The Music of Literature

Our journey through children’s literature has taken us along the road to metaphor, down the lane to lullabies, past flying books to fables, folktales, and myths. We’ve met heroes and meditated on sacred writing; peeked at fantasy and shook hands with fiction, even met pirates who messed with O!

Now it’s time for a symphony! For the music of literature is poetry. Poems often are rhythm in words. Babies know and understand natural rhythm: whether it be a heartbeat or beating spoons on a table. Children feel rhythm in play: jump rope, bouncing balls and
hide-and-seek.

Poetry has a power to evoke emotions beyond its meaning or use. There is great music in its pitch and rhyme, fresh imagination, intense feelings, and joy with words.

Read poems to children, don’t explain their meaning unless asked, just let the words speak to you and the child. Soon, they will grow up to discover new poetry for themselves.

Here are four poems to think about and discover.

fairy

                                                                 Source: Playbuzz

“La Belle Dame sans Merci” By John Keats

This fantasy of a “beautiful woman without mercy” is nearly two hundred years old.
See what emotions it evokes for you.
Is it a knight’s fantasy? A dying wish? Or both?

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,                 O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?                                     So haggard, and so woe-begone?

The sedge has wither’d from the lake,                The squirrel’s granary is full,

And no birds sing.                                                      And the harvest’s done.

 

 

 

I see a lily on thy brow,                                              I met a lady in the meads,

With anguish moist and fever dew,                       Full beautiful—a faery’s child,

And on thy cheeks a fading rose                             Her hair was long, her foot was light,

Fast withereth too.                                                      And her eyes were wild.

 

 

I made a garland for her head,                                 I set her on my pacing steed,

And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;                   And nothing else saw all day long.

She look’d at me as she did love,                            For sidelong would she bend and sing

And made sweet moan.                                              A faery’s song

 

 

She found me roots of relish sweet,                       She took me to her elfin grot,

And honey wild, and manna dew,                           And there she wept and sigh’d full sore,

And sure in language strange she said                  And there I shut her wild wild eyes

“I love thee true.”                                                       With kisses four.

 

 

And there she lulled me asleep,                             I saw pale kings and princes too,

And there I dream’d—Ah! Woe betide!               Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

The latest dream I ever dream’d                            They cried, “La Belle Dame san Merci

On the cold hill side.                                                  Hath thee in thrall!”

 

 

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,                   And this is why I sojourn here,

With horrid warning gaped wide,                          Alone and palely loitering,

And I awoke, and found me here,                    Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,

On the cold hill’s side.                                              And no birds sing.

 

like-an-open-book

                                                    Source: Thoughts Adrift

 “Books Fall Open” By David McCord
A love song to books. Simple, hopeful, direct.

Books fall open,
you fall in,
delighted where
you’ve never been;
hear voices not once
heard before,
reach world on world
through door on door;
find unexpected
keys to things
locked up behind
imaginings.

What might you be,
perhaps become,
because one book
is somewhere? Some
wise delver into
wisdom, wit,
and wherewithal
has written it,

True books will venture,
dare you out,
whisper secrets,
maybe shout
across the gloom
to you in need,
who hanker for
a book to read.

 

quarter-moon

                                                             Source: Public Domain Pictures

“The Moon’s the North Wind’s Cooky” (What the little girl said) By Vachel Lindsay
Discover this one and you’ll never see the moon the same way again!
http://www.poetry.net/poem/37384

boat-lost-at-sea

                                                         Source: Peanut Butter Hair

“Lost” By Carl Sandburg
Tell school-age children to shut their eyes. Then, read this. They can feel it.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/detail/12845

We’ll continue with the music next time.

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