Poetry And Children
Poetry is an experience. Reading poetry is not as simple as reading a story or a rhyme. Reading poetry does something to a person, and as such, there is a question as to whether this particular experience should be something that children should enjoy. The word ‘enjoy’ is used generally here, because poetry is meant to be enjoyed regardless of the experiences that they convey. Poetry can come in many forms and tackle various subjects, and can therefore be a very enriching experience for children especially in their tender age.
Poetry can facilitate learning in many ways, and as such, children should read poetry to complement the educational experience. To support this assertion, it would be best to break it down to the particulars – why should children read poetry? There are three basic reasons why children should read poetry; first, children should read poetry because poetry can enhance and enrich the vocabulary, reading skills and comprehension.
Second, poetry can be instrumental in the child’s aesthetic appreciation and understanding of various abstract, historical, and cultural concepts; and third, poetry can be a means of introducing children to ideal values and principles that could be useful in their development. For the first point of argument, some academicians insist that Romantic Poetry uses archaic language, and thus, serves no purpose in the development or enhancement of vocabulary.
However, it must be understood that part of developing vocabulary in children is the subject of etymology, and archaic texts are accurate illustrations of the evolution of language; another point raised here is the fact that archaic language is very difficult to understand and hence, instead of an improvement in vocabulary, the effect is otherwise. It is obvious, however, that poetry from the classic periods, does not in any way contain incomprehensible words, if not, they are even quite simple to understand.
The context and the form of poetry allow children to be more liberal in their interpretation of words. Since poetry uses various figures of speech, it can also facilitate the development of logical thought in children. The allegorical or symbolic quality of poetry can enhance critical thinking in children as well as their ability to perceive things on various levels. On the matter of vocabulary, it would be best to consider the works of some poets to illustrate this further.
The best poet to start with on this matter would be the great Shakespeare, and his lines “And often is his gold complexion dimmed,/And every fair from fair sometimes declines,/By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed:/But thy eternal summer shall not fade. ” (Shakespeare 19) These lines alone demonstrate how rich the vocabulary of this particular poet is and as such, even just introducing these few lines to a child would allow the child to expand his/her vocabulary. Notice how many simple, yet uncommon words are in these lines. Exposing a child to this kind of vocabulary would be very helpful in enriching his/her word power.
Other than just the profusion of words, there is also the matter of context and comprehension; for this, another example, still from the same poet, “But you shall shine more bright in these contents/than unswept stone, besmeared in sluttish time”. (Shakespeare 55); here it is clear how the matter of context is used because of the presence of similes and metaphors. While a child would not easily understand what the lines mean at first reading, a lesson of context can be learned from these lines, for instance, the context in which the word ‘sluttish’ is used in relation to time.
Teaching context to a child would very easily lead the child to develop a sharper and more developed sense of comprehension. Still, to add to this lesson of context, it is also good to consider, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ by William Butler Yeats, as he writes, “Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,/And be the singing-masters of my soul. /Consume my heart away; sick with desire/And fastened to a dying animal” (Yeats) Noticeably, these lines are replete with contextual allusions which may be very useful to the learning child – to note are ‘masters’ in relation to soul, as well as ‘consume’ in relation to ‘heart’.
For many, the concretizations in poetry are due largely to the faultiness in comprehension due largely to the fact that one time period might interpret an image in a different way as would another time period. However, this point is easily disputed by the matter of generics – throughout time, there is a generic context to almost all concrete images, for instance, a rose does not any less represent love or affection now than it did centuries ago – whoever said that today the rose is interpreted as migration or abortion?
On the issue of historical and cultural interpretations being made from poetry, the common argument is that these interpretations can be very subjective because of the involvement of the poet in the piece; however, if carefully considered, the poet shares a personal outlook in his work, and although this can sometimes be quite subjective, the poet strives to be very accurate in his executions because his objective is to convey the emotions that he feels while writing a piece as accurately as possible, hence the specificity of language in poetry.
