written in iambic pentameter. Chaucer dedicates the poem to his friend "moral Gower." According to John Trevisa, by 1385 English schoolchildren are leaving French and being taught English grammar thanks to the efforts of John Cornwall (or John of Cornwall) and his protιgι Richard Pencriche. English replaces Latin as the main language in schools (except Oxford and Cambridge universities). Around this time English was beginning to coalesce from many incompatible dialects into one coherent language.

1386 — Chaucer becomes a Member of Parliament as a knight of the shire of Kent. He also begins work on The Legend of Good Women, a poem completed between 1386 and 1388. John Gower, well into his fifties or early sixties, begins to write his first poem in English around this time, the Confessio Amantis ("Lover's Confession"), after Richard II, the boy king, asks him to write "some newe thing." Gower writes in rhyming iambic tetrameter couplets, as his friend Chaucer had done previously. Gower has been described as Poet Laureate to Richard II and Henry IV although there was no such official position at the time. St. Erkenwald is an alliterative poem that has been ascribed to the Gawain/Pearl poet.

1387 — Chaucer begins work on his masterpiece The Canterbury Tales, the first major work of still-largely-readable English literature. The meter is primarily iambic pentameter, with variations. The predominate rhyme scheme is "rhyme royal" or rhymed couplets: AA BB CC etc. They would lead to the "heroic couplets" of English poets to come. Chaucer is the father of English poetry because he created a distinctive "English style" of poetry, because he adapted foreign poetic forms into corresponding English forms, because he gave English literature its first fully-formed characters and those characters were believably English rather than variations on foreign models, and because he was such a great poet that he was able to elevate English poetry to the level of its Continental peers.

1388 — Scots defeat Henry Hotspur at the Battle of Otterburn. John Purvey completes the Bible translation he worked on with John Wycliffe. Juliana Berners (1388-?) is the first English woman verse writer whose name and work we know today. She was a prioress who wrote about hawking, hunting and fishing.

1389 — John of Gaunt returns from a campaign in Spain and Chaucer is appointed Clerk of the King's Works. He is responsible for construction at Westminster, the Tower of London, and various castles and manors. John Lydgate is ordained as a subdeacon.

1390 — The first English cookbook, the Forme of Cury ("Form of Cookery"). John Gower completes his Confessio Amantis. It would be the first English language poem to be translated into continental languages.

1391 — Chaucer is appointed deputy forester of the Royal Forest at North Petherton, Somerset. John Gower, unhappy with Richard II, adds an allegorical record of his errors to Confessio Amantis.

1393 — John Gower's third version of Confessio Amantis is dedicated to Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV.

1394 — The birth of Charles D'Orleans (c. 1394-1465), a grandson of Charles V of France; a master of the ballade and rondeau, he would write poetry in French and English.

1395 — Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love is the first book in the English language by a female author. The death of John Barbour.

1399 — John of Gaunt dies. Richard II is deposed by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, the son of John of Gaunt. Bolingbroke becomes King Henry IV. Richard II dies in captivity. Henry's mother was Blanche of Lancaster, to whose memory Chaucer had written The Book of the Duchess. Henry IV is the first British monarch since the Norman Conquest whose mother tongue is English rather than French. At his coronation, Henry IV becomes the first English monarch to deliver a speech in English. He increases Chaucer's annuity to a hefty forty pounds. He also grants Thomas Hoccleve an annuity. John Gower writes his second English language poem, In Praise of Peace, for Henry IV. William Langland writes Richard the Redeles ("Richard without Counsel") then vanishes forever. Or did another poet, whose name remains unknown, imitate Langland's alliterative style?

1400 — A more standardized version of English called Chancery English is used by scribes for documentary purposes; it evolved over time from the London dialect and this is an approximate date for it becoming more widespread. The alliterative Morte Arthure ("Death of Arthur"). The Castle of Perseverance has been dated to the early 15th century. Chaucer's death 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. John Purvey is accused of heresy and recants.

1402 — Thomas Hoccleve's Letter to Cupid.

1403 — Sir Henry Percy, aka Sir Harry Hotspur, is slain at the Battle of Shrewsbury. Hotspur would become one of Shakespeare's best-known characters. 

1406 — Around this time King James I of Scotland possibly begins to write The Kingis Quair. Or, if he wrote the poem, he could have written then poem later, from memory. The poem is about the 18 years James I was held captive by the English kings Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI. John Lydgate becomes a student at Oxford, where he writes Isopes Fabules. Thomas Hoccleve's La Male Regle.

1408 — The death of Sir John Gower, one of England's first three great poets, along with Langland and Chaucer. Chaucer and Gower were the first two major English poets who wrote in the new "sweet style," employing iambic meter and rhyme. Langland continued to rely on the older Anglo-Saxon poetry techniques. Today Chaucer is considered the greatest poet of the three, while Langland and Gower are not read nearly as much.

1409 — The Pope orders John Wycliffe's books to be burned. Thomas Hoccleve's best-known work, Regement of Princes or De Regimine Principum, is written around this time, to validate the future Henry V's right to ascension.

1412 — John Lydgate's Troy Book.

1413 — King Henry V reigns. A Lancastrian monarch, Henry V favors language standardization and promotes the use of English in public, at official gatherings, and in official documentation. "After the reign of Henry V, the status of the French language in England drastically diminished (Corrie)." This may be due—largely or in part—to the fact that England and France were at war at the time.

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. One reason for the victory is the English longbow. Jan Hus, a Wycliffe supporter, refuses to recant and is burned at the stake. Charles D'Orleans is found under a stack of corpses at Agincourt and is held for ransom by the English. D'Orleans and his brother would learn the English language as prisoners by reading Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. While being held in the Tower of London, the brothers may have met another poet, James I of Scotland, whose cell was nearby.

1419 — Henry V breaks with tradition by actually writing letters in English, thought to be in his own hand. One such letter discusses the imprisonment of the Duke of Orleans at Pontefract Castle.

1420 — John Lydgate's The Siege of Thebes.

1422 — Henry VI reigns as King of England and France, but is only eight months old, so regents are appointed. The birth of the English writer, translator and book printer William Caxton (1422-1491).

1423 — John Lydgate becomes a prior but soon retires to focus on travels and writing.

1425 — The birth of the Scottish poet Robert Henryson (c. 1425-1508). Henryson has been called the greatest of the Scottish makars (poets) and was lauded by William Dunbar in his poem Lament for the Makaris. He has also been called "among the few great fabulists" in English literature. He wrote poetry in Middle Scots. His best-known works are The Testament of Cresseid and his translations of the fables of Aesop.

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

1428 — The Council of Constance orders Wycliffe's bones to be dug up, burned, then "chucked into the river Swift."

1429 — Joan of Arc, a 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. A similar haunting poem is the Corpus Christi Carol. Also, The Ballad of Chevy Chase may have been composed around this time. Sir Philip Sidney said it moved his heart "more than with a trumpet."

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. Duke Humphrey donates a library of 600 books to Oxford. The birth of Henry the Minstrel, aka Blind Harry, a Scottish poet. Charles D'Orleans is finally freed at age 46. He marries Mary of Cleves, age 14. After his return to France, he would focus on the rondel.

1450 — The great vowel shift begins around this time: before the GVS the word "sheep" was pronounced "shape." Robin Hood and the Monk is one of the earliest popular ballads. 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 ballads published by Francis James Child in 1882. The birth of Bernard Andrι of Toulouse (1450-1522), a blind French poet who would be appointed Poet Laureate by Henry VII. French remains the language of the elites.

1451 — The death of John Lydgate (approximate).

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 Mazarin Bible or Guttenberg Bible is the first book printed with moveable type. Printed books will lead to an explosion of knowledge. The birth of the Scottish poet Walter Kennedy (c. 1455-1508). He was an acclaimed poet in his day, mentioned by William Dunbar, Gavin Douglas and Sir David Lyndsay.

1460 — Henry VI is captured by Yorkists but is freed by an army raised by his wife Margaret. Francois Villon, a guest of Charles D'Orleans at Blois, writes a poem to celebrate the birth of his daughter Marie, named after her mother Marie of Cleves. The approximate births of the poets John Skelton (c. 1460-1529) and William Dunbar (c. 1460-1520). Dunbar would become the first great Scottish poet. Sir Walter Scott called Dunbar "unrivalled" by any other Scottish poet. Skelton has been called the major Tudor poet and the first modern English poet: the first one we can read without a glossary. Erasmus called Skelton "the one light and glory of British letters." But some critics accused Skelton of being a "rude rhymer" who lacked "decorum" and spoke with the "most familiar phraseology" of the "common people." On the other hand, Skelton may have been way ahead of his time, since that's what the great Romantic poets would do centuries later. Robert Graves opined that Skelton enriched the vocabulary of the English language more than any other poet, "even Chaucer." Skelton has been described as a "renegade humanist" who sometimes sounded like another poetic renegade, William Blake.

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 — Robert Henryson earns degrees in arts and canon law from the University of Glasgow and may have taken a position there. Marie of Cleves bears Charles D'Orleans a son, the future Louis XII of France.

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

1465 — Charles D'Orleans dies at age 70.

1466 — The birth of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (c. 1466-1536), a Dutch philosopher and humanist. Erasmus has been called the "prince of humanists," "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists" and the "godfather of the Protestant reformation." It has been said that "Erasums laid the egg that Luther hatched."

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"). The birth of Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), author of The Prince.

1471 — Edward IV returns to England and defeats Margaret's army. Henry VI is stabbed to death in the Tower of London. William Caxton visits Cologne, sees a printing press at work, and the prosperous merchant decides to become a book printer.

1473 — While in Bruges or Ghent, William Caxton prints the first typeset English book, his own translation of the history of Troy: The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye  Caxton would also publish the first book by an Englishwoman, The Moral Proverbs of Christine de Pisan. The birth of Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543).

1474 — The birth of Gavin Douglas (c. 1474-1522), a Scottish poet. The records of the University of Saint Andrews have a William Dunbar as a "determinant" (new student) in 1474.

1475 — The birth of Stephen Hawes (c. 1475-1530), an English scholar and poet whose work was popular during the Tudor period but is forgotten today.

1476 — William Caxton sets up a press in almonry of the Westminster Abbey Church and prints the first books produced in England with moveable type, including Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Prior to the publication of Caxton's books, reading and writing had been largely confined to monastic centers and elites who could afford expensive hand-produced manuscripts. Thanks to Caxton and other book publishers, reading and writing were about to spread, resulting in an explosion of knowledge that would be an important factor in the later rise of democracies around the world.

1477 — William Caxton publishes Sayings of the Philosophers in a translation by Earl Rivers. The oldest surviving Valentine's letter in the English language was written by Margery Brews to her fiancι John Paston in February 1477. It is one of an extensive collection of letters known as the Paston Letters. William Dunbar graduated from the University of St. Andrews with his bachelor's degree but would stay to obtain his master's.

1478 — The birth of Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), author of Utopia. Robert Henryson is believed to have been associated with Dunfermline Abbey, perhaps as a notary, because his name appears on abbey charters. According to William Dunbar, Henryson died at Dunfermline. It is also believed that Henryson was a schoolmaster in charge of teaching grammar at the abbey.

1479 — William Dunbar receives a master of arts degree from the University of Saint Andrews.

1480 — Robert Henryson's collection of animal fables, Morall Fabillis of Esope, better known today as Fables of Aesop, has been called a masterpiece of medieval literature. William Caxton translates Ovid's Metamorphoses but only a single original manuscript survives.

1481 — William Caxton publishes his translation of Reynard the Fox.

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") and Caxton's translation of Jacobus da Varagine's Golden Legend, which may contain the oldest Bible verses printed in English. The birth of Martin Luther (1483-1546), the primary founder of the Protestant version of Christianity.

1484 — William Caxton prints Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and House of Fame, plus his own translation of Aesop's Fables. In all, nearly a third of the 90+ books published by Caxton were his own translations. The success of his translations has been credited with helping promote the Chancery English he employed to the status of a standard dialect throughout England.

1485 — William Caxton publishes Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur ("The Death of Arthur"). 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. English finally rules in Henry VII's court!

1486 — Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York, uniting the houses of Lancaster and York and cementing the Tudor dynasty. It is believed that Juliana Berners may have contributed "advice literature" to The Book of St. Albans.

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 composed in iambic pentameter. The innovations of Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard mark the beginning of modern English poetry. This era ended with the deaths of Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare 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."

1490 — The birth of Sir Thomas Elyot/Eliot (1490-1546), an English diplomat and scholar who would produce an early Latin-English dictionary, and the Scottish poet Sir David Lyndsay (c. 1490-1555). Gavin Douglas enters St. Andrews University.

1491 — The birth of Henry Tudor (Henry VIII). John Skelton would tutor the young Duke of York. The death of William Caxton, whom Skelton had assisted with his translation of Virgil. Caxton's publishing work would be carried on by his foreman Wynkyn de Worde, who would go on to publish at least 640 books. There is a plaque at Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey that reads: "Near this place William Caxton set up the first printing press in England." Yes, and the first book he published in England was by the first major English poet to write in English and the first to be buried at Poet's Corner: Geoffrey Chaucer.

1492 — Columbus discovers the Americas. William Dunbar accompanies an embassy to Denmark and France. Thomas More enters Oxford, where he becomes proficient in Greek and Latin. Henry Wyatt, the soon-to-be-father of Thomas Wyatt, purchases Allington Castle in Kent. Erasmus is ordained a priest.

1493 — John Skelton is Poet Laureate of Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Louvain. His was the only laureateship awarded by Cambridge.

1494 — The birth of William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536). Thomas More leaves Oxford to study law at New Inn, one of the Inns of Chancery. Gavin Douglas earns his master's degree from St. Andrews University.

1495 — Wynkyn de Worde publishes a collection of Robin Hood ballads.

1496 — Thomas More becomes a law student at Lincoln's Inn, one of the Inns of Court.

1497 — John Cabot discovers Newfoundland.

1498 — John Skelton's satire of court life, The Bowge of Courte, is published by Wynkyn de Worde. Skelton is successively ordained sub-deacon, deacon and priest, but he apparently had a mistress and would confess on his deathbed to having a wife and "several children." Skelton's The Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe (better known today as Phillip Sparrow) may have been written around this time, or at least some time before 1508, when it was disparaged by Alexander Barclay in The Ship of Fools.

1500 — Everyman is an allegorical drama, translated from the Dutch. William Dunbar is back in Scotland and secures a royal pension.

1501 —  Around this time Gavin Douglas is made provost of the church at St. Giles, Edinburgh.

1502 — Thomas More is called to the bar. He considers becoming a monk, but decides against it. He does, however, wear a hair shirt and engages in self-flagellation. Stephen Hawes is Groom of the Chamber to Henry VII.

1503 — The birth of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542), a courtier/soldier/gentleman and perhaps the first modern English poet, the first major English lyric poet, and the primary leader of the English Renaissance. Patricia Thomson called Wyatt the "Father of English Poetry." Wyatt employed more than 70 different stanza forms, many of his own invention. He also "imported" terza rima and ottava rima from Italy. We agree with the estimation that Wyatt was a greater poet than his peers Henry Howard and Sir Philip Sidney. Wyatt avoided the "aureate style" of lesser poets who followed (or simply imitated) Petrarch. Wyatt remains more vital and more "native" in his best poems. We can still hear the older accentual verse in his meter. He resists being read to the tick-tock of a metronome. The birth of the English poet John Leland/Layland (1503-1552); Leland would write a book of elegies to Wyatt. William Dunbar's poems 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. Richard Arnold's Chronicle includes the ballad "The Nut Brown Maid."

1504 — Leonardo Da Vinci paints the Mona Lisa. Michelangelo finishes his masterpiece David. Thomas More is elected to Parliament.

1506 — The birth of the English poet Thomas Vaux (1506-1556), better known as Lord Vaux and Baron Vaux. He was a Knight of the Bath and a member of the House of Lords.

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 and reigns as King Henry VIII. Sir Henry Wyatt is made a knight of the Bath at Henry's coronation and is appointed to the new privy council. Stephen Hawes' The Passetyme of Pleasure is published by Wynkyn de Worde.

1510 — William Dunbar's pension was set at a handsome 80 pounds, so he was evidently held in high regard by Scotland's King James IV.

1512 — Thomas More may have begun work on his History of King Richard III around this time. The biography, published in Latin and English versions, is more notable for literary skill than historical accuracy and is believed to have influenced Shakespeare's play Richard III.

1513 — The birth of James V of Scotland, a poet credited with writing The Gaberlunzie Man and The Jolly Beggar. John Skelton is appointed Poet Laureate to Henry VIII, although this is not an official post. Gavin Douglas, a Scottish poet, in his Eneados translates Virgil's Aeneid into vernacular Scots. Douglas's translation is almost twice as long as Virgil's original poem! It is the first complete translation of a major classical poem into English. William Dunbar survives the Scottish defeat at Flodden.

1514 — Thomas More is appointed a Privy Counselor to Henry VIII, meaning that he had become one of the king's closest advisers.

1515 — Thomas Wolsey is made a cardinal by Pope Leo X, giving him precedence over all English clergy. However, some clerics are preparing to mutiny. Gavin Douglas becomes Bishop of Dunkeld. William Tyndale, despite being a student of theology, a subdeacon and possessing a Master of Arts, is not allowed to read the Bible! He will risk his life to change that. Thomas Wyatt attends St. John's College, Cambridge, the chief center of humanistic learning at the time.

1516 — Erasmus produces a Greek/Latin parallel New Testament and pretty much creates modern Bible scholarship by collating and comparing many different ancient manuscripts. Thomas More's Utopia, written in Latin, is published by Erasmus. By creating an imaginary land where things are very different from the "real world," More broke new literary ground (or re-broke ground first tilled by Plato in his Republic). One might call Utopia fantasy, science fiction, alternate reality, philosophical fiction, philosophy, or a bit of each. Later works influenced by Utopia include Candide by Voltaire, New Atlantis by Francis Bacon, Erewhon by Samuel Butler, Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Island by Aldous Huxley, Anthem by Ayn Rand, and 1984 by George Orwell. Some future writers would have much darker visions than More's. When the visions are bright the genre is called "utopian" and when the visions are dark the genre is call "dystopian." The birth of Henry Howard (c. 1516-1547), the Earl of Surrey and first cousin of Anne Boleyn. Howard has been called the first English poet "thoroughly in the humanist tradition." He would be the first poet to employ blank verse and along with Thomas Wyatt would introduce the sonnet to England. It was Henry Howard who invented the Shakespearean sonnet form, not the Bard of Avon! Thomas Wyatt is presented at court at age thirteen. John Skelton writes his play Magnificence.

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 have tremendous implications for England.

1518 — Henry VIII, although better known today for beheading his wives, is a musician and composer who creates a royal songbook.

1519 — John Skelton, the "renegade humanist," attacks the powerful Cardinal Wolsey in Collyn Clout. Wolsey would send Skelton to prison for his impertinence.

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 Assertio Septem Sacramentorum ("Defense of the Seven Sacraments"), which was written in Latin with the help of Thomas More and 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!" John Skelton composes his masterpiece, Speke Parrot ("Speak Parrot"). Sir Thomas More is knighted and is made under-treasurer of the Exchequer. Thomas Wyatt the Younger is born around this time.

1522 — John Skelton's A Ballade of the Scottysshe Kynge may be the first printed English ballad. The death of Gavin Douglas. Martin Luther translates the New Testament into German.

1523 — Martin Luther had attacked Henry VIII in print, calling him a "pig, dolt, and liar" in response to Henry's Assertio (see the entry for 1521). In response Sir Thomas More writes Responsio ad Lutherum, in which he calls Luther an "ape," "drunkard" and "lousy little friar" among other epithets. More is elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

1524 — The birth of the English poet Thomas Tusser (1524-1528). A farmer, he wrote instructional poems on farming, housekeeping and gardening.

1525 — William Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament is published in Worms.

1526 — Lord Chancellor Cardinal Thomas Wolsey orders the burning of Protestant books. Thomas Wyatt travels to Italy on an embassy to the Pope, and returns with a passion for the sonnets of Petrarch; he begins to translate Petrarch and Horace into English. Captured by Spanish troops, Wyatt manages to escape.

1527 — Henry VIII seeks the Pope's permission to divorce Catherine of Aragon but is refused, leading to Henry's subsequent "divorce" from the Roman Catholic Church. Thomas Vaux accompanies Cardinal Wolsey on his embassy to the Vatican. Wolsey fails to persuade the Pope to grant the divorce and that will lead to his personal downfall and arrest on charges of treason in 1529.

1528 — Thomas Wyatt is appointed marshal of Calais. Sir Thomas More publishes a religious polemic, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, which insists the Catholic Church is the one true church and affirms the validity of its authority, traditions and practices. This puts him on a collision course with his king, who has other ideas ...

1529 — Henry VIII declares himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England. The "Reformation Parliament" passes legislation that will lead to the English Reformation. Cardinal Wolsey is stripped of his office and property, accused of treason, and ordered to report to London. He dies on the way. Sir Thomas More replaces Wolsey as Lord Chancellor, but More considers the Pope to be the head of the true church and will soon find himself at odds with his king. The death of John Skelton, who was buried at Westminster. Robert Graves opined that Skelton enriched the English vocabulary more than any poet before (Chaucer) or since (Shakespeare). Skelton is remembered for his humanism, his "Skeltonics" (rhymed poems written in irregular meter), his "flytings" (exchanges of poetic insults), his parodies, and his jests.

1530 — The short lyric Westron Wynde ("Western Wind") appears in a partbook. The birth of the English poet, soldier and courtier George Gascoigne (1530-1577). Gascoigne's Supposes may be the first English prose comedy; he has been called "the best-known writer of his day" and was known for his plain style of writing.

1531 — William Tyndale publishes An Answer unto Sir Thomas More's Dialogue in response to More's A Dialogue Concerning Heresies. More responds with a half-million words: the Confutation of Tyndale's Answer!

1532 — Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, marries the Earl of Oxford's daughter. The English Reformation (1532-1649) will find poets at war with each other: some with words, others with swords. Sir Thomas More resigns as Lord Chancellor and continues to refuse to sign an Oath of Supremacy acknowledging the king as the Supreme Head of the English Church. Thomas Vaux is made a Knight of the Bath.

1533 — Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn in defiance of Rome and Pope Clement VII excommunicates the English king. Sir Thomas More refuses to attend the new Queen's coronation. Thomas Wyatt is chief ewer at the new queen's coronation. But are Wyatt and Boleyn lovers? Wyatt's famous sonnet Whoso List to Hunt may have been written with Boleyn in mind. And in Wyatt's love poems he called his mistress Anna. Elizabeth I is born; she would write and translate poems. The birth of Michel de Montaigne, a French nobleman who would establish the essay as an important and influential literary genre.

1534 — Around this time, Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard introduce the English sonnet, modeled after the Petrarchan sonnet. Howard creates the form known as the Shakespearean sonnet. Wyatt introduces terza rima, ottava rima and poulter's measure to English poetry. Sir Thomas More refuses to sign the Oath of Succession confirming Anne's role as queen and the rights of her children to succession.

1535 — Sir Thomas More is arrested on charges of treason and confined to the Tower of London, where he writes the devotional Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation. More is tried by judges who include members of Anne Boleyn's family. The jury takes only fifteen minutes to convict him. More is executed by decapitation. Thomas Cromwell is made Vicar-General and begins to seize the Roman Catholic Church's assets. The first complete English translation of the Bible is created by Miles Coverdale. It is believed that Sir Thomas Wyatt was knighted in 1535 or 1536, perhaps at Easter.

1536 — Anne Boleyn is beheaded; Henry VIII marries his third wife, Jane Seymour. Sir Thomas Wyatt, imprisoned in the Tower of London for his alleged affair with Boleyn, may have written 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. The birth of the English poet, dramatist and statesman Thomas Sackville (1536-1608), the Earl of Dorset. Sir Thomas Eliot publishes The Castell of Helth, a popular treatise on medicine that "speedily went through seventeen editions."

1537 — Jane Seymour dies giving birth to Prince Edward, later Edward VI. Sir Thomas Wyatt, back in favor with the crown, is appointed ambassador to Spain. Henry Howard develops blank verse in his translation of the Aeneid. Half a century later, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare would employ blank verse in their most famous plays.

1538 — The first dictionary produced in Britain may have been The dictionary of syr Thomas Eliot knyght, a bilingual Latin-English dictionary published in several editions during the sixteenth century. It has been called "the earliest comprehensive dictionary of the language." It was edited and enlarged in 1548 by Thomas Cooper, Bishop of Winchester, who called it Bibliotheca Eliotae. It formed the basis of Cooper's Thesaurus linguae Romanae et Britannicae (1565).

1539 — The Prayer Book Rebellion occurs when Catholics object to the imposition of teachings of the Protestant Reformation. Sir Thomas Wyatt returns from Spain when his father dies, then resumes his former post at Calais.

1540 — Henry VIII marries his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, but the marriage is annulled and Henry marries his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Sir Thomas Elyot publishes The Defence of Good Women, a eulogy of Anne of Cleves disguised as a biography of Queen Zenobia of Palmyra. Thomas Cromwell is executed for treason.

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). Sir Thomas Wyatt dies. 

1543 — Henry VIII marries Catherine Parr, his sixth and last wife. The birth of the English poet and courtier Sir Edward Dyer (1543-1607); he was called an "ornament" of the court of Elizabeth I.

1545 — The approximate birth of Isabella Whitney (1545?-1573?), the first Englishwoman to publish her verses. The future queen Elizabeth I completes her translations of Psalm 13 and the meditations of Margaret of Navarre. Henry Howard is given command of Boulogne.

1546 — Henry Howard is arrested and charged with high treason for conspiring against the succession of Edward VI.

1547 — Henry Howard is beheaded on the order of Henry VIII, who dies the same year. Thomas Nashe would fictionalize Howard in The Unfortunate Traveller. Thomas Warton called Howard the first classical English poet. King Edward VI reigns at age nine, but is sickly. The birth in Castile of Miguel Cervantes, the writer of the first modern novel, Don Quixote; it remains one of the very best works of popular fiction.

1548 — Elizabeth I publishes her translation of Margaret of Navarre, A Godly Meditation of the Christian Soul. She also translates the second chorus of Seneca's Hercules Oetaeus, sections of Boethius's De Consolatione philosophiae (The Consolation of Philosophy), lines 1-178 of Horace's Ars Poetica, and Plutarch's On Curiosity. The translations from Boethius and Horace survive in her own hand.

1549 — The Anglican Book of Common Prayer was the first prayer book to include the complete forms of service for daily and Sunday worship in English. Its editing and publication were supervised by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.

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. The birth of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), who has been suggested as the "real" Shakespeare by a number of "Oxfordians." A possible date for the ballad The Battle of Otterburn.

1552 — The births of Walter Ralegh (c. 1552-1618), Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-1599) and Gabriel Harvey (c. 1552-1631). Sir Walter Ralegh (often spelled "Raleigh") was an English poet, historian, courtier, soldier, admiral, politician, governor, explorer and adventurer who has been credited (perhaps incorrectly) with introducing tobacco to the Old World. Edmund Spenser was (perhaps) the first great English Romantic poet and the creator of a Spenserian tradition that includes Milton, Blake, Burns, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Swinburne, Tennyson, Longfellow, Hardy, et al. Spenser has been called the creator of the modern English style of poetry: "fluid, limpid, translucent and graceful." He was considered to be the "Prince of Poets" in his day and has been called the "poets' poet" in ours. He has also been called the "first and most perfect representative of humanism in English poetry." Spenser speaks as an individual; he is introspective; his allegories are autobiographical (about himself); he is a Platonist, an idealist. These things make him the first English Romantic poet, the forefather of Shelley and Keats. Ralegh and Spenser would meet, become friends and join poetic forces around 1580. It would be an odd pairing: the robust Ralegh and the "little man with little hands and cuffs." Keats would later call Spenser "the elfin poet."

1553 — Edward VI dies; his will appoints Lady Jane Grey as his successor; his sister Mary deposes her and reigns as Mary I. Thomas Wilson publishes The Art of Rhetorique, one of the first works on logic and rhetoric in English.

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 where she writes the poem On Fortune and Injustice. Mary marries Philip of Spain. The births of the English poets Philip Sidney (1554-1586), John Lyly (c. 1554-1606) and Fulke Greville (1554-1628).

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. George Gascoigne becomes a member of Gray's Inn. The birth of Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), an English bishop and scholar who would be the chief editor of the King James Bible.

1557 — Henry Howard's translation of the Aeneid is published. Tottel's Miscellany, perhaps the first modern English poetry anthology, includes poems by Howard, the elder Wyatt, and Lord Vaux. 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 others. But today Wyatt is generally considered to be the greater and more original poet. The birth of the English poet George Peele. George Gascoigne is MP for Bedford.

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. The birth of the English playwright Thomas Kyd, author of The Spanish Tragedie and perhaps the most influential English playwright before Marlowe and Shakespeare. Kyd may have written an ur-Hamlet that preceded Shakespeare's famous play.

1559 — The birth of the English poet George Chapman (c. 1559-1634), who would author more than twenty plays and translate Homer. Chapman claimed to have been divinely inspired by the spirit of Homer. Chapman has also been suggested as the "rival poet" mentioned by Shakespeare in his work.

1560 — The birth of Sir John Harington (1560-1612), an English poet and inventor of the flush toilet!

1561 — The birth of the English poet Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621), translator of the Psalms, the first notable female English poet with a literary reputation, and the sister of Philip Sidney. John Aubrey called her "the greatest patroness of wit and learning of any lady in her time." The birth of the English poet Robert Southwell, best known for his poem The Burning Babe. The birth of Francis Bacon (1561-1626), whose extensive writings covered philosophy, science, ethics, history, law and politics. Bacon has been called the father of empiricism and the modern scientific method. Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville author the first English play written in blank verse, Gorboduc.

1562 — The birth of the English poet and historian Samuel Daniel (1562-1619). George Gascoigne marries Elizabeth Breton, mother of the poet Nicholas Breton.

1563 — John Foxe’s The Book of Martyrs is published. The births of the English poets John Dowland (1563-1626) and Michael Drayton (1563-1631).

1564 — The births of the English poets and playwrights Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. The birth of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). Philip Sidney and Fulke Greville enter Shrewsbury School on the same day.

1566 — Isabella Whitney's Sweet Nosegay is the first volume of verses published by an Englishwoman. It would be followed by her The Copy of a Letter. George Gascoigne's Supposes may be the first English prose comedy; it was used by Shakespeare as a source for The Taming of the Shrew. Thomas Cooper's Latin-English Thesaurus linguae Romanae et Britannicae.

1567 — The births of the English poets Thomas Nashe (1567-1601?) and Thomas Campion (1567-1620), the latter a lutanist 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. 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 — Walter Ralegh, around age 16, enlists with the Huguenots in France. Edmund Spenser, also around age 16, has two translations of French poems by Joachim Du Bellay published at the beginning of an anti-Catholic prose tract, A Theatre for Voluptuous Worldlings. Spenser enrolls at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he may have been a student of Gabriel Harvey. In any case, they were friends. Harvey is the "Hobbinoll" of Spenser's Shepheardes Calender. The birth of the English poets Sir John Davies (1569-1626) and Emilia Lanyer (1569-1645), who has been proposed as Shakespeare's mistress. The birth of Thomas Thorpe (c. 1569-1625), an English publisher who would publish William Shakespeare's sonnets and works by George Chapman, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe and John Marston.

1572 — The births of the major 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. Jonson has been called "the most versatile writer in the history of English poetry" because he wrote poems, song lyrics, plays, sonnets, odes, masques, epistles, elegies and satires. He has been called the first poet laureate (although the official position was created later) and he was also one of the first important English literary critics. His epitaph in Westminster Abbey reads "O rare Benn Johnson." Like Shakespeare, Jonson was the son of a commoner; his father died before he was born and his stepfather was a bricklayer. Walter Ralegh is an undergraduate at Oriel College, Oxford, but does not get a degree there. Philip Sidney, age 18, is elected to Parliament and travels to Paris. where King Charles IX makes him “Baron de Sidency.” Sidney would visited other mainland countries on a three-year tour, including Germany, Italy, Austria and Poland.

