The literary writings in Old English. . King Alfred translated many Latin texts, and encouraged the writing of prose in the vernacular. Poetry can be divided into two types - heroic and Christian. The verse form is an alliterative line of four stressed syllables and an unfixed number of unstressed syllables broken by a caesura and arranged in one of several patterns - which lends itself well to narrative.
Middle English prose of the 13th cent. continued in the tradition of Anglo-Saxon prose—homiletic, didactic, and directed toward ordinary people rather than polite society. The Romance is introduced at this time. French verse forms replace the Anglo-Saxon alliterative line, and the lyric peaks in the second half of the 14th century, but there is an alliterative revival in the 14th century.
The foremost poets of this era, Ben Jonson and John Donne, are regarded as the source of two diverse poetic traditions – the Cavalier and the Metaphysical. Donne’s poetry is distinctive for its passionate intellectualism, Jonson’s for its sensuous lyricism. While the stylistic and thematic differences between Jonson and Donne are easy to see, their respective followers often combined the influence of the two poets.
The eighteenth century – at least the first half of it – was the Age of Reason, for it had rigid rules for everything from the “taming” of Shakespeare to the pruning of gardens and the way people should conduct themselves. Men of the age looked upon their forefathers as rude barbarians and themselves as the first civilised generation.
Yet to some it was painfully clear that, actually, their society was still as irrational and crude as ever. And thus, in literature, satire became the dominant form; it varied with the temperaments of the men producing it – from the mild and smiling admonitions of Joseph Addison to the bitterly disillusioned condemnations of Jonathan Swift.
English Romanticism is sometimes held to have begun in the mid-to-late eighteenth century, although some use the date of the publication of Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads in 1798 as a convenient starting point. A popular ending point is 1832, the date of the passage of the Reform Bill, although some extend it through the beginning of Victoria's reign in 1837.
The traditional canon of the six major Romantic poets consists of William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
The Victorian period in English history ran from 1837, when Queen Victoria took the throne, to 1901, when she died.
The major British authors of the Victorian era include the novelists Charles Dickens, the three Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, Thackeray, and Hardy; the poets Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The term Modernism usually refers to the early part of the twentieth century -- sometimes beginning with the First World War in 1914, and continuing through the 1930s or so -- perhaps up to the Second World War. Some of the more influential Modernist writers: Pound, Eliot, Joyce, Woolf, and Stein.