Various History

Songs and headlines.

Poetry is like seeds blessed with eternal life. The tree might die, but its seeds sprout to form new trees. Thanks to the music of the 1960s and 1970s, and the later rise of punk and hip-hop, poetry’s relationship to perhaps our most extensive form of mass media – music – is as great as ever. Furthermore, crafty magazine and newspaper editors with a sense of beat, rhythm, and the value of poetic turns of phrase create wonderful headlines that continue the unique relationship between words and the social, political, and personal issues that touch us most. Pick up any widely-circulated magazine or tabloid newspaper and see headlines written using double entendres, rhymes, alliterations, oxymorons, or cultural touchstones that provoke images, feelings, and memories.

Jingles that sell.

Poetry’s relationship with advertising is more obscure. Several major print and television advertising campaigns use poetic stylings, though the catchy jingles aren’t going to win awards for poetic structure. However, advertisers use rhythm and beat to catch the eye and ear and to conjure up positive images associated with their products and services. The Burma Shave billboard campaign broke new ground in 1925 by placing sequential signs along rural roads that piqued motorists’ curiosity by revealing one rhyming line at a time. The shaving cream campaign lasted until 1963, although recreations of the roadside signs can still be seen in Arizona along the original Route 66.

Henry the Eighth
Sure had trouble
Short-term wives
Long-term stubble


Advertising on U.S. Route 66 recreates a rhyming advertising campaign designed to sell shaving cream.

Magazine, TV, and radio advertising campaigns rarely use a poem excerpt, but every jingle written must convey the same three- or four-beat rhythm that resonated with the greatest poets, or it won’t capture our attention. Thus, they focus on catchy one-liners that play on poetic meter, rather than stanzas or even couplets. The goal is to sell by striking a chord that reverberates in the hearts and minds of a target audience. For that reason, advertisers give a great deal of thought to how the advertisement will be absorbed into the cultural landscape.

The real thing.

In 2006, the Coca-Cola company commemorated three achievements: the 120th anniversary of the company, the 90th anniversary of its signature bottle shape, and the 35th anniversary of one of most memorable lyric poem-songs to be used in advertising, "I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke," which appeared in the commercial, "Hilltop."

During its history, Coca-Cola has used 46 different slogans, some of which were more poetic than others. "Drink Coca-Cola," from 1886, may have little artistic merit, and "Whoever You Are, Whatever You Do, Wherever You May Be, When You Think of Refreshment Think of Ice Cold Coca-Cola" from 1939 isn’t exactly melodic. Yet "The Great National Temperance Beverage" spoke to the concerns of the citizenry in 1906, while 1932’s "Ice Cold Sunshine" may have been welcome relief for those suffering from the Great Depression.

But for those reeling from the turbulent times of the late 1960s, Coca-Cola’s 1972 "Hilltop" television commercial was a sign of hope and unity. In it, 65 actors from 20 countries lip-synched a song written by Billy Backer and Billy Davis and performed by The New Seekers:

I’d like to buy the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves
I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company
That’s the real thing
(Repeat Chorus)
(Chorus 2)
What the world wants today
Is the real thing
(Repeat Chorus 2)

As if to illustrate that poetry sometimes resonates more with visual elements, the commercial was first recorded as a radio advertisement. Coca-Cola bottlers didn’t like the song and wouldn’t pay for the radio airtime. The advertising agency convinced the company to spend an unprecedented $250,000 to add a visual component. Once the television commercial aired, radio stations were inundated with requests to play the song, which later became a Top 40 hit.

New twists on old lyrics.

Since 2001, rock and hip-hop have contributed to increased poetry and lyrics in advertising. Because advertising executives recognized that Baby Boomers would respond to nostalgia, lyrics and songs that revolutionized a world and expressed poetry made their way into commercials. Beginning with Cadillac’s campaign, which used Led Zeppelin’s "Rock and Roll" for pacing and atmosphere, the music of lyric-centered bands as diverse as the Rolling Stones (Chase, Lexmark), T. Rex (Coca-Cola), The Who (Cisco Systems, Hummer), Aerosmith (Buick), Nina Simone (Buick), Deep Purple (Dodge), the Allman Brothers (Cingular/AT&T), and Billy Preston (Fidelity Investments) have populated commercials. Ironically, bands and musicians that frowned on TV in their heyday now enjoy golden journeys because of the millions of additional CDs and downloads they’ve sold as a result of TV exposure.


The music of lyric-centered bands like The Rolling Stones is being used in advertising to appeal to Baby Boomers.

Current acts have been included in TV commercials as well, such as New Wave bands Devo, The Cure, and the Violent Femmes; alt rock bands The Dandy Warhols, 13 Storys, and The Chemical Brothers; and current superstars such as Alicia Keys. In 2002, the hip-hop world, led by Chuck D. and La Bruja, utilized public service announcements to improve the criminalized gangsta image of hip-hop and introduce millions more to lyric poetry every bit as vital today as The Beatles’ words were in the 1960s. With more than 50 soundtracked campaigns currently circulating, television is rife with famous accompaniments.

Footnotes in television.

In the past two decades, there have been just four major television shows exclusively focused on poetry: HBO’s "Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry," BBC-2’s "Essential Poems," and the Bill Moyers PBS specials, "The Language of Life" and "Fooling With Words." Still, other television shows sometimes incorporate poetry or references to poetry. "The West Wing" often included snippets of poetry, such as when President Bartlett quoted Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Theodore Roethke’s "Infirmity" by saying, "How body from spirit does slowly unwind / Until we are pure spirit at the end." During the third season of the show, the series aired an episode titled, "The U.S. Poet Laureate," featuring guest star Laura Dern, and throughout the fourth season, an aging Chief Justice had a penchant for writing U.S. Supreme Court opinions in verse. Yet another character had a habit of speaking in iambic pentameter when she was nervous.


Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry is one of the few television shows working to give voice to poetry.

Pop-ups in popular fiction.

While books of poetry rarely find their way to the top of the bestseller list, poetry does make its way into popular fiction. Julie Smith, who writes what she terms "New Orleans Noir," features the character Talba Wallis in a series of mysteries. Wallis is a gumshoe by day, but assumes the persona of The Baroness de Pontalba when she performs her original poetry at local venues. Smith’s novels are liberally sprinkled with The Baroness’ poetry, exposing many readers to the popularity of verse in The Baroness’ world.


Poetry makes its way into popular fiction in books like Julie Smith’s Talba Wallis series.

A Hollywood love story.

The relationship between poetry and the other emergent mass media form of the 20th century – the motion picture – has been even warmer. Many hundreds of movies and studios have utilized poetry in their screenplays to convey knowledge and emotion, or to portray the movie’s setting. Memorable examples include Kevin Kline reciting Emily Dickinson in Sophie’s Choice and Percy Bysshe Shelley in In And Out, e.e. cummings read by Barbara Hershey in Hannah and Her Sisters, W.H. Auden’s "Funeral Blues" read by John Hannah in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and the poems of William Blake and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used to close the card-game scene in In The Bedroom. A reading of Dickinson in Seabiscuit – "We never know how high we are" – became the mantra that inspired jockey Red Pollard.


Barbara Hershey reads e.e. cummings in Hannah and Her Sisters.

There are also movies that celebrated poetry and wrapped themselves around it, giving us a window into a world that once existed, including Shakespeare in Love, Dead Poets Society, Richard III, The Goodbye Girl, Sylvia (based on Sylvia Plath), and Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (based on Dorothy Parker). The rendering of Walt Whitman’s immortal tribute to President Abraham Lincoln, "Captain, O Captain!" in Dead Poets Society is one of the most famous single-scene uses of poetry in cinematic history. Producers and directors who connect with audiences often weave poetry into their work, whether by spoken word or musical lyrics. They understand poetry is not just an art or communication form, but part of the primal root of how we speak or sing.


Hollywood has had a torrid love affair with poetry, as epitomized by Dead Poet’s Society.

The roots of poetry are also understood by many advertising agencies and editors. Even though our market-based society requires a more subtle use of poetry, we still feel the cadence and stir to the music of a well-turned phrase, just as listeners did on torchlit streets centuries ago.

From jingles to motion pictures.

Aside from the snippets of rock, folk, country, blues, and hip-hop lyrics found in television commercials, examples of poetry’s usage in mass media and advertising revolve around three forms: jingoisms used in corporate advertising, creative magazine headlines, and much more representative treatment in the movies.


Corporate advertising slogans have created a mini-industry of their own, as agency and freelance writers try to create the perfect catchphrase that will launch a campaign into multi-million dollar orbit. Some of the memorable slogans of the past twenty years include:

"Relax, it’s FedEx"
"Obey your thirst"
"Have it your way"
"Just do it"
"Tastes great, less filling"
"Let your fingers do the Dew"

A few enterprising writers have even tied together one-liners to create humorous poetry that could be considered, in one sense, the 21st century mass media version of the limerick. Here are examples from poet/consumer advertising advocate Ilya Vedrashko, whose blog, "MIT Advertising Lab," was named "Best Blog of the Year" by Fast Company magazine in 2005:

Where do you want to go today?
Obey your thirst. Have it your way.
Reach out, think outside the bun.
Just do it. Prepare to own one.
Expect more, pay less,

Tastes great, less filling.
Flick my Bic, experience success.
Got milk? Go get the feeling.
Let your fingers do the Dew,

Invent the ultimate driving machine.
You are due, definitely due.
Think, but please don’t squeeze the Charmin.
Wassup?! Can you hear?