1573 — George Gascoigne's A Discourse of the Adventures of Master FJ is an account of courtly sexual intrigue; it is one of the earliest English prose fictions, and perhaps the first English novel. Gascoigne's collection of poems A Hundreth Sundry Flowres includes the first English linked sonnet sequence. However, the book is judged to be offensive and "seized by Her Majesty's High Commissioners." Gascoigne himself was accused of being "a defamed person and noted for manslaughter, a common Rymer" and an atheist, among other things. Thomas Nashe and his family move to West Harling, near Thetford. 

1575 — George Gascoigne's Certayne Notes of Instruction concerning the making of verse or ryme in English is the first essay on the composition of English metrical poetry. Queen Elizabeth I asks Mary Sidney to join her royal entourage; the same year Mary marries Henry, Earl of Pembroke. Philip Sidney returns to England and meets Penelope Devereux, who will inspire his sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella. While Sidney would dedicate the poems to his wife, it is believed they were written for his mistress, the future Lady Penelope Rich. Walter Ralegh is registered at the Middle Temple, where he was said to have walked arm-in-arm with Francis Bacon around the gardens of Gray's Inn. However, Ralegh later testified during a trial that he had never studied law.

1576 — The "Wakefield Master" writes mystery plays with biblical and pastoral themes. 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! Richard Burbage, the son of James Burbage, will be the leading actor in Shakespeare's plays.

1577 — The birth of the English poet Robert Burton (1577-1640). The death of George Gascoigne, the best-known writer of his day. Mary Sidney marries Henry Herbert, the second Earl of Pembroke. The Stationers' Company is given a national monopoly on printing in order to stem the flood of foreign imports and keep domestic printers under control.

1578 — The birth of the English playwright John Webster. Philip Sidney writes a masque, The Lady of May, in Elizabeth's honor and begins work on his Old Arcadia, the most popular English prose narrative of its period. Sidney and Fulke Greville both attend Elizabeth's court.

1579 — Edmund Spenser's Shepheardes Calender has been called "the first work of the English literary Renaissance." It helped establish the new style of English poetry and was dedicated to Philip Sidney, who around the same time published his Defence of Poetry or An Apologie for Poetrie. Thus Sidney may well have been the first major English literary critic. He named Chaucer and Gower the first English poets to "beautify our mother-tongue." Sidney and Spenser formed a literary club, the Areopagus, which may have been England's first poetry society. The 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. The birth of Thomas Morton (1579-1647), an early American colonist who wrote about Native Americans behaving much better than English settlers. Samuel Daniel is admitted to Magdalen Hall, Oxford, where he studies poetry and philosophy. By his own account, Daniel would be encouraged and taught by Mary Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke. That presumably happened after he became tutor to her son, Lord Herbert. Christopher Marlowe attends King’s School, Canterbury.

1580 — Edmund Spenser moves to Ireland, where he will meet and become friends with Walter Ralegh. The birth of the English playwright Thomas Middleton (1580-1627) and Edmund Shakespeare (1580-1607), the brother of William Shakespeare and like him an actor and partner in the Globe Theatre. Philip Sidney temporarily loses the queen's favor when he opposes her proposed marriage to the Duke of Anjou. A Matthew Parker scholarship allows Christopher Marlowe to enter Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. 

1581 — Thomas Nashe enters St. John's College, Cambridge, as a sizar. Thomas Campion enters Peterhouse, Cambridge as a "gentleman pensioner."

1582 — William Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway who is three months pregnant. Sir Philip Sidney is knighted. Around this time Queen Elizabeth I writes the poem "On Monsieur's Departure." Richard Mulcaster’s Elementarie is a candidate for the first English dictionary, but it was more of a word list because it lacked definitions. Walter Ralegh, age thirty, returns to England from Ireland. He will become a favorite of the queen ... when his head isn't in danger. Francis Bacon begins to practice law.

1583 — Sir Philip Sidney is promoted to General of Horse and marries the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham. Giordano Bruno visits Oxford with Sidney and later dedicates two books to him. John Donne enters Oxford at age eleven.

1584 — Walter Ralegh founds the first American colony, names it Virginia after Elizabeth I (the "Virgin Queen"), and is knighted. However, Ralegh did not visit the colony himself, preferring to search for El Dorado (the fabled city of gold) in South America. Christopher Marlowe completes his play Tamburlaine. With a BA and MA from Cambridge, Marlowe is the first of the "university wits" to employ blank verse.

1585 — James VI of Scotland writes Essays of a Prentice in the Arte of Poesie, citing the poems of Alexander Montgomerie. He also writes a poetic version of The Lord's Prayer. Sir Philip Sidney is made governor of Flushing.

1586 — Chidiock Tichborne is hanged, castrated, and disemboweled for treason; the elegy he wrote himself while awaiting death in the Tower of London is known as Tichborne's Elegy. The birth of the English playwright John Ford. The Star Chamber attempts to end the printing of subversive ballads. Edmund Spenser is awarded an estate of 3,000 acres in Ireland and the ruined castle of Kilcolman; there he writes Astrophel as an elegy for Sir Philip Sidney, who died at age 32 of wounds received at Zatuphen in the Netherlands. Sidney's funeral is so extravagant it nearly bankrupts his father-in-law, Francis Walsingham. Thomas Campion leaves Cambridge without a degree and enters Gray's Inn, London, to study law. John Donne enters Cambridge but will not receive degrees from either Oxford or Cambridge because he refuses to take the Oath of Supremacy. Thomas Nashe earns a degree from St. John's College, Cambridge. William Bullokar's Pamphlet for Grammar is the first English grammar published.

1587 — Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed at Fotheringhay Castle on charges of treason. Sir Walter Ralegh is appointed captain of the Queen's guard. The birth of the English poet Lady Mary Wroth; she was born Mary Sidney and was the niece of Sir Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney Herbert. Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine and perhaps Dido, Queen of Carthage are first performed. According to Harold Bloom, thus begins the "richest eighty years of poetry in English" with Marlowe, Shakespeare, Spenser, Ralegh, Donne, Jonson, Herrick, Carew, Lovelace, Marvell, Herbert, Crashaw, Vaughan and Milton all writing and/or being published within that period. (We, however, would suggest 1880-1960 with Whitman, Dickinson, Longfellow, Tennyson, both Brownings, Hardy, Hopkins, Housman, Yeats, Dowson, both Cranes, Frost, Sandburg, Stevens, Lawrence, Pound, Wylie, Jeffers, Eliot, Aiken, MacLeish, Millay, Owen, cummings, Bogan, Hughes, Auden, Bishop, Lowell, Larkin, Plath, et al!)

1588 — A Spanish Armada of 130 ships is defeated by bad weather and the English fleet; the resulting English dominance of the seas greatly enhances the prospects of the British Empire. Christopher Marlowe writes Doctor Faustus. The birth of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), author of Leviathan. Hobbes would advance the ideas of natural equality of all men and representative government based on the consent of the governed. Thomas Campion appears as "Melancholy" in a masque. Ben Jonson leaves school to become a bricklayer, apprenticed to his stepfather. He had studied under William Camden at Westminster School and possibly at Cambridge. Jonson later volunteered to fight under Francis Vere in Flanders. He would return from military duty to work as an actor and playwright, but the dates of these events are not known precisely. We do know that he married in 1594.

1589 — Christopher Marlowe is temporarily held in Newgate prison for his part in the street-fight killing of an innkeeper; the possible first performance of his play The Jew of Malta. William Shakespeare's first play may have been The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Sir Walter Ralegh visits Edmund Spenser, takes an interest in his poetry, and helps him publish the first three books of The Faerie Queene the following year in London, where Spenser meets Elizabeth I with Ralegh's help. At the same time Ralegh presents Elizabeth with his own Ocean's Love to Cynthia. Samuel Taylor Coleridge opined that "The whole of the Faerie Queene is an almost continued instance of beauty." The Art of English Poesie (attributed to George Puttenham) is published.

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 around 1590-1594. Edmund Spenser's Mother Hubberd's Tale is a forerunner of Mother Goose publications to come, but it's also a political satire that gets him in hot water. However, Elizabeth I grants Spenser a pension of 50 pounds, more than she granted any other poet. Elizabeth has a starring role in The Faerie Queene as Gloriana. Michael Drayton publishes his first book, The Harmony of the Church, a volume of spiritual poems dedicated to Lady Devereux.

1591 — Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella, published six years after his death, is the first major sonnet sequence in the English language; Thomas Campion has his first poems published anonymously as "Content" in an appendage. John Donne studies law at Thaives Inn and is writing satires, elegies, songs and sonnets. The birth of the English Cavalier poet Robert Herrick, whom Swinburne would call "the greatest song writer ever born of English race." Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd share lodgings in London. Marlowe is summoned for assault on two constables in Shoreditch and fined.

1592 — Shakespeare is called an "upstart crow" by Robert Greene. Sir Walter Ralegh gets Elizabeth Throckmorton, the queen's maid of honor, pregnant. He marries her secretly and earns the queen's displeasure, spending time in the Tower of London. Christopher Marlowe's play The Jew of Malta is being performed. Marlowe is arrested yet again, this time for brawling on the streets of Canterbury. Francis Bacon's poem "The World" is circulated among friends, John Donne among them. Donne kept a copy of the poem until he died. Donne studies law at Lincoln's Inn. The birth of the English aristocrat, politician, soldier, poet and playwright William Cavendish (1592-1676), the first Duke of Newcastle. He would marry Margaret Cavendish, also a poet and playwright (see the entry for 1623). The birth of the English poets Henry King (1592-1669) and Francis Quarles (1592-1644). Thomas Nashe writes Strange News and Summer's Last Will and Testament. Nashe also writes a prose satire, Pierce Penniless. Samuel Daniel publishes a cycle of sonnets to "Delia" (an anagram for "Ideal"). The poems are dedicated to "The Right Honourable Lady Mary Countess of Pembroke."

1593 — Shakespeare’s first printed poem, Venus and Adonis, is published. Christopher Marlowe is murdered at age 29. Marlowe’s killing at the hands of Ingram Frizer is witnessed by Robert Poley and Nicholas Skeres. The birth of the English metaphysical poet George Herbert, known primarily for his religious/devotional poetry, in Wales. His family was wealthy and well-connected. His father was a justice of the peace and MP, his mother a patron to John Donne and other poets. His eldest brother Edward Herbert was made Baron Herbert of Cherbury. Sir Walter Ralegh is released from the Tower of London and becomes a member of Parliament. John Donne's brother Harry dies in prison after after being arrested for giving sanctuary to a proscribed Catholic priest. Donne's book of poems Satires is written around this time. The birth of Izaak Walton, who would write short biographies, including Donne's, which would be collected as Walton's Lives. He also wrote The Compleat Angler, an illustrated book of poems and prose about fishing. The publication of Claudius Hollyband’s Dictionarie French and English. Thomas Nashe is briefly interred in Newgate Prison. Michael Drayton publishes Idea: The Shepherd's Garland, a collection of nine pastorals.

1594 — Shakespeare’s first printed play, Titus Andronicus, is published. His poem The Rape of Lucrece is also published. Richard Burbage assembles a group of actors called the Lord Chamberlain's Men and Shakespeare is a member of the troupe. Edmund Spenser writes Epithalamion and the Amoretti sonnets for his bride-to-be, Elizabeth Boyle. Thomas Nashe's prose romance novel The Unfortunate Traveller. Spenser creates the Spenserian sonnet. Ben Jonson marries; his first two children die young and he writes them poignant elegies. George Chapman's poem The Shadow of Night and a companion piece are his first publications. Samuel Daniel publishes an edition of Delia and Rosamond which includes his tragedy Cleopatra, written in heroic couplets with choral interludes. Michael Drayton publishes Idea's Mirror, a sonnet cycle. Sir John Davies publishes his poem Orchestra.

1595 — Christopher Marlowe’s translations of Ovid's Amores (aka Ovid's Elegies) are published posthumously. Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream. George Chapman's poem Ovid's Banquet of Sense. Chapman also publishes his first play. Thomas Campion has his first poems published under his own name, in Latin. Campion has been called second only to Thomas More as a Latin epigrammatist. Robert Southwell, a Jesuit priest and missionary, is convicted of treason, hanged, drawn and quartered. Samuel Daniel publishes The First Four Books of the Civil Wars, a poem about the Wars of the Roses.

1596 — Shakespeare's plays King John and The Merchant of Venice. The birth of the English poet James Shirley, best known for his poem Dirge ("The glories of our blood and state / Are shadows, not substantial things ..."). The birth of the English Cavalier poet Thomas Carew, a writer of sensuous love poems. The birth of Renι Descartes (1596-1650), a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist who has been called the first of the modern rationalists. Rationalism, with its appeal to human reason, would play an important role in the Enlightenment (1687-1799), which is also known as the Age of Reason. Sir Walter Ralegh serves the crown as a rear admiral. John Donne joins a naval expedition against Cadiz, Spain. Edmund Spenser publishes Prothalamion, a nuptial song he wrote for the double marriage of the daughters of the Earl of Worchester. Samuel Taylor Coleridge praised "the swanlike movements of his exquisite Prothalamion."

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; Edmund Spenser publishes another installment of The Faerie Queen. Ben Jonson becomes a performer and playwright at the Rose Theater and is imprisoned for his part in The Isle of Dogs, a seditious play. John Donne joins an expedition to the Azores, where he writes "The Calm." Thomas Nashe co-writes the play  The Isle of Dogs with Ben Jonson. Sir Edward Dyer is knighted.

1598 — Christopher Marlowe’s poem Hero and Leander is published posthumously; few original copies survive because it was "read to rags." Shakespeare's plays Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing. The Lord Chamberlain's Men dismantle the Theatre and use its beams to construct the Globe. Edmund Shakespeare is a partner in the Globe along with his famous brother. The Globe had the best theater, the best actors, the best plays and the best playwright. William Shakespeare owns 12.5% of the action. Shakespeare acts in Ben Jonson's play Every Man In His Humor at the Globe. It is Jonson's first great success. Shakespeare's "sugared sonnets" are mentioned by Francis Meres. Edmund Spenser's castle at Kilcolman is burned by Irish forces opposed to English dominance; according to Jonson, one of Spenser's children perished in the blaze. The twelfth book of The Faerie Queene was also lost. During a duel, Jonson kills a fellow actor with a rapier and narrowly escapes the gallows. He was branded on the thumb as a murderer. George Chapman begins to publish his translation of Homer's Iliad in installments and writes a continuation of Christopher Marlowe's unfinished poem Hero and Leander. Upon his return to England, John Donne is appointed private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. The publication of John Florio's Italian-English dictionary Worlde of Wordes.

1599 — Shakespeare's plays Julius Caesar, As You Like It and Twelfth Night. Hamlet was probably written around this time. Two of Shakespeare's sonnets are published by William Jaggard. Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd to his Love is answered by Sir Walter Ralegh's The Nymph's Reply. Marlowe's translations of Ovid are burned publicly as "immoral." A copy of Mary Sidney Herbert's completed Psalter (translation of the Psalms) was prepared for Queen Elizabeth I in anticipation of a royal visit to the Herbert residence at Wilton, but Elizabeth canceled her planned visit. This work is usually referred to as "The Sidney Psalms" or "The Sidney-Pembroke Psalter" and is regarded as an important influence on the development of English religious lyric poetry in the late 16th and early 17th century. Wilton House was described as a "paradise" for poets and poets who became members of the Wilton Circle include Samuel Daniel, Sir John Davies, Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson and Edmund Spenser. George Herbert studies under Lancelot Andrewes, then dean of Westminster and a translator of the King James Bible. Ben Jonson follows up his successful play Every Man In His Humor with a sequel, Every Man Out of His Humor. Samuel Daniel publishes Poetical Essays. Daniel may have been offered a "vague" position as Poet Laureate, but may have resigned it in favor of Ben Jonson. 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." Sir John Davies publishes Nosce Teipsum ("Know Thyself") and finds favor with the queen. Davies addresses Hymns of Astraea to Elizabeth I.

1600 — The East India Company is founded; Thomas Nashe's best-known poem Litany in Time of Plague has the moving refrain "Lord, have mercy on us!" George Chapman is arrested for debt, a serious charge in those days. Sir Walter Ralegh serves as governor of the English Channel island of Jersey and shores up its defenses.

1601 — The first performance of Shakespeare's play Hamlet. Thomas Campion's first Book of Ayres (airs, or songs). Thomas Nashe dies of the Plague in London. John Donne becomes an MP for Brackley and sits in Queen Elizabeth's last parliament. But Donne he secretly marries Lady Egerton's niece, Anne More, and is thrown into Fleet Prison by her unhappy uncle, Sir Thomas Egerton. Donne is dismissed from his post, and for the next decade will struggle to support his growing family. Donne later summed up the experience: "John Donne, Anne Donne, Undone." 

1602 — Thomas Campion's Observations in the Art of English Poesie favors quantitative meter over traditional English poetic meter (primarily iambic) and rhyme. Samuel Daniel has the first folio of collected works by a living English poet, but it was probably not published until after Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603. The published folio will include his prose essay Defence of Ryme, which defends rhyme against Campion's Observations. Daniel's subtitle states: "Wherein is demonstratiuely proued, that Ryme is the fittest harmonie of words that comportes with our Language."

1603 — Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure. Queen Elizabeth I dies and James VI of Scotland becomes King James I of England, Scotland, and Ireland; thus begins the Jacobean Period. With the accession of James I, Shakespeare’s acting company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, becomes the King’s Men. Ben Jonson writes a masque, The Satyr, for the Stuart royal court. Jonson's play Sejanus His Fall is performed at court, but is later accused of "popery and treason." Jonson is questioned but not jailed (although he would be on other occasions). Sir Walter Ralegh is sent to the Tower of London again, this time on charges of treason. He would spend thirteen years in the Tower, only to be beheaded. The birth of Roger Williams in London; he would be an early American advocate of freedom of religion. Samuel Daniel's Defense of Rhyme. Sir Francis Bacon is knighted.

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 and marries Mary Sidney to Sir Robert Wroth, making her Lady Mary Wroth. Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus is published posthumously. Robert Cawdrey, a schoolmaster, produces Table Alphabeticall, the first monolingual English dictionary. Cawdrey makes use of wordlists published earlier in educational texts, such as Richard Mulcaster’s Elementarie (1582) and Edmund Coote’s English Schoole-maister (1596). However, his dictionary is of limited usefulness because it contains only 2,543 words along with very brief (often single-word) definitions.

1605 — Shakespeare's plays King Lear and Macbeth. The birth of the English poet Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682). Thomas Campion earns a degree from the University of Caen and works as a doctor. Ben Jonson is back in jail again, this time with George Chapman, after they expressed ant-Scottish sentiments in the play they co-authored, Eastward Ho. Samuel Daniel publishes Certain Small Poems. Guy Fawkes hatches a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament. It fails.

1606 — Ben Jonson's comedy Volpone is a success and will become his best-known play. The birth of the English poet William Davenant (1606-1668). John Donne contemplates suicide and writes Biathanotos, a justification of suicide.

1607 — John Donne's Song, The Sunne Rising and The Cannonization are written around this time. The birth of the English poet Edmund Waller, who would perfect the heroic couplet and be admired by other poets for his music and refinement. John Dryden said: "Mr. Waller reformed our numbers [meter]." Robert Herrick is apprenticed as a goldsmith to a rich uncle. The birth of John Harvard (1607-1638), who would found Harvard University. The first permanent American settlement by English colonists is established at Jamestown, founded and lead by Captain John Smith, who is saved from execution by Pocahontas. Newsbooks are the precursors of newspapers.

1608 — The birth of the English poet John Milton (1608-1674), considered by many to be second only to Shakespeare. John Donne reluctantly allows his Anniversaries to be printed. His poems are ill-received by Ben Jonson and others. Francis Quarles enters Christ's College, Cambridge.

1609 — Shakespeare's Sonnets are published. The birth of the English Cavalier poet Sir John Suckling. George Herbert attends Trinity College, Cambridge.

1610 — Galileo claims the earth moves around the sun. John Donne writes two anti-Catholic polemics and earns the favor of King James I. 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. Ben Jonson has another successful play, The Alchemist. Thomas Campion's A New Way of Making Four Parts in Counterpoint.

1611 — The King James Bible is published in still-readable English; it contains some of the oldest and best free verse in the English language, such as the Song of Solomon. Emilia Lanyer's words attributed to Eve have been called "the first clear glimmer of English feminism in verse."

1612 — Heretics are burned at the stake in England for the last time. Anne Dudley Bradstreet, America's first published poet, is born in Northamptonshire, England into a prominent Puritan family. Cotton Mather described her father, Thomas Dudley, as a "devourer of books." The Dudleys had a well-stocked library and would help found Harvard University in 1636. Growing up, the young Anne Dudley read "Vergil, Plutarch, Livy, Pliny, Suetonius, Homer, Hesiod, Ovid, Seneca, and Thucydides" in addition to English poets and the Geneva Bible. As Anne Bradstreet she would influence and/or inspire poets to come, such as Martha Wadsworth Brewster and John Berryman. Did she write the first American feminist poem of note (see the entry for 1643). Ben Jonson completes his first book of Epigrams. John Webster's play The Duchess of Malfi is one of the most famous tragedies of the Jacobean period. Samuel Daniel publishes a prose History of England.

1613 — The Globe Theatre burns during a performance of Shakespeare's late play Henry VIII, which may have been co-written with John Fletcher. A new Globe Theatre would be built on the same spot with a capacity of 3,000 spectators. Shakespeare may have also collaborated with Fletcher on The Two Noble Kinsmen. Shakespeare purchases the Blackfriars gatehouse in London. The birth of the English metaphysical poet Richard Crashaw (c. 1613-1649) and the English poet and satirist Samuel Butler (1613-1680), best known for his long satirical poem Hudibras. Thomas Campion's Songs of Mourning lament the death of Prince Henry. Robert Herrick enters St. John's College to study law. George Herbert takes his BA and becomes a minor fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. He also writes two elegies for Prince Henry.

1614 — Sir Walter Ralegh's History of the World was composed while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London on charges of treason. The birth of the Anglo-Irish poet and courtier Sir John Denham (c. 1614-1669).

1616 — The death of William Shakespeare. Ben Jonson's "first folio" or Works includes On My First Son and Song: To Celia ("Drink to me only with thin eyes"). Jonson receives a substantial royal pension, for which he has been called the first Poet Laureate. Jonson travels to Scotland on foot to meet William Drummond (and allegedly drinks his wine cellar dry!). George Chapman's complete translations of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are published. Chapman "made Homer integral to English literature." John Donne reluctantly enters the ministry under pressure from James I and is appointed a Royal Chaplain. He quickly becomes a star preacher of his day. George Herbert receives his MA. John Bullokar's An English Expositor is a dictionary of "strange words." It is the second monolingual English dictionary and it draws upon and expands the first, Robert Cawdrey's Table Alphabeticall, doubling the number of words included. It would appear in at least sixteen editions and revisions over the next 150 years.

Our top poets of the Cavalier/Reformation/Restoration Period: George Herbert, Margaret Cavendish, Anne Bradstreet, 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 (1617-1677)
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, Lord Byron, et al.

1617 — Sir Walter Ralegh is released from the Tower of London and sets sail in search of El Dorado again. Anne Donne dies in childbirth. The birth of the English Cavalier poet Richard Lovelace (1618-1657), described as the "Adonis" of King Charles' court, "one of the heart-throbs of seventeenth century literature" and "the most amiable and beautiful person that ever eye beheld." He has also been called the "last of the knight-poets." Lovelace was many things: solider, courtier, dashing ladies' man, romantic poet, scholar, musician, and lover and patron of the arts. His father, Sir William Lovelace, had considerable holdings in Kent.

1618 — Sir Walter Ralegh fails in his last expedition to find El Dorado and upon his return to England is executed on trumped-up charges of treason. He may have written his great poem The Lie while incarcerated in the Tower of London, awaiting death after all he had done for England and its rulers. The Lie put Ralegh at odds with the Cavalier poets who wrote after him. His severed head was embalmed and given to his wife, Lady Ralegh. Three decades later it would be reunited with his body in its grave. The birth of the English poet Abraham Cowley (1618-1667). At age ten, John Milton is already a poet, according to John Aubrey. Edmund Waller enters Eton. John Donne writes his Holy Sonnets. George Herbert is elected major fellow and Reader in Rhetoric at Cambridge. Francis Bacon is appointed Lord Chancellor.

1619 — Michael Drayton publishes his best-known poem, Sonnet LVI from Idea ("Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part ..."). Ben Jonson receives an honorary MA from Christ Church, Oxford. The death of Samuel Daniel. Encyclopζdia Britannica says of Daniel: "His style is full, easy and stately, without being very animated or splendid; it is content with level flights." Renι Descartes has three dreams on Saint Martin's Eve that he would claim gave him "the foundations of a marvelous science."

1620 — The Pilgrims set sail for America in the Mayflower; they land at Cape Cod and found the New Plymouth colony. Thomas Campion dies; his poetry would be largely forgotten until 1889. Robert Herrick earns an MA from Cambridge. Edmund Waller enters King's College. George Herbert is elected public orator at Cambridge. Harold Bloom has called Tom O'Bedlam's Song "the most magnificent Anonymous poem in the language."

1621 —  A scandalous book, The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania by Lady Mary Wroth, is the first extant prose romance by an Englishwoman. Edmund Waller is made MP at age 16 and soon earns acclaim as a master orator. Clarendon said Waller spoke "upon all occasions with great sharpness and freedom." John Donne is made dean of St. Paul's. Sir Fulke Greville is made Baron Brooke. The birth of the English metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), best known today for his famous carpe diem ("seize the day") poem To His Coy Mistress. He was the son of a low church clergyman, also named Andrew Marvell. The death of Mary Sidney Herbert.

1622 — The birth of the Welsh metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan (c. 1622-1695) and his twin brother Thomas. Henry Vaughan, called "the most rapt English devotional poet," would be influenced by the devotional poems of George Herbert. The first news report publication, Corantos, deals most with foreign affairs. It was also called the Courante and Weekly News. Thomas Morton spends three months on an exploratory trip to America, then back in England in early 1623 complains of the intolerance of certain elements of the Puritan community. The Puritans would invent the most fiendish punishments for minor crimes and non-crimes: public floggings, cropping ears, boring holes in tongues with hot irons, hanging "witches," etc.

1623 — Shakespeare's First Folio, a collection of his plays, is published by a syndicate and the printers William and Isaac Jaggard. Ben Jonson had a financial stake in the folio and writes an elegy for Shakespeare (one of poetry's early sales blurbs?). Jonson also writes The English Grammar. The birth of the English poet and playwright Margaret Lucas Cavendish (1623-1673), the Duchess of Newcastle. She would marry William Cavendish (1592-1676), the first Duke of Newcastle, also a poet and playwright. John Donne becomes seriously ill, writes his Devotions anticipating death, but survives another eight years. At age 15 a precocious John Milton is paraphrasing Psalms in English verse. Henry Cockeram’s English Dictionary is the third monolingual English dictionary and the first to call itself a "dictionary." But like the first two English dictionaries it is not complete and focuses on "difficult" words. Cockeram copied many of his definitions from Robert Cawdrey's terse Table Alphabeticall. But the Oxford English Dictionary attributes 600 words to Cockeram's dictionary, so he did add quite a bit himself.

1624 — George Herbert is made MP for Montgomeryshire, Wales. In the area of present-day Quincy, Massachusetts, Thomas Morton begins to trade with Native Americans whose culture he is said to have admired as far more "civilized and humanitarian" than that of his "intolerant European neighbours."

1625 — Robert Herrick makes his first mark as a poet with verses on the death of James I. Edmund Waller's most famous poem, Song: Go, Lovely Rose, will be circulated privately for around 20 years before being published in 1645. John Milton enters Christ's College, Cambridge. An early poem about America is Rev. William Morrell's Nova Anglia ("New England").

1626 — While studying at Cambridge, John Milton publishes his Epitaph on the admirable Dramatick Poet, W. Shakespeare. Milton has been described as "a beautiful youth with long locks" whose complexion was "exceeding faire." So fair, in fact, that he was called "the Lady of Christ's College." At the time, Milton was writing poems in Latin, in "the manner of Ovid and Horace." The birth of John Aubrey (1626-1697), the author of Brief Lives, a collection of sometimes-gossipy biographies of figures such as Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Ralegh, Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare. Thomas Morton helps create an "almost Utopian" settlement in Massachusetts called Merrymount. The colonists were given considerable freedom and "a certain degree of integration into the local Algonquian culture was attempted." A large Maypole was set up and everyone was invited to have fun—drinking, dancing and (possibly) having sex. This enraged the Puritans, who sent the Plymouth militia under Myles Standish to take the town, cut down the Maypole and arrest Morton, who was banished to a deserted island (where he would probably have starved were it not for mainland natives who provided him with food). A possible date for Richard Crashaw's Psalme 23. The death of Francis Bacon.

1627 — Robert Herrick is appointed chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham, then is made Dean Prior of Devon after Buckingham's death. John Donne preaches the funeral sermon for George Herbert's mother, who had been his patron. Francis Bacon's New Atlantis is published posthumously.

1628 — Ben Jonson is appointed City Chronologer of London. Renι Descartes settles in Holland. The birth of the English poet and writer John Bunyan, best known for his allegorical novel Pilgrim's Progress. Sixteen-year-old Anne Dudley marries Simon Bradstreet, an older Cambridge man who has been working for her father, Thomas Dudley. The Dudleys are involved in forming the Massachusetts Bay Company, with the goal of creating a Puritan colony in North America. The first settlement is created at Salem.

1629 — John Milton composes his first important poem, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, while still a student at Cambridge. After earning his BA, Milton stays on at Cambridge to work on his MA. Richard Lovelace and Richard Crashaw both attend the Charterhouse school. Thomas Dudley is named deputy governor of the Massachusetts colony.

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 have been the most skilled card player and bowler in England. George Herbert is ordained a priest at Salisbury Cathedral.  Roger Williams and his wife emigrate to America aboard the Lyon. Anne Bradstreet and her family emigrate to America on the Arbella as part of the Winthrop Fleet. John Winthrop, the leader of the mission and the colony's first governor, regaled the colonists with his speech A Modell of Christian Charity and his vision of a "city on a hill." However, Puritan "charity" toward Native Americans would be very hard to discern, since Winthrop considered it legal to take their land because they hadn't "subdued" it to his satisfaction. Winthrop would later criticize Anne Bradstreet for writing poetry, opining that men's minds are "stronger." The pioneering Dudleys and Bradstreets will help to found Boston. They will also live in Salem, Charlestown, Ipswich, Newtowne (Cambridge) and North Andover.

1631 — Richard Lovelace is sworn in as a Gentleman Wayter Extraordinary to the King, around age fourteen. His "adolescent" comedy The Scholars was played "with applause." The birth of the English poet John Dryden (1631-1700), who has been called "the father of English criticism." Edmund Waller marries Ann Banks. Waller is brought before the Star Chamber, but being a wealthy man, he is able to pay a large fine and remain free. John Donne writes his own funeral sermon, Death's Duel, and his last great poem, Hymne to God, My God, in My Sicknesse, then dies the same year. Michael Drayton dies and is buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey, with memorial lines attributed to Ben Jonson. John Milton completes L'Allegro and Il Penseroso. One of the first known poems about America is The Legend of Captain Jones, by the Welsh clergyman David Lloyd. It's a bawdy parody of Captain John Smith's autobiography. Another is Verses on the Puritan Settlement in America, written by an unknown author. Richard Crashaw enters Pembroke Hall, Cambridge.

1632 — The birth of the English poet Katherine Philips (1632-1664); she was called "the matchless Orinda" by John Dryden. John Milton receives his MA. Anne Bradstreet has her first child in Newtowne (now Cambridge, Massachusetts). Thomas Dudley erects a palisade around Newtowne at his own expense. Now preaching in Plymouth, Roger Williams objects to Native American land being taken without legitimate purchases. Was that perhaps a reason the palisade was needed in Newtowne? The birth of the philosopher John Locke (1632-1704).

