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Literature Through Time

In: English and Literature

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Literature Through Time

Literature depicts the morals of time it shift and morphs into less power in the divine and more faith in man. Stories began being written by monks and the clergy which in time turned into regular men with stores that focused on more secular matters. English literature fills up the gap between wars, between societal change, you can see time progressing, you can see our values and morals changing, you can see history passing by. In the beginning there was Bede, a philosopher, speaker of many languages, a man who looked around him and saw a world in peril that only God could save, a man full of faith. Time passes and we see Shakespeare, a genius, a man with a queen, a man who rallied against the common, Shakespeare was a man with deep loves and a strong voice.
“The Story of Caedmon”, was written during a time when Christian religious dogma was primarily hagiography, “the telling of the life of virtuous men and women that represents what it means to be a good Christian.” These stories are used as a form of reflections on one’s life as to make it better in the future. Religious dogma needed to be made more accessible to the congregation which was widely illiterate, so the stories were written with easy points and then acted out so that the congregation would not only be awake and attentive, but so that these stories of morality and faith would really sink in.
“Caedmon” is probably the earliest extant of Old English poetry, Bede tells about Caedmon, an illiterate cowherd, is employed by the Monastery of Whitby, and one days receives a miraculous gift from God, the gift of song, which allows him to enter the church as a peer who becomes the founder of a school of Christian poetry.”, the abbess who cherished the grace of God in this man, instructed him to give up secular life and to take monastic vows.”
Although it is stated that Caedmon receives the gift of song it would be more realistic to say that Caedmon received the gift of putting Christian based stories or legend/myth, scripture into song. In doing so Caedmon became great for he was touched by the grace of God, he was no longer one of the many he was exalted, he was blessed. “And when she and all those subject to her had received him into the community of brothers, she gave orders that he be taught the whole sequence of sacred history.” Only after joining the religious community was he allowed to learn, to create, only after he started following the holy path was he special.
The themes of transformation, of divine interference, of being elevated by Christ, change and are altogether forgotten by the time we reach Shakespearean sonnets. Even the way that one poem is written from another, with Bede writing more in the style of homer while Shakespeare creates a styling format that will forever be associated with him, Shakespearean sonnets are written in 14 lines which end in a rhyming couplet. Shakespeare’s themes move away from religious doctrine and into more secular waters that allow us to explore the inner working of humans in the renaissance era. We witness writing about human feelings, such as keepings ones love eternal through the written word, the process of aging, and also questioning social conventions of English beauty. Shakespearean sonnet 3 expresses the process of aging, the truth that sprouts from the process of reproducing the process of creating life, which in extent means you will never die. “Die single and thine image dies with thee.” (L. 14) This has moved so far away from earlier poetry in which chastity and divulging all earthly matters for heavenly purpose, those men were the exalted and the revered.
“Yet do the worst, old Time: despite thy wrong, / My love shall in my verse ever live young.” (L 13-14) Here in Sonnet 19 we see Shakespeare ranting to time, yelling that his love will be endless, will be everlasting, he will conquer it, not by magic or divine intervention, not because his spirit will live forever in heaven, but because he will write it. Because his poetry will last through the ages conserving his love and passion, conserving the way that he will forever remember the women he loves. His words are written in concrete and time will never sully it. “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; / Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; / If snow be white, why then her breast are dun; / if hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.”, (L.1-4) Shakespearean sonnet 130, he professes his love for a woman that does not possess the features that are socially acceptable traits of beauty that are uncommon in society. This women that has so filled him with love she is not pale of skin and she is dark of hair. While the more common vision of English beauty was pale, blue or green eyes, and blond or red curly hair, he leaves these common looks and expresses that she is nothing like that and yes she doesn’t need to be. “And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare/ As any she belied with false compare.” (L. 13-14) Love can be unique and a woman does not need to be misrepresented by ridiculous comparisons in order for said love to be properly expressed.

Through time literature has evolved, has come out of the dark and damp monasteries and churches into the light of modern time and new thinking. We move away from morality and god, from lofty religion and complicated doctrine and into words and phrases that the modern man can understand. That the modern man can appreciate can fill his mouth with and proclaim it beautiful. Literature has evolved because of humans because of language because of mans struggle for knowledge, for faith, for beauty. English literature has not only survived wars and clashes of government, it has survived beheadings and burnings, it has flourished and prospered and melded itself into the very lives of priest and philosopher, teachers and doctors, and humanity has morphed literature just as literature has molded humanity.

Work cited

Bede. “The Story of Caedmon”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Eighth Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: WW Norton & Co., 2006. 25.
Keithley, Hank. ENH221 Lecture. August 30, 2011.
Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 3”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Eighth
Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: WW Norton & Co., 2006. 1062.
---. “Sonnet 19”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Eighth Ed.
Stephen Greenblatt. New York: WW Norton & Co., 2006. 1063-1064.
---. “Sonnet 130”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Eighth Ed.
Stephen Greenblatt. New York: WW Norton & Co., 2006. 1074.

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