Me? Now? In your mirror
the objects are closer
than they appear.

Snippets in print.

Magazine headlines are fun to examine for their poetic twists and turns. Wise editors understand that, in this world of information overload, they must have a punchy headline and lead paragraph to capture a reader’s attention. Whether through alliteration, rhyme, double entendre, oxymoron, or reference to a cultural touchstone, headline writers tap into the reader’s curiosity or sense of delight in only a few words.

"The End of Spend" - Effects of the credit crunch on consumers (rhyme)

"Head Games" - Why girls are at greater risk for sports concussions than boys (double entendre)

"Blueprint Brigade" - Engineers who help developing countries with low-tech, high-impact projects (alliteration)

"Generation X-mas" - Why the 1983 movie, A Christmas Story, is iconic for the post-Baby Boom generation (wordplay)


"Prime Cuts" - A profile of great Latino chefs in the U.S. (wordplay)

"Hot Ice" - The greed associated with diamond mining in the Amazon (oxymoron)

"Gray’s Anatomy of Style" - Why women should incorporate the color gray into their wardrobes (double entendre using the cultural touchstone of a popular TV show)

"Cloche Encounters" - A profile of a woman who transformed a barn into a hat showroom (wordplay)


"Radio Free Everywhere" - The phenomenon of Internet radio (wordplay on CIA "Radio Free" news stations)

"Riders on the Storm" - Meteorologists seed hurricanes in order to diminish them (repurposed song title from The Doors)

Lights. Camera. Action.

Hundreds of movies have featured poetry in various forms. The most notable recent examples include sweeping tributes to the poem in Shakespeare in Love and Dead Poets Society, and memorable scenes from a number of films, in which screenwriters and directors utilized poetry in crucial, plot-turning situations – paying great homage to verse in the process.

In the first card game scene from In The Bedroom, W. Clapham Murray reads from William Blake’s "Auguries of Innocence":

The Beggar’s Dog and Widow’s Cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.
The Gnat that sings his Summer’s song
Poison gets from Slander’s tongue.

Later, in the second card game scene, Tom Wilkinson quotes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

There are things of which I may not speak;
There are dreams that cannot die;
There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,
And bring a pallor into the cheek,
And a mist before the eye.
And the words of that fatal song
Come over me like a chill:
A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.

Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director Woody Allen has incorporated poetry from e.e. cummings, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Emily Dickinson, among others, into his films. In Hannah and Her Sisters, he gives Lee these choice lines from cummings’ "somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond," which she recites just before she consummates an affair with Elliot:

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though I have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens.

In the rebellious Francis Ford Coppola movie, The Outsiders, C. Thomas Howell famously recites Robert Frost’s "Nothing Gold Can Stay," which reads:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Performance poetry uses the stage as the page, transforming poetry readings into theatrical events. While the recent resurgence of performance poets is seen as a reaction against mainstream, print-based poetry, the style harkens back to the classic role of the poet, who recited notable happenings, emotions, and perceptions.

And while traditional poems utilized standard structures, in part to serve as mnemonic devices, contemporary performance poetry calls upon experimental rhythms as a means to engage an audience in the listening experience.

The recent growth of performance poetry can be attributed to the popularity of slam, a self-identified movement dedicated to creating real-time discourse between performer and audience. While poetry slam cannot be categorized like a sonnet or a haiku, any form or style of poetry can be turned into slam by virtue of the poet’s performance on stage. This inclusive art form invites all people to participate, whether as a poet, audience member, or judge.


Ancient roots.

While the term “spoken word” was not popularized until revival of poetry slams in the 1980s, the focus on developing poems specifically for performances dates back to ancient times, when epic poems like Homer’s Odyssey were recited for entertainment. Later, poetry was incorporated into theatrical events, when forms such as the ode accompanied music throughout the acts.

Over the centuries, oral poetry gave rise to a variety of forms and styles. Chants and ghazals played major roles in religious and spiritual worship. Ballads and villanelles captured the adventure and romance of their day.

Although these oral forms of poetry were quite popular, the greater role of printed text transformed many listeners into solitary readers, and new poets began to focus on the written presentation of their work.

Modern rebirth.

As early 20th century artists rethought longstanding perspectives on art, many poets abandoned more accepted forms of poetry to experiment with combining various media. For example, Tristan Tzara and his fellow Dadaists incorporated costumes and noisemakers into their public performances. This experimentation with sound and performance was also embraced by Italian and Russian Futurists, such as F.T. Marinetti and Khebnikov.


Allen Ginsberg stylized his groundbreaking “Howl” after spiritual chants.

American experimentation with performance poetry lagged behind its European counterparts, as it was largely limited to a few daring artists like Harry Kemp, who in 1909 entered a lion’s cage to read poetry to 500 onlookers. However, both Louis Zukofsky and Charles Olson motivated artists to look deeper into the performance of poetry. Thus, the Beat Poets of the late 1940s and 1950s, led by Allen Ginsberg and his poem, “Howl,” twisted traditional chants and jazz rhythms into poems rife with social and cultural commentary, helping explode the popular acceptance of performance poetry and spurring on a new generation of artists like Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Amiri Baraka and Diane di Prima.


Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five spearheaded hip-hop’s rise and inspired a generation of performers to focus on percussive wordplay to move their audiences.

Performance on the rise.

Yet the dominant poets of the 1960s and 1970s continued to underestimate the importance of performance poetry. The rise of hip-hop in the late 1970s led to new ways for nontraditional wordsmiths to showcase their skills onstage.

In response to what he saw as elitist and overly academic approaches to poetry, Chicagoan Marc Smith began hosting open mic nights in 1984, focusing these events on poets performing their work, as opposed to reciting it aloud. The popularity of these events led Smith to host performance poetry competitions, called poetry slams, where competitors were given three minutes to present their work to a set of judges selected from the audience. To this day, Marc Smith continues to host The Uptown Poetry Slam in Chicago, an event featuring a touring poet, an open mic, and a poetry slam.

In its infancy, slam poetry was held in disdain by academic and elite poets, largely because anyone could sign up to participate in a performance or competition. In addition, work was not published and marketed in journals and books, the traditional method of earning credibility as a poet. However, slam poetry’s appeal began to grow beyond the café reading and competition scene and into academia, as both traditional poets and scholars recognized the social relevance and artistic challenge of slam.

All eyes on the stage.

The popularity of slam poetry resulted in Poetry Slam International’s National Poetry Slam competition series, as featured in Slamnation, a documentary created by Paul Devlin covering the 1996 National Poetry Slam. Given performance poetry’s hip-hop roots, the movement caught the attention of recording industry icon Russell Simmons, who spearheaded the HBO spoken word series, Def Poetry, which aired for six seasons and became a Broadway production. Def Poetry led to even greater exposure of the nation’s ever-emerging group of performance poets, such as Suheir Hammond, Anis Mojgani, and Marty McConnell.

While the final season of Def Poetry Jam aired in 2007, HBO continues to air a special on the youth national poetry slam, Brave New Voices. Larger audiences still receive slam poets at packed events across the country and the world, such as the reading series at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City and the competitions for the National Poetry Slam. Just as other poetry forms are transitioning to web-based journals, slam poets are achieving new levels of prominence thanks to YouTube and other user-generated media outlets.


Suheir Hammand, a Palestinian-American poet, presents provocative pieces influenced by her cultural and political origins.

The National Endowment for the Arts, in conjunction with the Poetry Project, has also helped to spur a new generation’s interest in and involvement with performance poetry. Tens of thousands of students participate in the Poetry Outloud National Recitation Series, and educational programming helps teachers integrate spoken word writing into their curriculum.

From the Stone Age to the Rolling Stones, from the mead hall to Carnegie Hall, poetry in the form of song lyrics has withstood the test of time. In fact, some of the greatest poetry written in the last 50 years resides in the songs and recordings of artists who have entertained us with their music, giving poetry perhaps its most widespread stage since the Romantic Age. The words of rock, country, folk, blues, and hip-hop artists are as relevant and influential to the social discourse, passion, and creative expression of our time as the works of William Blake, Wolfgang Mozart, John Keats, Ludwig van Beethoven, the Shelleys (Percy and Mary), Mendelssohn, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Lord Byron were to turn-of-the-19th century Europe. The lyric – at once immutable and fluid; deeply personal and universal – may indeed ensure the survival of poetry until the end of time itself.


The words of rock, country, folk, blues, and hip-hop artists are as relevant and influential to the social discourse, passion, and creative expression of our time as the works of Mozart, Keats, and Goethe were to turn-of-the-19th century Europe.

The fabric of our lives.


From the swell of pride that accompanies the singing of a national anthem to songs to be sung just for the joy of it, song is interwoven into the fabric of our lives.