For the second argument, as to why children should be made to read poetry, the reason would be that poetry can be instrumental in the child’s aesthetic appreciation and understanding of various abstract, historical, and cultural concepts. As the concept of poetry is to use concrete imagery to express abstract concepts, this alone can be helpful in the understanding of these abstractions.
Other than this, it is common knowledge that poetry also serves as a repository of the culture and the history of a particular time associated with a poet, so poetry can be used as a device to teach a child these concepts which are otherwise complex if tackled on the level of straight history and cultural studies. On this particular aspect of poetry, it would be useful to begin with the concretization of abstract concepts first, as in a very beautiful example of the concept of time from T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J.
Alfred Prufrock”; here are the lines, “For I have known them all already, known them all:—/Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,/I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;” (Eliot) These lines very effectively concretize the concept of time which may be quite complex for a child to understand – explaining to the child that the voice in the poem counts out the days of his lives using ‘coffee spoons’ would make the concept of time more understandable – perhaps, the speaker in the poem takes coffee everyday, and hence, the number of coffee spoons he/she used would very well tell the reader how long the narrator has lived; or in a different and more modern interpretation, this could be taken as the measurement of one’s ‘remaining’ days which is a concept that most children would find very strange, but with the poet’s use of metaphor, the concept becomes very clear.
Another example of this device of concretization to make something abstract more tangible is taken from “A Valediction, Forbidding To Mourn” by John Donne. The lines are, “So let us melt and make no noise;/No wind-sighs or tear-floods us move/I were profanation of our joys/To tell the laity’ our love. ” (Walton and Zouch 71) Here we have effective concretization of the concepts of weariness and pain in ‘wind-sighs’ and ‘tear-floods’, respectively. Aside from just making abstract concepts clear to a child, reading poetry can also give the child a clearer and more privileged view of the history or the culture of a particular place and time where a poem was written.
For instance, in the lines from Andrew Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’, “Though by the Indian Ganges’ side/Should’st rubies find: I by the tide”(Dove 98), we find a lesson in history, when rubies were mined from the mud of the River Ganges. Another allusion to history is found in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ with the lines, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings :/Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair I”/Nothing heside remains. Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck” (Shelley 48) ‘Ozymandias’ here refers to Ramesses of Egyptian history, and the poem is inspired by Shelley’s reaction upon seeing the colossal statue of this particular pharaoh. In Samuel Coleridge’s work ‘Kubla Khan’ we are again given a glimpse of the culture of myth in the way the poem is written, and the details of the poem in particular.
The lines, “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure dome decree…In a vision I once saw/It was an Abyssinian maid,/and on her dulcimer she played,/Singing of Mount Abora” (Coleridge 267,269) Xanadu, also known as Zanadu or Shengdu, is a mythical place that is rooted in an actual area of Inner Mongolia and Mount Abora is a large mountain range at the edge of the sacred valley, the people of Xanadu believe it to be the gateway to the dismal realm of the Nullstrom. These details are all mythological and could therefore, be used as platforms to discuss the different cultures of the world on a mythological level, which, fortunately so, is also a level that would be quite interesting to a child. Most scholars believe that poetry should not be didactic, hence, any value or moral issue read from any poem is inaccurate because poets, by nature, stay away from moralizing in the poetry.
It must be considered, though, that although poetry should not be didactic it is meaning that is read into the poem, and not the other way around, hence, if there are didactic bents in the pieces written by early writers, then it is because the contemporary images presented with the object of conveying a particular emotion are still effective in conveying the same emotion in this particular era, so, finally, for the third point, it will be understood later on that giving the child the opportunity of reading poetry would also give him/her a fortified sense of value and ideals because many of the poems that were written actually espouse very sound values like courage, patience, love, hope, generosity, faith, and whatever else value there is that could be very useful to a child’s development. Since poetry is also read on a level that would most likely stimulate the inner intellect and the inner consciousness of a child, then the effects would be more pronounced compared to just giving a values education lecture or a Christian living class. Poetry is a very subtle means of introducing a child to worthwhile values and because there is an entertainment aspect to poetry, the child learns values and at the same time gets entertained with what he/she is reading.
