c, 680 - c. 640 BCE

An early poet who based his work on experience of warfare and personal life.

Archilochus 7

Archilochus on endurance

κήδεα μὲν στονόεντα, Περίκλεες, οὔτε τις ἀστῶν

Tough love from Archilochus on loss and mourning

Archilochus fragments 2, 3 5A and 6

Archilochus, a soldier-poet

ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε, σὺν κώθωνι θοῆς διὰ σέλματα νηὸς

Archilochus on campaign


1822 - 1888

Matthew Arnold, the great 19th century English poet, author of "Dover Beach" and "The Scholar Gypsy".

Dover Beach

The sea is calm tonight

A bleak but beautiful reflection on 19th-century life by Matthew Arnold.


c. 480 - 524 CE

Boethius was a sixth-century statesman and scholar who met a cruel death on suspicion of treason, but whose writings were hugely influential during the middle ages.

The Consolation of Philosophy 4. 6. lines 1 - 18

Some things never change

Si vis celsi tonantis iura pura sollers cernere mente

Boethius's reminder that some things never change


c 310 - 240 BCE

Callimachus, a great poet in his own right, was also a scholar at the Library of Alexandria, the most important of the ancient classical world.

Callimachus Epigram 2

Callimachus remembers his poet-friend

εἶπέ τις Ἡράκλειτε τεὸν μόρον

The poet Callimachus remembers his poet-friend Heraclitus



84BC - 54BC

The first of the Big Four to write was Catullus. He was reportedly born in 84 BCE in Verona, but spent much of his adult life in Rome, and died young in about 54 BCE, ten years before the death of Julius Caesar. References in the poems suggest that he spent a year abroad at some point on the staff of the Governor of the Province of Bithynia, near the Bosphorus and Black Sea in modern Turkey.

Catullus 1

Catullus dedicates his little book

cui dono lepidum novum libellum

Catullus begins with a dedication

Catullus 2

Passer, deliciae meae puellae

Passer, deliciae meae puellae

Lesbia's sparrow

Catullus 3

Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque

Lugete, o Venerese Cupidinesque

A lament for Lesbia's sparrow

Catullus 4

Phaselus ille

Phaselus ille quem videtis, hospites

Catullus's yacht

Catullus 6

The wayfaring bedstead

Flavi, delicias tuas Catullo

Catullus asks his friend awkward questions

Catullus 5

Vivamus, mea Lesbia

Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus

Let's live and love

Catullus 7

How many kisses

Quaeris quot mihi basiationes

Catullus tries again to count the kisses

Catullus 8

Poor Catullus

Miser Catulle, desinas ineptire

Catullus resigns himself to losing Lesbia

Catullus 10

A fashionable conversation

Varus me meus ad suos amores

Bright young things

Catullus 13

An invitation from Catullus

Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me

Bring a bottle - and ...

Catullus 22

Suffenus the …. poet?

Suffenus iste, Vare, quem probe nosti

Catullus makes allowances

Catullus 85

Love and hate

Odi et amo. quare id faciam fortasse requiris?

Catullus's torment

Catullus 101

Catullus’s farewell to his brother

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus

Catullus mourns his loss


1920 - 1970

A Romanian who wrote in German, Paul Celan was a great poet of the Holocaust.


1559 - 1634

George Chapman was an English dramatist and translator. His translations of Homer were praised in a famous sonnet by Keats "On first looking into Chapman's Homer"

Opening lines from Homer’s Odyssey

The man, O Muse, inform, that many a way

The first lines of the Odyssey, translated by George Chapman in a version admired by Keats

Charles Baudelaire

1821 - 1847

Great French poet and author of Les fleurs du Mal ("Flowers of Evil")

Le cygne (The Swan)

Andromaque, je pense à vous !

Baudelaire's poem about loss and longing



Arthur Hugh Clough was an attractive poet who expressed healthy scepticism about the public ethics of the Victorian period and wrote movingly about friendship and the pain of estrangement.

Say not the trouble nought availeth

Say not the trouble nought availeth

Optimism and self-help from this principled poet of the Victorian era