1633 — George Herbert dies of consumption and his poems are published posthumously a year later by his friend Nicholas Ferrar. The poems include Redemption, Virtue, The Collar, The Pulley and the title poem The Temple. Charles I would read The Temple for consolation while awaiting execution. The Temple would sell 20,000 copies within a few years. Some of Herbert's lyrics would be to set to music by John Wesley. Andrew Marvell enters Trinity College, Cambridge at age twelve as a subsizar (quasi-servant). Ben Jonson's comedic play A Tale of a Tub. Richard Crashaw publishes Epigrammatum Sacrorum Liber ("A Book of Sacred Epigrams").

1634 — Richard Lovelace enters Gloucester Hall, Oxford and has his MA by age eighteen. Comus is John Milton's longest poem to date, a masque with over 1,000 lines that has been described as "the last Elizabethan poem." George Chapman dies and Inigo Jones provides his monument. Thomas Dudley is elected governor of the Massachusetts colony; the first stabs at representative government (taxation with representation) take place around this time. Roger Williams becomes the acting pastor at the Salem church. But he is soon in hot water for defending Native American rights and other "heresies." Francis Quarles publishes his best-known work, the Emblems.

1636 — Anne Bradstreet's father and husband are instrumental in the founding of the first American university, Harvard. The Harvard community would later dedicate a gate memorializing Anne Bradstreet as America's first published poet. Harvard's Dudley Hall is named after the Dudley family, as is the town of Dudley, Massachusetts. Roger Williams flees arrest and travels 55 miles through a blizzard, until he is taken in by friendly natives. The following spring, Williams establishes a new settlement at Providence, Rhode Island, where "liberty of conscience" rules and the government is limited to civil matters (i.e., separation of church and state) via majority votes (democracy). Williams also managed to maintain peace with Native Americans for 40 years. Here's poem that expresses his opinions about equality and tolerance:

Boast not proud English, of thy birth & blood;
Thy brother Indian is by birth as Good.
Of one blood God made Him, and Thee and All,
As wise, as fair, as strong, as personal.

But Puritans would exerted pressure to destroy both Rhode Island and their Native American allies, the Narragansetts. Their object was to put an end to the "heretical" settlements in Rhode Island. In response, Williams would travel to England to secure a charter for the Rhode Island colony in 1644.

1637 — John Milton writes Lycidias for a fellow student-poet who drowned, Edward King. It has been called the "finest elegy in the language." Andrew Marvell's first published poems are Latin and Greek verses on the death of Princess Anne. The birth of the English poet Thomas Traherne (1637-1674), a priest know for his religious poetry. King Charles I authorizes a revised Anglican Booke of Common Prayer. The prayer book causes riots in Scotland which will lead to the Bishop's War of 1639 and the Puritan Revolution of 1645. In the end Charles lost his crown, and his head. Ben Jonson dies and is buried at Westminster Abbey; at the time his only English peers are Chaucer and Spenser (Shakespeare not yet being acknowledged as Shakespeare). Jonson's funeral was attended by "all or the greatest part of the nobility then in town." Thomas Morton becomes a celebrity with the publication of his three-volume New English Canaan, based on the notes of his legal campaign against the Puritans. Morton produced "an inspired denunciation of Puritan government in the colonies and their policy of land enclosure and near genocide of the Native population, who were described as a far nobler culture." Morton's The New English Canaan has been described as "an important work of early American environmental writing." Renι Descartes publishes his first book after a lifetime of scholarship and rational investigation, Discourse on Method. The book has been described as his "claim to be the first modern philosopher and one of the first modern scientists." What we now call "Cartesian doubt" has become the principle method of modern science: "Let's not proclaim anything more than a theory until we can prove it." Descartes observed that "Truths are more likely discovered by one man than nations." (tr. Michael R. Burch)

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 but he's strapped for cash. John Milton travels to Italy. Andrew Marvell obtains his BA from Trinity College, Cambridge, and briefly converts to Roman Catholicism. It is believed that Henry Vaughan and his twin brother Thomas entered Jesus College, Oxford, around this time. John Clarke establishes the First Baptist Church in Newport, Rhode Island. He and Roger Williams are considered to be the founders of the Baptist denomination.

1639 — Charles I raises an army of 20,000 troops and invades Scotland in an attempt to impose his will (and prayer book) on the Scots. John Milton returns from the continent when the Bishops' Wars in Scotland threaten civil war in England. He begins to write prose tracts in praise of "the divine and admirable spirit of Wyclif" and in service of the pro-reformation Puritans and Parliamentarians. Meanwhile, Richard Lovelace is fighting on the opposite side for the king, under Lord Goring. His experience inspires one of his most famous poems, To Lucasta, Going to the Warres, and the tragedy The Soldier. Sir John Suckling and Thomas Carew also side with Charles I in Scotland. Simon Bradstreet is granted land in Salem, Massachusetts.

1640 — The Bay Psalm Book is the first book printed in North America. 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 (1640-1689). She would become England's first female professional writer. Virginia Woolf wrote: "All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds." 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. Thomas Dudley serves a second term as governor of the Massachusetts colony; during this term the Massachusetts Body of Liberties contains provisions that will end up in the Bill of Rights. However, Dudley has been accused of being intolerant of religions other than Puritanism, going as far as to burn books and support the banishment of Anne Hutchinson. In fact, he participated in Hutchinson's prosecution. Renι Descartes meets Elizabeth of Bohemia, Princess Palatine, and they begin a correspondence of which 59 letters remain.

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, is found guilty of high treason in his absence, then dies shortly thereafter. 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." Andrew Marvell is ejected from Cambridge without an advanced degree for non-performance of his college duties. The first domestic news publication is Diurnalls, followed by Weekly Accounts, Mercuries and Intelligencers. Young Margaret Lucas (later Cavendish) and her royalist family are attacked by anti-royalist Puritans and will flee to the court of Charles I in Oxford.

1642 — Andrew Marvell spend much of the English Civil War period traveling abroad. The birth of the great English scientist, astronomer, physicist, mathematician and philosopher Isaac Newton, on Christmas Day. Galileo Galilei dies under house arrest by the Roman Catholic inquisition for saying the sun is the center of the solar system. Edward Taylor (c. 1642-1729), one of the better early American poets, is born in Sketchley, England. None of his poems would be published in his lifetime; they were discovered in the Yale University library and published in 1939. His poetry has been described as "American Metaphysical" and "Colonial Baroque." The English Civil War officially begins when Charles I raises the royal standard against anti-Royalists in Nottingham. 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. John Milton marries a sixteen-year-old Roman Catholic girl.

1643 — Edmund Waller is arrested in a royalist scheme against Parliament known as "Waller's Plot." To save his life, Waller recants. He is hit with an enormous fine, sent to the Tower of London for a year and a half, then banished. Once again his wealth may have saved him, since two of his fellow conspirators were executed. Roger Williams publishes A Key into the Language of America, a book that corrected misconceptions about Native Americans. The book "quickly became a bestseller and provided Williams with a large and favorable reputation." Anne Bradstreet writes "In Honor of that High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory," in which she "praises the Queen as a paragon of female prowess" while "chiding men for trivializing women." Bradstreet "refers to the Queen's outstanding leadership and historical prominence" while "underscoring her own dislike of patriarchal arrogance." Was it the first American feminist poem of note?

1644 — The 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. (But Milton would become a censor himself, under Cromwell.) While serving as maid of honor to Queen Henrietta Maria, who is living in exile in France, Margaret Lucas meets William Cavendish, also in exile, and they marry. Roger Williams obtains a charter for the Rhone Island colony. "Freedom of conscience was again proclaimed, and the colony became a safe haven for people who were persecuted for their beliefs, including Baptists, Quakers, and Jews." John Dryden enters Westminster School as a King's Scholar.

1645 — Edmund Waller's poems Song: Go, Lovely Rose and On a Girdle are published in his Poems (in three editions) while he is living in exile. Several of his poems were set to music by Henry Lawes. John Milton's poems L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, On Shakespeare and How Soon Hath Time are published. Richard Lovelace rejoins the king in Oxford. Under the influence of Puritans like Oliver Cromwell, Parliament bans Christmas celebrations, including caroling.

1646 — John Milton's first volume of Poems is published, with work in Greek, Latin, Italian and English. Richard Crashaw's On the Baptized Ethiopian is one of the first English poems to express the idea of racial equality. A collection of Sir John Suckling's poems is published posthumously as Fragmenta aurea. True pioneers, Anne Bradstreet and her husband help found North Andover, Massachusetts.

1647 — Robert Herrick is evicted by the parliamentarians from his vicarage for refusing to sign the "Solemn League and Covenant," a pro-reformation agreement. The birth of the English poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680). His father Henry, Viscount Wilmot, was a Royalist general and dashing war hero credited with hiding Charles I in an oak tree after the disastrous battle of Worcester, then engineering his escape to the continent. The younger Wilmot, a famous (or infamous) rake, would write censored poems about masturbation, premature ejaculation and other taboo subjects. Andrew Marvell called Wilmot "the best English satirist." Charles I attempts to escape from captivity on the Isle of Wight. Anne Bradstreet's brother-in-law, the Rev. John Woodbridge, sails to England with her poetry manuscript, which he will have published in 1650.

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 Warres; To Althea, from Prison; and To Amaratha, That She Would Dishevel Her Hair. Around this time Andrew Marvell publishes poems addressed to Lord Francis Villiers, Lord Hastings and Richard Lovelace.

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, becoming a composer of "official propaganda." Cromwell leads his army to Ireland. John Dryden publishes his first notable poem, Upon the Death of Lord Hastings, written around age eighteen for a schoolmate who died from smallpox. The death of Richard Crashaw.

1650 — Anne Bradstreet's The Vanity of All Worldly Things is 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 both in England and the New World. Henry Vaughn's poems Regeneration and The Retreat are published in Silex Scintillans ("Sparks from the Flint"). John Dryden enters Trinity College, Cambridge. Cromwell returns from Ireland and Andrew Marvell writes one of his best-known poems, Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland, to commemorate the occasion. Marvell joins the Fairfax household as a tutor to Lord Fairfax's daughter Mary. There he writes charming poems about Nun Appleton House and its grounds. It is probably around this time that Marvell wrote To His Coy Mistress. A possible date for the ballad Childe Waters. Renι Descartes dies of pneumonia after contracting the chills while tutoring the young Queen Christina of Sweeden.

1651 — John Milton goes completely blind. One of his secretaries is Andrew Marvell. Milton's daughters also function as his scribes (perhaps the first female scribes in the English record.) 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. Cromwell defeats the Scotts, ending the Royalist campaigns.

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 ..."). It was Milton's only Shakespearean sonnet. Henry Vaughan publishes The Mount of Olives, a book of prose devotions.

1653 — Oliver Cromwell is made England's Lord Protector and Regent. Marvell tutors Cromwell's ward, William Dutton, and writes poems in praise of Cromwell. Margaret Cavendish's Poems and Fancies and Philosophicall Fancies are published.

1654 — John Dryden graduates at the top of his Cambridge class.

1655 — Roger Williams is elected president of the Rhode Island colony.

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

1656 — Richard Lovelace composes The Triumph of Philamore and Amoret for the marriage of Charles Cotton the younger; it has been called Lovelace's last outstanding poem. Margaret Cavendish publishes her autobiographical memoir A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life. Thomas Blount's Glossographia is another "difficult words" dictionary with some 9,000 words and fuller definitions and etymologies than its predecessors. 

1657 — Richard Lovelace dies in London. Andrew Marvell takes a government job as Latin Secretary; John Milton had recommended him for the position. John Aubrey wrote of Marvell: "For Latin verses there was no man could come into competition with him."

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. Edward Phillips’ New World of English Words is yet another English dictionary that focuses on difficult words and terms, many of them borrowed from earlier dictionaries. The word count rises to 11,000 in the first edition, then to 17,000, then to 38,000 when enlarged by John Kersey in 1706. The birth of the English poet Richard Duke (1658-1711).

1659 — John Dryden publishes Heroic Stanzas, a eulogy on Cromwell's death which is "cautious and prudent in its emotional display." Four Quakers, including a woman, Mary Dyer, were hanged in Boston between 1659 and 1661 for returning to the city to express their beliefs. Andrew Marvell becomes MP for Hull. Richard Lovelace's translations of Catullus are more literal and faithful to the original poems than those of prior translators like Campion and Carew. James Shirley's The Glories of Our Blood and State; Sir John Suckling's Out Upon It! John Wilmot enters Wadham College, Oxford.

1660 — Samuel Pepys begins his famous diary on January 1, 1660. It would be an auspicious year. 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. Milton is fined and pardoned in December; Andrew Marvell helps secure his release. Marvell protests in Parliament that Milton's jail fees (£150) are excessive. Marvell would campaign for religious toleration. 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!" John Dryden celebrates the Restoration with Astraea Redux. William and Margaret Cavendish are able to return to court; then soon retire to their Welbeck estate. She resumes her writing career and will be called "Mad Madge" in some circles because of her eccentricities and the fact that she was a woman writing under her own name in a man's world. John Dryden, Charles Lamb and Virginia Woolf would be more complimentary of her work. The birth of the first English novelist, Daniel Defoe (1660-1731). Defoe also wrote satirical verse.

1661 — The birth of the English poet Annie Kingsmill (1661-1720), later Annie Finch, Countess of Winchilsea. Her father was Sir William Kingsmill. Edmund Waller rejoins the House of Commons as MP for Hastings. Waller would support religious toleration, make 180 speeches, and serve on 209 parliamentary committees. Charles II sends John Wilmot on a three-year grand tour of France and Italy, and gives him a £500 annual pension, in gratitude for the service of his father Henry Wilmot (see the entry for 1647). The birth of the English poet Samuel Garth (1661-1719).

1662 — Richard Herrick is restored to his vicarage at Dean Prior. John Dryden is elected into the Royal Society. 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. Margaret Cavendish publishes a collection of Plays and a collection of Orations.

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.) John Aubrey's Monumenta Britannica would be written "over some thirty years between about 1663 and 1693." It would include information about early English monuments at Stonehenge and Avebury, Roman towns, hillforts, castles, the evolution of English architecture, etc. The birth of the English poet and diplomat George Stepney (1663-1707).

1664 — John Milton completes Paradise Lost. The birth of the English poet Matthew Prior (1664-1721). John Dryden publishes his first play, The Wild Gallant. Margaret Cavendish publishes a collection of Philosophical Letters. Aphra Behn returns to England after eighteen years abroad; she marries a merchant. Edmund Waller's play Pompey the Great. John Wilmot returns to England and becomes visible at court. Katherine Philips dies at 32 of smallpox.

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 (which is still being published today). But ballads continue to outnumber all other forms of publication. John Wilmot incurs the displeasure of Charles II and spends three weeks in the Tower after abducting the lovely heiress Elizabeth Malet against the wishes of her family, who considered him too poor for a marriage. Wilmot attempts to redeem himself by joining the navy; he becomes a war hero like his famous father. Aphra Behn's husband dies, perhaps during the plague of 1665.

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. Book and ballad prices skyrocket due to the law of supply and demand. One of the houses destroyed in the fire is Milton's father's house on Bread Street. Thomas Vaughan, the twin brother of poet Henry Vaughan, dies of mercury poisoning in an alchemical experiment. Aphra Behn, now a widow, works as a spy for King Charles II in Antwerp but is never properly paid. This is the first 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." Anne Bradstreet's house is destroyed by fire. Most of her personal library, said to have numbered around 9,000 books, was lost in the fire. Margaret Cavendish's prose Blazing World has been described as early science fiction. John Wilmot, in and out of favor, is made a gentleman of the king's bedchamber.

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. 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. Dryden's Annus Mirabilis, a modern epic in pentameter quatrains, establishes him as the preeminent poet of his generation and will be crucial to his attaining the posts of Poet Laureate (1668) and Historiographer Royal (1670). The birth of the Anglo-Irish poet Jonathan Swift (1667-1745). Swift was born in Dublin, but "he insisted on his Englishness." He has been called the greatest prose satirist in the English language and is less well known for his poetry today. Swift's mother, Abigail Herrick, was related to Robert Herrick. The Swift family was also related to John Dryden, Sir Walter Ralegh, Francis Godwin and Sir William Davenant. John Wilmot again elopes with Elizabeth Malet, this time successfully, and they marry. Back in the favor of Charles II, Wilmot is given special permission to join the House of Lords despite being underage. Wilmot has an affair with the notorious actress Nell Gwyn, who later becomes a paramour of the king. Margaret Cavendish is the first woman to attend a meeting of the Royal Society of London. The birth of the English poet John Pomfret (1667-1702).

1668 — Edward Taylor emigrates to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where he enrolls at Harvard College to study to become a minister. Taylor is the only major American poet to have written in the metaphysical style. John Dryden is made the first British Poet Laureate by Charles II. Aphra Behn is sent to a debtor's prison and vows never to return; she becomes a writer to make money and avoid prison. Margaret Cavendish publishes a second collection of plays. A number of her plays, including The Convent of Pleasure, were staged after her death.

1669 — John Milton's Accidence Commenced Grammar is published. John Locke helps draft The Fundamental Constitutions for the Government of Carolina.

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. The birth of the English poet and playwright William Congreve (1670-1729). John Dryden is made Historiographer Royal. John Wilmot may have written the notorious play Sodom around this time ... if he wrote it.

1671 — After Aphra Behn's third play flops at the box office, she disappears from the public record for three years. (It has been suggested that she returned to spying!) John Milton's Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes are published. Edward Taylor becomes a pastor and physician in Westfield, Massachusetts, where he remains until his death 58 years later.

1672 — Anne Bradstreet dies. Her revolutionary Tenth Muse will be republished in 1678 as Several Poems, with corrections and additional poems such as "Contemplations" and "The Flesh and the Spirit." 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 in his revised Poems. John Dryden's most famous play is Marriage ΰ la Mode.

1674 — Robert Herrick dies at age 83, the last Cavalier and perhaps England's most musical poet, 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. The birth of the English poet and prolific hymn writer Isaac Watts (1674-1748).

1675 — A Satire Against Mankind is one of the few poems published by John Wilmot during his life. Wilmot is appointed keeper of Woodstock Park, where he later claimed to have been drunk for five years running. Since he died in 1680 at age 33, apparently he was drunk the last five years of his short life.

1676 — Elisha Coles publishes his English Dictionary. While like its predecessors this was another "difficult words" dictionary, Coles did include a wider variety of material, including regional and everyday terms.

1677 — The birth of the English poet John Hughes (1677-1720). Aphra Behn's most famous play, The Rover, features strong female characters who "argue wittily for their rights" including the right to sexual freedom.

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

Modern English: The Augustan or Metaphysical Period (1678-1749)

At this point it seems safe to say that Early Modern English has been replaced by Modern English. The "great vowel shift" that made Chaucer difficult to scan is long over. While Shakespeare can be hard to understand in places, we can read the better writers from this point forward with little or no trouble, unless they have chosen to be intentionally obscure. Dictionaries will help establish standardized meanings and spellings for words. The basic rules of grammar have been set.

The English Augustan period derives its name from the Roman Augustan period, which has been called the "Golden Age" of classical Roman poetry. The English Augustans modeled their verse after that of Roman Augustans like Virgil, Horace and Propertius. The term also applies because George I saw himself as a modern Augustus. But we may question whether there was more Augustan veneer than substance, more Augustan gold plating than actual gold. For instance, in his commentary on pastoral poetry, Alexander Pope said: "We are not to describe our shepherds as shepherds at this day really are, but as they may be conceived then to have been, when the best of men followed the employment." But the majority of the better poets to come, led by the Romantics and early modernists, would take the opposite approach by seeking to describe the world and human beings honestly, as they really are, warts and all. There is a huge chasm, for example, between Pope's Essay on Man and Sylvia Plath's confessional poems. Plath seems not only more honest, but more deeply insightful about human nature, particularly her own. Thomas Gray, perhaps the major contrary figure of the Augustan period, seems like an early Romantic in his best-known poem, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Gray didn't mythologize ancient shepherds who probably weren't all angelic heroes; instead he sympathized with the very difficult lives of the common folk he lived and moved among. Thus Gray seems more substantive while Dryden and Pope seem more ornate. We feel for Gray's villagers while Pope's glorified shepherds fail to touch us at all. And while Dryden and Pope may have approached what has been described as "technical perfection" in their heroic couplets, the modernizing world did not lend itself to such tidiness or the gilded certainties frequently being expressed. The Delphi Oracle proclaimed Socrates the wisest man in ancient Greece because he alone understood how little he actually understood. Thus Socrates was more likely to question than to preach. Alas, the Oracle may not have complimented Augustan poets who seemed too sure of themselves, too quick to wrap things up when immense questions remained, too easily satisfied with couplets clicking comfortably into place.

The English Augustans may also have over-valued wit, urbanity and extravagant "conceits." A. E. Housman considered the period to have been a "dry spell" in English poetry. Housman, a brutally direct and honest poet, did not think highly of what may be called "the age of Dryden, Pope and the wits." In one of his lectures Housman said: "There is also such a thing as sham poetry, a counterfeit deliberately manufactured and offered as a substitute. In English the great historical example is certain verse produced abundantly and applauded by high and low in what for literary purposes is loosely called the eighteenth century: not a hundred years accidentally begun and ended by chronology, but a longer period which is a unity and a reality; the period lying between Samson Agonistes in 1671 and the Lyrical Ballads in 1798 [i.e., the beginning of the English Romantic period], and including as an integral part and indeed as its most potent influence the mature work of Dryden." The poetry produced during this long dry spell was, according to Housman, "at once pompous and poverty-stricken." And in Housman's estimation "Pope had less of the poetic gift than Dryden." Housman found the fount of true modern poetry in William Blake: "For me the most poetical of all poets is Blake. I find his lyrical note as beautiful as Shakespeare's and more beautiful than anyone else's; and I call him more poetical than Shakespeare, even though Shakespeare has so much more poetry, because poetry in him preponderates more than in Shakespeare over everything else, and instead of being confounded in a great river can be drunk pure from a slender channel of its own. Shakespeare is rich in thought, and his meaning has power of itself to move us, even if the poetry were not there: Blake's meaning is often unimportant or virtually non-existent, so that we can listen with all our hearing to his celestial tune."

William Blake agreed with Housman about Dryden and Pope: "I do not condemn Pope or Dryden because they did not understand imagination, but because they did not understand verse."

We believe there are at least two valid major criticisms of Augustan poetry in general, although there are some pleasant exceptions. First, all too often the poems are unmoving; they leave us cold; there is something missing at the center that makes poetry poetry. Second, and again all too often, the poets are trying to sell us faded ideas dressed up with shimmering ribbons and bows. Was there ever a "Golden Age" in which ancient shepherds were as pure as doves and as happy as larks? Surely not, but even if they existed they are too remote to matter to us now. But some of Alexander Pope's early poems were more intimate, and feel more like poetry to us: "Ode to Solitude" and "Eloisa to Abelard," for instance. So we might disagree with Housman that Pope lacked the poetic gift and theorize that he may have directed his gifts toward things many modern readers have little or no interest in, such as pastorals, poetic sermons and long didactic verse essays.

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 Dryden; more likely it 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 explorers discovering America. Donne strikes us as the first, best and most prominent of the metaphysical poets.)

1678 — Anne Bradstreet has the first book of verse published in Boston, posthumously. Her widower became governor of Salem during the famous (or infamous) witch trials. John Dryden's play All For Love is a reworking of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. John Bunyan publishes his allegorical novel Pilgrim's Progress which would become one of the ten best-selling books of all time. Ironically, Bunyan wrote parts of the moral allegory while spending time in a Bedfordshire prison! Andrew Marvell dies.

1679 — Simon Bradstreet becomes governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. John Dryden's Song ("Can life be a blessing ...") from his play Troilus and Cressida is published. The birth of Thomas Parnell (1679-1718), an Anglo-Irish poet and clergyman who has been called one of the "graveyard poets" along with Thomas Gray and Edward Young, among others.

1680 — John Wilmot dies at age 33, possibly from venereal disease after a life of debauchery.

1681 — Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress, his best-known poem, is published in Miscellaneous Poems three years after his death. However, his Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland was removed from all but one copy and would not be included until a reprinting in 1776. John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel: a Poem is published. It has been called "the first of our great political satires."

1682 — John Dryden's satirical poem Mac Flecknoe is published. Jonathan Swift enters Dublin University. Edward Taylor's Preparatory Meditations (1682–1725) will not be discovered and published until 1937. His complete poems will not be published until 1960.

1683 — The death of Roger Williams. The birth of the English poet Edward Young (or Yonge), best-remembered for his melancholic Night-Thoughts. First published in 1742 and later illustrated by William Blake in 1797, Night Thoughts would become "one of the most frequently-printed poems of the eighteenth century." Its success was "enormous." 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; Dr. Samuel Johnson praised Young's satires; 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"). The birth of the English poet Elijah Fenton (1683-1730). John Locke flees England for Holland after being suspected in the Rye House plot against Charles II and the future James II.

1684 — Annie Kingsmill marries the courtier Heneage Finch, becoming Annie Finch. During the 1685 coronation of James II, Heneage Finch would carry the canopy of the Queen, Mary of Modena, who had specifically requested his service. Annie Finch writes A Letter to Dafnis for her husband, to "celebrate their relationship and ardent intimacy."

1685 — Charles II converts to Catholicism on his deathbed. The last Catholic monarch, King James II, now rules England, Scotland and Ireland. The birth of the English poet, playwright and parodist John Gay (1685-1732). Edmund Waller publishes Divine Poems.

1686 — The final poems of Edmund Waller are published, although his collected poems will be published posthumously in 1690. The birth of the Scottish poet Allan Ramsay (1686-1758). Ramsay was also a playwright, publisher, librarian, and impresario of early Enlightenment Edinburgh. Ramsay may have created the first circulating library in Britain when he opened a bookstore and began renting books.

1687 — Edmund Waller dies. He had been "a peacemaker and mediator both in his poems and in politics." Gosse credits Waller with being the first poet to make writing in the "serried couplet" the habit and the fashion. His poem "Go, Lovely Rose" remains one on the loveliest love poems in the English language. Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica has been called the first major work of the Enlightenment, or Age of Reason.

1688 — The birth of the English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1784). Pope, described as a "delicate precocious boy," suffered from Pott's disease, which stunted his growth and left him with a severe hunchback and nearly an invalid. Aphra Behn, England's first female novelist, publishes Oroonoko, or the History of the Royal Slave. Jonathan Swift becomes secretary to Sir William Temple. King James II is deposed in the Glorious Revolution or Bloodless Revolution and is replaced by William III aka William of Orange. The birth of Thomas Warton the Elder (1688-1745), a writer of runic odes and occasional verse whose son with the same name would be a future poet laureate of England.

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. The birth of the English poet Mary Wortley (better known as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu). Denied a classical education because of her sex, she was educated at home and taught herself Latin in her father's library. Thomas Shadwell is appointed the second British Poet Laureate, succeeding John Dryden. John Locke completes An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Locke accompanies Queen Mary II on her return to England from Holland. William III and Mary II will rule together as William and Mary. Locke would be involved in drafting an English Bill of Rights.

1692 — Simon Bradstreet, the widower of Anne Bradstreet, speaks out against the "witch" hysteria that led to the Salem Witch Trials. Their son John Bradstreet would be accused of being a witch, after a dog barked at him and ran away. The dog was hanged as a witch, but he escaped to New York. Another son, Dudley Bradstreet, and his wife, a second Anne Bradstreet, would be accused of being witches after he refused to issue warrants for the arrests of witches in his position of Justice of the Peace for Andover. Jonathan Swift receives his MA from Hart Hall, Oxford. Nahum Tate is appointed the third British Poet Laureate.

1694 — Jonathan Swift takes holy orders and is appointed to the prebend of Kilroot, but is apparently unhappy and doesn't last long there. 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 epic amounts of caffeine: according to some sources, he drank as many as 40 cups a day!

1695 — The death of Henry Vaughan. Was he the last important English language poet to express certainty about his Christian faith? If so, it seems odd that he did not produce a major poem over the last forty years of his life.

1696 — Jonathan Swift returns to the service of Sir William Temple. Swift helped prepare Temple's memoirs and correspondence for publication.

1697 — William Congreve's play The Mourning Bride inspired two now-famous misquotations. "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast" is often misquoted as "Music soothes the savage beast." And the lines "Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned, / Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorned" is usually paraphrased as "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." John Dryden publishes his ode Alexander's Feast and his translation The Works of Virgil.

1699 — Jonathan Swift becomes vicar of Laracor and later dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin. However, he considered life in Ireland to be exile. The birth of the Scottish poet Robert Blair (1699-1746), best known for his blank verse poem The Grave. Blair's poem has been credited with helping to create the "graveyard school of poetry," which has in turn been credited with influencing English Romantics like William Blake (who would later provide illustrations for The Grave). The birth of John Dyer (1699-1757), a Welsh painter and poet whose best-known poem is Grongar Hill.

1700 — This is a rough beginning time for American negro spirituals. Around the turn of the century, a precocious twelve-year-old Alexander Pope publishes Ode to Solitude and is introduced to John Dryden. Dryden publishes his last major work, Fables Ancient and Modern, with his translations of Homer, Ovid, Chaucer and Boccaccio. Dryden dies and is buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. The birth of the Scottish poet and playwright James Thomson (1700-1748). At one time Thomson was incredibly popular: his poems "were to be found in every inn and cottage," like the Bible. But his fame did not last. His one immortal poem is "Rule Britannia," but most people who remember the lyric have forgotten who wrote it. And many of Thomson's early poems were lost because he had a habit of burning them each New Year's Day!

1701 — Jonathan Swift writes what has been called his first significant poem, Mrs Harris's Petition, at age 34. He also anonymously published the political pamphlet A Discourse on the Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome. Annie Finch publishes The Spleen anonymously.

1702 — Jonathan Swift receives his Doctor of Divinity degree from Trinity College, Dublin. John Kersey's New English Dictionary is the first English dictionary to focus on words in common use, rather than on difficult words. Kersey expands the word count to 35,000. The Daily Courant, the first regular daily newspaper in English, is published in London.

1703 — The birth of the English poet Gilbert West (1703-1756).

1704 — Jonathan Swift publishes his first major prose parody, A Tale of a Tub, which satirizes the Christian religion and its sects. Swift also publishes a shorter prose satire, The Battle of the Books. The death of John Locke.

1705 — The birth of the Scottish poet and dramatist David Mallet (1705-1765).

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

1709 — Alexander Pope's Pastorals. The birth of the English poet, novelist, biographer, editor, critic and creator of the first major English dictionary, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the son of a bookseller. Sir Richard Steele publishes the Tatler, a literary and society journal.

1710 — Around age 20, Mary Wortley translates the Enchiridion of the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus from Latin and sends a copy to Bishop Gilbert Brunet with a long letter defending women's rights to formal education. Jonathan Swift becomes editor of The Examiner.

1711 — Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele publish the Spectator, a daily publication. John Gay and Alexander Pope meet and become friends. Pope's long didactic poem An Essay on Criticism is published.

1712 — Alexander Pope's Messiah and his long mock-heroic poem The Rape of the Lock. Pope, Swift and Gay are now friends. Gay begins contributing to Sir Richard Steel's Guardian. The birth of the French philosopher and early Romantic, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), who believed in the value of the individual and his/her capacity for good. Mary Wortley, despite her initial resistance to marriage and after prolonged negotiations with her father and future husband, elopes with Edward Wortley Montagu. One of Lady Montagu's earliest poems describes women's unhappiness in marriage and their potential for adultery: "In part to blame she is, who has been try'd; / Too near he has approach'd, who is deny'd."

