A retrospective view over the centuries have traversed reveals two distinct periods during which English poetry may be said to be truly comparable in achievement with the best continental traditions. The first of these ‘golden ages’ is the period in the eighth and ninth centuries when Anglo-Saxon monastic culture was passing through its first and most generous phase and when most of the extant Old English poetry is presumed to have been written. The second golden age is the fourteenth century, and is similar to the first in that it is another period during which English poetry becomes fully receptive to and capable of absorbing continental influences. The range of poetry produced can be related to other factors of social, and some poems, can be seen as essentially related to native inheritance, but it is the return of English poetry to the centres of social prestige that provides the conditions for Chaucer, Gower and the provincial alliterative poets.