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
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.
“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.
Source: Thoughts Adrift
“Books Fall Open” By David McCord
A love song to books. Simple, hopeful, direct.
Books fall open,
you fall in,
you’ve never been;
hear voices not once
reach world on world
through door on door;
keys to things
locked up behind
What might you be,
because one book
is somewhere? Some
wise delver into
has written it,
True books will venture,
dare you out,
across the gloom
to you in need,
who hanker for
a book to read.
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!
Source: Peanut Butter Hair
“Lost” By Carl Sandburg
Tell school-age children to shut their eyes. Then, read this. They can feel it.
We’ll continue with the music next time.