1713 — John Gay's first major poem, Rural Sports. Alexander Pope's Windsor Forest is published to acclaim. Pope begins work on his translation of Homer's Iliad. Gay, Pope, Jonathan Swift, Thomas Parnell and John Arbuthnot form the core of the Martinus Scriblerus Club. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu writes a critique of Joseph Addison's Cato; Addison made several of the changes she recommended; he would publish her the following year. Annie Finch publishes Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions.

1714 — The death of Queen Anne leads to the Jacobite Rising in 1715. The birth of the English poet William Shenstone (1714-1763). Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's first published writing appears in Addison's Spectator, under the pseudonym "Lady President." John Gay publishes The Shepherd's Week.

1715 — Alexander Pope's The Temple of Fame is modeled on Chaucer's House of Fame. Pope begins publishing his translation of Homer's Iliad in yearly installments. Nicholas Rowe is appointed the fourth British Poet Laureate.

1716 — The birth of the English poet Thomas Gray (1716-1771), the son of a Cornhill scrivener. Gray is generally regarded as the foremost English-language poet of the mid-18th century (we concur). He would influence Gothic and Romantic poets to come. The birth of the English poet Richard West (1716-1742), a friend of Gray's. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu becomes friends with Alexander Pope and John Gay; they write a group of "court eclogues" that describe and mock immorality and upper-class rituals such as card playing in the court of George I. Three of Montagu's eclogues were published in Court Poems. Later in the year Montagu traveled with her husband to Constantinople, where he was to be the English ambassador to Turkey. While traveling, Montagu began writing her best-known work, the Turkish Embassy Letters (published in 1763). John Gay publishes Trivia.

1717 — Franηois-Marie Arouet is sent to the Bastille for writing scandalous poems (not the last 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, he was known as le petit volontaire ("determined little thing") as a child, and he may have resurrected a variant of that 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 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!

1718 — Alexander Pope makes a handsome living from his translations of Homer and is able to buy a villa with a grotto and gardens in Twickenham. Laurence Eusden is appointed the fifth British Poet Laureate (and the youngest, at age 30).

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

1720 — Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote "mine" in her copy of Alexander Pope's Eloisa to Abelard (she apparently thought a couplet of hers had been stolen). The death of Annie Finch.

1721 — The birth of the English poet William Collins (1721-1759) on Christmas day; he was the son of a hatmaker. "His lyrical odes adhered to Neoclassical forms but were Romantic in theme and feeling. Though his literary career was brief and his output slender, he is considered one of the finest English lyric poets of the 18th century." The earliest poem attributed to the "graveyard" school of poets is Thomas Parnell's A Night-Piece on Death. Nathaniel Bailey's An Universal Etymological English Dictionary "gave English a one-volume reference dictionary of some 40,000 entries that was strong on bookish and technical vocabulary, weak in definition and semantic coverage, up-to-date in spelling, and provided the accepted etymologies of its day. It was the standard dictionary of the 18th century and was gradually updated and enlarged to some 50,000 entries through successive editions and reprintings to the 28th and last edition in 1800."

1722 — The births of the English poets Mary Leapor (1722-1746) and Christopher Smart (1722-1771), also know as Kit Smart, Kitty Smart and Jack Smart. Donald Davie called Smart "the greatest English poet between Pope and Wordsworth."

1724 — Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in her "Epistle from Mrs. Y[onge] to Her Husband," lashes out against a the patriarchal legal system and what she sees as women's enslavement in marriage: "Defrauded Servants are from Service free, / A wounded Slave regains his Liberty. / For Wives ill us'd no remedy remains, / To daily Racks condemn'd, and to eternal Chains." Her poem "The Lady's Resolve" appears in Plain Dealer. She writes about a young woman being sexually abused and perhaps murdered by her husband in "Written ex tempore on the Death of Mrs. Bowes" (published in Weekly Journal or Saturday's-Post).

1725 — Edward Taylor retires with a library of 200 books, remarkable in his day. His poetry, however, would remain undiscovered until the 1930s, and still remains unknown to most readers. Alexander Pope publishes his six-volume edition of Shakespeare's works, but is criticized for deleting lines and rewriting others. Pope also publishes his translation of Homer's Odyssey and is "almost as much of a literary factory" as Dr. Samuel Johnson. Thomas Gray attends Eton College, which later inspires one of his most famous poems. Gray becomes friends with Horace Walpole, the son of England's prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole.

1726 — Christopher Smart writes a poem at age four to a girl three times his age, asking her to have pity on "poor Kitty." James Thomson publishes Winter, the first of his poetry books on the seasons. John Dyer's Grongar Hill, published in a miscellany, has been called an early work of English romanticism, as have Thomson's Winter and other seasonal poems. 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, Voltaire meets the English poets Alexander Pope, John Gay, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Jonathan Swift. Voltaire was 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 is published; it's an immediate hit. Allan Ramsay may have created the first circulating library in Britain when he opened a bookstore and began renting books.

1727 — John Gay's popular Fables, written for Prince William and later illustrated by William Blake, would eventually run though fifty editions.

1728 — The birth of the Anglo-English poet/novelist/playwright Oliver Goldsmith (c. 1728-1774). The birth of Thomas Warton the Younger (1728-1790), a poet, critic, literary historian and future Poet Laureate of England. A child prodigy, Warton produced a translation of a Martial poem at age nine and wrote his most famous poem, "The Pleasures of Melancholy," at age seventeen. He is 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 with an an "unheard-of" eighty performances has been called the most popular play of the 18th century; it was suggested to Gay by Jonathan Swift. The earliest version of Alexander Pope's The Dunciad is published, with the principal "dunce" being Lewis Theobald, who had criticized liberties taken by Pope and errors in his editing of Shakespeare. Theobald would even dare to publish a more correct edition in 1734! But fortunately for Theobald, Pope later became even more irked with Poet Laureate Colly Cibber and made him the main dunce in his 1743 version of The Dunciad. Samuel Johnson enters Pembroke College, Oxford. Johnson translates Alexander Pope's Messiah into Latin in two days. Johnson would leave Oxford without a degree, due to financial difficulties, but would be awarded an honorary degree in 1755 for his literary accomplishments.

1729 — The birth of Thomas Percy (1729-1811), a collector and publisher of ballads also known as Bishop Percy. The birth of the Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke (1729-97) in Dublin, where he will be educated at Trinity College. The death of Edward Taylor. 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 is published.

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. Although he was Scottish, Thomson employed the King's English and wrote Miltonic blank verse. In its day, Seasons was comparable in circulation to The Pilgrim's Progress and Paradise Lost. A German translation of Thomson's collected Seasons would provide the lyrics for Haydn's oratorio The Seasons. The birth of the English scholar/critic Thomas Tyrwhitt (1730-1786). Nathaniel Bailey's Dictionarium Britannicum is another "difficult words" dictionary with a new emphasis on scientific and industrial terms. Colley Cibber is appointed the sixth British Poet Laureate.

1731 — The birth of the English poet William Cowper (1731-1800). Cowper wrote some of the best-known hymns in the English language. He has been called a forerunner of Romantic poetry, with his "hand on the latch." Jonathan Swift writes Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, his own obituary; it would be published in 1739. John Gay becomes Handel's librettist for Acis and Galatea and Achilles.

1732 — Richard West attends Eton where he forms a "quadruple alliance" of friendship with with Thomas Gray, Horace Walpole and Thomas Ashton. West was known among them as Favonius. He was "tall and slim, of a pale and meagre look and complexion," and was "then reckoned a more brilliant genius than Gray." John Gay dies and is buried in Westminster Abbey. Ben Franklin first publishes Poor Richard's Almanac.

1733 — Samuel Johnson publishes A Voyage to Abyssinia. Alexander Pope's poem An Essay on Man may be too long and too didactic for many modern readers. Pope also publishes his 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 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. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu joins forces with Lord Hervey to produce VERSES Address'd to the IMITATOR of the FIRST SATIRE of the Second Book of Horace, which "many critics consider the best satire of [Alexander] Pope written at that time." Montagu continues to write poems in which she compares a woman's role in marriage to slavery.

1734 — Alexander Pope's poem Impromptu is dedicated to "Lady Winchelsea" (the poet Annie Finch); it disparages female poets as "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"! Thomas Gray attends Peterhouse College, Cambridge. Gray writes his first extant poem, Lines Spoken by John Dennis at the Devil Tavern, and sends a copy to Horace Walpole. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu accuses Jonathan Swift of impotence in a satirical poem!

1735 — Samuel Johnson, 25, marries a well-to-do widow who is 21 years older and opens a private school the next year; one of his pupils, David Garrick, would become a famous actor. Horace Walpole joins Thomas Gray at Cambridge. Richard West matriculates from Christ Church, Oxford, at age nineteen. The death of John Arbuthnot.

1736 — The birth of the Scottish poet James Macpherson (1736-1796). His work would influence major figures of Romanticism like Goethe and Walter Scott. Macpherson was the first Scottish poet to gain an international reputation; he did so primarily by passing off poems he wrote as "translations" of an ancient Gaelic poet he invented, "Ossain." While Macpherson has been accused of being a "forger," if he actually wrote the poems how can that be forgery? At the worst, it seems he can only be accused of misrepresentation. Voltaire begins correspondence with Frederick the Great, then Crown Prince of Prussia. Thomas Gray's "Hymeneal" on the marriage of the Prince of Wales is published in the Cambridge Gratulatio.

1737 — Samuel Johnson and David Garrick move to London. Johnson finds employment with Edward Cave of the Gentleman's Magazine and is able to bring his wife to London. Around this time Johnson befriends the poet Richard Savage.

1738 — Samuel Johnson publishes his long poem London, a verse satire in imitation of Juvenal, and begins work on his tragedy Irene. Thomas Gray leaves Cambridge without a degree.

1739 — Thomas Gray and Horace Walpole visit France and Italy together, on a two-year Grand Tour during which they winter with Horace Mann. Christopher Smart is admitted to Pembroke College, Cambridge as a sizar. A book titled Woman not Inferior to Man is published by an unknown author; it has been attributed to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

1740 — Around this time a teen-aged George Washington pens anguished love poems; one laments: "Ah! Woe's me that I should love and conceal,/ Long have I wish'd, but never dare reveal." Samuel Richardson's sentimental novel Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded has been deemed an influence on English Romanticism and the evolution of the novel in English. The birth of James Boswell, (1740-1795), who would write a famous biography of Samuel Johnson. James Thomson writes the lyrics of "Rule Britannia" as part of a masque, Alfred, which he wrote in collaboration with David Mallet. The masque was performed at the country home of Frederick, Prince of Wales, who awarded Thomson a pension of £100 per annum. 

1741 — Thomas Gray and Horace Walpole have a falling-out, and Gray returns to England. It will be years before they reconcile. Gray becomes a professor at Cambridge and begins writing his only tragedy, Agrippina. William Cowper attends Westminster School, where he becomes adept at Latin composition, including verse.

1742 — Thomas Gray at age 25 completes his first important poems, including Ode on the Spring, Ode to Adversity and Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, and begins writing his masterpiece, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. He would not complete it until 1750. Gray's famous elegy may have been inspired by the death of his friend and fellow poet Richard West in 1742. They were the same age, both being born in 1716. While at Oxford, William Collins publishes the Persian Eclogues.

1743 — Voltaire is sent to Frederick the Great's court by the French government as an envoy/spy. 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, or perhaps he made them interesting. Thomas Gray earns a Bachelor of Law Degree and makes his permanent residence at Cambridge, where he is close to Thomas Warton. The publication of Robert Blair's blank verse poem The Grave, which has been credited with helping to create the "graveyard school of poetry." William Collins graduates from Magdalen College, Oxford.

1744 — The early limerick "Hickory Dickory Dock" appears in Tom Thumb's Pretty Songbook. William Collins publishes Epistle: Addrest to Sir Thomas Hanmer on his Edition of Shakespeare’s Works, containing "Dirge in Cymbeline." Alexander Pope dies. Samuel Johnson writes his first poet biography, The Life of Mr. Richard Savage.

1745 — Voltaire is appointed Royal Historiographer of France. Jonathan Swift dies. Oliver Goldsmith enters Trinity College, Dublin, but neglects his studies and ends up at the bottom of his class. Thomas Gray reconciles with Horace Walpole.

1746 — Samuel Johnson contracts to produce his landmark Dictionary of the English Language. Christopher Smart earns his MA. William Collins' Odes on Several Descriptive and Allegoric Subjects includes "Ode to Evening" and "Ode to Fear." The former displays marked similarities to Gray's famous Elegy, such as: "Now air is hushed, save where the weak-ey'd bat / With short shrill shriek flits by on leathern wing, / Or where the beetle winds / His small but sullen horn."

1747 — Samuel Johnson's poem Prologue Spoken by Mr. Garrick. Thomas Gray's Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College is published. Christopher Smart, a spendthrift, is arrested for debts to his tailor. The birth of the Welsh poet Edward Williams (1747-1826), better known by his bardic name Iolo Morganwg. "His Romantic image of Wales and its past had a far-reaching effect on the way in which the Welsh envisaged their own national identity during the nineteenth century."

1748 — Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, "after years of her poems being sneaked into print a few at a time, without her knowledge of their publication" was "outraged to discover that they had been sloppily edited and some of them attributed to others when they appeared in Dodsley's Collection of Poems by Several Hands." James Thomson writes his last major poem, The Castle of Indolence. The poem was written in Spenserian stanzas and would influence Romantic poets to come, such as William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Keats and another Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Thomson dies later the same year.

1749 — Samuel Johnson's long poem The Vanity of Human Wishes is perhaps the last major work of the Augustans. T. S. Eliot regarded it as the most accomplished satire in the English language. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding is a very popular early English novel. William Collins writes Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland, which "anticipates many of the attitudes and interests of the Romantic poets." The birth of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German poet who helped spark the coming Romantic era of literature. The birth of Charlotte Turner Smith (1749-1806), a now-neglected English poet and novelist who once had her foot "firmly in the door" of Romanticism. She has been called the "first substantial" female English poet after Mary Sidney. (Lady Montagu might beg to disagree!) In his Poetical Works, William Wordsworth remembered Smith as "a lady to whom English verse is under greater obligations than are likely to be either acknowledged or remembered." Samuel Taylor Coleridge and others credited her with revitalizing the English sonnet. Sir Walter Scott said that in her landscapes she preserved "the truth and precision of a painter." Such painterly landscapes would become a hallmark of Romantic poetry and prose.

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

The Romantic Era (1750-1824)

"Romanticism was arguably the largest artistic movement of the late 1700s. Its influence was felt across continents and through every artistic discipline into the mid-nineteenth century, and many of its values and beliefs can still be seen in contemporary poetry."

The Romantic Movement brought a sea change to the world of art, poetry, literature and other creative endeavors. The writers and artists of the Romantic Movement emphasized the individual, the personal, the subjective, the imaginative, the spontaneous, the emotional, the passionate, the natural (including appreciating and protecting the environment), the spiritual (as opposed to dogmatic religion), the visionary, and the transcendental. They sought to capture the Sublime, whether in the form of ecstasy or terror. The Romantics broke away from Augustan adornment and decorum, the "cultural authority of classical Rome" and the "dominance of the Renaissance tradition." The most popular Romantics with the English book-buying public were Walter Scott and Lord Byron. Poets like William Blake and John Clare were lightly read in their day; their reputations would be established later.

Perhaps the single greatest change brought about by Romanticism was the development of distinctive human voices—of individual artists speaking for directly for themselves without "masks" in the form of idyllic shepherds and other archetypes. We really don't know what Homer and Shakespeare thought about the characters they created. But we know Romantic poets like William Blake and Robert Burns quite intimately, if we take the time to read them, because they spoke for themselves. They became the central characters in their poetry.

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 six [or 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."

We would add the great Scottish poet Robert Burns to the "Big Six," making it a "Big Seven." Other English language Romantics who deserve particular mention include Thomas Chatterton, John Clare, William Cowper, Thomas Gray, Felicia Dorothea Hemans, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Robinson, Sir Walter Scott, Charlotte Turner Smith and Robert Southey. Other English language poets who shared strong similarities with the Romantics include Emily Bronte, Hart Crane, e. e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, Ernest Dowson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Hardy, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Langston Hughes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville, John Milton, Wilfred Owen, Sylvia Plath, Kevin N. Roberts, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edmund Spenser, Wallace Stevens, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Alfred Tennyson, Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman and William Butler Yeats. Major Romantic poets of other languages include Charles Baudelaire (French), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German), Heinrich Heine (German), Friedrich Hφlderlin (German), Victor Hugo (French), Giacomo Leopardi (Italian), Pablo Neruda (Chilean), Novalis (German), Alexander Pushkin (Russian), Rainer Maria Rilke (French/German), Friedrich Schiller (German) and Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali).

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 Tatler. A new edition of Edward Young's melancholic Night-Thoughts is published; it would become a major influence on Romantics such as William Blake and Goethe. Thomas Gray completes his masterpiece, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, one of the most perfect longer poems in the English language, if not the most perfect. The poem breaks away from the prevailing English classical model in important ways: (1) it follows no classical model; (2) it is set in a rural village far from London and royal courts; (3) the speaker is solitary, expressing his own judgment; (4) the poem validates the value of Everyman, a major Romantic theme. Gray's poem may well be the first great work of English Romanticism. In any case, it became the most celebrated and reprinted poem of its era, and rightly so. And it has been called "probably still today the best-known and best-loved poem in English."

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 was Diderot." Important contributors included Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Louis de Jaucourt. Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is published by Richard Dodsley and becomes a "literary sensation." Christopher Smart publishes as "Mrs. Mary Midnight" in the literary magazine The Midwife.

1752 — The birth of the English poet Thomas Chatterton, called the "marvellous Boy" by William Wordsworth in his poem "Resolution and Independence." Wordsworth named Chatterton one of his primary influences even though Chatterton died at age seventeen. John Keats called Chatterton the "purest writer in the English language." Samuel Taylor Coleridge worked on his "Monody on the Death of Chatterton" for over forty years; it was his first published poem at age thirteen and he was still revising it toward the end of his career. Chatterton has been called the first Romantic poet. Encyclopζdia Britannica called Chatterton the "chief poet of the 18th-century Gothic literary revival, England's youngest writer of mature verse, and precursor of the Romantic Movement." 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! Voltaire publishes Micromιgas, perhaps the earliest science fiction short story about space travel. The birth of Philip Freneau; his poetry would express sympathy for Native Americans.

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

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). The birth of the English poet George Crabbe (1754-1832). Lord Byron described Crabbe as "nature's sternest painter, yet the best." Thomas Gray completes The Progress of Poesy.

1755 — Samuel Johnson publishes A Dictionary of the English Language and is awarded an honorary MA degree by Oxford, but is still not Dr. Johnson at this time. According to Walter Jackson Bate, Samuel Johnson's Dictionary "easily ranks as one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship, and probably the greatest ever performed by one individual who laboured under anything like the disadvantages in a comparable length of time." Boswell opined that "The world contemplated with wonder so stupendous a work achieved by one man, while other countries had thought such undertakings fit only for whole academies." The first edition word count was 42,733. Charlotte Turner, age six, attends school in Chichester and studies with the painter George Smith. Rousseau has a significant article on political economy published in Diderot's landmark Encyclopιdie

1756 — Oliver Goldsmith begins to practice medicine in London and becomes Dr. Goldsmith. Like Christopher Smart, he seems to have spent more money on clothes than he could afford. But as a writer he earns the friendship, admiration and patronage of Samuel Johnson. Goldsmith also knew Horace Walpole, who called him an "inspired idiot." Goldsmith was said to have planned to emigrate to America, but failed because he missed his ship! Around age six or seven Charlotte Turner begins to compose poems and submits some of them to the Lady's Magazine, which did not print them.

1757 — The birth of the English romantic poet, artist, engraver, philosopher, mystic and visionary William Blake (1757-1827), the son of a haberdasher. Blake was perhaps the greatest of the English Romantic poets and one of England's greatest visual artists and engravers to boot. He was one of the first writers to fiercely criticize the dehumanizing aspects of the Industrial Revolution (c. 1760-1840). Blake was also a mystic who claimed to see angels and saints on a daily basis. Thomas Gray completes The Bard. Gray is offered the position of Poet Laureate but declines it and William Whitehead is appointed the seventh British Poet Laureate. Christopher Smart is confined to a mental asylum, St. Luke's Hospital for Lunatics. Edmund Burke's Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful would influence the Romantics. According to Burke, "the Beautiful is that which is well-formed and aesthetically pleasing, whereas the Sublime is that which has the power to compel and destroy us." Burke's term "Sublime" included both ecstasy and terror. The pursuit of the Sublime would mark the transition from the Neoclassical to the Romantic era. For some Romantics, the pursuit of the Sublime would become something akin to the quest for the Holy Grail.

1758 — Scottish poet James Macpherson, age 22, publishes The Highlander, an epic poem in six cantos. The birth of Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800), an English poet, dramatist, novelist, actress and celebrity. During her lifetime she was known as "the English Sappho." Samuel Taylor Coleridge called her "a woman of undoubted genius." In addition to poems, she wrote eight novels, three plays, feminist treatises, and an autobiography. "Robinson was an ardent feminist and staunch supporter of the rights of women, convictions she displayed by living separately from her husband and having numerous affairs." 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. Samuel Johnson begins to publish a weekly series, The Idler.

1759 — Robert Burnes (1759-1796) is born in Alloway, Scotland to a self-educated, poverty-stricken tenant farmer, William Burnes, and his wife Agnes (nee Brown), the daughter of a tenant farmer. Robert Burnes would overcome a hardscrabble existence to become world-famous as Robert Burns. Robert Burns is now generally considered to be the greatest Scottish poet and is notable for his "lucid pathos." However, Burns is considered more than just a great poet in Scotland. In a 2009 poll, Scottish Television (STV) viewers voted him "the Greatest Ever Scot." It may be proposed that Robert Burns and Thomas Chatterton became Romantic pioneers by emancipating themselves from exhausted Augustan sophistication and decorum, via a "visceral" return to the roots of their respective languages: Scots-English and Anglo-Saxon English. The 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. The birth of the German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), who would influence both German and English Romanticism. Lawrence Sterne publishes his popular novel Tristram Shandy. 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). Samuel Johnson publishes his novella Rasselas. The death of William Collins.

1760 — The beginning of the Industrial Revolution (c. 1760-1840), which would be a significant influence on the artists and writers of the Romantic and Realist movements. The first publication of Mother Goose's Melodies includes limericks like "Hickory Dickory Dock." Christopher Smart probably writes "Jubilate Agno" around this time while confined to a mental asylum; it's an early free verse poem about his cat Jeoffry. Smart probably writes "A Song to David" around this time. Jupiter Hammon's "An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penetential Cries" is the first work published by an African-American slave. Oliver Goldsmith writes his most famous poem, "The Deserted Village," after watching the demolition of an ancient village. In Goldsmith's meditation on a "bold peasantry" through landscape "we have arrived at the very frontier of Romanticism." But Goldsmith did not embrace blank verse and metrical experiments as Romantics to come would, so perhaps he was a "advance scout" of sorts.

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 — The birth of the English poet and critic William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850). Samuel Johnson receives a royal pension. 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. Macpherson's Fingal "was speedily translated into many European languages, and its appreciation of natural beauty and treatment of the ancient legend have been credited, more than any single work, with bringing about the Romantic movement in European, and especially in German literature." The death of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Montagu's daughter, Lady Bute, destroyed Montagu's diaries, but "there is still a considerable amount of primary material relating to her career." Montagu's Letters and Works were published in 1837. Montagu's octogenarian granddaughter Lady Louisa Stuart contributed (anonymously) an introductory essay called "Biographical Anecdotes of Lady M. W. Montagu," in which Stuart was obviously troubled by her grandmother's focus on sexual intrigues and did not see her "Account of the Court of George I at his Accession" as history. However, Montagu's historical observations prove quite accurate when put in context. A. M. Juster has called Montagu "the best female poet in English until the 19th century." Other candidates include the anonymous authors of "Wulf and Eadwacer" and "The Wife's Lament" (both c. 990), Anne Askew (1521-1546), Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), Isabella Whitney (c. 1545-1573), Mary Sidney (1568-1621), Mary Wroth (c. 1587-1651), Anne Bradstreet (c 1612-1672), Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673), Katherine Phillips (1632-1664), Aphra Behn (c. 1640-1689), Annie Finch (1661-1720), Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762), Mary Leapor (1722-1746), Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825), Hannah Moore (1745-1833), Charlotte Turner Smith (1749-1806), Phyllis Wheatley (1753-1784), Helen Maria Williams (1761-1827), Joanna Baillie (1762-1851), Mary Tighe (1772-1810), Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), Emily Bronte (1818-1848) and Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

1763 — Christopher Smart is released from the mental asylum where he had spent more than half a decade. Around this time another important poet of the period, William Cowper, is institutionalized for insanity. James Boswell meets Samuel Johnson in a London bookstore and will later write a famous biography about him. 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 also writes a hymn.

1764 — Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto has been called an early Romantic work and the first gothic novel, due to its combining of horror and romance. The birth of the English writer Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823), perhaps the most famous of the pioneering gothic novelists. For John Keats she was "Mother Radcliffe" and for Walter Scott "the first poetess of romantic fiction." Thomas Chatterton, another author with gothic leanings, around age eleven writes Apostate Will, Sly Dick and I've Let My Yard and Sold My Clay. The Literary Club is formed; members will include Joseph Banks, Thomas Boswell, Edmund Burke, Charles Burney, Charles James Fox, David Garrick, Edward Gibbon, Oliver Goldsmith, Samuel Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Adam Smith, and William Windham.

1765 — Oliver Goldsmith publishes his Essays and his popular novel The Vicar of Wakefield the following year. Two important works appear in London printings that galvanize interest in the ancient ballads: 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. Charlotte Turner's father marries her off at age fifteen to the violent and profligate Benjamin Smith; forty years later she will accuse her father of having turned her into a "legal prostitute." Samuel Johnson receives an honorary doctorate from Trinity College, Dublin. He is finally Dr. Johnson. His long-delayed edition of Shakespeare is published as The Plays of William Shakespeare, in Eight Volumes

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, 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! The birth of the German poet and critic August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767-1845), a leading figure within early German Romanticism along with his brother Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1869). August Schlegel would translate works of Shakespeare and the Bhagavad Gita into German.

1768 — Thomas Gray's collected Poems are published.

1769 — Most of Thomas Chatterton's so-called Rowley poems are completed by 1769. Now sixteen, Chatterton offers some of his Rowley poems to Horace Walpole, who declines to help the 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, too proud to accept offers of meals from his landlady. Thomas Gray completes Ode for Music.

1770 — Oliver Goldsmith's most famous poem "The Deserted Village" is published. The birth of the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850), the first and foremost of the Lake Poets. Herbert Read opined that no poet is as rich in "music and magic" as Wordsworth. Thomas Chatterton commits suicide by drinking arsenic in a rented room in Holborn 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." Thomas Warton said that Chatterton was "a prodigy of genius, and would have proved the first of English poets had he reached a maturer age." Dr. Samuel Johnson said of Chatterton, "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." Samuel Taylor Coleridge said that his friend Wordsworth was only able to determine two "native" or "born" poets: Chatterton and Robert Burns. (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 — The birth of the Scottish romantic poet and novelist Walter Scott (1771-1832), who has been called "the greatest single influence on fiction in the 19th century." Thomas Gray dies, is buried in the Stoke Poges church graveyard of his famous Elegy, and will have a monument erected at Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey in 1978, close to those of two poets he greatly admired, John Milton and Edmund Spenser. The unlucky Christopher Smart ends up confined again, this time in debtor's prison, where he dies. The birth of Dorothy Woodworth (1771-1885), the sister of William Wordsworth and a writer in her own right.

1772 — The birth of the English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). One of the Lake Poets and a close friend of William Wordsworth, 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. George Crabbe wins a poetry contest on the subject of hope sponsored by a lady's magazine.

1773 — Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral is the first book of poetry by an Afro-American slave; her poetry was praised by George Washington and John Hancock. Mary Darby, age fifteen, meets the actor David Garrick and is persuaded to act and sing. Oliver Goldsmith's popular play She Stoops to Conquer is first performed. Robert Burns, who has been mostly home-schooled by his father, writes his first poem around age 15, while working on his father's farm. Burns gets his start as a "romantic" poet and enterprising ladies' man by writing love poems to Nelly Kilpatrick. The first once we know about is "O once I lov'd (a bonnie lass)."

1774 — The birth of the English Romantic poet Robert Southey (1774-1843), one of the Lake Poets and a future English Poet Laureate. Southey was also a prolific biographer, letter writer, literary scholar, translator, essayist and historian. William Cowper's Lines Written During a Period of Insanity. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe publishes 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. The death of Oliver Goldsmith. Mary Darby marries Thomas Robinson, becoming Mary Robinson. Later that year the newlyweds and their just-born baby end up King's Bench debtors' prison. 

1775 — British troops sing "Yankee Doodle" to mock American colonists; the colonists defiantly adopt the song as their own. Robert Burns writes two songs for Peggy Thompson: "Now Westlin' Winds" and "I Dream'd I Lay." The birth of the major English novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817), author of Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Emma. The birth of the English poet Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864). Landor would combine Romantic enthusiasms and sentiments with "the most classical pen of his day." His guides among the ancient poets included Sappho, Ovid and Catullus. Landor has been called a "poet's poet" and his work was admired by Ezra Pound, William Wordsworth, W. B. Yeats and Robert Frost, among others. Thomas Tyrwhitt publishes an edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in which he "solves the riddle" of pronouncing the feminine "e" in Chaucer's verse. Dr. Samuel Johnson receives a second honorary doctorate: this one from his alma mater, Oxford. George Crabbe self-publishes his long poem Inebriety, then claims to be ashamed of most of it. Mary Robinson publishes Poems.

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 ..." Mary Robinson is out of debtors' prison and plays Juliet at Drury Lane Theatre.

1777 — Thomas Tyrwhitt presses for the publication of the "Thomas Rowley" poems, but eventually concludes that they were actually the original work of Thomas Chatterton. Dr. Samuel Johnson begins work on his Lives of the Poets.

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), perhaps the foremost literary critic of his day, and a friend of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. At age six, Coleridge has read Belisarius (a Roman general), Robinson Crusoe, Philip Quarll and Arabian Nights. Mary Robinson appears in a musical farce of her own writing, The Lucky Escape.

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." Robert Burns writes four songs for Alison Begbie, but she rejects his offers of marriage. William Cowper has become friends with John Newton, the former slave ship captain who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace." Newton encourages Cowper and he writes hymns published in the Olney Hymns. Two of Cowper's most famous hymns, still being sung today, are the ones that begin "There is a fountain filled with blood" and "Oh! for a closer walk with God." Mary Robinson, age 21, plays Perdita in The Winter's Tale and catches the eye of the 17-year-old Prince of Wales (the future King George IV); he offers her 20,000 pounds to become his mistress! It would be a short and scandalous affair, covered by paparazzi who call her "Perdita."

1781 — Edmund Burke helps George Crabbe publish his long poem The Library. Burke helps Crabbe secure employment as a chaplain. Robert Burns becomes a Freemason.

1782 — Rousseau's Confessions (published posthumously). George Washington defeats Cornwallis at Yorktown and the American colonies are independent at last.

1783 — Blake's first collection of poems, Poetical Sketches, is published with the help of John Flaxman. George Crabbe's first major work and popular poem, The Village. 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. Charlotte Turner Smith writes Elegiac Sonnets while in debtors' prison with her husband. The book's financial success allows her to buy back her family's freedom. Her sonnets would eventually appear in nine editions, fill two volumes, and help create a revival of interest in the English sonnet. All her writing would be published under her own name, "a daring decision" for a woman at the time. Walter Savage Landor becomes a boarder at Rugby School, where he excels in Latin translation and composition and "rebelliousness." (He would be expelled at age fifteen for insubordination.) Noah Webster publishes his American Spelling Book.

