Poet Laureate

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A poet laureate (plural: poets laureate) is a poet officially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for State occasions and other government events.

In the United Kingdom the term has for centuries been the title of the official poet of the monarch, since the time of Charles II. Poets laureate are appointed by many countries. In Britain there is also a Children's Laureate.

Contents

Etymology

In ancient Greece the laurel was sacred to the god Apollo, and was used to form a crown or wreath of honour for poets and heroes. This custom, first revived in Padua for Albertino Mussato,[1] was followed by Petrarch's examination before the court of Robert of Naples in 1341; the actual crowning ceremony took place in the audience hall of the medieval senatorial palazzo on the Campidoglio, 8 April 1341.[2] These ceremonies, for lack of detailed Roman precedents, took on the character of doctoral candidatures.[3]

It has since become widespread, both in fact and as a metaphor. The word laureate or laureated thus came in English to signify eminence or association with glory (cf. Nobel laureate). Laureate letters were once the dispatches announcing a victory. The term laureate became associated with degrees awarded by European universities (the term baccalaureate for the degree of bachelor reflects this idea). As a royal degree in rhetoric, poet laureate was awarded at European universities in the Middle Ages. The term might also refer to the holder of such a degree, which recognized skill in rhetoric, grammar and language.

According to the historian Edward Gibbon, Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, 1304–1374) of Rome, perhaps best known for his sonnets to the fair-haired, blue-eyed Laura, took the title of "poet laureate" in 1341 for the poem "Africa".

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