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.

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