1784 — Phillis Wheatley dies. Dr. Samuel Johnson dies and is buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. William Blake composes the unfinished An Island in the Moon. Robert Burnes becomes Robert Burns when his family changes the spelling of its last name. He meets Jean Armour, his future wife. Charlotte Turner Smith's husband Benjamin Smith flees to France to escape his creditors. She joins him in France, begins translating French works into English, and is able to help him return to England the following year.

1785 — The birth of the English poet Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866). The birth of the English essayist and journalist Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859), who would be associated with the Lake Poets. Robert Burns has an affair with Margaret Campbell (aka "Highland Mary"), another affair with Jean Armour, who will soon be pregnant with twins, and a child out of wedlock by his mother's servant Elizabeth Paton. Burns writes "To a Mouse." Thomas Warton is appointed the fourth British Poet Laureate.

1786 — Robert Burns has the poems "To a Mouse," "To a Louse," "A Winter Night" and "To a Mountain Daisy" published in Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. Some of the poems, such as "Holy Willie's Prayer" and "The Holy Fair," mock Scottish Calvinism and the clergy. Burns experiences immediate success and is soon widely known as a poet in Scotland. The book sells out in a month. Burns abandons his plan to emigrate to Jamaica and instead travels to Edinburgh to pursue publication of a second edition of his poems. He enters into a "form of wedlock" with Jean Armour, who bears him twins, but her father does not approve and faints at the thought of her marrying the heretical Burns! Mary Campbell dies giving birth to Burns's child. William Cowper begins his translation of Homer's epic poems into blank verse. William Wordsworth writes his first poem around age sixteen.

1787 — William Wordsworth has a sonnet published in The European Magazine. He enters St. John's College, Cambridge, but does not distinguish himself. Charlotte Turner Smith leaves her husband, because "his temper had been so capricious and often so cruel" that her "life was not safe." She would turn to writing novels to support her twelve children, two of whom did not survive to adulthood. William Blake's beloved brother Robert Blake dies. Blake would describe watching his brother's spirit rise through the ceiling, "clapping its hand for joy." Robert Burns has a second edition of his poems published in Edinburgh. This edition makes him famous in England and internationally. He meets James Johnson and agrees to contribute songs to the Scots Musical Museum. Burns would travel around Scotland collection "airs" and end up contributing around a third of the 600 songs published by 1803. Burns has another child, this time by May Cameron.

1788 — Charlotte Turner Smith publishes her first novel, Emmeline, and it's a success, quickly selling 1,500 copies. She would publish nine more novels over the next ten years. Smith challenged the norms of the women's fiction of her day by incorporating political commentary, "narratives of female desire" and "tales of females suffering despotism" (as she had herself). Smith's life experiences prompted her to argue for legal reforms that would grant women more rights, and she made the case for such reforms through her novels, which were largely autobiographical. Smith's groundbreaking work contributed to the development of the novel of sensibility and Gothic fiction. Smith's novels were satirized by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey, but Austen has been accused of emulating Smith. Noah Webster publishes The American Spelling Book. The birth of the English romantic poet George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), the son of Captain "Mad Jack" Byron and Catherine Gordon. Goethe called Byron "undoubtedly the greatest genius of our century." Byron would invent the Byronic hero, patterned after himself. Unfortunately, he had a Calvinist nanny who filled him with forebodings of hell and damnation. William Blake invents the “stereotype” or “infernal method” of creating illuminated books, which requires him to learn to write backwards. He publishes All Religions Are One and There Is No Natural Religion. 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. William Cowper writes his poem "The Negro's Complaint," which will be quoted by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the days of the American Civil Rights Movement. Robert Burns writes "Auld Lang Syne" as a poem, then sets it the music of a traditional Scottish folk tune. It has become one of the most popular songs in the English language. Burns is officially married to Jean Armour and she bears him twin daughters. Burns has another daughter with serving maid Jenny Clow. Burns moves to a farm in Dumfries.

1789 — The French Revolution begins with the storming of the Bastille. The upheavals in France will greatly influence 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" (perhaps the first poem by a major poet about racial equality). 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). Blake also publishes The Book of Thel. Robert Burns begins to work as an excise officer. The birth of the American novelist James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851), whose historical romances of frontier and Indian life such as The Last of the Mohicans would help create a unique form of American literature. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African describes the author's capture in Nigeria as a young boy and experience on a slave ship and as a slave. The book played an important role in the campaign to abolish slavery, selling several thousand copies (many of them to the political elite). 

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. Robert Burns writes his satirical masterpiece Tam O' Shanter. Around this time Walter Scott begins collecting ballads. Henry James Pye is appointed the ninth British Poet Laureate.

1791 — Charlotte Turner Smith becomes involved with English radicals; she writes an epistolary novel, Desmond, whose protagonist supports the French Revolution and contends that England should be reformed as well. Mary Robinson publishes Poems by Mary Robinson. The subscription list of 600 is headed by her old flame, His Royal Highness, George, Prince of Wales. Robert Burns writes "Ae Fond Kiss" and publishes Tam O' Shanter. Burns has another out-of-wedlock child with barmaid Anna Park and an in-wedlock child with his wife. Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man. Voltaire's remains are brought to Paris for entombment in the Pantheon; the procession is attended by a million people. William Wordsworth earns a BA from St. John's College, Cambridge. Samuel Taylor Coleridge enters Jesus College, Cambridge; he does not complete his degree. Captain "Mad Jack" Byron dies of consumption (tuberculosis) in France after abandoning his family; in his will he declares his three-year-old son financially responsible for his debts! Thomas Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D is published. 

1792 — Robert Burns becomes a member of the Royal Company of Archers. Burns publishes the abolitionist song "The Slave's Lament" along with a number of popular songs. From 1792 till his death in 1796, Burns would publish songs that helped make him justly famous: "Ae Fond Kiss," "Auld Lang Syne," "A Red, Red Rose," "Mary Morison," "Highland Mary," "Duncan Gray," "John Anderson, My Jo," "Scots Wha Hae Wi' Wallace Bled," "A Man's a Man for A' That," "Ye Banks and Braes o' Bonie Doon" and "Green Grow the Rashes, O." The birth of the English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822); his father, Sir Timothy Shelley, was a baronet and MP. Robert Graves described Shelley as a "volatile creature of air and fire." Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women. In an interesting synchronicity, Percy Bysshe Shelley would marry Mary Wollstonecraft's daughter, who would become famous as Mary Shelley for writing the gothic horror novel Frankenstein. Mary Robinson publishes a Gothic novel Vancenza; or The Dangers of Credulity. The books were "sold out by lunch time on the first day and five more editions quickly followed, making it one of the top-selling novels in the latter part of the eighteenth century." Robert Southey enters Balliol College, Oxford, but will not earn a degree there. Apparently his main activities were swimming and boating!

1793 — The French Terror; Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are executed. Charlotte Turner Smith publishes a book of poems, The Emigrants. She also publishes a novel, The Old Manor House, that is set during the American Revolutionary War and allows her to discuss democratic reform. Robert Burns publishes his Select Collection of Scottish Airs. William Wordsworth publishes "An Evening Walk" and "Descriptive Sketches." The births of the English Romantic poets John Clare (1793-1864) and Felicia Dorothea Hemans Browne (1793-1835). Clare's biographer Jonathan Bate 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 best known in the past for being a rough-hewn "peasant poet" who was deemed "mad" and confined to an insane asylum, he has more recently been proposed as a major poet. In any case, there can be no doubt that he wrote a number of remarkable poems. Clare was born into a peasant family in the small English village of Helpston to "virtually illiterate" parents. 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. Landor enters Trinity College, Oxford, where he is known as a "mad Jacobin" because he was "taken with ideas of French republicanism." (In his second year Landor would be suspended for shooting at a student's windows during prayers. He did not return to Oxford, quarreled with his father and went to live in London, where he entered into private study of French, Italian, and Greek.) William Blake denounces the subjugation of women and defends their right to complete fulfilment in his Visions of the Daughters of Albion. Blake also publishes America, a Prophecy, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and The Gates of Paradise. Samuel Taylor Coleridge has poems published in the Morning Chronicle. The birth of the English poet John Anster (1793–1867), best known for his translations of parts of Goethe's Faust.

1794 — The birth of William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), one of the first notable "home-grown" American poets, in a log cabin near Cummington, Massachusets. Bryant would be the first American poet to make a point of his American-ness, helping to set the stage for poets to come like Walt Whitman. He helped create an American brand of Romanticism that consciously sought independence from its English and Continental peers. 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. Blake also publishes Europe, a Prophecy. 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, is called the "Ancient of Days." It was inspired by a vision that allegedly hovered before Blake at the top of his staircase in Lambeth. Blake also publishes The First Book of Urizen. Samuel Taylor Coleridge meets Robert Southey. Southey publishes his first collection of poems. Coleridge begins taking opium for a toothache.

1795 — Charlotte Turner Smith begins to publish children's books with Rural Walks. The births of the English romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) and the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). William Wordsworth meets Samuel Taylor Coleridge; neighbors in Somerset, they would become friends and collaborators. Coleridge and Robert Southey marry sisters: Sara and Edith Fricker. A third sister, Mary Fricker, would marry a third poet, Robert Lovell. Coleridge writes his first mature poem, "The Eolian Harp." Walter Savage Landor publishes his first book, The Poems of Walter Savage Landor, at age twenty, then suppresses it because of its "simplistic and fashionable political enthusiasms." William Blake publishes The Book of Los, The Song of Los and The Book of Ahania. Ann Radcliffe publishes her popular The Mysteries of Udolpho, which has been called "the archetypal Gothic novel." The birth of the English physician and writer John William Polidori (1795-1821), who will become Lord Byron's personal doctor and create the vampire genre of fantasy fiction with his short story The Vampyre.

1796 — Robert Burns dies in Dumfries at age 37; his youngest son is born to his wife on the day of his funeral and she is thus unable to attend. It is believed that Burns had fourteen children by six mothers, with his wife bearing nine of them. Burns would be honored with a white marble bust at Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, close to Shakespeare's monument. James Macpherson, the next-most-famous Scottish poet of the century, dies and is also interred at Westminster Abbey. According to Charles Fraser-Mackintosh, the "forger" of the Ossian poems bought the right to be buried in Westminster Abbey! Walter Scott, who had met Burns in person as a boy, begins to publish his poetry and soon becomes famous for it. Walter Savage Landor meets Rose Aylmer in Swansea; one of his most famous poems, a touching elegy, would bear her name as its title. Samuel Taylor Coleridge publishes his first poetry collection, Poems on Various Subjects, which includes four poems by Charles Lamb and a sonnet collaboration with Robert Southey. Southey's epic poem Joan of Arc is published. Southey also writes one of the earliest anti-war poems, "After Blenheim." Coleridge publishes a periodical with Universalist leanings, The Watchman.

1797 — Robert Southey's poem "Winter" is published along with his poetry collection Poems. Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes his best-known poems: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Kubla Khan," "Frost at Midnight" and "Christabel." While Coleridge is writing "Kubla Khan," a poem that came to him in an opium 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 the English novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1797-1851). She would be the future wife of the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and write the "scientific Gothic" novel Frankenstein. The death of the Scottish poet James Macpherson.

1798 — Lyrical Ballads, written primarily by William Wordsworth with four contributions 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 ballad "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." It would become the most popular poem in the book and inspire other poems in a similar vein. The climatic poem is Wordsworth's blank verse poem "Tintern Abbey." Coleridge meets William Hazlitt. Charlotte Turner Smith publishes her last and most radical novel, The Young Philosopher. Its protagonist leaves Britain for America, because there is no hope for reform in Britain. Walter Savage Landor publishes Gebir: A Poem in Seven Books.

1799 — Charlotte Turner Smith's play What Is She? Mary Robinson's A Letter to the Women of England, on the Injustice of Mental Subordination. After touring Europe with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William and Dorothy Wordsworth set up house at the Dove Cottage in England's Lake District. Robert Southey lived nearby, and the poets would collectively be known as the "Lake Poets." In 1799 Southey and Coleridge are involved in early experiments with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) conducted by the Cornish scientist Humphry Davy. William Wordsworth begins work on his autobiographical poem The Prelude, which has been called his "poem to Coleridge." Byron's uncle, the "Wicked Lord" William Byron, dies. Ten-year-old George Gordon Byron becomes the sixth Baron Byron. The family is instantly elevated from poverty to nobility. The newly-appointed young baron and his mother move from Aberdeen to the Newstead Abbey in England. Walter Scott becomes sheriff of Selkirkshire. The birth of Honorι de Balzac (1799-1850), a French novelist and playwright who was an early and primary influence on the Realist Movement (c. 1830-1890).

1800 — The deaths of William Cowper and Mary Robinson. William Wordsworth writes "Michael." Samuel Taylor Coleridge becomes a houseguest of the Wordsworths. William Blake moves to Felpham, where he teaches himself Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Italian. Blake begins work on Milton.

1801 — Byron enters Harrow, a boys' boarding school in Middlesex. Walter Savage Landor publishes a "hoax pamphlet" of nine short poems, Poems from the Arabic and Persian, purporting them to be based on French translations when they were actually his originals. The birth of William Barnes (1801-1866), an English poet, priest and philologist. Mary Robinson's memoirs are published posthumously as Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Robinson, Written by Herself, With Some Posthumous Pieces.

1802 — Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes his last major poem at age thirty: "Dejection: an Ode." William Wordsworth begins writing his ode "Intimations of Immortality" around this time. It has been described as a "tour de force" and may be his best work. Walter Scott publishes a nationalist collection of ballads, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. Walter Savage Landor goes to France, sees Napoleon, and retracts his former praise of the tyrant. In Bath, where he moves in fashionable circles, Landor meets and falls in love with Jane Sophia Swift, the "Ianthe" of a good number of his love poems. 

1803 — The Louisiana Purchase means the United States is suddenly a LOT bigger. The birth of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), an influential American poet and philosopher. He would be a mentor to Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. The Napoleonic Wars begin when Great Britain declares war on France. Charlotte Turner Smith becomes so destitute and ill that she can barely hold a pen; she sells her books to pay off her debts, but lives in fear that she will be sent back to debtor's prison for the remaining balance of twenty pounds! While home for the summer holiday, Byron falls in love with his cousin Mary Chaworth. He refuses to return to Harrow and withdraws for a few months to be closer to her. The birth of the English poet Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849), author of Death's Jest Book and called the "prince of the morticians" by Ezra Pound. Robert Southey edits the complete works of Thomas Chatterton.

1804 — The birth of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), a future Prime Minister of England and author of socio-political novels. The birth of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), an American writer of darkly romantic novels and short stories. William Blake begins work on Jerusalem. Blake is accused of high treason after giving a soldier a hard time, but is acquitted. Lewis and Clark explore uncharted areas of the American West, writing and sketching as they go. Percy Bysshe Shelley enrolls at Eton College, where he is soon know as "Mad Shelley" and is subjected to extreme bullying ("mob torment") for his eccentric ways. His classmates called these incidents "Shelley baits."

1805 — Walter Scott's long narrative poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel made him famous initially, 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." Byron enters Trinity College, Cambridge. He is instantly popular, spending more time socializing, drinking, gambling and spending money than studying. But he is crushed to learn that his first love, Mary Chaworth, has married someone else. John Clare, son of a poor farm laborer, leaves the Glinton Church school at age twelve; he will work as a farm laborer, as a potboy in a public house, as a gardener, as a lime burner, as a soldier, and even travel with gypsies. Malnutrition as a child may have accounted for his small stature (five-foot) and health problems. Clare was inspired to write his first poem, "The Morning Walk," after reading James Thomson's Seasons

1806 — Lord Byron republishes Fugitive Pieces privately as Poems on Various Occasions, then in a public printing as Hours of Idleness. The book is savaged by the Edinburgh Review. The birth of the English poet Elizabeth Barrett (1806-1861), who would marry the poet Robert Browning and become better known as Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The birth of the English philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). The death of Charlotte Turner Smith. Her Beachy Head and Other Poems would be published posthumously in 1807. Stuart Curran, the editor of Smith's poems, called her "the first poet in England whom in retrospect we would call Romantic." She helped shape the "patterns of thought and conventions of style" for the period, and William Wordsworth admired and was influenced by her Romantic poetry. She has also been credited with the revitalization of the English sonnet, with helping to develop "painterly prose," and with influencing the development of gothic fiction, the novel of sensibility and modern blank verse.

1807 — Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), a notable American poet who would rival Alfred Tennyson in fame and popularity, is born. For Europeans of that era, "American poetry was Longfellow." Charlotte Turner Smith's major poem, Beachy Head, is published posthumously. George Crabbe publishes The Parrish Register.

1808 — Walter Scott publishes his epic poem Marmion. 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!” Byron receives his degree from Cambridge. Shortly after, he fathers his first illegitimate child with one of the maids at Newstead Abbey. He provides an annual stipend for the mother and child. Walter Savage Landor meets Robert Southey in Bristol and they become friends. Southey writes Letters from England under the pseudonym Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, which allows him to offer a touring foreigner's opinions of England. Southey is critical of the disparity between the England's haves and have-nots; he argues for a change in tax policies that would foster greater equity.

1809 — The birth of the English poet Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892). The birth of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), then simply Edgar Poe. His mother and father were both actors. Poe would become a famous American writer, editor, literary critic and romantic poet. He would also be a major influence on French romantics and modernists, such as Charles Baudelaire. Poe would be America's first important "theorist of verse" and the first to declare independence from "our British grandmamma." He would argue against didacticism and allegory in poetry, and would favor shorter poems over extended verse narratives. In his essays Poe would attempt to both define poetry (for example: "a wild effort to reach the beauty above") and explain how it should be composed. Poe would prize feeling in poetry over intellect. Lord Byron responds to his critics with his scathing satire English Bards and Scots Reviewers. Thomas de Quincey becomes friends with William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, moves to the Lake District, and will live for ten years in the Dove Cottage that had housed Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy until they required larger lodgings. 

1810 — Walter Scott publishes his popular book of poems The Lady of the Lake. Franz Schubert and Beethoven would later set Scott's lyrics to music. The birth of the English social novelist Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865). William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge become estranged over Coleridge's opium addiction. Coleridge begins his acclaimed lectures on Shakespeare. Byron leaves England, swims the Hellespont, and begins composing the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Percy Bysshe Shelley enters University College, Oxford. He is indifferent toward his studies and barely attends class. Legend has it that he only attends one lecture while at Oxford. Instead he reads 16 hours per day, writes subversive poetry and publishes his first novel, the Gothic and atheistic Zastrozzi. George Crabbe publishes The Borough. A precocious Elizabeth Barrett is writing poems at age four.

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. Byron returns to England depressed and broke. Byron's mother Catherine Gordon dies. He soon receives a letter informing him that a former lover, John Edleston, died of consumption while Byron was traveling in Europe. Byron is grief-stricken. Percy Bysshe Shelley is expelled from Oxford after he publishes and distributes his essay The Necessity of Atheism. His baronet father is furious. It is believed that William Cullen Bryant began working on his famous poem "Thanatopsis" around age thirteen. The Greek title means "meditation on death" and it was a very mature poem for a young poet to have written regardless of his exact age. Jane Austen publishes Sense and Sensibility; the author is described only as "a lady." Austen's name will not appear on her books during her lifetime.

1812 — The United States and Great Britain fight the War of 1812. The birth of the English artist, illustrator and poet Edward Lear (1812-1888), who is best known today as a pioneer of nonsense verse such as "The Owl and the Pussy-cat." Edgar Poe is orphaned at age three. He is taken in by John and Frances Allan, from whom he receives his middle name, but they never formally adopt him. Byron publishes Books I and II of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Byron said that he "awoke one morning and found myself famous," outselling Jane Austen and George Crabbe. Crabbe publishes Tales, which has been called his masterpiece. Byron appears before the House of Lords to give his first speech as a member of Parliament. His mistresses include Lady Caroline Lamb and the Countess of Oxford. John Clare writes his poem "The Mores." (Clare, who spent time in a madhouse, would later claim to be Byron!) 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." The birth of the English poet Robert Browning (1812-1889). Browning is best known today for his dramatic monologues. His future wife, Elizabeth Barrett, writes her first poems at age six. Walter Savage Landor publishes his tragedy Count Julian.

1813 — Walter Scott is offered the position of England's Poet Laureate. He declines and his friend Robert Southey becomes the tenth British Poet Laureate (a position he will hold for 30 years until his death in 1843). Percy Bysshe Shelley publishes Queen Mab, a youthful work of political protest. Byron publishes The Giaour, so popular it went through eight issues within a year. Byron's half-sister Augusta Leigh arrives in London to stay with him while her husband and three children holiday elsewhere. She and Byron grow extremely close, beginning what some believe was an incestuous relationship, but evidence is lacking. Byron also publishes The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair and other verse adventures. Jane Austen publishes Pride and Prejudice. The Irish poet Thomas Moore writes the popular song "The Last Rose of Summer" which appears in his Irish Melodies.

1814 — Lord Byron's poem "She Walks in Beauty (Like the Night)" is published. Byron's half-sister Augusta Leigh gives birth to a daughter named Elizabeth Medora Leigh. It is widely speculated that Byron is the father. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin meets and marries Percy Bysshe Shelley. John Keats writes his first extant poem, "An Imitation of Spenser," at age 19. 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! Walter Savage Landor leaves England for eighteen years, and will spend much of his time in Italy. Samuel Taylor Coleridge begins work on Biographia Literaria. Alfred Tennyson is "moved to verse" at age five. Jane Austen publishes Mansfield Park.

1815 — Napoleon escapes from Elba and raises an army, but loses at Waterloo and surrenders. This marks the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Byron publishes his poem The Corsair. The semi-autobiographical poem is a bestseller. Byron marries an heiress. The birth of Ada Lovelace, also known as Ada Byron; the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, she is 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 Lovelace was an advocate of what she called "poetical science." Babbage called her "Lady Fairy" and the "Enchantress of Numbers." The birth of the English novelist Anthony Trollope (1815-1882). Percy Bysshe Shelley begins work on Alastor: or the Spirit of Solitude. Shelley also works on his poem "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" around this time. William Cullen Bryant is admitted to the bar and begins practicing law in Plainfield, Massachusetts. Bryant writes his most-anthologized poem, "To a Waterfowl," in December 1815, after seeing a solitary bird on the horizon while walking the seven miles from his house in Cummington to his Plainfield law office. Jane Austen publishes Emma.

1816 — Samuel Taylor Coleridge publishes his poems "Kubla Khan" and "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! Samuel Taylor Coleridge finally publishes his poem "Kubla Khan" in its original, unfinished form. Drat that person from Porlock! The birth of the English novelist Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855). John Keats has his first published poem, "O Solitude," and writes "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer." Lord Byron publishes Darkness, The Siege of Corinth and Parisina. John William Polidori becomes Lord Byron's personal physician and accompanies him when he moves to Europe. With his finances a wreck and his reputation shattered following Annabella's accusations of abuse and incest, Byron quits England for good. He arrives in Geneva and summers with his new lover, an Englishwoman named Claire Clairmont, and her half-sister and brother-in-law, Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The Shelleys and Byron become friends. At Byron's suggestion, they agree to write ghost stories. Mary Shelley writes the story that will become her famous Gothic novel Frankenstein. Polidori borrows a character created by Byron, Augustus Darvell, and later writes a short story, The Vampyre, which be the first modern vampire story in English. Thus it was a very fruitful night, if a spooky one!

1817 — William Cullen Bryant's poem "Thanatopsis" is published by the North American Review. Sir 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? Claire Clairmont gives birth to Byron's daughter, Clara Allegra. Desperate for cash, Byron sells Newstead Abbey and publishes the poem Manfred. Percy Bysshe Shelley writes The Revolt of Islam. With Shelley's help, John Keats publishes his first book of poems. At age eight, Alfred Tennyson "covered two sided of a slate with Thomsonian blank verse in praise of flowers." The birth of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), an American essayist, poet, philosopher and abolitionist. Jane Austen dies at age 41 and is buried in Winchester Cathedral. Her last two novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, are published posthumously together as a single volume. A biographical note by her brother Henry publicly identifies her for the first time as the author of her previous novels.

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 Prometheus Unbound. The novel Frankenstein by his wife Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is a landmark Gothic/Romantic work, but also an early work of science fiction, with electricity being harnessed to create life. William Cullen Bryant's "To a Waterfowl" is published and it becomes his most popular poem. The birth of the English novelist Emily Bronte (1818-1848), the second of three Bronte sisters who all became notable writers. At age 65, William Blake begins work on his illustrations of the biblical Book of Job. Byron publishes Beppo. Elizabeth Barrett begins writing an epic Homeric poem at age twelve, the epic Battle of Marathon. It will be published in 1820 by her affluent father.

1819 — John Keats publishes his most famous poems at age 23, including "To Autumn," "Ode to a Grecian Urn," "Ode to Psyche," "Ode on Melancholy" and "Ode to a Nightingale." Most of Keats' best poetry was written in an amazing single year spanning from September 1818 to September 1819. During this period he falls in love with Isabella Jones, then Fanny Brawe, perhaps writing "Bright Star" for the former, then revising it for the latter. Percy Bysshe Shelley writes The Mask of Anarchy, which has been called the first call to nonviolent resistance. Gandhi's belief in passive resistance was inspired and influenced by Shelley's poem, and Gandhi would often quote it to "vast audiences." Lord Byron begins an affair with the married Countess Teresa Guiccioli and moves in with her in Ravenna. He publishes the first two cantos of his major work, Don Juan. Sir Walter Scott publishes his most famous historical novel, Ivanhoe, and is paid "unprecedented sums" for his writing. William Hazlitt's The English Comic Writers. The birth of Walt Whitman (1819-1892), an American romantic poet and the first great free verse poet of the English language. The birth of the English artist and art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900). The births of the English poet Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861) and the English novelists George Eliot (1819-1880) and Charles Kingsley (1819-1875). Also the birth of Queen Victoria. At age ten, Alfred Tennyson is writing "hundreds and hundreds of lines in regular Popeian metre." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, age thirteen, publishes his first poem in the Portland Gazette, a four-stanza poem called "The Battle of Lovell's Pond." The birth of Herman Melville (1819-1891), an American poet, novelist and short story writer. John William Polidori's short story The Vampyre is published without his permission and is mistakenly attributed to Lord Byron! American Gothic literature makes an early appearance with Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, followed by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow the next year. Robert Southey writes Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819.

1820 — Percy Bysshe Shelley's poems "To a Skylark," "Ode to the West Wind" and the longer version of Prometheus Unbound are published. 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. The birth of the English novelist Anne Bronte (1820-1849). Byron becomes involved in the Carbonari movement, an Italian revolution against Austrian rule. John Clare's Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery is published by John Taylor of Taylor & Hessey, the firm that had published John Keats. (Clare would criticize Keats for portraying nature according to his imagination, rather than according to reality.) Rural Life was a success, selling three thousand copies in four editions within a year. This success brought Clare recognition; he visited London, where he attended plays and dinner parties, "hobnobbing with literary luminaries." Elizabeth Barrett's epic poem Battle of Marathon is published privately by her affluent father. Sir Walter Scott is elected president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 

1821 — John Clare's The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems is published. It sells "respectably" and is generally well-received. John Keats dies at age 25; Percy Bysshe Shelley writes the long poem Adonias as a tribute to him. Shelley also writes Hellas and his Defence of Poetry, a "quintessential Romantic document." Thomas de Quincey publishes his best-known work, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which may have "inaugurated the tradition of addiction literature in the West." William Cullen Bryant begins writing "The Ages," a panoramic history in verse of human progress up to the establishment of the United States. "The Ages" and a revised "Thanatopsis" are included in Bryant's Poems, published the same year. Charles Baudelaire is born in Paris; he would translate poems by Edgar Allan Poe into French.

1822 — Allegra Byron dies of fever at the convent in Italy where Lord Byron has placed her. Leigh Hunt moves to Byron’s house, where they collaborate on the journal The Liberal with input from Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley drowns in a boating accident at age thirty, on his boat the Don Juan, with a book of Keats's poems in his pocket. Byron, Hunt and Edward John Trelawny preside over his cremation on the shore. The birth of the English poet and critic Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), most famous today for his masterpiece of early modernism, the poem "Dover Beach." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, age fifteen, enters Bowdoin College, where he meets and befriends Nathaniel Hawthorne.

1823 — Edgar Allan Poe is writing love poems to woo girls at age fourteen; when his love poems fail, he writes laments. Poe attends the academy of William Burke and does well at athletics. The poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (aka "'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. The birth of the English poet Coventry Patmore (1823-1896). After publishing the remaining cantos of Don Juan, Byron sails to Greece to assist the Greeks in their revolution against Turkish rule.

1824 — Edgar Allan Poe, around age fifteen and inspired by the "slenderly graceful figure" of his friend Robert Stannard's mother, writes his famous poem "To Helen." It has been called "one of the most beautiful poems in the language." 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. His memoirs, which he intended for publication after his death, are burned by a group of his friends. 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. The famous composer had gone deaf and wrote his most famous symphony without being able to hear it. 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." There is an attempt to publish the poetry of Robert Browning, then age twelve. He would later destroy the manuscript, Incondita.

1825 — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow has published around forty poems before graduating from Bowdoin College in 1825. William Hazlitt's book of literary criticism, The Spirit of the Age, is published. William Cullen Bryant gives up the practice of rural law to become editor of the New York Review. He would go on to become editor-in-chief and co-owner of the New York Evening Post. From this influential position Bryant would become "one of the most liberal voices of the century" and a champion of liberal causes. Bryant opposed slavery, advocated free trade and trade unionism, supported the rights of religious minorities and emigrants, and helped establish Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Rose and Zephyr" is 19-year-old Elizabeth Barrett's first published poem in public circles; it appears in the Literary Gazette.

1826 — Edgar Allan Poe enters, then drops out of the University of Virginia, after boozing, gambling and fighting with his foster-father John Allan over finances. James Fenimore Cooper's popular novel The Last of the Mohicans is published. The 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 "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!). James Fenimore Cooper writes The Last of the Mohicans. William Blake begins working on watercolors and engravings for Dante's Divine Comedy.

1827 — Edgar Allan Poe, strapped for money, enlists in the army under an assumed name. Poe's first poetry collection, Tamerlane and Other Poems, is published at age eighteen but is credited only to "a Bostonian." William Blake dies; he would be 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! Alfred Tennyson has his first poems published, at age 17. Jane Webb (later Jane C. Louden) writes The Mummy. John Clare publishes The Shepherd's Calendar. At age eighteen, Alfred Tennyson has poems published in Poems By Two Brothers with his elder brother Charles Tennyson Turner; the introduction says that the poems were written from age fifteen to eighteen. Alfred Tennyson enters Cambridge and joins a secret society called the Cambridge Apostles. He meets and becomes friends with the poet Arthur Henry Hallam (1811-1833) who would die young and inspire Tennyson's elegy In Memoriam A.H.H.

1828 — Construction of the first American railroad, the B&O, begins. Noah Webster publishes The American Dictionary of the English Language. It adds 12,000 words not in Dr. Johnson's landmark dictionary. The birth of the English poet, painter, illustrator and translator Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), the elder brother of the poet Christina Rossetti, the author Maria Francesca Rossetti, and the writer and critic William Michael Rossetti. The birth of the English poet George Meredith (1828-1909). The birth of the French writer Jules Verne, who has been called a father of the science fiction novel. William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are reconciled and tour the Rhineland together. The birth of Alexander Gilchrist (1828-1861), author of Life of William Blake with his wife Anne Gilchrist (1818-1885). She also wrote A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman. Edgar Allan Poe does well in the army and is promoted to sergeant major. Matthew Arnold's father, Thomas Arnold, is appointed headmaster of Rugby School.

1829 — Edgar Allan Poe temporarily reconciles with his father, who sponsors him as an officer cadet at West Point. Poe publishes his second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems. 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." Tennyson wins a prize at Cambridge for his long undergraduate prize poem "Timbuctoo." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow becomes a professor at Bowdoin College, where he is also the librarian and writes his own textbooks!