Many of the poems tackled during this term are poems that have an intrinsic sense of value, and even with a first reading, the values espoused are easily discernible – to a child, this would be literally, child’s play. Persistence for instance, a very important value that borders on resiliency, can be seen in Dylan Thomas’ poem, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, hence, the lines, “Do not go gentle into that good night,/Old age should burn and rave at close of day;/Rage, rage against the dying of the light” (Thomas) Other than just persistence, these lines also tell the reader to be aggressive when fighting the ‘dying of the light’; this basically talks about the value of having a strong will.
Then in ‘Pied Beauty’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a particular line talks about being thankful for the simple things in life, “GLORY be to God for dappled things— For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;”; while ‘dappled’ can mean many things from spotted to colored, it also means ‘diminutive’ or ‘unnoticeable’; this particular line espouses being grateful to the Almighty for things that we barely notice or give value to in life. Even in the very sensual poem ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ by Robert Browning, we have really beautiful lines about how love should ideally be, thus, “Murmuring how she loved me—she/Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour,/To set its struggling passion free/From pride, and vainer ties dissever” (Quiller-Coach 1250), lines that talk about how pure and blameless love should actually be.
The value of patience is also illustrated in lines from John Keat’s ‘The Terror of Death’; the lines say, “Of the wide world, I stand alone, and/think/Till love and fame to nothingness do/sink” (Bates 311) The Christian values of faith and humility are hinted in the works of George Herbert’s ‘The Easter Wing’, “With Thee/O let me rife/as larks, harmoniously” (Herbert 46) and those of William Blake, in his poem ‘The Lamb’; here we see the lines, “He became a child/I a child, and thou a lamb/We are called by His name”. (Blake 6) All these passages only prove one thing, that more than just being a menial and ordinary piece of literature, poetry can actually be used to teach values to children. All these features of poetry simply point out the fact that over and above anything else poetry can be a very good device for learning especially among children.
Poetry is able to transcend the regular barriers of education and enhance learning in ways that are quite unorthodox but effective. Therefore, as has been proven from the many examples as well as the various arguments disputed by the proof presented, it is clear that more than just poetry being for entertainment purposes, and for the consumption of the intelligent elite, children should read poetry to enjoy a much more privileged view of the world at large. Works Cited Bates, Charlotte Fiske. The Cambridge book of poetry and song. Vol. 1. Michigan: T. Y. Crowell & co, 1932. 311 Blake, , William , and Geoffrey Keynes. Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.
Vol. 1. Forgotten Books, 1970. 6 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor . The Poetical Works of S. T. Coleridge. Vol. 3. Oxford: W. Pickering, 1834. 267-69. Dove, John . The Life of Andrew Marvell, the Celebrated Patriot: With Extracts and Selections from His Prose and Poetical Works. Madison, WI: Simpkin and Marshall, 1832. 98-99. Eliot, T. S. . “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. ” Bartleby. com. 1917. 13 Mar. 2009 <http://www. bartleby. com/198/1. html>. Herbert, George . The temple: sacred poems, and private ejaculations. To which is added, a biographical sketch of the author. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University, 1799. 46-47. Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas.
The Oxford book of English verse. Vol. 3. Oxford: Clarendon, 1937. 1250-900. Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare’s Sonnets. 6th ed. Forgotten Books, 1900. 18-55. Shelley, Percy Bysshe Q. He works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, with his life. Vol. 1. Oxford: John Ascham, 1937. 48 Thomas, Dylan . “Do not go gentle into that good night. ” Poets. org. 1937. 13 Mar. 2009 <http://www. poets. org/viewmedia. php/prmMID/15377>. Walton, Izaak , and Thomas Zouch. He Lives of Dr. John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton, Mr. Richard Hooker, Mr. George Herbert, and Dr. Robert Sanderson. Protestant Episcopal Press, 1832. 71 Yeats, William Butler. “Sailing To Byzantium. ” Poetry X. 1998. 13 Mar. 2009Sample Essay of Custom-Writing