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After 341 Years, British Poet Laureate Is a Woman

Carol Ann Duffy was appointed Britain’s poet laureate on last Friday, becoming the first woman to take a 341-year-old job that has been held by other poets such as Dryden, Tennyson, and Wordsworth.

Back in the days of Dryden, the first writer to take the job officially, poets laureate were glorified courtiers, writing flattering odes to royal occasions both significant (coronations, deaths) and banal (returns home from journeys abroad). This pressure to commemorate every little thing produced classics like the poem attributed to the Edwardian laureate Alfred Austin, upon the occasion of the Prince of Wales’s getting sick. It included the lines: Across the wires the electric message came // He is no better, he is much the same.

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