1830 — Alfred Tennyson publishes "The Kraken," "Mariana," "Claribel" and "The Lotus Eaters" in Poems Chiefly Lyrical, which receives "hostile attention." However, Leigh Hunt compared Tennyson's verse to that of Keats. Walt Whitman, age eleven, drops out of school but never stops reading. Edgar Allan Poe has a falling-out with his father and gets himself purposely court-martialed. The birth of the American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1866), who has been called both the mother of American poetry and its first major female poet. Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), an English poet, is born; her father, sister and two brothers were all writers, so she came from a very literate family. Honorι de Balzac begins work on La Comιdie humaine ("The Human Comedy"), his magnum opus and perhaps the first major work of literary Realism.

1831 — Edgar Allan Poe is court-martialed and expelled from West Point. He moves to New York and publishes his third book, Poems. Poe will be one of the first Americans to try to make a living by writing alone. "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." The birth of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), better known as Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame.

1832 — John Clare's poem "Remembrances" is published. William Cullen Bryant achieves recognition as America's leading poet when his expanded Poems is published in the U.S. and in Britain with the assistance of Washington Irving. Bryant is the first American poet to earn "relatively uncondescending" recognition overseas. Sir Walter Scott dies. The death of George Crabbe.

1833 — Alfred Tennyson publishes Poems. Arthur Henry Hallam dies in Vienna, and Tennyson will publish little for the next nine years. However, one of Tennyson's best and strongest poems, "Ulysses," is composed shortly after Hallam's death. Henry David Thoreau enters Harvard. Elizabeth Barrett anonymously publishes Prometheus Bound, her translation of the Greek playwright Aeschylus. 

1834 — The British Empire abolishes slavery. The birth of the English poet, novelist and translator William Morris (1834-1896). The death of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Charles Dickens attacks the 1834 Poor Law with his novel Oliver Twist. "Zip Coon" or "Turkey in the Straw" is published in Baltimore and may be the first known example of music genres which came to be known as hillbilly music, country music, bluegrass, etc. Country music primarily originated in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Tennessee and western parts of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, but also in the southwest, leading to the term "country and western." Country music was influenced by American and European folk music, gospel music, negro spirituals, early blues, and traveling blackface minstrel groups. Country music often featured harmonies accompanied by fiddles, banjos, guitars and/or harmonicas.

1835 — Emily Dickinson, age five, begins attending a one-room primary school near her home. John Clare publishes The Rural Muse. It would be his last major poetry collection published during his lifetime. Edgar Allan Poe is now writing prose, with some success. Poe's The Unparalled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall is an early example of science fiction about a balloon trip to the moon. Poe may thus be called a father of science fiction and he has been called a "strong influence" on Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback. Poe win a contest with "Manuscript Found in a Bottle," marries his cousin Virginia, who at thirteen is half his age, and becomes the editor of Southern Literary Messenger. "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).

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, American Transcendentalism and Pre-Modernism (1836-1901)
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. Popular songs typically consist of rhyming poems set to music; increasingly English and American poetry will be delivered via music.

1836 — Charles Dickens has success with the serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow becomes a professor at Harvard. Matthew Arnold enters Winchester College. Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes his first essay, "Nature," anonymously. In his essay, Emerson lays the foundations of Transcendentalism in the idea that God or the Divine suffuses nature. In his subsequent speech The American Scholar, delivered at Harvard the following year, Emerson would call for American intellectual and literary independence, urging American writers to develop their own independent style, rather than imitating European writers. Emerson would be the first American writer to be "successfully exported." 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. Emerson would go on to help found the Transcendental Club, whose members would include Amos Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Orestes Brownson, William Ellery Channing, Sophia Peabody and her husband Nathaniel Hawthorne. American Transcendentalism combines elements of English and German Romanticism, German idealism, Bostonian Unitarianism, Hindu texts such as the Upanishads, the skepticism of David Hume, and the transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Core principles include self-reliance, personal freedom, idealism, concern for nature, and the value of the individual conscience and intellectual reason. While the Transcendental movement can be described as an American outgrowth of English Romanticism, the major Transcendentalists differed with some of the major Romantics by embracing, or at least not opposing, the empiricism of science. Transcendentalism has been called "the first notable American intellectual movement."

1837 — Queen Victoria takes the throne of the United Kingdom, leading to what has become known as tame and staid Victorianism. Matthew Arnold returns to Rugby School where he will study directly under his father, the headmaster, in 1838. During his years at Rugby, Arnold won school prizes for English essay writing, and Latin and English poetry. His poem,"Alaric at Rome" was printed at Rugby. The birth of the English Romantic poet, playwright, novelist and critic Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), who has been described as "decadent" and "indecent," but also as a master of meter and mellifluous rhyme. He was the son of Admiral Charles Henry Swinburne and Lady Jane Henrietta. Charles Dickens publishes Oliver Twist. John Clare enters High Beach, a mental asylum; one of his delusions is that he is Lord Byron and he rewrites some of Byron's poems. (Clare biographer William Howard considered "Child Harold" to be "unmistakably Clare's most original work.") Robert Southey publishes "Three Bears" (the original Goldilocks story). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow begins his Harvard lectures. Henry David Thoreau graduates from Harvard, begins teaching, then quits a public school job after only a few weeks to avoid administering corporal punishment. Thoreau begins his famous personal journal and meets Ralph Waldo Emerson around this time. Nathaniel Hawthorne publishes Twice-Told Tales. Robert Southey communicates with Charlotte Bronte about her poems. Elizabeth Barrett and her family move to 50 Wimpole Street in London. She bursts a blood vessel and begins a long period of invalidism.

1838 — Elizabeth Barrett publishes The Seraphim and Other Poems in her own name (at last!). The book is favorably reviewed and sells well, marking the start of a successful literary career.

1839 — The invention of photography. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's first book of poems, Voices of the Night, is published, as is his first novel, Hyperion: a Romance. The birth of the notable English skeptic and critic Walter Pater (1839-1894). Edgar Allan Poe writes The Fall of the House of Usher. Poe's first volume of short stories, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, is published. Robert Southey, now a widower, marries the poet Caroline Anne Bowles. Herman Melville has his first publication at age 20, the essay "Fragments from a Writing Desk." Melville signs aboard the merchant ship St. Lawrence as a "boy" (a green hand) and sails from New York to Liverpool and back.

1840 — The birth of the English poet and novelist Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). Emily Dickinson, age ten, attends Amherst Academy; she is frequently absent due to ill health. Margaret Fuller, said to be the best-read person in New England, male or female, becomes the first editor of The Dial, a transcendentalist journal. Henry David Thoreau's first essay is published in The Dial, with the encouragement of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau would also have a number of poems published by The Dial. Herman Melville embarks on his first whaling vessel at age 21. American music as we think of it today probably started in the 1840s with the Hutchinson Family Singers, who wrote their own songs and incorporated elements such as falsetto, "mountain melody" and close four-part harmonies into a distinctively American brand of popular music. They were not only the first American pop stars (as in popular music), but with their pro-equality protest songs they paved the way for singer-songwriters to come like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Around the same time, the influence of African-American music on popular music would become profound, through composers like Stephen Foster and performers like The Christy Minstrels.

1841 — Herman Melville sets sail aboard the whaler Acushnet. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes Ballads and Other Poems. Edgar Allan Poe invents the modern detective story with The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Henry David Thoreau moves into the house of Ralph Waldo Emerson, where he serves as a children's tutor, editorial assistant, repairman and gardener. At this time Thoreau considers himself primarily a poet, but over time he would find prose more useful for his purposes. Emerson publishes Essays: First Series. Dante Gabriel Rossetti enters Henry Sass's Drawing Academy at age thirteen. Nathaniel Hawthorne joins a transcendentalist utopian community at Brook Farm. John Clare leaves the High Beach asylum and walks 90 miles home, where he refuses to accept that his first love, Mary Joyce, is no longer alive, or that he never married her or had children with her. After five months, Clare was committed to the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, where he would write one of his most famous poems, "I Am!" Clare would spend his last 23 years at the Northampton Asylum, under the "humane regime" of Dr. Thomas Octavius Prichard, who encouraged him to write. Matthew Arnold wins an open scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, where he is close to the poet Arthur Hugh Clough.

1842 — Robert Browning's Dramatic Lyrics include examples of a form he pioneered, the dramatic monologue, such as "My Last Duchess." Elizabeth Barrett's poem "The Cry of the Children," published in Blackwoods, has been credited with leading to child labor reforms. She would later marry Robert Browning, becoming Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Christina Rossetti begins to record the dates of her poems at age twelve. Alfred Tennyson publishes a revised version of Poems which includes "Ulysses," "Locksley Hall" and "Morte d'Arthur." These poems cement his reputation as the greatest of the Victorian poets. (Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman seem more modern than Victorian.) After meetings with Charles Dickens and other writers, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes a volume of anti-slavery poems, Poems on Slavery. He allows the poems to be distributed for free by abolitionists. Poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier felt Poems on Slavery had “been an important service to the Liberty movement” and asked whether Longfellow would be a candidate for Congress on the Liberty Party ticket. “Our friends think they could throw for thee one thousand more votes than any other man.” Longfellow declined the proposal. Herman Melville jumps ship in the Marquesas Islands for unclear reasons and repairs into mountains to avoid capture. Melville then boards another whaler, the Lucy Ann, participates in a mutiny, and is briefly jailed in Tahiti. Melville escapes and spends a month as an "omoo" or beachcomber and island rover. One of his books would be titled Omoo.

1843 — Edgar Allan Poe wins $100 for his short story The Gold Bug. Poe also publishes The Tell-Tale Heart. Charles Dickens publishes A Christmas Carol with its immortal characters Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens will later be called "The Man Who Invented Christmas." The birth of the American novelist Henry James (1843-1916). When his friend Robert Southey dies, William Wordsworth becomes the eleventh British Poet Laureate. The Christy Minstrels form; they perform in blackface and are very popular. Herman Melville ends up in Hawaii and joins the US Navy as an ordinary seaman. Matthew Arnold's poem "Cromwell" wins the Newdigate prize and he graduates from Oxford with honors. Manley Hopkins, the father of Gerard Manley Hopkins, publishes The Philosopher's Stone and Other Poems. Soren Kierkegaard, the "Father of Existentialism," publishes Either/Or and Fear and Trembling, in which he advances his "philosophy of life" and maintains that human beings must consciously determine the meaning of their existence and purpose in life, then act accordingly.

1844 — Edgar Allan Poe writes The Purloined Letter and The Balloon Hoax. The birth of the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889). Hopkins is notable for his eclectic style and use of "sprung rhythm," which would influence poets like Dylan Thomas, David Jones and Geoffrey Hill. Hopkins would become known to the world only after his poems were published posthumously in 1918 by his friend the British Poet Laureate Robert Bridges. The birth of Robert Bridges (1844-1930). Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett begin to correspond. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes The Waif. Dante Gabriel Rossetti begins translating German poetry at age sixteen.

1845 — Edgar Allan Poe writes and publishes his most famous poem, "The Raven." It becomes a "popular sensation" and makes Poe a household name. Henry David Thoreau moves into a small house on the banks of Walden Pond, with the goal of "simple living." Robert Browning meets Elizabeth Barrett and professes his love for her the next day. She begins to work on a series of love poems, Sonnets from the Portuguese, incorporating his pet name for her, "the Portuguese." Dante Gabriel Rossetti enters the Antique School of the Royal Academy and begins translating Italian poetry at age seventeen. Matthew Arnold is elected Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford.

1846 — Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning secretly marry at St. Marylebone Church in London: they would become English poetry's first "super couple." They move to Florence and her health improves. Herman Melville publishes Typhee, a romanticized account of his life among "cannibal" Polynesians; it becomes an "overnight bestseller." Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte and Anne Bronte publish a joint collection of poems under the pseudonyms "Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell." It sells a whopping two copies the first year. They would do better as novelists. Walter Savage Landor publishes the first volume of Hellenics. Edgar Allan Poe writes an essay "The Philosophy of Composition" in which he explains how he wrote "The Raven" and other poems. Edward Lear publishes A Book of Nonsense, which helps popularize the limerick form (although such lyrics were called "learics" at the time). Emily Dickinson, around age 16, is mentored by Leonard Humphrey; he would lend her books on botany and she would hide them from her formidable father, who apparently considered botany to be light reading! Adolphe Sax invents the saxophone.

1847 — Tennyson publishes The Princess: A Medley containing poems such as "Tears, Idle Tears." Longfellow publishes Evangeline. Emily Bronte publishers her dark gothic masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Her sister Charlotte Bronte publishes Jane Eyre under the pseudonym "Currer Bell." Edgar Allan Poe's wife Virginia dies and he becomes increasingly unstable. Herman Melville publishes Omoo, once again romanticizing his adventures among "cannibals." The novel becomes his second bestseller. Walter Savage Landor publishes a second volume of Hellenics. Emily Dickinson enters Mount Holyoke Female Seminary at age 17. At the time Holyoke classifies its students into three religious categories: "established Christians," those who "expressed hope," and those "without hope." Dickinson is a No Hoper. The birth of Thomas Edison: recorded music and movies are fast approaching. Dante Gabriel Rossetti meets William Holman Hunt while they are both "drawing Ghiberti" at the Royal Academy. Rossetti writes his poem "The Blessed Damozel."

1848 — Emily Dickinson drops out of college for unknown reasons; she will become a recluse, living at her parents' house and rarely venturing outside its grounds. Walt Whitman loses his editing job because he opposes slavery. He returns to New York, where he founds an antislavery newspaper, 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. Dante Gabriel Rossetti leaves the Royal Academy to study under Ford Madox Brown. He begins the first illustration for his now-completed translation of Dante’s Vita Nuova. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is founded by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais; aligned poets and artists would include William Michael Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, William Morris, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Edward Bourne-Jones and Ford Maddox Brown. The German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto. Edgar Allan Poe's "Eureka: A Prose Poem" posits a singularity (a "primordial particle") that produces the Big Bang (a theory that didn't achieve mainstream acceptance until more than a century later, in the 1960s). Poe also predicts an expanding universe and black holes. Poe publishes his poem "Ulalume," which has been called a masterpiece. He also writes "The Poetic Principle" in which he calls a long poem a contradiction in terms because a long poem cannot keep up the excitement that makes poetry poetry. Henry David Thoreau delivers a lecture on civil disobedience, a concept that would appeal to Leo Tolstoy, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, among others. Emily Bronte dies prematurely at age 30, shortly after the death of her brother Branwell. Walter Savage Landor publishes The Italics. Herman Melville publishes Mardi.

1849 — Henry David Thoreau publishes his essay Civil Disobedience. One of his influences was Percy Bysshe Shelley's Masque of Anarchy. Thoreau self-publishes A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Edgar Allan Poe is found "delirious" on the streets of Baltimore; he dies shortly thereafter. Poe was a pioneer of the "art for art's sake" movement, the symbolist movement, modernism as an outgrowth of romanticism, science fiction, the detective story, and the psychological thriller. In France he would be considered the great American poet and the touchstone of symbolism. Anne Bronte dies prematurely at age 29. Stephen Foster publishes "Oh! Susanna." Herman Melville publishes Redburn. Matthew Arnold publishes his first book of poetry, The Strayed Reveller. Algernon Charles Swinburne enters Eton College, where he begins writing poetry. Dante Gabriel Rossetti creates his first major painting, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, with his sister Christina sitting as Mary and their mother as Mary's mother.

1850 — It is believed that an anonymous "nonsense" poem published in The Indicator, the student magazine of Amherst College, was the first published poem of Emily Dickinson. The poem published was similar to the first line of her Valentine letter to George H. Gould, and Gould, a friend of her brother Austin, was published in the same issue. Gould was a likely consignee for Emily. Dickinson's father joins the Temperance Movement and makes a public declaration of faith in Christ, but she remains skeptical and exhibits her skepticism in her poetry. The birth of Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894). William Wordsworth dies. His widow publishes The Prelude (his "poem to Coleridge") posthumously. Matthew Arnold publishes his "Memorial Verses" for Wordsworth in Fraser's Magazine. Elizabeth Barrett Browning publishes Sonnets from the Portuguese, which she dedicates to her husband Robert Browning, and she is mentioned as the leading candidate to succeed Wordsworth as Poet Laureate in the literary journal The Athenaeum. However, Alfred Tennyson publishes his masterpiece In Memoriam A.H.H. and is made the twelfth British Poet Laureate. T. S. Eliot opined that in Maud and In Memoriam, Tennyson displayed "the greatest lyrical resourcefulness that a poet has ever shown." Dante Gabriel Rossetti meets Elizabeth Siddal, who will become his model, his muse, and eventually his wife; he also publishes his best-known poem, "The Blessed Damozel," in the Germ. Charles Dickens attacks the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood over the painting Christ in the House of His Parents by John Everett Millais; Dickens considers Mary to be ugly and thus the painting blasphemous! Nathaniel Hawthorne publishes his novel The Scarlet Letter; it becomes a best-seller and is one of the first mass-produced American books. Hawthorne meets Herman Melville and they become friends. Herman Melville publishes White-Jacket and writes to a friend that he is "half way" done with Moby-Dick.

1851 — Stephen Foster writes "Old Folks at Home." The Christy Minstrels pay Foster $15,000 for exclusive rights to the song. Herman Melville publishes Moby-Dick, which he dedicates to Nathaniel Hawthorne. But the novel is a flop in its day. Hawthorne publishes The House of the Seven Gables and it becomes a best-seller. Matthew Arnold becomes a school inspector, then marries Frances Lucy.

1852 — Emily Dickinson's second published poem, and the first attributed to her, is "Sic Transit." It is published without her knowledge in the Springfield Republican. The aghast poet manages to hide the poem from her father. Ironically the virginal (as far as we know) poet's first published poem was a Valentine and the second was written on Valentine's Day as a Valentine to a friend, William Howland. Alfred Tennyson's son is born and is named Hallam after his friend and fellow poet Arthur Hallam. Matthew Arnold publishes his second volume of poems, Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems. Charles Dickens publishes his novel Bleak House. The first edition of Roget's Thesaurus is published.

1853 — The Christy Minstrels perform "Yellow Rose of Texas" and publish it in a songbook. Matthew Arnold publishes Poems: A New Edition, which includes "The Scholar Gipsy."

1854 — Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" is the most famous occasional poem by a Poet Laureate. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow receives so much fan mail he says "all my unanswered letters hang upon me like an evil conscience." Charles Dickens publishes Hard Times, his "baldest and sharpest" work. The birth of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), an Anglo-Irish poet, playwright, novelist, wit and "quintessential aesthete." Henry David Thoreau publishes his best-known work, Walden; or, Life in the Woods. Robert Frost later wrote: "In one book ... he surpasses everything we have had in America." Walt Whitman meets Ralph Waldo Emerson for the first time. Matthew Arnold publishes Poems: Second Series, which includes "Balder Dead." Gerard Manley Hopkins is sent to board at Highgate School at age ten. At Highgate the young Hopkins will meet Richard Watson Dixon and Philip Stanhope Worsley, a future winner of the Newdigate Prize. Dante Gabriel Rossetti meets John Ruskin, who then "proclaimed Rossetti to the world."

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." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes Song of Hiawatha. Charlotte Bronte dies at age 39, the last of the three Bronte sisters. After a rare trip to Washington and Philadelphia, despite having "bewitched" the strangers she met, Emily Dickinson returns home to become a recluse in earnest. But she has three constant companions: hanging on the walls of her room are portraits of  George Eliot, Thomas Carlyle and Dr. Charles Wadsworth (a possible love interest?).

1856 — 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. The birth of the Anglo-Irish writer and playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). Dante Gabriel Rossetti meets Oxford students William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Algernon Charles Swinburne; this association has been called the genesis of the Aesthetic Movement. Walter Pater, also at Oxford at the time, has also been associated with the Aesthetic Movement. Rossetti begins painting femme fatales, using models such as Elizabeth Siddal, Fanny Cornforth and Jane Burden (the future wife of William Morris). Thomas Hardy's first extant poem is "Domicilium," written at age seventeen. Gustave Flaubert publishes Madame Bovary, a major work of literary realism.

1857 — The Philological Society of London begins to study the collection of "unregistered words" into a new dictionary of English. Oxford University Press will agree to finance the project in 1879. The first part or fascicle of the New English Dictionary, covering A–Ant, will be published in 1884. The last fascicle of the NED will be published 44 years later, in 1928. The entire project will have taken 71 years from conception to completion. The completed dictionary will consist of twelve volumes and contain 15,487 pages, defining 414,825 words. In 1933 a reprint (with a one-volume supplement) will be issued as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Herman Melville publishes the longest poem in American literature, Clarel. Melville also publishes his last novel, The Confidence-Man. The verse novel Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning sells well and will be called "the greatest poem in the English language" by John Ruskin. The births of the novelist Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) and the Scottish poet John Davidson (1857-1909). The Atlantic Monthly, known today as The Atlantic, is founded by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Greenleaf Whittier and James Russell Lowell. "They did not set out to exclude women from the gathering," but Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, boycotted the dinner when she learned that alcohol would be served! The Atlantic would go on to publish some of America's best-known literary and political names, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Helen Keller, W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and JFK. Matthew Arnold is elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford.

1858 — Emily Dickinson has a poem, "Nobody knows this little rose" in the Springfield Republican, published by Samuel Boles, this time presumably with her permission.

1859 — The popular song "Dixie" was ironically written by Daniel Decatur Emmett, a Northerner from Ohio. Charles Dickens publishes A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, intensifying what has been called the "Victorian crisis of faith." George Eliot's novel Adam Bede. Alfred Tennyson publishes Idylls of the King. The birth of the English classical scholar and poet A. E. Housman (1859-1936). Housman had been described as being a classical poet with a Romantic temperament. Two of his siblings would also become prominent writers: Clemence Housman and Laurence Housman. The Edgar Allan Poe poem "Annabel Lee" is set to music by E. F. Falconnet. Henry David Thoreau composes and delivers an influential speech, "A Plea for Captain John Brown," after the Harper's Ferry raid. Algernon Charles Swinburne is rusticated (suspended) by Oxford for supporting the attempted assassination of Napoleon III by Felice Orsini.

1860 — William Cullen Bryant helps arrange and acts as master of ceremonies at the Cooper Union speech that is pivotal in Abraham Lincoln winning the Republican nomination and becoming president. Charles Dickens publishes Great Expectations. George Eliot publishes The Mill on the Floss. While studying the poetry of John Keats, sixteen-year-old Gerard Manley Hopkins writes his first extant poem, "The Escorial." Elizabeth Barrett Browning publishes Poems Before Congress, a collection of political poems.  Charles Wadsworth pays an unexpected visit to Amherst, and Emily Dickinson, now a spinsterly 30, joins him for a carriage ride. Emily's sister Lavinia allegedly said: "I am afraid Emily will go away with him." However, Lavinia later fond Wadsworth gone and Emily locked in her room. Soon thereafter, Emily would adopt the habit of dressing exclusively in white, a habit she maintained until death. Eventually she became so reclusive no one saw her but her immediate family.

1861 — The Confederates attack Fort Sumter, starting the Civil War. Julia Ward Howe writes the poem "Battle Hymn of the Republic" to the music of "John Brown's Body." Walt Whitman moves to Washington D.C. and works as a nurse in military hospitals. Jules Verne works on his first science fiction novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon. Matthew Arnold publishes On Translating Homer. The death of Arthur Hugh Clough. Arnold would write Thyrsis in his honor. Elizabeth Barrett Browning dies in Florence, in her husband's arms. Robert Browning said that she died "smilingly, happily, and with a face like a girl's ... Her last word was ... ''Beautiful!" Emily Dickinson's poem "I taste a liquor never brewed" appears in the Springfield Republican with the title "The May-Wine." Dante Gabriel Rossetti publishes his translations of Dante and other Italian poets as The Early Italian Poets. Prior to this book, Dante was known in England mostly by name and reputation, not by his poetry.

1862 — Emily Dickinson's "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" is published; hers is one of the first and most unique voices of early modernism. Christina Rossetti's The Goblin Market and Other Poems is published with illustration by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti. George Meredith's sonnet sequence Modern Love is published. Henry David Thoreau dies. His essays “Walking” and “Wild Apples” are published posthumously the same year. His Poems of Nature would be published in 1895 and his Collected Poems in 1943. Other posthumous publications include The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau (1958) and Thoreau's Literary Notebook (1964). Posthumous publication of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Last Poems, including "De Profundis." Algernon Charles Swinburne has written "Hymn to Proserpine" and "Laus Veneris" because he recites them to William Bell Scott on a seaside excursion. Thomas Hardy, studying to be an architect, enrolls at King's College London.

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 called the "father of American literature" by William Faulkner. Gerard Manley Hopkins studies the classics at Oxford, where he meets the poet Robert Bridges; they would become lifelong friends. Bridges, a future Poet Laureate, would publish Hopkins' poetry after his death. Walter Savage Landor publishes Heroic Idyls, which includes Latin poems.

1864 — Emily Dickinson has poems in Drum Beat and the Brooklyn Daily Union. Jules Verne writes the early science fiction novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. The deaths of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walter Savage Landor. John Clare dies at the asylum where he spent his last 23 years. His remains were returned to Helpston for burial in St Botolph's churchyard. On his birthday, children at the John Clare School parade through the village and place their "midsummer cushions" around Clare's gravestone, which bears the inscriptions "To the Memory of John Clare The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet" and "A Poet is Born not Made" in honour of the area's most famous resident. The nearby John Clare Cottage is open to the public. Henry David Thoreau publishes Excursions. Gerard Manley Hopkins meets Christina Rossetti, one of his influences.

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. Henry David Thoreau publishes Cape Cod and Letters to Various Persons. Algernon Charles Swinburne achieves his first literary success with Atalanta in Calydon. Gerard Manley Hopkins meets Digby Mackworth Dolben, a "Christian Uranian," at Oxford, and there seems to have been a strong erotic connection on Hopkins' part. Lewis Carroll publishes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Jules Verne writes the first outer space adventure novel, From the Earth to the Moon. The birth of the English journalist, poet, short-story writer and novelist Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) in Bombay, India. The birth of the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes his translation of Dante, The Divine Comedy, just in time for Dante's 600th birthday! One of the first ten copies is rushed to Italy! The birth of Emma Orczy (1865-1947), better known as Baroness Orczy. She was a Hungarian-born British novelist and playwright who is best-known for her Scarlet Pimpernel play and novels. The play, first staged in 1905, ran four years in London and broke many stage records. That theatrical success generated huge sales for the novels. Orczy introduced the hero with a secret identity who has a penchant for disguise, uses a signature weapon or power, out-thinks and outwits his adversaries, and has a "calling card" that identifies him. Long before Batman, Superman and Zorro, there was the Scarlet Pimpernel. Matthew Arnold publishes Essays in Criticism: First Series.

1866 — A. E. Housman begins writing poetry at age eight. The birth of the American poet and novelist Anne Reeve Aldrich (1866-1892). 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). Aldrich 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 being fired from his government post. Fisk University, a black college, is founded in Nashville, Tennessee. Algernon Charles Swinburne's Poems and Ballads bring him instant notoriety because of his "indecent" themes. Walter Pater tutors Gerard Manley Hopkins. Hopkins writes his most ascetic poem, "The Habit of Perfection," then gives up writing poetry for Lent! John Henry Newman receives Hopkins into the Roman Catholic Church and takes a particular interest in him. Hopkins develops his ideas of "inscape" and "instress." Matthew Arnold publishes Thyrsis, his tribute to Arthur Hugh Clough. The birth of H. G. Wells (1866-1946), an English writer called the father of the science fiction novel, along with Jules Verne. Herman Melville, strongly opposed to slavery, publishes a book of poems, Battle Pieces. Henry David Thoreau publishes A Yankee in Canada. Fyodor Dostoevsky publishes Crime and Punishment, an early psychological thriller in which the reader "sees" through the eyes of a killer and hears his inner thoughts. It would prove to be an influential and much-imitated novel.

1867 — Emily Dickinson begins to speak to visitors through the door, rather than face-to-face; her social life consists of writing letters. Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach" has been called a masterpiece of Early Modernism; it employs irregular rhyme and form and exhibits a crisis of faith in both God and mankind. Digby Mackworth Dolben drowns. His death inspires a number of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The birth of the English poet Ernest Dowson (1867-1900), who would influence William Butler Yeats and T. S. Eliot. The birth of the English writer Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), who sometimes wrote "potboiling fiction" and became "unusually wealthy for a writer." The 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. Thomas Hardy finishes his first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, but is advised by his mentor and friend George Meredith not to publish it because it would be too politically controversial and might damage Hardy's ability to publish in the future.

1868 — Robert Browning's The Ring and the Book has been called the climax of his poetic career. Gerard Manley Hopkins elects to become a Jesuit, makes a "bonfire" of his poems, and gives up poetry for seven years. The birth of Fiddlin' John Carson, who has been credited with the first country music recordings and the first million-selling country records [see the entry for 1923].

1869 — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow receives an honorary degree from Cambridge and visits with Queen Victoria. The birth of the American poet Edward Arlington Robinson (1869-1935), who would win three Pulitzer Prizes and be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times. On his mother's side he was descended from Anne Bradstreet. The birth of the English poet Charlotte Mew (1869-1928). Her poetry would be admired by Thomas Hardy, who called her the best female poet of her day, and by Virginia Woolf, who called her "quite unlike anyone else." Mew never married, cut her hair short, and often dressed like a male dandy. The birth of the American poet Edgar Lee Masters (1869-1950), the author of fifty books who is best known for his poetry collection of epitaphs, Spoon River Anthology. Matthew Arnold publishes his collection of essays on social criticism, Culture and Anarchy.

1870 — Emily Dickinson meets Thomas Wentworth Higginson, her pen pal of eight years. "She came toward me with two day-lilies, which she put in a childlike way into my hand, saying softly, under her breath, 'These are my introduction,'" Higginson recalled of their unusual meeting. Charles Dickens dies with his Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished, and is buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. The birth of J. M. Synge (1871-1909), the author of the play The Playboy of the Western World. Jules Verne writes Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, a science fiction novel about a submarine and its pilot, Captain Nemo. The birth of Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), an Anglo-French writer, poet and historian.

1871 — Lewis Carroll's surrealistic Through the Looking Glass. George Eliot's Middlemarch. The birth of the American poet and novelist Stephen Crane (1871-1900). Crane was an early modernist, minimalist and realist who would influence Ernest Hemingway. The birth of the English poet and hobo W. H. Davies (1871-1940). The Fisk Jubilee Singers are formed. Algernon Charles Swinburne's Songs Before Sunrise. Thomas Hardy's novel Desperate Remedies is published anonymously.

1872 — While reading Duns Scotus, Gerard Manley Hopkins decides that poetry and religion need not conflict. He writes "Duns Scotus's Oxford" and begins to write "some verses" for church occasions. He also sketches and writes music. Thomas Hardy's novel Under The Greenwood Tree is published anonymously.

1873 — Walter Pater publishes Studies in the History of the Renaissance. Oscar Wilde said the book "has had such a strange influence over my life," while Arthur Symons called it "the most beautiful book of prose in our literature." Robert Bridges publishes his first collection of poems. Matthew Arnold publishes Literature and Dogma. Jules Verne writes Around the World in Eighty Days. Thomas Hardy's serialized novel A Pair of Blue Eyes introduces the "cliffhanger" when one of the protagonists is left literally hanging off a cliff!

1874 — Robert Frost (1874-1963), Any Lowell (1874-1925) and Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), American poets, are born, as is G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), an English journalist, novelist, poet, critic and Christian apologist. Jules Verne writes The Mysterious Island, which brings back the mysterious Captain Nemo. The success of Thomas Hardy's novel Far from the Madding Crowd allows him to retire from architecture to write full-time.

1875 — Gerard Manley Hopkins begins writing poetry his long poem "The Wreck of the Deutschland." The birth of the German Romantic poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). Stephen Crane is writing at age four.

1876 — George Eliot publishes Daniel Deronda. Lewis Carroll publishes his nonsense poem The Hunting of the Snark. The popular poem and song "Grandfather's Clock" is published by Henry Clay Work. The lyrics to the hymn "Beulah Land" are written by Edgar Page Stites. Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.

