Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tuesday Teatime Poetry

Christmas Carol
by Sara Teasdale

The kings they came from out the south,
All dressed in ermine fine,
They bore Him gold and chrysoprase,
And gifts of precious wine.

The shepherds came from out the north,
Their coats were brown and old,
They brought Him little new-born lambs--
They had not any gold.

The wise-men came from out the east,
And they were wrapped in white;
The star that led them all the way
Did glorify the night.

The angels came from heaven high,
And they were clad with wings;
And lo, they brought a joyful song
The host of heaven sings.

The kings they knocked upon the door,
The wise-men entered in,
The shepherds followed after them
To hear the song begin.

And Mary held the little child
And sat upon the ground;
She looked up, she looked down,
She looked all around.

The angels sang thro' all the night
Until the rising sun,
But little Jesus fell asleep
Before the song was done.

Not only is this poem appropriate to the season, but it is wonderful for discussing poetry!

Stanzas are to poems as paragraphs are to essays. In a poem a stanza is a unit of two or more lines that usually have a pattern of meter, rhyme, and number of lines. This poem is just lovely for explaining this due to the fact that the meter, rhyme, and number of lines in each stanza never changes throughout the poem. Also, at seven stanzas it is long enough to drive home this point without being so long that a younger child would become distracted.

This consistent metrical pattern throughout the poem means that it is really easy for young children this to clap out the number of syllables in each line. This is a nice way to introduce meter without getting too technical. (However, in the sixth stanza be sure to say looked as two-syllables.) Even young elementary school children can see the 8-6-8-6 pattern of syllables in each stanza.

Each stanza has the same ABCB rhyme pattern that can easily be seen with Legos.
South- red lego
Fine (Does fine rhyme with south? No, so let’s use a different color lego.)- green lego
Chrysoprase (Does chrysoprase rhyme with south? No. Does chrysoprase rhyme with fine? No, so let’s use a different color lego.) - yellow lego
Wine (Does wine rhyme with south? No. Does wine rhyme with fine? Yes, so let’s use the same color lego that we used for fine.) - green lego

It is easy to see that each stanza has four lines of verse. This is a good time for remembering that a line of poetry is called a verse.

In the first four stanzas there is also some nice repetition. The first verse follows a The (blank) from (blank) repetition. Then, the second verse tells what they are wearing and the third tells what they brought. This is nice parallel structure/ repetition to discuss.

With the repetition is a strong sense of imagery. We can visualize these kings, shepherds, wise-men, and angels. The simple descriptions feed into a story that we already know and give us a mental picture of everyone arriving from such different places, wearing such different clothing, bringing such different gifts and yet coming together to see Jesus who is in Mary’s arms as she sits on the ground.

Isn’t it cool that such a short work can lead to so much discussion before you even get into the meaning?!

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