Thursday, October 6, 2011

Poet and Poetry Study - Robert Louis Stevenson

This year for homeschooling I am having the girls do poet and poetry studies. Every six weeks, Sophia and Olivia will learn about a new poet and read six of her/his poems (one poem per week).

The first poet we focused on was Robert Louis Stevenson. We used A Child's Garden of Verses which is illustrated by Tasha Tudor - one of my favorite childbook illustrators. Many of her illustrations includes images of corgi dogs (the kind of dog I had when I was growing up).

The poems I selected for the girls reflected their interests or things they enjoy doing. The first poem was "A Good Play." I thought the girls would enjoy it because it shows the rather elaborate and creative "sets" the poet created with his friend when they played...just like the girls have done when they play.

We built a ship upon the stairs
All made of the back-bedroom chairs,
And filled it full of soft pillows
To go a-sailing on the billows.

We took a saw and several nails,
And water in the nursery pails;
And Tom said, "Let us also take
An apple and a slice of cake;"--
Which was enough for Tom and me
To go a-sailing on, till tea.

We sailed along for days and days,
And had the very best of plays;
But Tom fell out and hurt his knee,
So there was no one left but me.

The next week I read "My Shadow." I chose this one because it reflected the poet's active imagination and creative thoughts with something so simple: his shadow.

Both Sophia and Olivia have great imaginations and enjoy creative play. They both liked this poem and the picture of the poet as a boy with his nurse and corgi looking on as he made a shadow picture on the wall by his bed.

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

During the third week of homeschooling, I read "The Wind." I thought of the many times it was windy when we walked the dogs, did nature studies, or played in the backyard.

We also have seen the power of wind in some rather scary storms (on the edge of a tornado, lightening/thunderstorms, and even blizzards where we couldn't see to the end of the driveway).

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass—
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all—
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

Living in the country, we see cows all the time. This poem, called "The Cow," is a reminder of living in an agricultural area, and the simple things that make life so memorable.

The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
And eats the meadow flowers.

During the fifth week, I read "The Swing" to Sophia and Olivia. They enjoy swinging in the backyard, and have so since they were very young.

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

The last poem that I read to the girls by Robert Louis Stevenson is called "Nest Eggs." I chose this poem since it focuses on birds and nature - two things that we enjoy watching and learning more about here at the farm.

Birds all the sunny day
Flutter and quarrel
Here in the arbour-like
Tent of the laurel.

Here in the fork
The brown nest is seated;
For little blue eggs
The mother keeps heated.

While we stand watching her
Staring like gabies,
Safe in each egg are the
Bird's little babies.

Soon the frail eggs they shall
Chip, and upspringing
Make all the April woods
Merry with singing.

Younger than we are,
O children, and frailer,
Soon in the blue air they'll be,
Singer and sailor.

We, so much older,
Taller and stronger,
We shall look down on the
Birdies no longer.

They shall go flying
With musical speeches
High overhead in the
Tops of the beeches.

In spite of our wisdom
And sensible talking,
We on our feet must go
Plodding and walking.

Robert Louis Stevenson was a poet, novelist, essayist, and storyteller. He was born in 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and later immigrated to the United States.

He was a ceaseless traveler who searched for a cure for his tuberculosis. Because he was often confined to his room with illness, Robert Louis Stevenson amused himself by setting down memories of his childhood. The poems recalled in rich detail his love of picture books, swings, boats, and the gardens he explored with his nanny.

A Child's Garden of Verses was published in 1885, and dedicated to Alison Cunningham, the beloved nurse of his childhood.


Fairy Tale Mama said...

I love Stevenson's poems! I own that book and should dig it out.

amy in peru said...

thanks for submitting this to the cm blog carnival!

we love robert louis stevenson around here!

Nadene said...

We also loved some of those poems - it really is wonderful to connect new poems to our children's loves and interests. Just reading them here reminds me to review them with my kiddies again!

Nancy said...

Mr. Stevenson is a delight - both his poetry and prose are wonderful. Thanks for sharing this with us! And I have wanted a corgi for soooo long.

Admiration, Hope and Love,