1877 — A. E. Housman wins an open scholarship to St. John's College, Oxford. Gerard Manley Hopkins writes a collection of sonnets, God's Grandeur. The title poem would become one of his most famous.

1878 — Carl Sandburg, an American poet, is born. Henry James's novel The Europeans. William Cullen Bryant dies at age 84 after tripping over a podium in Central Park (a park he had helped create). Algernon Charles Swinburne's Poems and Ballads Second Series. Thomas Hardy's novel Return of the Native. The birth of the English poet, essayist and novelist Edward Thomas (1878-1917).

1879 — The births of Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), an American poet and E. M. Forster, an English novelist. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. "Uncloudy Day," also known as "Unclouded Day," is a gospel song written by Josiah Kelley Alwood.

1880 — Ten years after the death of Charles Dickens, George Eliot dies. Thus the High Victorian era lapses into the Late Victorian. The birth of the English poet and playwright Alfred Noyes (1880-1958). Noyes would be the most popular poet of his day, due to traditional poems like "The Highwayman."

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, invents what we now call vaudeville by creating family-friendly acts for his New York theaters. However, vaudeville acts would often be less "polite" than what Pastor had envisioned. Henry James's novel A Portrait of a Lady.

1882 — The birth of the Irish poet, playwright and novelist James Joyce (1882-1941). The birth of the British artist and poet Mina Loy (1882-1966). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow dies, comparable to Tennyson in fame, popularity, influence and book sales. Longfellow was the first American poet to have a bust at Poet's Corner. 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. The older ballads may include The Battle of Otterburn and Childe Waters. The births of the English writer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) and the English painter and writer Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). The death of Ralph Waldo Emerson. William Butler Yeats writes his first known poems around age seventeen. Algernon Charles Swinburne's epic poem Tristram of Lyonesse. The death of Dante Gabrield Rossetti.

1883 — Alfred Tennyson accepts a peerage, becoming Lord Alfred Tennyson, as he is known today (or Alfred, Lord Tennyson). He was the first British subject to be made a lord for his writing. The birth of William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), an American poet. Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island. The birth of the English poet and critic T. E. Hulme. Also Sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.

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. Gerard Manley Hopkins becomes a professor of Greek and Latin at University College Dublin. It is here that he will write his "terrible sonnets" such as "Carrion Comfort" and "I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, not Day."

1885 — The birth of the American poet and critic Ezra Pound (1885-1972). The birth of the English poet and novelist D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930). William Butler Yeats's first poems are published in the Dublin University Review.

1886 — The death of Emily Dickinson, of Bright's Disease. The birth of the American poet, novelist and imagist Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961), who would publish as H.D. Imagiste, then simply by her initials. Robert Louis Stevenson's novels Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Joseph Conrad applies for British nationality and is accepted. Thomas Hardy's novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. Ernest Dowson enters Queen's College, Oxford, but does not earn a degree. Rudyard Kipling publishes his first collection of verse, Departmental Ditties. The birth of the English poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). William Butler Yeats attends his first sιance. The birth of the English poet Elizabeth Bridges Daryush (1886-1977). She was the daughter of Robert Bridges. Daryush is best known for her work in syllabic meter, of which "Still-Life" may be the best example.

1887 — The births of the American poets Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) and Marianne Moore (1887-1972) and the English poets Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) and Rupert Brooke (1887-1915). Handsome, charming and talented, Brooke has been called "a golden-haired, blue-eyed English Adonis." 

1888 — T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) and John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974), both American poets, are born. Columbia Records, the first major American record label, is founded. The first classical music recording, of Handel. Rudyard Kipling publishes his first collection of prose stories, Plain Tales from the Hills. The death of Matthew Arnold and the posthumous publication of his Essays in Criticism: Second Series.

1889 — William Butler Yeats publishes The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems. Yeats meets and falls in love with the lovely Irish nationalist and revolutionary Maude Gonne. Anne Reeve Aldrich publishes her first volume of poetry, The Rose of Flame. Robert Browning dies and is buried next to Alfred Tennyson at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. Gerard Manley Hopkins dies, virtually unknown as a poet, of typhoid fever. His friend Robert Bridges would publish his poetry in 1918. The death of Edward Lear. George Bernard Shaw's Fabian Essays. Algernon Charles Swinburne's Poems and Ballads Third Series. Rudyard Kipling meets Mark Twain by knocking on his door without an invitation. Twain later wrote of their meeting: "Between us, we cover all knowledge; he covers all that can be known and I cover the rest." 

1890 — Emily Dickinson's poems are published posthumously. Anne Reeve Aldrich publishes her second volume of poetry, The Feet of Love. As the 19th century enters its final decade,  fin-de-siθcle (1890-1900) poets influenced by the French symbolists include William Butler Yeats, Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, Arthur Symons, Oscar Wilde and Charles Algernon Swinburne. Yeats co-founds the Rhymer's Club with Ernest Rhys and is admitted into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Scottish poet John Davidson joins the Rhymer's Club, along with Dowson, Johnson, Symons, Wilde, John Gray and Francis Thompson. William James publishes Principles of Psychology, a book that would influence the Modernists. Edward Arlington Robinson enters Harvard as a special student and has "Ballade of the Ship" published by The Harvard Advocate within a fortnight. The posthumous Poems by Matthew Arnold. The birth of the English poet and artist Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918), one of the great anti-war poets. His parents were Lithuanian Jewish immigrants and he grew up in poverty in Stepny, in London's East End. Rosenberg is the first major Jewish voice in English poetry, excluding the original writers of the Bible. The birth of the British poet and composer Ivor Gurney (1890-1937).

1891 — William Butler Yeats proposes to Maude Gonne, but is rejected. Yeats praises John Davidson's In a Music Hall and other Poems. Ernest Dowson meets Adelaide Foltinowicz, who inspires his best-known poem, "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae," popularly known by its refrain "I have been faithful to thee, Cynara, in my fashion." Oscar Wilde's novella A Picture of Dorian Gray. William Morris writes the "utopian romance" novel News from Nowhere. Herman Melville dies with Billy Budd completed but unpublished. The novel would be discovered in a breadbox in 1919 and published in 1924. Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles attracts criticism for its sympathetic portrayal of a "fallen woman" and is initially refused publication. Stephen Crane has his first publications in the Tribune.

1892 — Rudyard Kipling publishes Barrack-Room Ballads, his first major success, and begins to write the tales that will become The Jungle Book. (The poems had international appeal and impact; for instance, the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht would read Barrack-Room Ballads and draw inspiration from Kipling for his own ballads and the plays Galy Gay and In the Jungle.) Walt Whitman prepares the final edition of Leaves of Grass, known as the "Deathbed Edition." Whitman dies at age 72, one of the most influential poets of all time. The death of Anne Reeve Aldrich at age 26. Lord Alfred Tennyson dies at age 83, the longest-tenured British Poet Laureate, at 42 years. Kipling is offered the position, but turns it down. A. E. Housman accepts the professorship of Latin at University College London. "Harlem Rag" by the pianist Tommy Turpin is the first known ragtime composition. The birth of the American poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1850). Ernest Dowson contributes to The Books of the Rhymers' Club (1892 and 1894). Ezra Pound, age seven, attends a dame school: Miss Elliott's school in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. The birth of the English poet Richard Aldington (1892-1962) and the Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978).

1893 — The birth of the English war poet Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). Stephen Crane self-publishes Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, generally considered to be the first work of American literary Naturalism. William Butler Yeats publishes The Rose and The Celtic Twilight. The birth of the English poet, literary critic and rhetorician I. A. Richards (1893-1979), whose books The Principles of Literary Criticism and Practical Criticism would provide the foundations of the New Criticism.

1894 — The birth of E. E. Cummings (1894-1962), an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. (Due to his eclectic employment of capital letters, his name is frequently rendered as e. e. cummings.) William Butler Yeats has an affair with Olivia Shakespear. Rudyard Kipling publishes The Jungle Book. Robert Frost publishes his first poem at age 20. The popular song "I've Been Working on the Railroad" is published. Rainer Maria Rilke publishes his first collection of poems, Leben und Lieder ("Life and Songs").

1895 — By his own account, A. E. Housman's most prolific period was the first five months of 1895. He ascribed his heightened productivity to "physical conditions" perhaps explained by this excerpt from one of his poems published the following year: "fire and ice within me fight beneath the suffocating night." Katharine Lee Bates' poem "America the Beautiful" will later be 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 countermelody of jazz. Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest. H. G. Wells writes the early science fiction novel The Time Machine. Thomas Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure is met by a strong negative response from the Victorian public because of its controversial treatment of sex, religion and marriage. Stephen Crane's novel The Red Badge of Courage and his collection of free verse poems The Black Riders. The births of the English literary critic F. R. Leavis (1895-1978) and the Welsh painter and modernist poet David Jones (1895-1974). The birth of the British poet Robert Graves (1895-1985).

1896 — A. E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad is published and it brings him immediate recognition as a poet. Housman subsidized the book, which sold well and remains in print to this day. Housman said that his main influences were "Shakespeare's songs, the Scottish Border ballads, and Heine." Gay and an atheist, Housman was one of the strongest voices of early modernism. Ernest Dowson publishes Verses. The introduction of radio technology. The births of the Irish poet Austin Clarke (1896-1974) and the English poet Edmund Blunden (1896-1974), the latter best known as a war poet. William Butler Yeats attends a sιance and is introduced to Lady Gregory, who becomes his patron. Thomas Hardy's last novel, Jude the Obscure, is considered "shocking" and he turns to poetry for the last 30 years of his life. H. G. Wells writes The Island of Dr. Moreau. Edwin Arlington Robinson self-publishes his first book, The Torrent and the Night Before. Alfred Austin is appointed the thirteenth British Poet Laureate. Ezra Pound has his first publication, a political limerick about William Jennings Bryan in the Jenkintown Times-Chronicle ("by E. L. Pound, Wyncote, aged 11 years").

1897 — Stephen Crane's autobiographical The Open Boat. John Philip Sousa composes "Stars and Stripes Forever" and more than 100 popular marches. 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. H. G. Wells writes the early science fiction novel The Invisible Man. Edwin Arlington Robinson publishes Children of the Night. Ernest Dowson's one-act verse play, The Pierrot of the Minute. Rudyard Kipling publishes Captains Courageous.

1898 — Alfred Noyes enters Exeter College, Oxford. Thomas Hardy's Wessex Poems. Oscar Wilde's long poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. H. G. Wells writes The War of the Worlds. The birth of the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956); among his many accomplishments he would write the hit song "Mack the Knife." The birth of the English poet, critic and editor Edgell Rickword (1898-1982). The death of Lewis Carroll.

1899 — Ernest Dowson's Decorations: in Verse and Prose. Dowson would be a major influence on T. S. Eliot, and thus on modernism. Dowson is the first writer to mention "soccer." Dowson also translated Les Liaisons Dangereuses into English. Allen Tate (1899-1979) and Hart Crane (1899-1932), both American poets, are born. The death of Stephen Crane. Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" is published and becomes the first ragtime hit with over 100,000 copies sold. Duke Ellington is born. William Butler Yeats and his patron Lady Gregory are founders of the Irish Literary Theatre. Rudyard Kipling begins work on Just So Stories. Joseph Conrad writes Heart of Darkness, which will inspire the movie Apocalypse Now.

1900 — William Butler Yeats publishes The Shadowy Waters. The birth of the American poet and critic Yvor Winters (1900-1968). Joseph Conrad writes Lord Jim. Thomas Hardy pens "The Darkling Thrush" and dates it December 31, 1900, which he considers to be the last day of the old century. Queen Victoria dies a few days later, marking the end of the Victorian Era. The publication of Stephen Crane's second poetry collection, War Is Kind. The death of Stephen Crane at age 28. Sigmund Freud publishes Interpretation of Dreams, which would become an important influence on the Modernists. "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" is written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and later set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1905. Charles Albert Tindley pens lyrics that will eventually become the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome." The birth of the British modernist poet Basil Bunting (1900-1985); his best-known work would be the long autobiographical poem Briggflatts, published in 1966. Mina Loy, around age 18, studies art in Paris.

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

Early Modernism and the Edwardian Period (1901-1910)

Thomas Hardy has been called "the first essentially twentieth-century poet" because he was an atheist familiar with Einstein and Darwin who wrote poems stripped of superstition and dogma.

1901 — Approximate beginning time for American country music and jazz as popular music. Sears, Roebuck and Co. is selling record players to the public, setting the stage for the coming explosion of 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. The birth of the American poet Laura Riding (1901-1991) and the South African poet Roy Campbell (1901-1957). Rudyard Kipling publishes Kim. King Edward VII assumes the British throne, beginning the Edwardian Period. Ezra Pound, the future prime mover of English modernism, enters the University of Pennsylvania at age fifteen. There he meets the poet Hilda Doolittle, aka H.D., who becomes his first serious love interest.

1902 — Thomas Hardy publishes Poems of the Past and Present. Alfred Noyes publishes The Loom of Years but fails to graduate from Oxford when he meets with his publisher during finals! His book is praised by W. B. Yeats and George Meredith. 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." E. E. Cummings begins writing poems on a daily basis at age eight. Victor Records issues the first known recording of black music, "Camp Meeting Shouts." Pianist Jelly Roll Morton claims to have invented jazz this year. Buddy Bolden is another candidate, as he creates a fusion of blues and ragtime. Henry James publishes The Wings of the Dove. Rainer Maria Rilke meets the sculptor Rodin and will become his personal secretary. Rudyard Kipling publishes Just So Stories. Edwin Arlington Robinson publishes a verse novel, Captain Craig. T. E. Hulme enters St. John's College, Cambridge but is expelled over a scandal involving a Roedean girl. Arthur Collins has a musical hit with Bill Bailey. The birth of the American poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967) and the English poet and critic Michael Roberts (1902-1948).

1903 — Wilbur and Orville Wright fly the first airplane at Kitty Hawk. Alfred Noyes publishes The Flower of Old Japan. William Butler Yeats publishes In the Seven Woods. 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." George Bernard Shaw's play Man and Superman. Henry James publishes The Ambassadors. Samuel Butler's posthumous novel The Way of All Flesh "attacked all the major doctrines of his day."

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. Henry James publishes The Golden Bowl. The births of the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967) and the Anglo-Irish poet C. Day-Lewis (1904-1972), the father of the actor Sir Daniel Day-Lewis. The birth of the American objectivist poet Louis Zukofsky (1904-1978). Billy Murray has a musical hit with Meet Me in St. Louis.

1905 — Albert Einstein presents his Special Theory of Relativity. Time and space were no longer infinite or absolute; everything was suddenly relative. 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. George Bernard Shaw's play Major Barbara. Baroness Orczy's play The Scarlet Pimpernel runs four years in London and breaks many stage records. Orczy introduced the hero with a secret identity. Long before Batman, Superman and Zorro, there was the Scarlet Pimpernel! Ezra Pound presents Hilda Doolittle with a book of love poems titled Hilda's Book. H.D. attends Bryn Mawr College, where she meets Marianne Moore, a fellow freshman, and William Carlos Williams. Billy Murray has a musical hit with Give My Regards to Broadway. The birth of the American fugitive poet Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989).

1906 — Alfred Noyes's poem "The Highwayman" is published in Blackwood's Magazine; it would be named one of Britain's favorite poems in a 1995 BBC poll. Noyes also publishes the first volume of Drake, a 200-page blank verse epic about Sir Francis Drake. Ezra Pound's first essay, Raphaelite Latin, is published in Book News Monthly. The births of the English poet and novelist T. H. White (1906-1964), the English poet and literary critic William Empson (1906-1984), the English poet John Betjeman (1906-1984) and the American critic Cleanth Brooks (1906-1994). Thomas Hardy publishes The Dynasts II. Rupert Brooke enters Cambridge.

1907 — Les Demoiselles d'Avignon ("The Young Ladies of Avignon," originally titled "The Brothel of Avignon") is a large oil painting considered to be a work of proto-cubism that was created in 1907 by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. James Joyce's first published book is a poetry collection, Chamber Music. Sara Teasdale's Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems. The births of the Irish poet Louis MacNeice (1907-1963) and W. H. Auden (1907-1973), an English-American poet. 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. Rudyard Kipling becomes the first English language writer to win a Nobel Prize for Literature, and the youngest at age 42. H.D. becomes engaged to Ezra Pound, but her father disapproves. Pound is forced to leave a teaching position at Wabash College after offering a stranded chorus girl tea and his bed. Rainer Maria Rilke translates Elizabeth Barrett-Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese into German. Gertrude Stein meets her life partner, Alice B. Toklas.

1908 — Ezra Pound leaves America for London. Pound publishes A Lume Spento, a collection of poems he later called "stale cream puffs." Pound, a transplanted American, is considered by many to be the father of English modernism. Pound's engagement to H.D. is called off. H.D. starts a relationship with Frances Josepha Gregg, a young female art student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. William Butler Yeats publishes The Collected Works in Verse and Prose. Yeats and Maude Gonne finally consummate their relationship in Paris, but it does not last. Thomas Hardy publishes The Dynasts III. Alfred Noyes publishes the second volume of Drake. Theodore Roethke, an American poet, is born. Hart Crane begins to read the poetry of Whitman, Emerson and Browning around age nine. Alcohol is banned in North Carolina and Georgia, presaging Prohibition. Billy Murray has a musical hit with Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

1909 — Two poems published by T. E. Hulme, "Autumn" and "City Sunset," are considered to be the beginning of the early modernist movement called Imagism. Imagism "disregards the contexts of the image" and "has no conscience beyond artistic perfection." Imagism is "art for art's sake" taken to the ultimate extreme: an icy extreme, like Neptune. H.D. has her first publications in The Comrade. 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. Pound meets William Butler Yeats and becomes his secretary. Pound meets the novelist Olivia Shakespear and will eventually marry her daughter Dorothy. William Carlos Williams publishes Poems. Joseph Conrad completes The Secret Sharer. Robert Peary reaches the North Pole. The death of Algernon Charles Swinburne. John Crowe Ransom graduates first in his class at Vanderbilt University. Gertrude Stein's first book, Three Lives. The Fisk Jubilee Singers have a musical hit with Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

1910 — Rudyard Kipling writes his most famous poem and a suitable one to end the Edwardian period, "If." A. E. Housman delivers his lecture on Swinburne (it would be published in 1969). Ford Madox Ford publishes Poems from London. Charles Olson (1910-1970), an American poet, is born. The NAACP is founded. Mark Twain dies. E. M. Forster's novel Howard's End. Marie Curie isolates radium; the nuclear age is dawning. King George V assumes the British throne, beginning the Georgian Period. Virginia Woolf later writes that "in or about December 1910, human character changed." The change became known as "modernism" (one aspect of modernism is that the "complexity of modern urban life must be reflected in literary form.") John Crowe Ransom enters Christ Church, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar.

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

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

1911 — Georgian poets include Edmund Blunden, Rupert Brooke, G. K. Chesterton, W. H. Davies, John Drinkwater, Robert Graves, D. H. Lawrence, Walter de la Mare, John Masefield, Harold Monro, Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, James Stephens, Edward Thomas, and Vita Sackville-West. Some of the Georgians were called "neo-pagans" because they liked to return to nature, swim nude, sleep on the ground, etc. The poetry collection Georgian Poets 1911-1912 would be very successful. 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 his first hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Alfred Noyes publishes his only full-length play, Sherwood. It would be reissued in 1926 as Robin Hood. The birth of the American playwright Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), the American poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) and the Scottish Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean (1911-1996). A. E. Housman takes the Kennedy Professorship of Latin at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he will remain for the rest of his life. Housman would gain renown for his editions of the Roman poets Juvenal, Lucan, and Manilius. Isaac Rosenberg studies art at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. D. H. Lawrence publishes his first novel The White Peacock.

1912 — Harriet Monroe founds the literary journal Poetry, influenced by Ezra Pound as a foreign editor. In England the trio of Pound, H.D. and Richard Aldington work out the principles of Imagist poetry; they call themselves the "three original Imagists." Pound appends H. D. Imagiste to some of H.D.'s poems. The first Imagist poems and essays appear in Poetry. Ironically "modernism" involved retreats to the past: Pound looked back to Confucius; T. S. Eliot to Dante; James Joyce to Homer; Lawrence to primitive tribes. The Titanic sinks, inspiring Thomas Hardy's poem "The Convergence of the Twain." Rudyard Kipling publishes his 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," pianist W. C. Handy, publishes "Memphis Blues" and helps inaugurate a new style based on rural black folk music. Isaac Rosenberg publishes his first poetry collection, a pamphlet of ten poems, Night and Day. Robert Frost moves to England and publishes A Boy's Will the next year. Amy Lowell publishes her first book, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass.

1913 — Ezra Pound's manifesto and anthology Des Imagistes. Notable imagist poets included were Pound, T. E. Hulme, F. S. Flint, H. D., Richard Aldington, Amy Lowell and James Joyce. H.D. marries Aldington. Harold Monro founds the Poetry Bookshop in London, where 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 is later used on the artist's 1916-1945 Mercury dime design. Rabindranath Tagore is awarded the Nobel prize in literature. Alfred Noyes publishes a long anti-war poem, The Wine Press, and lectures on disarmament and world peace in the US. D.H. Lawrence publishes the novel Sons and Lovers and the poetry collection Love Poems and Others. The word "jazz" first appears in print. Igor Stravinsky's avant-garde musical composition and ballet The Rite of Spring nearly causes a riot! Robert Bridges is appointed the fourteenth British Poet Laureate. Ezra Pound becomes dissatisfied with the work of other Imagists and founds a new movement called Vorticism (1913-1918). Edith Sitwell publishes her first poem, "The Drowned Suns," in the Daily Mirror. "Danny Boy" is a ballad written by English songwriter Frederic Weatherly that was set to the Irish tune of the "Londonderry Air." Robinson Jeffers marries his "hawk-like" wife Una and begins building a rugged tower on the Carmel seacoast.

1914 — Great Britain enters World War I by declaring war on Germany. Famous war poets would include Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg, Edmund Blunden, Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen. Blunden publishes Poems 1913 and 1914. Brooke enlists in the Royal Navy and produces five war sonnets titled "Nineteen Fourteen." The fifth sonnet becomes his best-known poem, "The Soldier." The sonnets make Brooke immediately famous. The Panama Canal opens to commercial traffic. Ezra Pound marries the English artist Dorothy Shakespear at St. Mary Abbots church, Kensington, London. Far from well off, the newlyweds move into an apartment with no bathroom. Pound's former flame H.D. and her husband Richard Aldington live next door. T. S. Eliot meets Pound for the first time, in London. Pound is particularly taken with Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and writes that Eliot "actually trained and modernized himself on his own." Pound and Eliot would become leading voices of English modernism. With Pound's help James Joyce publishes Dubliners, a collection of short stories. BLAST, a short-lived literary magazine of the Vorticist movement, debuts with the publication of the first of its two editions, edited by Wyndham Lewis in collaboration with Pound. BLAST covers "Cubism, Futurism, Imagisme and all Vital Forms of Modern Art". However, there is dissension in the Imagist ranks. When the wealthy Amy Lowell agrees to finance an anthology of Imagist poets, Pound's work is not included. Upset at Lowell, he begins to call Imagisme "Amygism" and in July he declares the movement dead and asks the group not to call themselves Imagists. They dissent, not believing the movement was Pound's invention. Edward Thomas makes the English railway journey which inspires his poem "Adlestrop" to meet Robert Frost. Frost encourages Thomas to write poetry. Frost publishes North of Boston. 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. Carl Sandburg publishes "Chicago" in Poetry. Wallace Stevens, getting a late start at age 35, publishes poems in Poetry as Peter Parasol. William Butler Yeats publishes Responsibilities. Alfred Noyes begins teaching at Princeton despite not having graduated from Oxford. The births of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) and the American poets Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) and John Berryman (1914-1972). W.C. Handy writes "St. Louis Blues." Isaac Rosenberg exhibits paintings at the Whitechapel Gallery. His portraits have been called "powerful" and his style "bold." Mina Loy writes her Feminist Manifesto. Hart Crane has a homosexual "interaction" around age 15 and tries to commit suicide twice. John Crowe Ransom returns to Vanderbilt University as a professor in the English department. Franz Kafka begins work on The Trial, which will be published in 1925.

1915 — Rupert Brooke dies from blood poisoning caused by an insect bite. The second and last issue of BLAST includes the first poems of T. S. Eliot to be published in England. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is published with the help of Ezra Pound by Poetry. Pound publishes Cathay and completes the first section of his Cantos. Wallace Stevens publishes "Sunday Morning" in Poetry. Marianne Moore has her first professionally published poems in Poetry and The Egoist. Virginia Woolf publishes her first novel, The Voyage Out. Herbert Read publishes Songs of Chaos. John McCrea publishes "In Flanders Fields." Edgar Lee Masters publishes Spoon River Anthology. Isaac Rosenberg publishes his second poetry collection, Youth. But driven by poverty, Rosenberg enlists and enters a war he opposes. Wilfred Owen enlists in the Artists' Rifles. E. E. Cummings graduates magna cum laude from Harvard. Billie Holliday, an African-American singer, is born. Franz Kafka publishes his surrealist short novel Metamorphosis. Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. James Joyce writes his only play, Exiles.

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." Yeats also writes one of his loveliest poems, "The Wild Swans at Coole" at the Coole Park estate of his patron Lady Gregory. Robert Frost's Mountain Interval includes his famous poem "The Road Not Taken," written about Edward Thomas, and the "incomparable" poem "Birches." Carl Sandburg publishes Chicago Poems, including his best-known poem, "Chicago." With Ezra Pound's help James Joyce publishes his autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. W. H. Davies publishes Selected Poems. John Ciardi, an American poet, is born. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia will have worldwide repercussions. George Bernard Shaw's popular play Pygmalion. The very first reported blues show was in 1916, on Ashley Street in Jacksonville; the performer was Ma Rainey. E. E. Cummings receives a Master of Arts degree from Harvard. Isaac Rosenberg publishes Moses: A Play. Charlotte Mew publishes The Farmer's Bride, which includes the eerie title poem. Edwin Arlington Robinson has his first major success with his poetry collection The Man Against the Sky. Isaac Rosenberg is sent to the western front in France. Poetry Magazine publishes two of his war poems: "Break of Day in the Trenches" and "Marching." Siegfried Sassoon, nicknamed "Mad Jack" for his bravery and recklessness, is awarded the British Military Cross. Sassoon meets Wilfred Owen at Craiglockhart War Hospital, where the poets are both being treated for shell shock. They become friends and Sassoon suggests changes to Owen's poem "Anthem for Doomed Youth." While on leave Robert Graves meets T. S. Eliot. Graves publishes his first book of poems, Over the Brazier. H.D. publishes her first book, Sea Garden. Mina Loy meets and falls in love with the poet-boxer Arthur Cravan. They would marry in 1918, but he would be lost at sea before their daughter was born. Hart Crane drops out of high school in Ohio and moves to New York City where he works as an advertising salesman for a poetry magazine. He returns to Cleveland when he is unable to support himself financially in New York. Crane publishes his first poem, "C33," in Bruno’s Weekly at age 17. The basis for the poem was the imprisonment of the poet Oscar Wilde for homosexuality. Wilde's prison cell number was C33. Edith Sitwell holds court in London and edits Wheels, an avant-garde periodical. The birth of the English poet David Gascoyne (1916-2001).

1917 — The U.S. enters World War I and begins to increasingly 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. Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves meet at Craiglockhart military hospital, where they are treated for shell shock. When William Butler Yeats proposes to Maude Gonne and is rejected yet again, he then proposes to her daughter Iseult Gonne, and is also rejected! Edward Arlington Robinson publishes Merlin. Isaac Rosenberg writes "Dead Man's Dump" during a period in which he is delivering barbed wire to the front. T. E. Hulme is killed by a shell in West Flanders. T. S. Eliot takes a position with Lloyds Bank in London. Eliot and H. D. take over editorship of the Egoist from Richard Aldington. Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry, considers "Choricos" to be be Aldington's best poem and publishes it in The New Poetry: An Anthology. Aldington is wounded on the Western Front and may have suffered from undiagnosed PTSD as a result. Ezra Pound's Homage to Sextus Propertius is a "crucial stepping stone" toward his major work, the Cantos. The first three cantos appear in Poetry. The birth of the American poet Robert Lowell (1917-1977) into a prominent Boston family that could trace its history back to the Mayflower. He was related to the poets Amy Lowell and James Russell Lowell. Nora Bayes has a musical hit with Over There.

1918 — Wilfred Owen writes "Futility," "Strange Meeting" and his graphic anti-war poem, "Dulce et Decorum Est." He dies just one week before the armistice that ends WWI. As "indictments of war" Owen's poems "cannot be surpassed." 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. Robert Bridges publishes the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Alfred Noyes is named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his work as a reporter for the International News Service during the war. Isaac Rosenberg dies in battle and is buried in a mass grave. In 1926 he would be given an individual gravestone with the words "Buried near this spot" and "Artist and Poet." His war poems would finally be published in 1937 as The Collected Poems of Isaac Rosenberg, thanks to editors Gordon Bottomley and Denys Harding. In the book's introduction, Siegfried Sassoon called Rosenberg's poetry "biblical and prophetic." James Joyce's novel Ulysses is serialized in The Little Review. The birth of the American poet Robert Duncan (1918-1988). Al Jolson has a musical hit with Rock-a-Bye Your Baby (with a Dixie Melody). Hart Crane works as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The birth of the English poet W. S. Graham (1918-1986).

1919 — The first nonstop transatlantic flight. George Gershwin's first and biggest hit song is "Swanee." It is introduced by the singer Al Jolson, famous for performing in blackface. The Original Dixieland Jass Band performs in London. The Harlem Renaissance (1919-1940) was led by Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and James Weldon Jones. Paul Dunbar was a major influence. Physicist Ernest Rutherford, known as the father of nuclear physics, discovers a way to split atoms. Siegfried Sassoon publishes War Poems. William Butler Yeats publishes The Wild Swans at Coole, his "first great modern collection" of poems. John Crowe Ransom's first book, Poems about God.

1920 — Edna St. Vincent Millay's "First Fig." Women's suffrage is adopted in the U.S. Siegfried Sassoon and Edith Sitwell publish Wilfred Owen's poems. posthumously. D. H. Lawrence publishes the novel Women in Love. H.D. has an affair and travels with the wealthy English novelist Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman); they will live together until 1946, sometimes sleeping with the same men. Ezra Pound publishes Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. The poem has been called autobiographical and his farewell to England. Pound moves to Paris, where he would become friends with Ernest Hemingway, Basil Bunting, Marcel Duchamp, and other figures of note. The birth of the American poet Amy Clampitt (1920-1994). A group of Vanderbilt teachers and students begin meeting at the home of James M. Frank and Sydney Hirsch on Whitland Avenue in Nashville. They will become known as the Fugitives. Members included John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Donald Davidson, Merrill Moore and Robert Penn Warren. Jazz is made popular by musicians like Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. Al Jolson has a musical hit with Swanee. 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." The recording was supervised by Ralph Peer of Okeh Records. Peer was a wide-ranging recording engineer who from 1920 to 1924 apparently produced the first commercial records in the following music genres: blues, jazz, country and gospel. Peer became music's first field engineer: he would set up a makeshift recording studio in an empty ballroom, warehouse or even a barn loft!

1921 — Langston Hughes attends Columbia University but leaves due to racism. He publishes "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" in The Crisis while still in his teens. Elizabeth Bridges publishes Sonnets from Hafez and other Verses. Yvor Winters publishes his first book of poems, Diadems and Faggots. Adolf Hitler is elected leader of the Nazi Party in Germany. William Butler Yeats publishes Michael Robartes and the Dancer. Marianne Moore's first book, Poems, is published without her permission by H.D. and her partner, the British novelist Bryher. Hart Crane publishes his poem "Chaplinesque." Edgell Rickword publishes Behind the Eyes. The birth of the English poet Donald Davie (1922-1995).

