The combined lives of the three poets selected in this volume span the 17th century, a period of Civil War, the English Revolution and Restoration. In his poetry, Abraham Cowley (1618-67) looked back to John Donne and the Metaphysicals, and aimed 'to communicate delight'. Edmund Waller (1606-87), 'a brisk young spark' according to his biographer John Aubrey, deliberately sought a new, modern 'sweetness' and smoothness of style. By contrast, John Oldham (1653-83), who lacked patronage and financial security, wrote in defiance and made his greatest themes out of poverty and poetry. 'For the modern reader, all three are probably best known as background pieces in a big poetic jigsaw,' writes Julia Griffin in her Introduction to this Penguin English Poets edition. But each poet's work 'has its own unique quality and distinction, which is beginning to be remembered'.