Britain has produced some of the world’s most highly renowned, influential, and beautiful poetry – Geoffrey Chaucer, Sir Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Robert Burns, the Brontë sisters, Lewis Carroll, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, to name but a select few!
British poetry does not begin, however, with the emergence of the English language: several hundreds of years before Cædmon‘s hymn of creation and Beowulf were composed, over 1,200 years before Geoffrey Chaucer had penned down even a single line, poetry had been written on the British Isles (and it must have existed in unwritten forms much longer still).
The earliest evidence for written poetry from Britain dates back to the time of Roman occupation, when the inhabitants of this country (not just locals or Romans from mainland Italy, but people from all over the Empire, from as far away as modern-day Turkey or Syria!) expressed their feelings, hopes, and desires in poetic forms.
What survived is not much.
At first glance one might well think: ‘gosh, it took a long time for this island’s native poetry to reach its later, glorious heights!’
But this does not do the poets of Britain’s most ancient (surviving) poetry justice: they were not poets laureate, and they never aspired to be.
They were soldiers, merchants, tilers, common people – yet with a shared desire to leave behind unassuming works of verbal art.
Their voices, even after over 1,600 years, deserve to be listened to. Their poetry – truly the poetry of the people rather than of, or for, an aristocratic elite – is indicative of, and reflects, popular culture, aesthetics, and thought.
Discover the Undying Voices: the Poetry of Roman Britain!