1922 — T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land (perhaps the major poem of English modernism) is published after edits suggested by Ezra Pound. Eliot founds the Criterion. James Joyce publishes Ulysses (perhaps the major novel of English modernism). Edward Arlington Robinson wins the first Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. William Butler Yeats becomes a senator of the Irish Free State. E. E. Cummings publishes his novel The Enormous Room about his experiences in France, where he was held in a French military detention camp for expressing anti-war views. F. Scott Fitzgerald praised the book, saying: "Of all the work by young men who have sprung up since 1920 one book survives—The Enormous Room by e e cummings." Rainer Maria Rilke completes the Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus. These are considered to be Rilke's masterpieces. A. E. Housman publishes Last Poems. James Joyce's novel Ulysses is published in Paris. Hart Crane publishes "For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen." W. H. Auden begins writing poems at age 15. The jazz pianist William "Count" Basie makes his first recordings. The first commercial recordings of 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." Trixie Smith, the "Southern Nightingale," records the first secular blues song to combine the terms "rock" and "roll" with "My Man Rocks Me (with One Steady Roll). Fanny Brice has a musical hit with Second Hand Rose. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is founded.

1923 — Wallace Stevens publishes his first poetry collection, Harmonium, at age 44. William Carlos Williams's Spring and All includes "The Red Wheelbarrow." E. E. Cummings' first poetry collection, Tulips and Chimneys, is marked by his eclectic grammar, punctuation, capitalization, typography and syntax. It includes poems like "in Just-" and "the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls." William Butler Yeats is awarded 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 hillbilly music of Fiddlin' John Carson in an empty loft in Atlanta. Two of Carson's early recording would sell a million records each, causing Peer to look for more "hillbilly" stars to record. In an interesting synchronicity, Hiram King "Hank" Williams is born in Olive, Alabama. He will become country music's greatest icon and most imitated performer. Mina Loy publishes The Lunar Baedeker. Hugh MacDiarmid publishes his first book, Annals of the Five Senses, at his own expense. The birth of the English poet Denise Levertov (1923-1998). Hart Crane falls in love with Emil Opffer, a Danish sailor, and writes "Voyages," an erotic poetic sequence in praise of love’s transforming powers. It has been called Crane's best work and the best love poem in the English language by Michael R. Burch.

1924 — The births of the American writer and social critic James Baldwin (1924-1987) and the American poet Edgar Bowers (1924-2000). Robert Frost wins the first of his four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. Robinson Jeffers' poem "Shine, Perishing Republic." E. M. Forster writes his best-known novel, A Passage to India. Ezra Pound moves to Rapallo, Italy. His mistress, Olga Rudge, pregnant with his daughter Mary, follows him to Rapallo. There he works on his Cantos in earnest. Edith Sitwell publishes her autobiographical poetry collection The Sleeping Beauty. William Walton sets her Facade sequence of poems to music. George Gershwin has a musical hit with Rhapsody in Blue.

1925 — E. E. Cummings publishes XLI Poems. Langston Hughes meets Vachel Lindsay and has poems in The New Negro at age 23. Hughes wins the Witter Bynner Undergraduate Poetry Prize. W. H. Auden enters Christ Church, Oxford. The death of Amy Lowell. 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 folk blues. Virginia Woolf publishes Mrs. Dalloway. Franz Kafka's The Trial is published. William Butler Yeats publishes A Vision. William Empson wins a scholarship to Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he will study under I. A. Richards. However, Empson will be expelled after condoms are found among his possessions! T. S. Eliot takes a position as director of the publishing firm Faber & Gwyer (later Faber & Faber). Eliot publishes The Hollow Men. Ezra Pound publishes XVI Cantos. C. Day-Lewis publishes his first book of poems, Beechen Vigil, at age 21. Ma Rainey has a hit with See See Rider Blues. The New Yorker magazine is founded by Harold Ross and Jane Grant.

1926 — The birth of the American poets Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) and W. D. Snodgrass (1926-2009). Langston Hughes' first poetry book, The Weary Blues. Hart Crane's first poetry book, White Buildings ("white" was Crane's most-used adjective, according to an essay by Alfred Dorn). Included were Crane's "Voyages," a sequence of erotic love poems. Columbia Records acquires Okeh Records, adding jazz and blues artists like Louis Armstrong and Clarence Williams to a roster that already included Bessie Smith. The death of Rainer Maria Rilke. Amy Lowell wins the Pulitzer Prize posthumously. Laura Riding publishes her first collection of poetry, The Close Chaplet. She joins Robert Graves and his wife Nancy in Cairo, where Graves teaches a young Gamel Abdel Nasser. Graves leaves his wife for Riding; together they found and edit the literary journal Epilogue and write two influential academic books together: A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927) and A Pamphlet Against Anthologies (1928). Yvor Winters marries the poet and novelist Janet Lewis. Louis MacNeice enters Oxford, where he will meet W. H Auden, C. Day-Lewis, Stephen Spender and John Betjeman. Hugh MacDiarmid publishes his most famous and influential long poem, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle.

1927 — Langston Hughes publishes "Mulatto," a poem about a multiracial son confronting his white father. 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. Ralph Peer of Okeh records Jimmy Rogers and the Carter family on the same day in what are now called the Bristol Sessions. Rogers has a hit with "Blue Yodel," better known as "T for Texas" and is catapulted to stardom. The Carters would employ a black man to find "black" tunes for them to use. It would be this convergence of black music and country music that would eventually "fuse" into rock 'n' roll in the hands of artists like Elvis Presley. Virginia Woolf publishes her novel To the Lighthouse. Wyndham Lewis's play The Wild Body. The birth of the American poet John Ashbery (1927-2017) and the British poet Charles Tomlinson (1927-2015). The death of Charlotte Mew, who committed suicide by drinking Lysol. Edward Arlington Robinson publishes Launcelot and Tristram (a best-seller). James Joyce publishes his second poetry collection, Poems Penyeach. Hoagy Charmichael has a hit with Stardust. The first "speaking motion picture," The Jazz Singer, is released.

1928 — Edward Arlington Robinson wins his third Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Virginia Woolf publishes her gender-bending novel Orlando. D. H. Lawrence publishes Lady Chatterley's Lover in Italy; the racy book is called obscene. Edmund Blunden publishes Undertones of War about his experiences as a soldier. Thomas Hardy dies and is buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. The first complete edition of the Oxford English Dictionary is published. The entire project has taken 71 years (see the entry for 1857). William Empson's first villanelle is published in the Cambridge Review. Empson "almost single-handedly smuggled the villanelle into serious twentieth-century poetry." William Butler Yeats publishes The Tower. W. H. Auden's first book of poems, titled Poems, is hand-printed in pamphlet form by Stephen Spender. The births of the American confessional poet Anne Sexton (1928-1974) and the Irish poet Thomas Kinsella (1928-). John Betjeman leaves Oxford without a degree and with animosity for his tutor, a young C. S. Lewis. However, John Betjeman did meet Auden and Louis MacNeice while at Oxford; both would influence his work. Bertolt Brecht writes the German lyrics to the song "Mack the Knife" for his Threepenny Opera; the song will be a blockbuster hit for Bobby Darin in 1959. The birth of Antoine "Fats" Domino, whose song "The Fat Man" has been nominated as the first rock 'n' roll song. Recorded in 1949, it would become rock's first million-seller by 1951.

1929 — The Great Depression cripples the American economy, hurting the sales of books, phonographs and records. Virginia Woolf publishes her book-length essay A Room of One's Own. William Faulkner publishes The Sound and the Fury. Ernest Hemingway publishes A Farewell to Arms. Charlotte Mew's The Rambling Sailor is published posthumously. T. H. White publishes a book of poems, Loved Helen. D. H. Lawrence publishes the poetry collection Pansies. Louis MacNeice publishes Blind Fireworks as an undergraduate. Laura Riding attempts suicide by jumping from a fourth-floor window and suffers life-threatening injuries; unable to stop her, Robert Graves also jumps but is uninjured. Elizabeth Bishop enters Vassar College. Graves has his first popular book with his autobiographical novel Good-bye to All That. The birth of the English poet Thom Gunn (1929-2004).

1930 — Langston Hughes publishes his first novel, Not Without Laughter. He is already being called "the bard of Harlem" for his jazz- and blues-poetry. Hughes is also working to develop black theaters in Harlem, Chicago and Los Angeles. His first play will be published in 1931. Hart Crane's poetry collection 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, but he dropped out of school at age 16. T. S. Eliot publishes "Ash Wednesday." At age 24, William Empson publishes his best-known book of literary criticism, Seven Types of Ambiguity. After marrying Ali Akbar Daryush, Elizabeth Bridges publishes Verses and subsequent books as Elizabeth Daryush. John Masefield  is appointed the fifteenth British Poet Laureate. Hart Crane receives a Guggenheim Fellowship and moves to Mexico to write an epic poem about Cortez's campaign against the Aztecs. In Mexico he has his only known heterosexual relationship, with Peggy Cowley. Robert Penn Warren, a Rhodes Scholar, earns a Bachelor of Letters degree from New College, Oxford. W. H. Auden's updated Poems is published by T. S. Eliot through Faber & Faber.

1931 — Langston Hughes publishes his first play, Mule Bone. E. E. Cummings writes the great modernist anti-war poem "i sing of Olaf glad and big." Robert Frost wins his second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The birth of the American poet George Starbuck (1931-1996). William Carlos Williams, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen and Louis Zukofsky unite to create the short-lived Objectivist movement.

1932 — The birth of the English poet Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016), the son of a police constable. The birth of the American confessional poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963). Hart Crane publishes The Broken Tower, then commits suicide by jumping overboard into the Gulf of Mexico.

1933 — A. E. Housman gives a lecture, "The Name and Nature of Poetry", in which he argues that poetry should appeal to the emotions rather than to the intellect and condemns the "difficult" poetry of the Metaphysicals. Archibald MacLeish wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. H.D. travels to Vienna to undergo analysis with Sigmund Freud. Ezra Pound sees fascism as the solution to "usury" and meets with Benito Mussolini. Gertrude Stein publishes The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, which vaults her from obscurity into the international limelight. T. S. Eliot publishes several poems by Louis MacNeice in The Criterion. The birth of the British literary critic and scholar Christopher Ricks (1933-). Ethel Waters has a hit with Stormy Weather.

1934 — Adolf Hitler becomes dictator of Germany. Yvor Winters earns a PhD from Stanford, where he becomes a member of the English faculty for the rest of his life. Wallace Stevens becomes a vice president of the Hartford insurance company. Elizabeth Bishop graduates from Vassar and meets Marianne Moore, who will become a friend and an influence. Dylan Thomas catches the attention of T. S. Eliot and Stephen Spender and some of his teenage poems are published as 18 Poems.

1935 — The death of Edward Arlington Robinson. T. S. Eliot, via Faber and Faber, publishes Louis MacNeice's Poems and Marianne Moore's Selected Poems. Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks found The Southern Review. Randall Jarrell graduates magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University. W. H. Auden and Chris Isherwood, lovers, collaborate on three plays and a travel book from 1935 to 1939. The Carter Family has a country hit with Can the Circle be Unbroken? The birth of Elvis Presley (1935-1977), who would be called the "King of Rock 'n' Roll" and described as "electricity beyond comprehension." For teenagers, listening to Elvis sing songs like "Hound Dog" and gyrate his hips was "like sticking your finger in an electric socket." He would also be called "Elvis the Pelvis" and would have to be shot only from the waist up to protect the purity of American females.

1936 — Debut of the electric guitar; the dawn of the rock 'n' roll age. Legendary Delta bluesman Robert Johnson begins his short recording career. The death of A. E. Housman; his More Poems is released posthumously. Rudyard Kipling dies and is buried at the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. King George V dies, ending the Georgian Period. William Butler Yeats publishes Last Poems. Patrick Kavanagh publishes Ploughman and Other Poems. The birth of the British poet and academic J. H. Prynne (1936-). Billie Holiday has a hit with Summertime.

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. Edward Arlington Robinson's Collected Poems are published posthumously. Faber publishes In Parenthesis, an epic poem based on David Jones' first seven months in the trenches of WWI. W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice collaborate on Letters from Iceland. The birth of the British poet John Riley (1937-1978). John Crowe Ransom accepts a position at Kenyon College and becomes the first editor of the Kenyon Review.

1938 — T. H. White publishes The Sword in the Stone, the first book in The Once and Future King series. Nausea, a novel by Jean-Paul Sartre, is “steeped in existential ideas.” Roy Acuff has a country hit with Wabash Cannonball.

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 was presumably not included.) William Butler Yeats dies at age 73. W. H. Auden and Chris Isherwood leave England for the United States. Auden writes his elegy "In Memory of W. B. Yeats." A. E. Housman's Complete Poems are published posthumously. James Joyce publishes the novel Finnegans Wake. Ezra Pound sails for New York, believing he can stop America's involvement in World War II. Disappointed, he returns to Italy, beings writing antisemitic propaganda, and signs off a letter to James Laughlin with "Heil Hitler." Laura Riding and Robert Graves break up. Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks publish Understanding Poetry. Roy Campbell eulogizes Franco in Flowering Rifle. Judy Garland has a hit with Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Billie Holiday has a much darker hit with Strange Fruit.

1940 — Sylvia Plath has her first poem published, at age eight! Edith Sitwell writes her best-known poem, "Still Falls the Rain," during the London Blitz. Alfred Noyes writes a science fiction novel, The Last Man, which introduces the "doomsday weapon." Ezra Pound is doing regular radio broadcasts in Italy in which he blasts the US and Jews. Robert Lowell graduates from Kenyon College with a degree in classics after spending two years at Harvard, then living in a tent on the property of the poet Allen Tate in Nashville for two months! He later followed Tate and John Crowe Ransom to Kenyon. Randall Jarrell follows John Crowe Ransom to Kenyon, where he meets Lowell. Jarrell and Lowell would become good friends. Jarrell and John Berryman are published in Five Young American Poets.

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. The death of James Joyce. Laura Riding marries, becoming Laura Riding Jackson, then renounces poetry. The Andrews Sisters have a hit with Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. John Crowe Ransom's influential collection of essays, The New Criticism, is published. Ransom maintained argued that literary critics should regard poems as aesthetic objects. The birth of the American poet John Peck (1941-).

1942 — Wallace Stevens's "Of Modern Poetry." John Berryman's first book, Poems. Berryman marries and lectures at Harvard. Alfred Noyes writes The Edge of the Abyss. George Orwell reviews the book, which is believed to have influenced his novel 1984. The first award of a gold record for a million-selling hit goes to Glenn Miller for "Chatanooga Choo-Choo." Randall Jarrell enlists in the Air Force. His most famous poem, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," was probably based on his experience as a flying cadet and navigation tower operator. Jarrell's first book of poems, Blood for A Stranger. The birth of the American poet Sharon Olds (1942-). The Stranger by Albert Camus is an important existentialist novel. Bing Crosby has the number one hit of all time with White Christmas.

1943 — Robert Frost wins his fourth Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Allen Tate is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Allen Ginsberg graduates from the high school where he fell under the spell of Walt Whitman's poetry. Ezra Pound is accused of treason.

1944 — Stephen Vincent Benet wins his second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Robert Penn Warren is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Tennessee Williams has a hit play with The Glass Menagerie.

1945 — The end of World War II. Louise Bogan is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Allen Ginsberg joins the Merchant Marine in order to pay his tuition at pricey Columbia University. At Columbia, Ginsberg meets other writers who will eventually become known as the Beats, including Lucien Carr, Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. Dylan Thomas will make over a hundred broadcasts for the BBC, including poetry readings, critiques and discussions. He was becoming a celebrity performer. The birth of the English poet Wendy Cope (1945-).

1946 — Elizabeth Bishop's first poetry collection, North & South, includes one of her most famous poems, "The Fish." Dylan Thomas's popular poem "Fern Hill." William Carlos Williams publishes Paterson Book I. 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." Johnny Mercer has a hit with Personality. Nat King Cole has a hit with I Love You (for Sentimental Reasons).

1947 — Robert Lowell wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry at age 30 for Lord Weary's Castle and is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Randall Jarrell introduces Lowell to Elizabeth Bishop: they would become friends and exchange letters and poems, including famously "The Armadillo" and "Skunk Hour." Robert Penn Warren wins the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for his novel All the King's Men. Bluesman T-Bone Walker plays electric guitar on "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. Tennessee Williams has another hit play with A Streetcar Named Desire, which becomes a major motion picture starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. The Plague by Albert Camus. The birth of the Scottish poet Veronica Forrest-Thomson (1947-1975). Woody Guthrie has a folk hit with This Land is Your Land.

1948 — T. S. Eliot wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. W. H. Auden wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Robert Graves publishes his influential book The White Goddess. Leonie Adams is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Columbia Records introduces the LP ("long playing") vinyl record, or "album." Allen Ginsberg has his "auditory vision" of William Blake; Ginsberg would become the foremost Beat poet. Charles Olson becomes a visiting professor at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he would work with poets Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan and artist/composer John Cage. Nat King Cole has a hit with Nature Boy. Omaha, Nebraska jump blues shouter Wynonie Harris reaches #1 on the US Rhythm & Blues (R&B) Chart with the song Good Rocking Tonight. Written and released by Roy Brown in 1947 the song is considered one of the many contenders for first rock 'n' roll song.

1949 — Elizabeth Bishop is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. John Ashbery graduates from Harvard and will soon help give birth to the New York School of poets along with Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest and James Schuyler. RCA Victor creates the 45-rpm record. This vinyl disc with the big hole in the middle would become the standard for hit singles and jukebox play. Hank Williams Sr. makes his debut on the Grand Ole Opry and has country hits with Lovesick Blues and I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. Jerry Wexler, a Billboard editor, coins the term "rhythm and blues" as a substitute for the older term "race records." Goree Carter records Rock Awhile. The song fails to chart, but Carter's over-driven guitar style has historians making the case for it as the first rock 'n' roll song. Rock This Joint by Jimmy Preston is another candidate. Bill Haley would cover the song and it seems like a clear influence on Rock Around the Clock. Fats Domino has a third candidate with "The Fat Man" which would become rock's first million-seller by 1951.

1950 — Conrad Aiken is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Sylvia Plath has her first national publication just after graduating from high school, and enters Smith College. Geoffrey Hill enters Keble College, Oxford. The death of Edgar Lee Masters. The birth of the American poet Jorie Graham (1950-). Charles Olson writes his "Projectivist Verse" essay. Projectivist poets would include Olson, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov. Nat King Cole tops the charts with Mona Lisa. Little Richard is an electric star. Sam Phillips opens the Memphis Recording Service and begins recording electric blues and R&B artists like Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King and Ike Turner. Phillips later starts his own record label, Sun Records, and has commercial success with Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. 

1951 — Langston Hughes publishes Montage of a Dream Deferred. Carl Sandburg wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. W. D. Snodgrass has his first poems published at age 25. Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed uses the term "rock 'n' roll" to promote R&B to white audiences. Nat King Cole has a hit with Unforgettable. Ike Turner's band records Rocket 88 at the Memphis Recording Service. With distorted guitar sounds the song tops the R&B charts and is considered a strong contender for the first rock 'n' roll record.

1952 — Dylan Thomas's famous villanelle for his dying father, "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night." He also made his first recordings on vinyl. Thomas's original recording of A Child's Christmas in Wales has been credited with launching the audiobook in the U.S. William Carlos Williams is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress but is barred from serving due to McCarthyism. David Jones publishes The Anathemata, a dramatic-symbolic anatomy of Western culture, which he considered his most important work. W. H. Auden considered it to be the best long poem written in English in the 20th century. Kitty Wells has the first No. 1 Billboard country hit for a solo female artist. She was also the first female singer to sell a million records. Sam Phillips founds Sun Records. B.B. King has his first R&B hit with "Three O'Clock Blues."

1953 — Archibald MacLeish wins his second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. John F. Kennedy marries Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and the American Camelot has its royal wedding. Sylvia Plath attempts suicide for the first time. Randall Jarrell's book Poetry and the Age helps establish him as a literary critic of note, and perhaps the best of his era. The birth of the American poet Mark Doty (1953-). The death of Dylan Thomas. The Orioles have a doo-wop hit with Cryin' in the Chapel. Alabama blues shouter Big Mama Thornton enjoys seven weeks at #1 on the R&B charts with the single Hound Dog, the first song written and produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. 

1954 — Bill Haley and the Comets have (perhaps) 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. Elvis has been described as "electricity beyond comprehension." Theodore Roethke wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Wallace Stevens's Collected Poems. The Crew-Cuts have a doo-wop hit with Sh-Boom (Life Could be a Dream). The pop charts are all over the place with Elvis and Big Joe Turner, but also Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Andy Griffith and even Eddie Fisher singing Oh My Papa.

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 and Bo Diddley. Little Richard's Tutti Frutti. 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. Tennessee Williams has another hit play with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which becomes a major motion picture starring Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. Sylvia Plath graduates from Smith College and enters Cambridge as a Fulbright scholar. Austin Clark's poetry collection Ancient Lights.

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 scream and swoon. His album Elvis Presley is the first rock album to top the charts. Black artists have mainstream hits, including Nat King Cole, Fats Domino and Little Richard. Lonnie Donnegan has a hit in England, selling three million records with a skiffle version of American blues singer Leadbelly's Rock Island Line. This is the year John Lennon formed the Quarrymen and Jimmy Page first picked up a guitar. Page has been quoted saying Donnegan was "the influence" at the time. The Beatles, Stones and Led Zeppelin will soon also be doing covers of African-American songs. Sylvia Plath meets Ted Hughes at a party and bites his cheek! They get married the same year. John Ashbery is awarded the Yale Younger Poets Prize by W. H. Auden for Some Trees. John Berryman publishes Homage to Mistress Bradstreet.

1957 — San Francisco book publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti is arrested for publishing Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl." The landmark obscenity trial will lead to the end of U.S. government censorship. Richard Wilbur wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Anne Sexton meets W. D. Snodgrass, who will become her mentor. Elvis is All Shook Up and doing the Jailhouse Rock. Rockabilly star Buddy Holly and the Crickets hit the charts with That'll Be the Day. Little Richard has a hit with Lucille. The debut of American Bandstand. Sun Records artist Jerry Lee Lewis causes a stir on the Steve Allen TV show when he kicks over his piano stool during a performance of  his debut single Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On. The deaths of Wyndham Lewis and Roy Campbell.

1958 — Publication of the Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. John Betjeman's Collected Poems would sell over 100,000 copies. Robert Penn Warren wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; he is the only writer to have won Pulitzers from both poetry and fiction. Robert Frost is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Robert Lowell teaches a poetry workshop at Boston University that is attended by Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and George Starbuck. 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 introduces its Hot 100 chart. Ricky Nelson's Poor Little Fool is the first No. 1 record. The Everly Brothers have a big hit with All I Have to Do is Dream. Conway Twitty agrees with It's Only Make Believe. Elvis Presley's single Jailhouse Rock from the movie of the same name becomes the first UK single to enter the charts at #1 after having topped the US charts in December; it may also have been the first music video. Cliff Richard hears Heartbreak Hotel, emulates Elvis and becomes England's first rock star. The death of Alfred Noyes. The birth of the American poet Michael R. Burch, who would grow up listening to the Noyes poem "The Highwayman." Geoffrey Hill publishes his first poetry collection, For the Unfallen. Mina Loy publishes The Lunar Baedeker & Time-tables.

1959 — Stanley Kunitz wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Robert Lowell's book Life Studies will influence the Confessional poets and win the 1960 National Book Award. Lowell would become the best-known poet of the 1960s. M. L. Rosenthal coins the term "confessional." W. D. Snodgrass publishes the confessional poetry collection Heart's Needle. Richard Eberhart is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Berry Gordy Jr. founds the Motown record label; its future stars will include the Miracles, Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Tennessee Williams has a hit play with Sweet Bird of Youth. Bobby Darin has a hit with Mack the Knife.

1960 — W. D. Snodgrass wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Heart's Needle. Sylvia Plath publishes her first poetry book, Colossus. Anne Sexton publishes her first poetry book, To Bedlam and Part Way Back. Sam Cooke scores big with Chain Gang. Muddy Waters performs at the Newport Jazz Festival.

1961 — Sylvia Plath writes The Bell Jar. Louis Untermeyer is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Robert Graves is made Professor of Poetry at Oxford. Yvor Winters is awarded the Bollingen Prize for Poetry for his Collected Poems. William Empson publishes Milton's God, in which he opines that Milton struggled "to make his God appear less wicked" then he was in the Bible. 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. Robert Frost reads "The Gift Outright" at JFK's inauguration. The death of H.D.

1962 — Bob Zimmerman changes his name to Bob Dylan, taking his new last name from the Welsh poet 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. The Beatles release Love Me Do. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons hit the high notes on Sherry. Sylvia Plath's tormented poem "Daddy." Robert Hayden's regretful poem "Those Winter Sundays." The death of e. e. cummings, the second-most-read poet of his era, after Robert Frost, and second to none in originality. The deaths of Richard Aldington and Robinson Jeffers.

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 protest songs like Blowin' in the Wind. His album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan will prove to be very influential. Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes separate. Plath's autobiographical novel The Bell Jar is published under a pseudonym. The deaths of William Carlos Williams, Louis MacNeice, Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath, the latter by suicide as she had predicted in her poems.

1964 — Reed Whittemore is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. John Berryman publishes 77 Dream Songs, which wins the 1965 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.. 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 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! The deaths of T. H. White and Dame Edith Sitwell.

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 in his album Highway 61 Revisited and at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival (where he received 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 poem "The Armadillo." James Brown is the "godfather of soul." The deaths of T. S. Eliot and Randall Jarrell.

1966 — Basil Bunting's best-known work, the long autobiographical poem Briggflatts, is published. 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. The death of Mina Loy. Sylvia Plath's poetry collection Ariel is published posthumously, and her fame rests largely on poems like "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus."

1967 — Anne Sexton wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Lulu, Englebert Humperdink, the Sinatras, the Doors and the Rolling Stones incongruously top the charts. Dolly Parton begins singing on the Porter Wagoner show. The Beatles release their revolutionary album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Lou Reed and company, managed by Andy Warhol, released "the most prophetic rock album ever made": The Velvet Underground & Nico. The album prophesied underground, avant-garde, alt, experimental, punk, new wave and grunge bands to come. In a synchronicity, the birth of Kurt Cobain. Brian Eno later said that "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies [of the album] started a band." The death of Langston Hughes.

1968 — Cecil Day-Lewis is appointed the sixteenth British Poet Laureate. The death of Yvor Winters. At a campaign stop in Indianapolis it falls to democratic presidential candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy to deliver news of Martin Luther King's assassination to a largely black crowd. In his spontaneous eulogy from the back of a flatbed truck, Kennedy quotes his "favorite poet" Aeschylus. William Jay Smith is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Cream, the Beatles, Bobby Goldsboro, Herb Alpert, Jeanie C. Riley and Richard Harris top the schizophrenic Billboard charts. Jimi Hendrix is becoming a guitar legend and pioneer of psychedelic rock. The album Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin singing lead "proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a woman can front a rock band with as much power as any man."

1969 — Sir John Betjeman is knighted. Woodstock features folk and rock poets like Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, John Fogerty, Sly Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

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

1971 — Geoffrey Hill publishes Mercian Hymns. Josephine Jacobsen is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. 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 hit musical Jesus Christ, Superstar.

1972 — Sir John Betjeman is appointed the seventeenth British Poet Laureate. The earliest "rap" events are held in the Bronx. John Berryman commits suicide.

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 Aloha from Hawaii concert on TV. American Graffiti is the first major movie about rock 'n' roll. The death of W. H. Auden. Some critics consider him to have been the best poet of his era.

1974 — David Jones publishes The Sleeping Lord, a collection of short and mid-length poems. The deaths of David Jones, John Crowe Ransom and Anne Sexton, the latter by suicide. 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. Bruce Springsteen is the reigning rock poet with Born to Run. Patti Smith pioneers punk music with Horses.

1976 — Robert Hayden is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Elizabeth Bishop's villanelle "One Art." James Merrill's book The Changing Light at Sandover. John Ashbery wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, which makes him "the most celebrated poet in the United States."

1977 — The movie Saturday Night Fever popularizes disco and makes the Bee Gees major stars. Elvis Presley dies. T. H. White's final episode of The Once and Future King series, The Book of Merlyn, is published posthumously. The album Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols kicks punk music into high gear. The death of Robert Lowell.

1978 — William Meredith is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Amy Clampitt has her first published poem at age 58. The death of Hugh MacDiarmid. Sony introduces the Walkman. The debut of hip-hop music and 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. London Calling by The Clash legitimizes punk. Robert Penn Warren wins his second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The death of Allen Tate.

1980 — Sharon Olds publishes her first book, Satan Says. Blondie has the first white rap/hip-hop hit with Rapture. T. H. White's posthumous collection of poems, A Joy Proposed.

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 posthumously for her collected poems. Anthony Hecht is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Michael Jackson's Thriller becomes the biggest-selling album of all time. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, based on poems written by T. S. Eliot, becomes 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. The death of Edgell Rickword.

1983 — Amy Clampitt publishes her first full-length poetry collection, The Kingfisher, at age 63. Compact discs begin to replace vinyl records. Madonna has her first hits with Holiday, Borderline and Lucky Star. Michael Jackson wows the MTV world with his first public moonwalk during a live performance of Billie Jean.

1984 — Ted Hughes is appointed the eighteenth British Poet Laureate. 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. The deaths of Sir John Betjeman and William Empson. Marvin Gaye, who wrote "Father, father, there's no need to escalate" is shot and killed by his father, a preacher. Prince wins an Oscar for the score to Purple Rain. Madonna makes Like a Virgin.

1985 — Gwendolyn Brooks is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. The deaths of Basil Bunting and Robert Graves. Freddy Mercury and Queen steal the show at Live Aid.

1986 — President Ronald Reagan borrows 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 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 buys a ranch and calls it Neverland. The Internet is made available to commercial enterprises.

1989 — Richard Wilbur wins his second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The death of Robert Penn Warren.

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, and their album Nevermind make grunge cool. Freddie Mercury dies from complications of AIDS. The death of Laura Riding Jackson.

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

1993 — Mosaic, the web browser credited with popularizing the World Wide Web, is released. Maya Angelou, the great-granddaughter of a 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.

1994 — The first modern blogs debut. Text messaging debuts. Netscape Navigator debuts.

1995 — Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. Philip Levine wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Mark Doty wins the T. S. Eliot Prize for My Alexandria. Robert Hass is appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Yahoo debuts.

1996 — Jorie Graham wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994. 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. The first social networking site ( debuts.

1998 — Google debuts.

1999 — Andrew Motion is appointed the nineteenth British Poet Laureate. 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 Oxford English Dictionary Online (OED Online) is made available to subscribers. The movie O Brother, Where Art Thou rekindles an interest in bluegrass music with the hit Man of Constant Sorrow.

2001 — Following the September 11th attacks, poems are pinned to makeshift memorials and circulate on the internet. "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," 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.

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

2005 — Ted Kooser wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

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

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 — Carol Ann Duffy is appointed the twentieth British Poet Laureate. (The twentieth time is the charm, as Duffy is the first Poet Laureate to be a woman, gay and a Scot!) W. S. Merwin wins his second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Michael Jackson dies in the middle of his comeback tour. The death of W. D. Snodgrass.

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. Geoffrey Hill is appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford.

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 — Sir Geoffrey Hill is knighted for his services to literature. 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 — Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. 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.

2017 — Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, buys a majority stake in The Atlantic. The death of John Ashbery.

2019 — Simon Armitage is appointed the 21st British Poet Laureate.

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

Primary Sources: Wikipedia and other public web pages; Lives of the Poets by Michael Schmidt (a book we enthusiastically recommend to poetry lovers and scholars); Phases of English Poetry by Herbert Read; The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature; The Norton Anthology of Poetry; The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.

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

Other Related Pages: Romantic Poetry Timeline, Free Verse Timeline, The Best Writing in the English Language, Native American Poetry Translations, Literary Devices: Definitions and Examples, Baseball Timeline

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