From ancient times to today, musicians have given us birthing songs and dying songs; feasting songs and songs for famine; songs for a day’s work and songs for a night’s sleep; and songs to be sung just for the joy of it. From the swell of pride that accompanies the singing of a national anthem to the sense of community from kindred spirits who know all of the words to a familiar campfire song, song is interwoven into the fabric of our lives. Each time we turn on the radio, plug into our iPods, attend a concert, or enjoy music in any of its other manifestations, we are participating in an ancient ritual.


Today’s booming rock and hip-hop scenes offer a direct portal to ancient times, when shamans and elders used music as a method of oral storytelling.

A time portal.

Music and spoken word have been joined since ancient shamans and elders began using cadenced singing, drumming, and rhythmic dancing as forms of oral storytelling in order to communicate vital information to nomadic peoples. With their sense of tribalism, movement, performance, and the symbiotic relationship between lyrics and music, today’s booming rock and hip-hop scenes offer a direct portal into a time otherwise lost to the sands of history.

Virtually all ancient cultures – China, India, Persia, the Mesoamericas, Indo-Aryan, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian – used storytelling, with the presentations delivered by orators in song-verse as a way of feeding audiences huge amounts of material in bite-sized chunks.

Lyrical traditions.

The first written tributes – of Sumeria’s Enheduanna to the goddess Inanna, ancient Egyptian love poetics, India’s Vedas, China’s dynastic nature odes, and early Biblical-era works (such as Song of Songs, Psalms of David, and Song of Deborah) – were not poems as we know them, but lyrics, written to be sung.


Early Biblical works like the Song of Songs were not poems, but lyrics that were written to be sung. (Owen Jones, Song of Songs which is Solomon's, 1849)

This lyrical tradition informed and inspired the earliest Greeks. Their lyric poetry spoke to subjects of love, war and peace, nature and nostalgia, social issues, relationships with gods and goddesses, and grief and loss – subjects that feed virtually every lyric-based music genre today.

With the Middle Ages, music and poetry alike enjoyed a period of great prosperity and attention, a result of the burgeoning European feudal system that placed traveling poet-singers such as the troubadours and minstrels at the forefront of courtly living and made "rock stars" of those skilled with the pen, voice, harp, and flute. Provencal composer-poets like Marie de France, Adam de La Halle, and prolific composer Guillame de Machaut broke European prosody out of the iron cage of the Middle Ages by putting words to music through forms like rondeau, canso, madrigal and ballade, then fanning out to Spain, Italy, and England.


Poet-singers were the rock stars of the Middle Ages. (Francesco del Cosa, Triumph of Venus, 1470s)
Domination, decline, & revival.
After the healthy boon of the Renaissance, lyric work dominated the poetry scene through the 16th and 17th centuries, finding champions in John Donne, Robert Herrick, Basho (in Japan), and others. After a decline in the 18th century, the Romantics embraced the idea of emotion over reason and revived lyric poetry as the ultimate expression of intense feeling. The early 20th century brought little change as lyric poetry dominated in both Europe and America. It was memorized by children in one-room schoolhouses, jotted onto Valentine’s cards, and quoted as often as one might hear their favorite song on the radio. Out of this love of lyric poetry, the parlor song emerged. Songs like "Home Sweet Home," "When the Swallows Homeward Fly," and "Beautiful Dreamer" were played and sung in homes in every region, regardless of social class.


Among others, John Donne championed lyric work in the 16th and 17th centuries.

At the same time, a movement engineered by poets Ezra Pound, T.S. Elliot, and William Carlos Williams worked to reject what were considered to be the "vapid" notions of Romantic lyric poetry and focus instead on complexity and the grit of daily life. Despite an initial opposition to traditional lyricism, it was this particular poetic revolution that made way for the counterculture movement of the 1960s.


T.S. Elliot wrote this inscription to Ezra Pound. Both poets chose to focus on the grit of daily life. Pound’s work, The Cantos, reflects his affinity for troubadour poetry and song.

The old made new again.

The poetic lyrics of Bob Dylan, the Doors, the Byrds, and Joan Baez easily demonstrate the connection between the new and the old. From Baez’s rendition of Poe’s "Annabell Lee," to Dylan’s nods to T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (in "Desolation Row"), to the Byrds’ re-working of a verse from the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes ("Turn, Turn, Turn"), the troubadours of the musical revolution of the 1960s honored their forbears.


The poetic lyrics of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and others honored their forbears

While the decade brought about a onslaught of new, cryptic, and appropriately unsettling lyrics, the era also saw a resurgence of old ballads of the medieval and Renaissance minstrels, such as "Barbara Allen," "Silver Dagger," and "Greensleeves." Indeed, the 1960s provide us with a palpable example of the marriage between "traditional" poetry and the poetry of song, with the lines blurred between the old and the new. So interconnected were poetry, performance art, and music in the late 1960s that poets such as Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, and Allen Ginsberg opened rock concerts and festivals with spoken-word performances.


In the late 1960s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and other poets would open rock concerts with spoken-word performances.

Rap and hip-hop.

Forty years have passed since our latest major lyrical revolution, though many insurgencies have taken place since the 1960s. One of the most hard-hitting is rap, which arose from the inner-city social unrest of the '60s. After germinating in the 1970s, rap broke onto the scene in a big way in the 1980s, finding an audience among black youth and white Generation Xers burned out on a punk rock scene that had de-fanged into New Wave.

Characterized by meticulously rhymed, brutally frank lyrics expounding upon social injustice, sex, drugs, abuse, and poverty, and most often set to a driving beat with little instrumentation, rap lyrics have become the poetic battle cry of those angered by the world around them. By the late 1990s, rap artists shifted their focus from socially conscious lyrics to a tough "gangsta" approach. White youth jumped on the fan base in droves, with Detroit artist Eminem (Marshall Mathers) joining Dr. Dre, Mos Def, Puff Daddy, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, and others in lyrically expounding upon the issues that bothered them – much like what Blake was doing on the streets of London two centuries prior.


Mos Def and other rappers expounded upon socially relevant issues, much like poets in centuries prior.

Future revolutions.

Only time will tell what the next decades may bring for the genre. While rap emerged as an entirely new genre out of the 1960s, most modern lyrics are an extension of what came before, with country, folk, rock, punk, indie, and New Age lyricists adjusting their styles to fit the times. As we head full-force into this millennium with new wars, new threats, new social mores, new concerns, and new celebrations, we may yet be ripe for a new poetic revolution, with song leading the way as the past, present, and future of poetry.

The journey from Ancient Greece.

The annals of time make it clear that, for all of today’s diversity in lyric-based music, the modern lyric’s roots lie beneath the hills and ruins of Ancient Greece. Greek dramatists and poets had been composing to accompanying music for several centuries when, in the 4th century B.C., a new sport emerged: spoken-word contests. Music and poetry have made the journey since, their shared source of creative inspiration and similar mathematically-inclined structures making them like fraternal twins – able to separate in daily life, but yoked from the womb.

The following examples demonstrate how poetry informed lyrics and music, with an emphasis on pieces that were either put to song or celebrated song, beginning with the father of the narrative poem, Homer:

From Hymn to Earth the Mother of All
Homer (7th century B.C.)

O universal mother, who dost keep
From everlasting thy foundations deep,
Eldest of things, Great Earth, I sing of thee!
All shapes that have their dwelling in the sea,
All things that fly, or on the ground divine
Live, move, and there are nourished–these are thine;
These from thy wealth thou dost sustain; from thee
Fair babes are born, and fruits on every tree
Hang ripe and large, revered Divinity!

By the early 5th century B.C., choruses began to develop for Greece’s fledgling theater culture. Euripides can be credited as setting the format and positioning for the traditional chorus that evolved into the envoi in Renaissance ballads and the refrain in modern music.

Chorus from The Bacchai
Euripides (480-406 B.C.)

Where is the home for me?
O Cyprus, set in the sea,
Aphrodite’s home in the soft sea-foam,
Would I lend to thee;
Where in the wings of the Lovers are furled,
And faint the heart of the world!

Ay, or to Paphos’ isle,
Where the rainless meadows smile
With riches rolled from the hundred-fold
Mouths of the far-off Nile,
Streaming beneath the waves
To the roots of the seaward caves!

Underground in the Middle Ages.

Lyrical, musically fed poetry waned after Greece, although some Roman poets occasionally wrote to music. The music-poetry relationship went underground during the Middle Ages, but out of southern England and France, a few courageous court-poets wrote words to music and spread them from village to village, igniting the Provencal troubadour movement, the first spark of modern lyric-based music.

From The Cambridge Songs
(c. 1000)

Wind is thin,
Sun warm,
The earth overflows
With good things.

Spring is purple
Flowers on the ground,
Green in the forest
Quadrupeds shine
And wander. Birds
Nest. On blossoming
Branches they cry joy!

Among the most exquisite poet-lyricists in world history was Marie de France, the most popular female poet of the Middle Ages.

From Song from Chartivel
Marie de France (1155-1189)

Hath any loved you well, down there,
Summer or winter through?
Down there, have you found any fair
Laid in the grave with you?
’s death’s long kiss a richer kiss
Than mine was wont to be–
Or have you gone to some far bliss
And quite forgotten me?

What soft enamoring of sleep
Hath you in some soft way?
What charmed death holdeth you with deep
Strange lure by night and day?
A little space below the grass,
Our of the sun and shade;
But worlds away from me, alas,
Down there where you are laid.

