The story behind the poem
poem contrasts certain Anglo-Saxon words in the English language with
certain other words of Latin origin which entered via Norman French. I
deliberately chose pairs of words which would make the Latin-based one
appear to derive from a more peaceful, civilized and complex people.
It is, of course, a gross over-simplification although there is a
grain of truth in it. The real message of the poem is that both
elements in the English language are necessary and they balance each
I wrote the poem after
attending a poetry writing course led by the poet Kevin Crossley-Holland
whom I greatly admire. He was an inspirational course leader. However,
being a student of Romance languages myself, I slightly bridled at his
promotion of the basic, earthy, Germanic side of English at the
expense of the later, more educated contribution which he seemed
almost to be implying was superfluous, even damaging. I sent him this
poem and received a kind reply, but did not get the impression I had
in any way convinced him.
by Damaris West
Read the poem
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