The First Shape Poem in English

A pair of wings
Click on the image for easier reading.

I’m very fond of this poem, A Pair of Wings, by Stephen Hawes. Hawes was extremely popular around about 1500, but who is now almost forgotten. The text can be found in Medieval English Lyrics by R.T. Davies. There’s little question that Hawes influenced the much better remembered George Herbert, who is often thought of as England’s first concrete poet.

As well as being a visual representation of its subject, the poem is interesting because of its multi-layered structure. The lines to the left of the open brackets can be read as one poem, the poems to the right of them as a second one, and then the full lines as a third. I feel fairly sure that Bill Griffiths must have liked it.


One thought on “The First Shape Poem in English

  1. Reblogged this on The ancient eavesdropper and commented:
    Everyone should check out the awesome blog by Billy Mills called “Elliptical Movements.” He has presented us with the first shape poem in English from around 1500. If you check out his post, you will find that there are multiple layers to this poem. This has certainly inspired me today! As always, I encourage everyone to try their hand at shape poetry – trust me, it’s fun and a form of fitness for your diction!


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