The Poetry Of History

Jonathan Bates presents a series which examines historical events through the poetry they inspired.

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
0101Easter, 1916, By Wb Yeats2006040220060408
20060408 (BBC7)
20140930 (BBC7)
20141001 (BBC7)

With the poet Theo Dorgan, novelist Anne Enright and historian Diarmuid Ferriter, Jonathan visits places where Irish history was changed and, as Yeats declared, a 'terrible beauty' was born - the General Post Office in Dublin, the hub of the Easter Rising 90 years ago, and Kilmainham Gaol, where several of the rebels were executed.

The poem is read by Jim Norton

Jonathan Bate travels to Dublin to investigate the 1916 Easter Rising.

Jonathan Bate looks at the history behind the poem, travelling to Dublin to investigate the 1916 Easter Rising. From April 2006.

0102Peterloo And Shelley2006040920060415
20141001 (BBC7)
20141002 (BBC7)

Jonathan Bate travels to Manchester to investigate the Peterloo Massacre.

Jonathan Bate looks at the history behind Shelley's The Mask of Anarchy, travelling to Manchester to investigate the Peterloo Massacre. From April 2006.

Jonathan travels to Manchester, the scene of the 1819 Peterloo massacre that provoked Shelley's ferocious attack on the government of the day, The Mask of Anarchy. Poet Tom Paulin and Historian Clive Emsley are on hand to measure the weight of the poem as history and as verse.

0103The English Civil War And Marvell2006041620060422
20141002 (BBC7)
20141003 (BBC7)

Jonathan Bate travels to Westminster to investigate the English Civil War.

Jonathan Bate looks at the history behind An Horatian Ode, travelling to Westminster to investigate the English Civil War. From April 2006.

Jonathan visits Westminster to work on Andrew Marvell's An Horatian Ode, in which the poet wrestles with his loyalty to the recently beheaded King Charles I and his respect for the energy of Oliver Cromwell.

0104 LASTT S Eliot And The Blitz2006042320060429
20141003 (BBC7)
20141004 (BBC7)

Jonathan Bate investigates how the Blitz motivated TS Eliot's Four Quartets. How does history influence poetry? From April 2006.

Jonathan Bate investigates how the Blitz motivated TS Eliot's Four Quartets.

Jonathan visits the sleepy village of Shamley Green and the roof of St Paul's Cathedral, in the company of the historian Jose Harris and Eliot expert Ian Smith. They find that the poems were written in the early years of the Second World War, and that Eliot's famous text is, in fact, filled with the daily sights and sounds of wartime Britain.

0201The Battle Of Maldon2007112520071201

The valiant failure of the Anglo-Saxon leader Byrhtnoth against a Viking landing in 991 is remembered in one of the classics of the Old English canon.

0202Di Great Insohreckshan2007120220071208

Linton Kwesi Johnson's poem Di Great Insohreckshan recalls the Brixton riots of April 1981. The work is now acknowledged alongside television and radio archive as a primary source, helping future generations understand the cultural and political upheaval that spilt onto the streets of south London.

0203Annus Mirabilis: The Year Of Wonders2007120920071215

by John Dryden, reveals an unquenchable enthusiasm for the events of 1666. Historians remember these to include an inconclusive naval war with the Dutch, plague, and finally the Great Fire of London.

0204 LASTDeath Of King George V2007121620071222

John Betjeman's Death of King George V captures not just the passing of a monarch but a subtle shift in the Britain in which he had grown up. Contributors include Betjeman's daughter Candida Lycett Green and his most recent biographer Andrew Wilson.