Which texts would you select if you had to cover English poetry from Beowulf to Blake in eight teaching hours?
Your major tradeoff in this kind of survey will be depth vs. breadth. I usually try to create a selection that covers examples of as many genres as possible, to give a sense of the general types of writing in the period and their historical evolution. One sequence might be:
Beowulf: discuss oral-traditional composition and the nature of epic, strong stress prosody, Old English
Chaucer: Wife of Bath, Pardoner, or Prologue -- Norman conquest, development of iambic pentameter, Middle English, Christianity, class system
Shakespeare -- 1 scene, perhaps from Hamlet, Othello, etc. Discuss Elizabethan theatre, blank verse, characterization.
Attitudes towards poetry: Sydney's defense
Petrarchan and anti-Petrarchan poetry: Astrophel and Stella 1, a few of Shakespeare's sonnets,
"The Passionate Shepherd to his Love"
Songs: So many of the Elizabethan poems were composed or heard as songs, you should play a few of the better known to students and discuss how the musical sense affected the poems -- I would choose "Fine Knacks for Ladies", Campion's "There is a Garden in her Face", and Jonson's "Driink to me Only with Thine Eyes"
Metaphysical Love Poetry: Marvell "To His Coy Mistress"; Donne "The Flea"
Religious: George Herbert, "Easter Wings", Donne "Death be not Proud" and "Batter my heart, three-person'd God"
John Milton: "WHEN I consider how my light is spent,", opening of "Paradise Lost"
Katherine Philips "Against Love"
Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, “A Nocturnal Reverie”
Pope, "Essay on Criticism" (long, but it gives commentary as well as exemplifying Pope's style)
Smart, For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry
Blake: Jerusalem, The Lamb