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Can You Fill in the Missing Words in These Famous British Poems?
by Zoe Samuel
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No man is an island. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Halfway up the stairs is a stair where I sit. When the boys come back they will not be the same...

All of these are lines from some of the most famous works by some of the most famous poets in British history. Whether Scottish, Welsh, English, Northern Irish or from the various outlying islands, poets have been using the language of Shakespeare to create beautiful work since the beginning of British history and the English language. This came into being in a recognizable form as early as the Roman period, and then despite the name, began to truly flourish during the Dark Ages. There were a great many Anglo-Saxon poems, from Beowulf to Dream of the Rood, to Seafarer, that were recited by minstrels and written down on vellum or parchment. After them came the Middle English poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer and his contemporaries.

Once the Renaissance got underway, the English language was still not standardized, but as a great many people became literate, they began to use it in new and exciting ways. This led to William Shakespeare, widely held up as one of the greatest writers in all of human history, and contemporaries such as the Metaphysical poets. Dr. Johnson and the other dictionary writers (many of them poets) then standardized Modern English, and as the Industrial Age brought about the Romantic poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. More and more women had access to literature at this point, and had a chance to have their work seen. This leads us to our modern writers such as Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Jamaican-born Benjamin Zephaniah.

Truly knowing British culture means knowing them all! How many do you know by heart?

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