Swooning over troubadours.

Not only did the Provencal troubadour poets seed Italy for the Renaissance with poetic forms, but also with lyrical forms that were meant to be accompanied by music. From Sicily to Tuscany to Bologna, the music of the troubadours swooned over a people ready to unlock their hearts and minds. The Renaissance began with ballata, sonnets, madrigals, canzones, and canzonettas – all initially set to music.

Strambotti Siciliani (Sicilian Love Song)
(12th century)

More than honey the words you speak are sweet,
Honest and wise, nobly and wittily said,
Yours are the beauties of Camiola complete,
Of Iseult the blonde and Morgana the fairy maid.
If Blanchefleur should be added to the group,
Your loveliness would tower above each head.
Beneath your brows five beautiful things repose:
Love and a fire and a flame, the lily, the rose.

Anonymous Song (Spain)

There in the flower garden
I will die.
Among the rose bushes
They will kill me.
I was on my way,
Mother, to cut some roses;
There in the flower garden
I found my love,
There in the flower garden
They will kill me.

The unlikely poet.

The troubadour movement also reached England through the work of Geoffrey Chaucer. A century after Chaucer’s time, when Sir Thomas Wyatt brought Italian lyrical poetry into the country, English poets explored the relationship between song and words. Among them was an unlikely bard, King Henry VIII, who wrote some of the finest music of the Renaissance.

From Past Times with Good Company
Henry VIII (1491-1547)

Pastimes with good company,
I love, and shall until I die.
Grouch who list, but none deny,
So God be pleased, thus live will I.
For my pastance,
Hunt, sing and dance,
My heart is set;
All goodly sport,
For my comfort,
Who shall me let?

From Song
John Donne (1573-1631)

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids’ singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

It thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible go see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till Age snow white hairs on thee;
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear
No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

Oh, baby.

The dawning of the Renaissance era was met with people eager to unlock and free their hearts and minds and give themselves over to the pleasures of life. One such eager reveler was William Shakespeare, who wrote 160 songs for use within his plays. These songs were meant to be accompanied by simple instruments – the drum, flute, and lute – and were often salvaged from older lyrics and tunes. "Sigh No More, Ladies" is a classic example of this era’s lyricism, including the "hey nonny nonny," which was Shakespeare’s equivalent of today’s, "Oh baby" or "yeah, yeah, yeah."

Sigh No More, Ladies from Much Ado About Nothing
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh nor more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into. Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no mo,
Or dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into. Hey, nonny, nonny.

Champion of lyricism.

John Donne was one of the champions of lyricism in the 16th and 17th centuries, and many of his works were designated as "songs." "Go and Catch a Falling Star" is a reflection on life’s pilgrimage utilizing mystical aspects of magical herbalism, mythology, and love. Like most songs of the era, this was most likely written to be accompanied by the lute – the instrument of choice for minstrels and bards.

Go and Catch a Falling Star
John Donne (1572-1631)

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

The Romantics.

As lyric poetry began to lose popularity, few notable works emerged. Then came the Romantics. Who better to write a lyric than those who prided themselves for placing emotion over reason? Poets such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, and Lord Byron – and the Ancient Romans and Greeks who influenced them – became prime sources for some of the deeper rock lyrics of the 1960s.

Wanderer’s Night-Songs
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Thou that from the heavens art,
Every pain and sorrow stillest,
And the doubly wretched heart
Doubly with refreshment fillest,
I am weary with contending!
Why this rapture and unrest?
Peace descending
Come, ah, come into my breast!

O'er all the hilltops
Is quiet now,
In all the treetops
Hearest thou
Hardly a breath;
The birds are asleep in the trees:
Wait; soon like these
Thou too shalt rest.

Mad Song
William Blake (1757-1827)

The wild winds peep
And the night is a-cold;
Come hither, Sleep,
And my griefs infold:
But lo! The morning peeps
Over the eastern steeps,
And the rustling birds of dawn
The earth do scorn.

Lo! To the vault
Of paved heaven
With sorrow fraught
My notes are driven:
They strike the ear of night,
Make weep the eyes of day;
They make mad the roaring winds,
And with tempests play.

Negro influence.

While not European in nature, traditional Negro music spread across the United States in the 1900s. It formed the basis of three forms – blues, jazz, and gospel – that influenced such English rock bands as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Cream, and Led Zeppelin, all of whom contributed enormously to the vault of poetics in modern music.

From Follow the Drinking Gourd
Traditional Negro Folk Song

When the sun comes back, and the first quail calls,
Follow the drinkin’ gourd,
When the old man is a-waitin’ for to carry you to freedom,
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.
Follow the drinkin’ gourd,
Follow the drinkin’ gourd,
For the old man is a-waitin’ for to carry you to freedom,
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.

Musical revolution.

In the mid-1960s, folk, blues, and rock fused together in three locations: San Francisco, London, and New York City (in particular Greenwich Village). All three cities had different scenes and expressions, but collectively they changed the face of the world by hosting musical and cultural revolutions.

In Los Angeles, a troubled soul combined rock lyrics with the pantheon of Ancient Greek, English, and French poets: Jim Morrison. Drawing comparisons to Greek wine god Dionysus, the Doors’ lead singer worked with odes, epics, ballads, and Greek choral structures to build many of his songs, led by the striking "The End."

From The End
Jim Morrison (1943-71)

This is the end,
Beautiful friend,
This is the end,
My only friend,
The end...of our elaborate plans,
The end...of everything that stands,
The safety or surprise,
The end...I’ll never look into your eyes

Can you picture what will be,
So limitless and free,
Desperately in need of some
Stranger’s hand
In a desperate land.
Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane;
Waiting for the summer rain.

Bob Dylan successfully melded Classic, Renaissance, Romantic, and anti-Romantic poetic traditions by integrating mythology, lush (and surreal) imagery, timely themes, and nods to his personal poetic heroes. Were it not for the modern language, these lyrics could easily be mistaken for a medieval minstrel song.

As I Went Out One Morning
Bob Dylan (b. 1941)

As I went out one morning
To breathe the air around Tom Paine’s,
I spied the fairest damsel
That ever did walk in chains.
I offer’d her my hand,
She took me by the arm.
I knew that very instant,
She meant to do me harm.

"Depart from me this moment,"
I told her with my voice.
Said she, "But I don’t wish to,"
Said I, "But you have no choice."
"I beg you, sir," she pleaded
From the corners of her mouth,
"I will secretly accept you
And together we’ll fly south."

Just then Tom Paine, himself,
Came running from across the field,
Shouting at this lovely girl
And commanding her to yield.
And as she was letting go her grip,
Up Tom Paine did run,
"I’m sorry, sir," he said to me,
"I’m sorry for what she’s done.

Love or something like it.

Alanis Morisette began writing her own quirky, biting lyrics in 2002, often utilizing plays on words and old sayings to tell her stories.

Knees of my Bees
Alanis Morisette (b. 1974)

We share a culture same vernacular
Love of physical humor and time spent alone
You with your penchant for spontaneous advents
For sticky and raspy, unearthed and then gone

You are a gift renaissance with a wink
With tendencies for conversations that raise bars
You are a sage who is fueled by compassion
Comes to nooks and crannies as balm for all scars

You make the knees of my bees weak, tremble and buckle
You make the knees of my bees weak

You are a spirit that knows of no limit
That knows of no ceiling who balks at dead-ends
You are a wordsmith who cares for his brothers
Not seduced by illusion or fair-weather friends

You make the knees of my bees weak, tremble and buckle
You make the knees of my bees weak

You are a vision who lives by the signals of
Stomach and intuition as your guide
You are a sliver of god on a platter
Who walks what he talks and who cops when he’s lied

You make the knees of my bees weak, tremble and buckle
You make the knees of my bees weak
You make the knees of my bees weak, tremble and buckle
You make the knees of my bees weak
You make the knees of my bees weak, tremble and buckle
You make the knees of my bees weak

Most would consider the frank lyrics of gangsta rap artist and activist Tupac Shakur far removed from the almost-sweet sentiment of "Bees of My Knees." Beneath the brutal exterior, however, is that driving force behind so many songs – love.

from Nothin’ But Love
Tupac Shakur (1971-1996)

When I was young I used to want to be a dealer see
Cause the gold and cars they appealed to me
I saw our brothers getting rich slangin crack to folks
And the square’s getting big for these sack of dope
Started thinking bout a plan to get paid myself
So I made myself, raised myself
Til the dealer on the block told me, "That ain’t cool
You ain’t meant to slang crack, you a rapper fool"
I got my game about women from a prostitute
And way back used to rap on the block for loot
I tried to make my way legit, haha
But it was hard, cause rhymes don’t pay the rent
And uhh, it was funny how I copped out
I couldn’t make it in school, so finally I dropped out
My family on welfare
I’m steady thinking, since don’t nobody else care
I’m out here on my own
At least in jail I have a meal and I wouldn’t be alone
I’m feelin like a waste, tears rollin down my face
Cause my life is filled with hate
Until I looked around me
I saw nothing but family, straight up down for me
Panthers, Pimps, Pushers and Thugs
Hey yo, that’s my family tree, I got nuttin but love. .

