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Shades of language
The story behind the poem

This 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 other.

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

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