Imagine a time without YouTube videos, movies, movies and TV shows; before the days of blogs, magazines and newspaper articles. How were people supposed to express their emotions and thoughts about the world, around the world? It wasn’t like people didn’t have feelings before the internet age…
Step into the Renaissance, an era of poetry, songs and plays.
It is true that all of these above forms of media existed long before the Renaissance period. Dating back to the days of ancient Greece and the height of the Roman Empire, plays and songs were the main ways people entertained themselves, with poetry being the main skill to prove your intelligence.
However, it was the greatly improved education, better economy, more advanced society, and general standard of living during the Renaissance period that led to the poetry, songs, and plays that became most widespread. It also helps that there are many more ways for artists to record and save their creations, as opposed to people of 500 BCE, like Homer, presenting his stories orally, hoping that future generations will continue to transmit them.
One of the most obvious examples of a Renaissance playwright is, of course, the nightmare of literature students everywhere, William Shakespeare.
Widely considered “the greatest and most influential writer of all time”. However, some must wonder how this happened. The fact that Shakespeare was a playwright for the greatest empire in world history was certainly no coincidence considering how his name became so popular internationally.
Be that as it may, there is no denying that Shakespeare had written great works during his years. With “Romeo and Juliet” in 1594, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1595, “Hamlet” in 1600 and “Macbeth” in 1606 all being some of his classics, my personal favorites and sworn enemies literature students.
Stay in England. At a desk around 1509, John Donne was writing his sacred tenth sonnet, “Holy Sonnet 10: Death be not proud”.
“Death, you will die.” Some of the greatest written words in the history of poetry. Addressing Death directly, mocking his personified figure with a brilliant use of paradox; and while enlightening audiences that death is not something to be feared, it’s just another natural occurrence. While we live, we should take advantage of every minute that is given to us and that we still have left.
At the same time, some 8,000 kilometers. China was entering the last period of its Ming dynasty.
Although very close in time to the mess of the Qing dynasty, the Ming dynasty made China one of the most culturally advanced nations in the world at the time, with historians dubbing the Ming as “one of the major Chinese poetry”.
Following directly behind the famous Tang, Song, and Yuan dynasties, Ming had the advantage of drawing inspiration from their predecessors, while having much better techniques for recording and preserving their written poems. With more than one million pieces of Ming poetry discovered so far, the Ming dynasty is the most populous dynasty in terms of Chinese poetry in the life of the general public.
Moving east another 3,000 kilometers, we find ourselves in the island nation of Japan, where their culture was inspired by the Chinese and rivals the Chinese. The famous “5-7-5” structure of Haikus was inseparable from the samurai way of life in Japan at the time.
Moving forward 200 years in time and across the Pacific Ocean, we find that poetry is still as popular as ever. With many American poets of the 1800s rising to the top of the charts.
The likes of Edgar Allen Poe and Walt Whitman were prime examples of 19th century American poetry, along with their preeminent works, “O Captain! My captain!” and “The Raven”, respectively, and which marked the history of poetry.
Now, back to the 21st century. Let’s ask ourselves this; When was the last time you saw someone write and publish a poem?
As widespread as poetry was during the Renaissance era, it is simply not as popular as it once was. Their prime time has passed and the weather was as unforgiving for this form of media as it is for anything else on this planet. Like Nokia phones, poetry is about to fade into history, to become something humans once simply did.
The same cannot be said of the accomplices of poetry. Songs are more popular than ever and the music industry is more advanced than ever.
Games are a curious case; people still write plays, but they’re definitely not what they used to be. However, some may argue that modern musicals and movies are just enhanced versions of classic plays. In this case, the piece adapted in a way poetry couldn’t, it evolved to keep up with advances in technology. As the practice of writing poetry is slowly washed away by the tides of time.
That said, it’s unfair not to recognize how many songs, specifically the lyrics to those songs, are essentially a form of poetry.
Therefore, modern songs today continue to carry on the legacy of the poems to this day.
Well, what can we do as an audience? Start by writing some poems! It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. Just have fun with it. Ultimately, poetry is another form of human culture, a part of our culture that we as human beings cannot afford to lose.
Hey, and who knows, maybe years later, the poem you wrote one insignificant afternoon turns out to be the new biggest nightmare for literature students around the world.