New folk movement.

In a musical climate where anything goes, an "underground" movement of new artists writing in the folk tradition has unfolded. Operating in the minstrel tradition, Joanna Newsom composes lyrics that can stand alone as poems as easily as they can be put to music.

from Sadie
Joanna Newsom (b. 1982)

This is an old song,
these are old blues.
This is not my tune,
but it’s mine to use.
And the seabirds
where the fear once grew
will flock with a fury,
and they will bury what’d come for you

Down where I darn with the milk-eyed mender
you and I, and a love so tender,
is stretched-on the hoop where I stitch-this adage:
"Bless this house and its heart so savage."

And all that I want, and all that I need
and all that I’ve got is scattered like seed.
And all that I knew is moving away from me.
(and all that I know is blowing
like tumbleweed)

And the mealy worms
in the brine will burn
in a salty pyre,
among the fauns and ferns.

And the love we hold,
and the love we spurn,
will never grow cold
only taciturn.
The Nation's Oldest City


Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European and African-American origin in the United States. Forty-two years before the English colonized Jamestown and fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Spanish established at St. Augustine this nation's first enduring settlement.

The architectural legacy of the city's past is much younger, testimony to the impermanent quality of the earliest structures and to St. Augustine's troubled history. Only the venerable Castillo de San Marcos, completed in the late seventeenth century, survived destruction of the city by invading British forces in 1702.

Vestiges of the First Spanish Colonial Period (1565-1764) remain today in St. Augustine in the form of the town plan originally laid out by Governor Gonzalo Méndez de Canzo in the late sixteenth century and in the narrow streets and balconied houses that are identified with the architecture introduced by settlers from Spain. Throughout the modern city and within its Historic Colonial District, there remain thirty-six buildings of colonial origin and another forty that are reconstructed models of colonial buildings.

St. Augustine can boast that it contains the only urban nucleus in the United States whose street pattern and architectural ambiance reflect Spanish origins.

Historians credit Juan Ponce de Leon, the first governor of the Island of Puerto Rico, with the discovery of Florida in 1513. While on an exploratory trip in search of the fabled Bimini he sighted the eastern coast of Florida on Easter Sunday, which fell on March 27 that year. Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for the Spanish Crown and named it Florida after the Easter season, known in Spanish as PASCUA FLORIDA. This newly claimed territory extended north and west to encompass most of the known lands of the North American continent that had not been claimed by the Spanish in New Spain (Mexico and the Southwest).

In the following half century, the government of Spain launched no less than six expeditions attempting to settle Florida; all failed. In 1564 French Huguenots (Protestants) succeeded in establishing a fort and colony near the mouth of the St. Johns River at what is today Jacksonville. This settlement posed a threat to the Spanish fleets that sailed the Gulf Stream beside the east coast of Florida, carrying treasure from Central and South America to Spain. As Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was assembling a fleet for an expedition to Florida, the French intrusion upon lands claimed by Spain was discovered. King Philip II instructed Menéndez, Spain's most capable admiral, to remove the French menace to Spain's interests.

On September 8, 1565, with much pomp and circumstance and 600 voyagers cheering, Menéndez set foot on the shores of Florida. In honor of the saint whose feast day fell on the day he first sighted land, Menéndez named the colonial settlement St. Augustine. Menéndez quickly and diligently carried out his king's instructions. With brilliant military maneuvering and good fortune, he removed the French garrison and proceeded to consolidate Spain's authority on the northeast coast of Florida. St. Augustine was to serve two purposes: as a military outpost, or PRESIDIO, for the defense of Florida, and a base for Catholic missionary settlements throughout the southeastern part of North America.

Maintaining St. Augustine as a permanent military colony, however, was a mighty task. Without the courage, perseverance, and tenacity of the early settlers, it is doubtful that the community would have survived.

English pirates and corsairs pillaged and burned the town on several occasions in the next century. Clashes between the Spaniards and the British became more frequent when the English colonies were established in the Carolinas, and later, in Georgia. As a consequence, the Spanish moved to strengthen their defenses, beginning in 1672 construction of a permanent stone fortress. The Castillo de San Marcos was brought to completion late in the century, just in time to meet an attack by British forces from the Carolinas in 1702. Unable to take the fort after a two-month siege, the British troops burned the town and retreated.

British attacks continued, however. Plantation and slave owners in the English colonies resented the sanctuary that Spanish Florida afforded escaped slaves who successfully made their way to St. Augustine, which became a focal point for the first underground railroad. There, escaped slaves were given their freedom by the Spanish Governor if they declared allegiance to the King of Spain and embraced the Catholic religion. In 1738 the first legally sanctioned free community of former slaves, Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, was established as part of the presidio’s northern defenses.

In 1740, an even stronger attack on St. Augustine was mounted by the Governor of the British colony of Georgia, General James Oglethorpe. He also failed to take the fort.

The Treaty of Paris in 1763, ending the French and Indian War, gave Florida and St. Augustine to the British, accomplishing by the stroke of a pen what pitched battles had failed to do. St. Augustine came under British rule for the first time and served as a Loyalist (pro-British) colony during the American Revolutionary War. A second Treaty of Paris (1783), which gave America's colonies north of Florida their independence, returned Florida to Spain, a reward for Spanish assistance to the Americans in their war against England.

Upon their return, the Spanish in 1784 found that St. Augustine had changed. Settlers from a failed colony in New Smyrna (south of St. Augustine) had moved to St. Augustine in 1777. This group, known collectively as MINORCANS, included settlers from the western Mediterranean island of Minorca. Their presence in St. Augustine forever changed the ethnic composition of the town.

During what is called by historians the Second Spanish Period (1784-1821), Spain suffered the Napoleonic invasions at home and struggled to retain its colonies in the western hemisphere. Florida no longer held its past importance to Spain. The expanding United States, however, regarded the Florida peninsula as vital to its interests. It was a matter of time before the Americans devised a way to acquire Florida. The Adams-Onîs Treaty, negotiated in 1819 and concluded in 1821, peaceably turned over the Spanish colonies of East and West Florida and, with them, St. Augustine, to the United States.

For the next twenty-four years, East Florida and with it St. Augustine remained a territorial possession of the United States. Not until 1845 was Florida accepted into the union as a state. The Territorial Period (1821-1845) was marked by an intense war with native Indians, the so-called Second Seminole War (1835-1842). The United States Army took over the Castillo de San Marcos and renamed it Fort Marion.
In 1861, the Civil War began. Florida joined the Confederacy, but Union troops loyal to the United States Government quickly occupied St. Augustine and remained in control of the city throughout the four-year long war. St. Augustine was thus one of the few places in the United States where Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1862, actually freed any slaves. After the war, land was leased to freed slaves on what was then the west bank of Maria Sanchez Creek. Initially called Africa, the settlement later became Lincolnville and is today listed in the National Register of Historic Places, along with three other historic districts in the city.

Twenty years after the end of the Civil War, St. Augustine entered its most glittering era. Following a visit to the crumbling old Spanish town, Henry Flagler, a former partner of John D. Rockefeller in the Standard Oil Company, decided to create in St. Augustine a winter resort for wealthy Americans. He owned a railroad company that in 1886 linked St. Augustine by rail with the populous cities of the east coast. In 1887, his company began construction of two large and ornate hotels and a year later added a third that had been planned and begun by another developer. Flagler's architects changed the appearance of St. Augustine, fashioning building styles that in time came to characterize the look of cities throughout Florida. For a time, St. Augustine was the winter tourist mecca of the United States.

In the early twentieth century, however, the very rich found other parts of Florida to which they could escape. With them fled Flagler's dream of turning St. Augustine into the "Newport of the South." St. Augustine nevertheless remained a tourist town. As Americans took to the highways in search of a vacation land, St. Augustine became a destination for automobile-borne visitors. The tourism industry came to dominate the local economy.

The city celebrated its 400th anniversary in 1965 and undertook in cooperation with the State of Florida a program to restore parts of the colonial city. The continuation of an effort actually begun in 1935, what became known as the "Restoration" resulted in preserving the thirty-six remaining buildings from the colonial era and the reconstruction of some forty additional colonial buildings that had previously disappeared, transforming the appearance of the historic central part of St. Augustine. It was in great part a tribute to such efforts that King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia made this small city a part of their 2001 visit to the United States.

In 1964, St. Augustine played a role in America’s civil rights struggle when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a local campaign to dramatize national efforts designed to secure Congressional approval of what became the landmark Civil Rights Act of that year. The city now contains a series of historical markers noting sites associated with the civil rights movement here.

The first of Henry Flagler's three great hotels, the Ponce de Leon, was adapted for use as an institution of higher learning in 1971. As Flagler College, it expanded to embrace a student body of some 1,700 by the end of the century, offering a traditional four-year arts and science degree program. The second of his hotels, the Alcazar, has since 1948 contained the Lightner Museum, (and in 1973 the City of St. Augustine municipal offices). The third Flagler hotel, originally called the Casa Monica, stood vacant for thirty-five years before St. Johns County converted it for use a county courthouse in 1965. In 1999, under private ownership, the building was restored to its original function, and is now the only one of Flagler's three great hotels still serving that purpose.

