The history of English poetry from its beginning to the accession of King Alfred. As well as dealing with the well known Anglo-Saxon poems such as Beowulf, the book looks at a variety of poems and the rise of literature and influences such as the Anglo-Saxon conquest and early settlement, Christianity, monasticism, and the sea. It begins in the older England over the sea. It ends with the accession of Alfred. When he came to the throne in 871, literature, both Latin and English, had perished, after a career of two hundred years. The final home of both had been Northumbria. A few years after his accession the last unplundered seats of learning were destroyed. All the Muses were now silent. But before Alfred died a new English literature had begun, and in a new land, and the King was himself the origin. What had been was poetry; this was prose. The country of English poetry had been Northumbria; the country of English prose was Wessex.