In this wonderfully entertaining and instructive book Michael Schmidt gives us a history of English poetry from its beginnings to 1500. The book divides into two halves - the first is a history of the poets' lives, the times during which they were writing, and an account of their works; and the second is an anthology of poetry from the first English poem by Caedmon, which can be dated to about 657AD, to Langland, Gower, Chaucer, Lydgate, Dunbar, and Hawes. Schmidt shows how language and the poetic imagination are shaped by politics and history, and brilliantly describes the workings of Old and Middle English, using modernised texts to render it unintimidating to our modern ears. This is an invaluable book for all readers of poetry and students who will find no other competing volume available. This is the first book in a major four-volume project to provide the most comprehensive history of English poetry.