Some 2 million visitors annually make their way to St. Augustine, lured by the sense of discovering a unique historic part of America. While the venerable Castillo de San Marcos remains the traditional magnet for visitors, there are many other appealing historical sites and vistas.

The City of St. Augustine maintains architectural control over the colonial city, insuring that the inevitable change which occurs in a living urban area respects the past.

Ancient City of Damascus

Founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. In the Middle Ages, it was the centre of a flourishing craft industry, specializing in swords and lace. The city has some 125 monuments from different periods of its history – one of the most spectacular is the 8th-century Great Mosque of the Umayyads, built on the site of an Assyrian sanctuary.


Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., Damascus was an important cultural and commercial centre, by virtue of its geographical position at the crossroads of the orient and the occident, between Africa and Asia. The old city of Damascus is considered to be among the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Excavations at Tell Ramad on the outskirts of the city have demonstrated that Damascus was inhabited as early as 8,000 to 10,000 BC. However, it is not documented as an important city until the arrival of the Aramaeans. In the Medieval period, it was the centre of a flourishing craft industry, with different areas of the city specializing in particular trades or crafts.

The city exhibits outstanding evidence of the civilizations which created it - Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic. In particular, the Umayyad caliphate created Damascus as its capital, setting the scene for the city's ongoing development as a living Muslim, Arab city, upon which each succeeding dynasty has left and continues to leave its mark.

In spite of Islam's prevailing influence, traces of earlier cultures particularly the Roman and Byzantine continue to be seen in the city. Thus the city today is based on a Roman plan and maintains the aspect and the orientation of the Greek city, in that all its streets are oriented north-south or east-west and is a key example of urban planning.

The earliest visible physical evidence dates to the Roman period - the extensive remains of the Temple of Jupiter, the remains of various gates and an impressive section of the Roman city walls. The city was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate. However, apart from the incomparable Great Mosque, built on the site of a Roman temple and over-laying a Christian basilica, there is little visible dating from this important era of the city's history. The present city walls, the Citadel, some mosques and tombs survive from the Middle Ages, but the greatest part of the built heritage of the city dates from after the Ottoman conquest of the early 16th century.

Criterion (i): Damascus testifies to the unique aesthetic achievement of the civilizations which created it. The Great Mosque is a masterpiece of Umayyad architecture, which together with other major monuments of different periods such as the Citadel, the Azem Palace, madrasas, khans, public baths and private residences demonstrates this achievement.

Criterion (ii): Damascus, as capital of the Umayyad caliphate - the first Islamic caliphate - was of key importance in the development of subsequent Arab cities. With its Great Mosque at the heart of an urban plan deriving from the Graeco-Roman grid, the city provided the exemplary model for the Arab Muslim world.

Criterion (iii): Historical and archaeological sources testify to origins in the third millennium BC, and Damascus is widely known as among the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. The incomparable Great Mosque is a rare and extremely significant monument of the Umayyads. The present city walls, the Citadel, some mosques and tombs survive from the Medieval period, and a large part of the built heritage of the city including palaces and private houses dates from after the Ottoman conquest of the early 16th century.

Criterion (iv): The Umayyad Great Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque of Damascus, is one of the largest mosques in the world, and one of the oldest sites of continuous prayer since the rise of Islam. As such it constitutes an important cultural, social and artistic development.

Criterion (vi): The city is closely linked with important historical events, ideas, traditions, especially from the Islamic period. These have helped to shape the image of the city and impact of Islamic history and culture.

Integrity (2009)

The line of the walls of the old city forms the boundary of the property. Although areas outside the walls that represent the expansion of the city from the 13th century, are considered related to the old city in terms of historical significance, and provide its setting and context, the key attributes of Outstanding Universal Value lie within the boundary. These include the plan of the city and its dense urban fabric, city walls and gates, as well as its 125 protected monuments including the Umayyad Mosque, madrasas, khans, the Citadel and private houses.

The attributes are vulnerable to erosion from a lack of traditional approaches to maintenance and conservation, and use of traditional materials, while its setting and context are threatened by lack of conservation policy for the historical zones outside the walled city and by regional planning projects.

Authenticity (2009)

Since the inscription of the property, the morphological layout and the spatial pattern of the historic fabric have remained basically unchanged and the key discrete attributes survive. However commercial and semi-industrial activities are spreading into the residential area of the walled city and its suburbs, in places eroding the value of the attributes relating to the urban fabric and their inter-relationships.

Protection and management requirements (2009)

Responsibilities for planning control over the old city and its management are in the hands of two government departments (the Commission for Safeguarding the Old Town and the General Directorate for Antiquities and Museums (DGAM). Technical Cooperation for projects and programmes to enhance the city is undertaken by the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment with support from international organizations. The effectiveness of the conservation policy relies on full participation of various interests within the city such as public/private partnerships, all levels of government, the financial community, and citizens.

Legal protection is provided by the Antiquities law 222 amended in 1999 in addition to the Ministerial order no. 192 of 1976 designating the walled city as part of the cultural and historical heritage of Syria. Parliamentary Act N° 826 for the Restoration and Reconstruction/Rebuilding the city within the walls has been reviewed in light of changed conditions, needs and opportunities, and aims at establishing new conditions for the walled city.

A Committee for the Protection and Development of Old Damascus has been established, with representatives of the different bodies to coordinate the planning and building activities in addition to being responsible for the strategic planning for the Old City.

The draft of the Integrated Urban Plan of the old city had been formally approved by Ministerial decision N° 37/A of 2010. A buffer zone has also been delineated but not yet formally approved.

There is a need for the plan, once approved and implemented, to clarify the different levels of protection to be applied to the different parts of the urban fabric, to set out the appropriate interventions

Long Description

Damascus is considered to be the oldest city as well as the oldest capital of the world. It is the cradle of historical civilizations, constituting a beacon of science and art over time, and a historical encyclopaedia which tells a great part of the history of humanity. In the same way, it represents a historical reference for comparing the systems of architecture and town planning over several thousand years.

Founded in the 3rd millennium BC, Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. Dominated to the west by Mount Qasiyun and bounded to the east by the desert, Damascus was founded, with the name of Palmyra, in an oasis that was very fertile thanks to the presence of the River Barada, a meeting place for cultures and caravans. It was the capital of an Aramaic kingdom (11th-7th centuries BC), often at war with the kings of Israel and temporarily conquered by King David. After being defeated twice by the Assyrians, it was definitively conquered by Nebuchadnezzar in 600 BC. It fell into Persian hands in 530 BC, and then in 333 BC it was annexed to the empire of Alexander the Great. The two adjoining areas were unified by the Romans, during the reigns of Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla (AD 197-217). The city was enclosed by a single ring of enclosure walls that are still be identified. After the interval of rule by the Sassanid Parthians, in 636 its fate was sealed permanently as part of the Arab world, becoming the prestigious and monumental capital of the Umayyad caliph. The city then began to expand outside the enclosure walls and enjoyed a time of particular economic prosperity, which continued despite its loss of capital status under the Mameluke dynasty and the devastation wrought during the Mongol incursion.

Damascus preserves a few traces of its long history prior to the Arabic conquest, including some from the Roman period, such as the decumanus, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, which coincides with the present-day route that crosses the city from east to west, a road lined with columns which still preserves one of the three monumental arches.

The main entrance to the old city is the al Hamidiyeh souk. The Ayyubid Citadel of Damascus is a masterpiece of military architecture, and its courtyards, walls and two enormous entrances illustrate numerous historical events, including the conquest by Timur in 1400.

At the end of the 4th century, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius, on the site of the ancient Temple of Jove there was a Byzantine church dedicated to St John the Baptist and, since 706, the Great Mosque, built at the behest of al-Walid, the sixth Umayyad caliph. The complex has an external courtyard, bounded by a massive wall and flanked by three minarets in different styles. The inner courtyard has three sides with a covered double portico and the centre of it is covered by a dome for the ablution ritual that precedes the prayers. Adjoining the porticoes is the Dome of Treasure, a small octagonal pavilion covered with fine mosaics, and surmounted by a dome that stands on eight Corinthian columns. On the fourth side of the internal courtyard is the mosque proper, subdivided by arches into three parallel aisles, cut on a perpendicular line by a transect, the central part of which was covered by a wooden dome that was destroyed in 1401.

The arrangement of its component elements is reminiscent of the Christian churches of Syria and Armenia and represents a significant example of Umayyad art that continues, through the master craftsmen employed, the tradition of Byzantine art. The urban fabric underwent important transformations with the rise to power of the Abbasids: the urban centre ceased to be a unified organism and was divided up into autonomous quarters, each equipped with its own institutions, mosques, public baths, markets, and police corps. In this way, the rectangular blocks from the Hellenistic grid were transformed into the characteristic Islamic urban fabric. Over the centuries guilds of craftsmen and merchants established themselves around the Great Mosque, while the important Christian minority consolidated itself in the north-east quarters of the city, around the churches and sites associated with the conversation of St Paul.




So... what is this? A thread which purportedly has something to do with history in which some people decide to talk about whatever they think has had an impact upon the subject without actually creating a thread about it?

