A Few Thoughts on Medieval Poetry

This volume of Medieval English poetry contains works about Jesus, Mary, suffering, death, pearls, various creatures, patience, Bannokburn, Sir Orfeo and some Harley lyrics. The wording and rhymes in these poems are straightforward and readily comprehensible. There are some interesting stories and thoughtful verses.
Image source: Goodreads.

Excluding some inappropriate content (most of which is near the end of the volume) it is a worthy read.

And, there ends my short review. But since it is indeed short, I'll add a few more thoughts on this book of poetry, which I wrote earlier this month, when I was excited to discover some poetry I enjoyed reading. And why didn't I appreciate poetry until then? Read on.

I haven't always liked poetry. Reading it has been a struggle for me.

When I thought of poetry, I would get a feeling of mental claustrophobia. I'd think of vague, confusing verse bristling with oblique references to something that really meant something else, but you wouldn't be able to know that unless you were acquainted with the poet, and since you weren't, you just had to muddle through it and nod intellectually and look thoughtful when you finished.

I can't stand that kind of poetry.

But I also knew poetry was a rich and wonderful genre. I was missing a source of inspiration and ideas, and I couldn't ignore it any longer. So I decided to read one volume of classic poetry every month this year.

And when I was reading Medieval English Verse yesterday evening, I had an aha moment. Something about this uncomplicated four line verse spoke to me.

Let us gather hand and hand
And sing of bliss without an end
The Devil has fled from earthly land
And Son of God is made our friend.

I love that verse. It's plain and straightforward. But it is profound. It summarizes the age of joy and victory in which we live. And the Son of God is made our friend. We are no longer in rebellion or isolation – we have friendship with the creator of the universe. Those four pithy lines describe a whole lot of amazing things without pretension and ambiguity.

I suppose I like this verse so much because I can understand, really understand it. I know exactly what it is talking about. I don't have to slog through an inane and impossible-to-interpret poem. And at the risk of sounding like the characters Thomson and Thompson from the Tintin comic books by Herge, I'll close with this: this verse is wonderfully simple, but says something simply wonderful.

What about you, have you ever gone from disliking poetry to finding a piece you appreciated?


  1. I have long held to a theory that a person can become proficient in any and all academic ventures if they put in the time and effort. Math, Science, History, Philosophy, Second Languages, Creative Writing... given time and work we can come to appreciate and understand them. However, poetry has always been the gaping hole in my theory. Try as I might, understanding poetry has always been a trial for me. My mind just seems too linear in nature. But you have given me hope, I might yet enjoy poetry. I am going to add this book to my must read list and give it a try.

  2. That's great! I hope you enjoy the book!


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