The Poema Morale, or as it was called by 19th-century scholars, 'A Moral Ode', was composed in the last quarter of the 12th century by an unknown author, who lets his narrator survey a long life and regret his shortcomings deploring the waste of opportunities and recommending righteous and holy living. Finally, he describes the Last Judgement and the Joys of Heaven. Thus, the poem clearly stands in the homiletic tradition of the period, but it reveals at the same time a sincere personal element in that the persona, a wise old man, wishes others to profit from his experience.
The poem is written in about 200 septenary rhymed couplets, a Latin verse form of lines of seven stresses with a caesura after the fourth. Poema Morale is the first known example of the septenary in English.
The poem must have enjoyed a certain popularity as it is preserved in at least seven manuscripts dating from 1180 to 1300. Most modern critics praise the poem's formal qualities and neglect its contents. Nevertheless, there is good reason to read the Poema Morale in its own right and to understand it in the tradition of Old English admonitory pieces, such as Be Domes Dæge or Precepts.