You like Rosa Parks, talk about Rosa Parks.
If you're angry about the destruction of ancient Buddhist statues in the Bamiyan Valley, then talk about that.

Say something.

Fuck your pretty pictures.
Salustiano Sanchez Blazquez (El Tejado de Bejar, Spain, 8 June 1901 – Grand Island, New York, United States, 13 September 2013) was a Spanish man who became the world's oldest living man, from the death of 116-year-old Japanese man Jiroemon Kimura on 12 June 2013 until his own death on 13 September 2013. He was born in Spain, and later emigrated to Cuba, where he lived for a few years before emigrating to the United States, living there until his death.


Sanchez was born in 1901 to Baldomera Blazquez and Serafin Sanchez in the village of El Tejado de Bejar, in Salamanca province, Spain. As he was growing up, he was admired for his skills playing the dulzaina musical instrument, which he played at village celebrations and weddings in order to earn money. Sanchez went to school until he was ten years old and taught himself after that point. He immigrated to Cuba at age 17 with his older brother Pedro and some of his friends. He initially worked in the sugar cane fields. Sanchez emigrated to the United States in August 1920 and eventually got a job in the coal mines of Lynch, Kentucky. He met his future wife Pearl Emilie Chiasera at the funeral of a mutual acquaintance in Pennsylvania. He married Chiasera in 1934 and had two children (a son, John, and a daughter, Irene) with her. Sanchez's extended family includes seven grandchildren, fifteen great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren. Chiasera died in 1988, after which Sanchez lived with his daughter Irene before he moved into a nursing home in 2007. Sanchez lived at a nursing home in Grand Island, New York, near Niagara Falls. Sanchez stated that his longevity is caused by eating one banana and taking six Anacin tablets each day.

Sanchez died of natural causes in the nursing home on Grand Island on 13 September 2013 at the age of 112 years, 97 days. He was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Lewiston, New York. After his death an Italian-born man Arturo Licata became the world's oldest man.
Émile Turlant (April 1, 1904 – September 15, 2013) was, at the time of his death, France's oldest living man since the death of 109-year-old Louis Le Bouedec on August 21, 2012. Turlant was nearly three years younger than Olympe Amaury, France's oldest living supercentenarian woman.

Emile Turlant, from France, was born in Moulins-sur-Allier, a commune in the region of Auvergne in central France. He went to Paris, the French capital, to work, first working in a parachute factory and then working for the RATP Group, which is a state-owned public transport operator. He married Lucienne Crête, a seamstress, in 1932. He did not have any children with her, and as he himself stated a lack of spare time might have been a factor in this decision. He was mobilized during World War II but was not called up to fight. He worked during the night while she worked during the day, which he said prevented them from spending a lot of time together. Lucienne died in 1992. Turlant retired when he was in his 50s, and in the early 1960s he moved to Nièvre at Beaumont-la-Ferrière. Emile Turlant was described by his neighbors as someone who is grumpy, never happy, and very strong. Turlant lived by himself until age 92, when he decided to move to a retirement home due to declining strength (for instance, he was no longer able to carry a bucket of coal, which he used to heat his house). He received visits from some local officials once or twice during every month, including visits from the mayor of Beaumont-la-Ferrière. Before his death, Turlant had very poor hearing and had trouble moving, and in addition he did not speak much. Nevertheless, he enjoyed his 108th and 109th birthday celebrations, in both cases drinking wine and eating cake. Throughout his life, Turlant always ate his vegetables (from his garden), was rarely sick, and was never operated on. Due to his longevity, Turlant had lived through World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the rise of the Internet, the War on Terrorism, and the end of the French Third Republic and French Fourth Republic. He died September 15, 2013 at the age of 109.
Jiroemon Kimura (木村 次郎右衛門 Kimura Jirōemon?, April 19, 1897 – June 12, 2013) was a Japanese supercentenarian. He became the verified oldest man in history on December 28, 2012, at the age of 115 years and 253 days when he surpassed the age of Christian Mortensen who died in 1998; and also became the first man verified to have reached 116 years of age, being 116 years and 54 days old at the time of his death from natural causes on June 12, 2013, in a hospital in his hometown of Kyōtango, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. He was also the last known living man born in the 19th century.

Kimura became the oldest living man in Japan upon the death of Tomoji Tanabe on June 19, 2009, the world's oldest living man upon the death of Walter Breuning on April 14, 2011, the oldest living person in Japan upon the death of Chiyono Hasegawa on December 2, 2011, and the world's oldest living person upon the death of Dina Manfredini on December 17, 2012, until his own death.


Early life and education

Kimura was born as Kinjiro Miyake (三宅 金治郎 Miyake Kinjirō?) on April 19, 1897 in the fishing village of Kamiukawa, the third of six children born to farmers Morizo and Fusa Miyake. According to Kimura's nephew, Tamotsu Miyake, Kimura's birthday was recorded as April 19, 1897 instead of March 19, 1897 in 1955 by mistake when records from neighboring towns were consolidated and re-done. He finished school second in his class at age 14 and commenced working from local post offices around the age of 17.

Marriage and career

In the 1920s, Kimura also worked as a government communications worker in Korea under Japanese rule. Upon returning from Korea, he married his neighbor, Yae Kimura (1904–1978). Since his wife's family lacked a male heir, he changed his name to Jiroemon Kimura, becoming the ninth member of the family to bear that name. He retired in 1962 at the age of 65, having worked in post offices for 45 years. After retiring he turned to farming until the age of 90.

Personal life

Four of Kimura's siblings lived past the age of 90, and his youngest brother died at the age of 100. Kimura had seven children, five of whom survived him, 14 grandchildren (13 surviving), 25 great-grandchildren and 15 great-great-grandchildren. Kimura was health conscious and active. He woke up early in the morning and read newspapers with a magnifying glass. Also, he enjoyed talking to guests and followed live parliamentary debates on television. According to him, small portions of food were the key to a long and healthy life. Kimura resided in Kyōtango, Kyoto Prefecture, with his eldest son's widow, 83, and his grandson's widow, 59.

On his 114th birthday on April 19, 2011, Kimura mentioned his survival of the 7.6 magnitude 1927 Kita Tango earthquake that hit Kyoto and killed over 3,000 people. Being born in the year 30 of the Meiji period, he lived in the reigns of 4 emperors, and during the premierships of 61 Japanese Prime Ministers, from Matsukata Masayoshi to Shinzō Abe.

In October 2012, Kimura was presented with a certificate from Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday, relating to Kimura's appearance in the new 2013 Guinness World Records book; this was the second year in a row Kimura was recognized as the oldest living man in the world, as he also appeared in the 2012 edition of the book. During the meeting, Kimura said he spent most of his time in bed.

On his 116th and final birthday, Kimura received many well-wishes, including a video message from Shinzō Abe, Japan's Prime Minister. He was hospitalized for pneumonia on May 11, 2013. He died of natural causes in the hospital in his hometown of Kyōtango, western Japan, at 2:08 a.m. on June 12, 2013. His funeral was held on June 14.
Mamie Julia Rearden (née Lewis; September 7, 1898 – January 2, 2013) was an African American supercentenarian who, upon her death at the age of 114 years and 117 days, was the world's 5th oldest living person, the 2nd oldest living American, and the 2nd oldest living person of African descent behind Gertrude Weaver.


Mamie Julia Lewis grew up in the Pleasant Lane section of Edgefield County, South Carolina. She attended Log Creek Community School and Bettis Academy Junior College, and began her career as a teacher in 1918. In 1919, Rearden married Ocay Rearden, and the couple had eleven children. She was widowed in 1979. She became the nation's oldest African-American upon the death of Mississippi Winn on January 14, 2011. (although Gertrude Weaver was verified to be older later and she should have held this title since Winn died.)
Koto Okubo (大久保 琴 Ōkubo Koto?, 24 December 1897 – 12 January 2013) was a Japanese supercentenarian who, at the time of her death aged 115 years and 19 days, was recognized as the oldest woman in the world and the second oldest living person behind Jiroemon Kimura. At the time of her death, Okubo was one of only 29 people verified to have surpassed a 115th birthday.

Koto Okubo became the oldest woman from Japan and Asia after the death of Chiyono Hasegawa on 2 December 2011. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare did not announce her name officially (only her residence and age were released). Furthermore, at that time, her record was not identified and recognized by the Gerontology Research Group.

The name of Okubo was finally reported by the Japanese press on 14 September 2012, and on the same day, Okubo was verified and added to the GRG list and Guinness World Records.

Okubo lived in a nursing home in Kawasaki, Kanagawa with her son. She died of pneumonia on 12 January 2013.
Thomas Reginald Dean (4 November 1902 – 5 January 2013) was a British supercentenarian. Dean was the oldest living man in the United Kingdom after the death of 108-year-old Edward Anderson on 22 March 2011 and the oldest British-born man since the death of Claude Choules (who was born in England but later emigrated to Australia and died there) on 5 May 2011. Dean was, at the time of his death, aged 110, the sixth oldest British man ever, as well as the second-oldest living man in Europe (behind Italian-born Arturo Licata), and the last surviving British man born in 1902.


