DISCLAIMER: This brief account of the literary history of England is solely to praise the Protector of the heavenly kingdom, the might of the Measurer and His mind’s purpose, and is not intended as a vessel of political thought or a marketing ploy.
England, the Jewel of the English Channel. The island empire, which has been the pawn of many an empire, has a cultural legacy that remains unmatched. Bede, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Tolkien and Big Brother are just a pinhead’s amount of all the products of England’s supreme reign over the culture kingdoms of this world. In fact there’s such a copious amount of literary work that many a wizened scholar has often said: “Oh, there’s just too much. TOO MUCH!” and proceeded to jump off the monastery roof.
“Too much” is a quote heard ever so often from the mouth of the average English student. Studying English is no small chore, since the student is required, nay, coerced to plough through tedious introduction, medium and advanced courses of literature, which, as was said before, is all just too much. Something must be done, because the sickly students crouched in the darkest corners of the reading rooms and whispering “kill me” really spoil the ambience of the library.
So here’s a shortened version of the entire history of English literature to be used when the need is greatest. I’m sure you can bluff your way through any exam by quoting this poem. I have, naturally, left out the most boring writers and also about 99% of the work from literary conveyor belts like Shakespeare (as interesting as watching a log rot) and Dickens (as enjoyable as being the rotting log). So expect nothing more than a very biased, incomplete, misleading, politically and chronologically incorrect account of English literature history.
I think it all started with Caedmon’s old hymn,
He was followed quite closely by Bede.
They bored all to hell and they did it so well
People cursed the day they’d learned to read.
But soon rose a hero, the greatest of all,
And his tale is majestic for sure.
Look! Beowulf, slayer of Grendel had come,
The first heroic entrepreneur.
Well Beowulf, yeah, he was cool (I suppose),
But he went out of fashion quite quick.
So Chaucer was greeted a hero of sorts,
Though his Canterbury Tales sure was thick.
Eh, thick, as in pages, it weighed like a whale,
No one reads all that crap anyway.
Excuse me, Sir Author, how hard can it be
To be curt in what you have to say?
Then next came The Renaissance, oh what a joy,
It was truly a wonderful ball.
Then William S., “Mr English”, appeared,
And he totally ruined it for all.
Look, Shakespeare is great, he’s a mighty fine pen,
But oh why must we plough through his work?
For students of English it’s Hamlet and Dick
And the Henrys why Willie’s a jerk.
King James wrote a bible (or gave it a name),
Also Paradise Lost was a hit.
In 1719 was published a book
About Crusoe, now this was the shit.
For Robinson wasn’t a yawn anymore,
The suspense and the themes were a blast.
Then Swift came with Gulliver, Fielding with Jones,
And “the novel” was founded at last.
The Romantic era began with the friends
Messrs. Wordsworth and Coleridge S. T.
With “Lyrical Ballads” they started a trend
That would question all that we believe.
Jane Austen wrote quippy and ironic tales
About living in high social class.
And Frankenstein was quite a shocker at first,
As was Byron, the romantic ass.
And just when we thought this is great, this age is,
The Victorians came with Charles D.
Like Chaucer and Bede he’s a horrible read
And his tales are as great as debris.
It’s Copperfield, Nickleby, Twist and young Pip
That make Dickens a bore like Shakespeare.
But, luckily, soon came the greatest of all,
For the era of Wilde was quite near.
Now Oscar, oh there was the funniest guy!
With his Ideal Husband and Gray
He gave definition to controversy
And he pissed people off by being gay.
The 20th century saw such great names
as J. Conrad and Woolf and James Joyce.
They all were a part of the Modernist choir,
In which Orwell was also a voice.
Soon Lewis and Tolkien, the Inklings & co.
Came along and made fantasy thrive.
We’re still quite enchanted by their simple tales
As we wonder will Frodo survive.
Each nation has heroes and tales of its own,
Who in literature always will last.
And this was the briefest, the tiniest look,
Into England’s great cultural past.