Dean was born in Tunstall, Staffordshire, on 4 November 1902. Dean was ordained as a minister in the 1920s. He worked as an assistant chaplain in Singapore in the 1930s. He served as an army chaplain in Burma and India during World War II. After his return to the United Kingdom, Dean moved to Derby in 1947, and in 1958 he became a teacher, and worked as such in Belper in Derbyshire for ten years.

Dean was a minister at the United Reformed Churches in Wirksworth and Matlock, and retired from the ministry at the age of 80. He was an enthusiastic actor, singer, and amateur dramatist and in 1987, he helped found the Dalesmen Male Voice Choir, of which he was life president. Dean supported Fair trade and he helped create Traid Links, in Wirksworth.


Dean was married three times. His first wife went into the cellar of a house where she was staying in for a short period of time and the other people in the house accidentally locked her in this cellar, making her unable to get out and causing her to die of hypothermia. His third wife, Anne, was a colleague of his; they later divorced. Anne is still alive today and later remarried. Dean had a son named Christopher, born in either 1949 or 1950. He also had two grandchildren. Christopher Dean leads the Syd Lawrence Orchestra. One of his nephews was television presenter Nick Owen.

Possible reasons for longevity

Dean was a vegetarian for thirty years. He attributed his vegetarianism, in addition to being lazy, having good friends and a religion, and looking for the best in people, as the secret to his longevity. Dean lived independently until 2007/2008, when he moved into a flat in Derbyshire. He also mentioned just before his 110th birthday that when he lived in Mumbai just before World War I, a doctor gave him a mysterious brown elixir ("this muddy mixture", as Dean called it) and told him that "if [he would] drink this [he] will live forever" or that if he would "drink this [he'll] live until at least 100".

On every birthday since his 100th, Dean began wearing a flower on his lapel. Apart from sight problems, Dean said at his 108th birthday that he was still in good health. On his 109th birthday, Dean joked that "[he] thought [the Queen had] forgotten [him]" when his birthday telegram from the Queen that year arrived late. Dean said on his 109th birthday that he still hoped to live to his 110th birthday next year, which he did. However, he was unable to attend a celebratory concert held the previous evening, and also had to receive his cake in bed due to not feeling well recently.

He said on his 110th birthday that he thought that he would reach age 111 next year and (perhaps jokingly) that he might be able to reach ages 115, 120, and 130. Dean died in January 2013, just two months after his 110th birthday. Dean was succeeded as the United Kingdom's oldest living man by 109-year-old Ralph Tarrant.
Carl James Berner (January 27, 1902 – January 7, 2013[1]) was a German-born American supercentenarian, civic activist, and former toymaker. Before his death he was the second-oldest living American man whose age had been verified behind James McCoubrey. He had also been the oldest living man in New York City for at least the last two years of his life. At the time of his death he was the second-oldest verified German-born man ever, behind Hermann Dörnemann, who lived for 111 years and 279 days


Carl James Berner was born in Stuttgart, then in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire, on January 27, 1902. After his parents died from tuberculosis, his maternal grandmother moved him to France. In 1912, his paternal grandmother moved him back to Germany. In school, Carl studied mechanical manufacturing, among other things. In 1928, he left Germany and moved to the United States. His first job in the United States was as the Night Building Superintendent at the Chrysler Building. He enjoyed his job despite the amount of work that it involved. He was offered by the U.S. government to become a foreign agent in 1933, but he rejected their offer. During the Great Depression, Berner created a toy-making business which later became a large success. Businesses and younger workers sought advice from him in regards to toy-making throughout his career.

Berner married Margaret (February 22, 1915-June 1987), a woman of Scandinavian descent, in 1936, and had a daughter named Emily (born September 23, 1943), who lived with her father. In 1938, Berner and Margaret moved to Middle Village, where he lived when he died. Berner was an active participant in the Juniper Park Civic Association for over 60 years. Berner walked two miles daily on average, which he said, along with his willingness to help others, was the secret to his longevity.

Berner died in New York City on January 7, 2013, a few weeks before his 111th birthday.
Elsie Marie Thompson (née Calvert; April 5, 1899 – March 21, 2013) was an American supercentenarian who was thought to have been the oldest living American from the death of 114-year-old Mamie Rearden on 2 January 2013 until her own death. however Gertrude Weaver's subsequent verification after Thompson's death means she was in fact the second oldest.

Elsie Marie Calvert was born on April 5, 1899. In 1921, she married Ronald L. Thompson (August 19, 1899–June 1986), an Army veteran of both World Wars and a Republican politician who served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for twelve years. She was a flexitarian (she avoided meat outside of chicken and salmon), and enjoyed coffee and cookies. She was a Republican and a Christian, and enjoyed singing hymns.

Thompson cited her love of people as her reason for a long life.

She died of congestive heart failure at her home in Clearwater, Florida on Thursday, March 21, 2013, two weeks before her 114th birthday. after her death, Jeralean Talley has been believed to be the new oldest living American. but, age of Gertrude Weaver of born 1898 was certified in 2014, Thompson and Talley has lost the title of the oldest living American.
Maria Redaelli (3 April 1899 – 2 April 2013)[4] was an Italian supercentenarian. At the time of her death, just one day shy of her 114th birthday, she was the oldest living person in Italy, the oldest living person in Europe and the fourth oldest living person in the world (behind Jiroemon Kimura, Misao Okawa, and Gertrude Weaver).


Maria Angela Redaelli was born on 3 April 1899 in Inzago, near Milan in the region of Lombardy. She married Gaspare Granoli (1898–1979) and the couple raised two children, Carla (1925) and Luigi (1930–2004). She worked in a silk spinning mill for almost 40 years while her husband was a steelworker in the Breda Industry, in Sesto San Giovanni, where they lived. After 1974, Redaelli moved to Novate Milanese and lived with her daughter's family. In her last days she was in good health, clear headed, quite active, and was still able to walk. Although she had some problems with her sight and hearing, she still read newspapers and magazines every day and on television followed her greatest passion and favourite football club, Inter Milan.

On 3 April 2012, she celebrated her 113th birthday with a big party[8] organized by her town, Novate Milanese, with the help of Inter City Fan Club. She was driven by a police car to the center of her town where she was welcomed by the Mayor Lorenzo Guzzeloni and celebrated by all citizens. Bedy Moratti, sister of Inter president Massimo Moratti, and Ernesto Paolillo, Inter F.C. chief executive officer, took part in the party to give Redaelli a special shirt and the best wishes from the team.

She died peacefully on 2 April 2013 at the age of 113 years, 364 days of natural causes in her sleep, she was survived by a daughter (aged 88), 2 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.
James Emmanuel "Doc" Sisnett (22 February 1900 – 23 May 2013) was a Barbadian supercentenarian. Born and raised in Saint George, he spent his life as a blacksmith, sugar factory worker, and farmer, not retiring from the latter until he turned 100. In excellent health throughout his life, he died at the age of 113 years, 90 days and held a number of distinctions. Among them, he was the verified oldest man in the Western Hemisphere, the second-oldest man in the world, and the 12th oldest person overall. He was also the only verified supercentenarian from Barbados and, along with Jiroemon Kimura (who died 20 days after Sisnett), one of the last men born in the 19th century.

Sisnett was born on 22 February 1900 in Saint George, Barbados, then a part of the British West Indies, as the son and fifth child of James Albert Egerton Sisnett and Matilda Ann Sisnett née Pitt. He grew up in Saint George, attended five years of school, and then trained as a blacksmith, a capacity in which he worked until 1920. He then joined the Kendal Sugar Factory, where he worked in numerous positions, until retiring in 1970 as the chief factory engineer. He was also a farmer, and continued in that trade until 2000.

Sisnett was married twice and had had 11 children, two of whom predeceased him. He wed his first wife, Anita Dowling, on December 23, 1923 and had five children with her prior to her death in 1937. He married his second wife, Josephine Evelyn, in 1942 and had six more. At the time of his death, he had 25 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. Among his siblings, two sisters lived to the age of 100 and two others died at 98 and 99.

In his later years Sisnett was referred to by several nicknames, including "Doc" and "Grandad". At the age of 100, he received the key to the city of Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, and, in 2001, was awarded the Barbados Centennial Honour by Governor-General Clifford Husbands. He celebrated his 110th birthday with a gathering of 200 people, including Mighty Gabby, who wrote and performed a song for the occasion. A road in Saint George was named in his honor.

Sisnett died in his sleep of natural causes on 23 May 2013, at the age of 113 years, 90 days, in a nursing home in Christ Church, Barbados. He had an excellent memory and had been in good health prior to his death, having never been a hospital patient. Until his 100th birthday, his only doctor's visit had come at the age of nine, when he was given rum to cure a toothache. In 2007 he underwent laser eye surgery at the age of 106, to remove cataracts, and also suffered from hearing loss. In 2011 samples of his blood, as well as that of some of his relatives, were taken by an American company interested in the study of longevity.

At the time of his death he was recognized as the verified oldest man in the Western Hemisphere, the second-oldest man in the world, behind Jiroemon Kimura of Japan, the oldest living black man, and the 12th oldest living person overall. He is the only verified supercentenarian from Barbados and had been the oldest person in the country since at least 2009. He was, along with Kimura, one of the last men born in the 19th century.