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Friday, April 18, 2014

Teaching Poetry

I have always loved poetry. My all time favorite is Ulysses by Tennyson. At the moment I am teaching 'We are Seven' by William Wordsworth and it is a joy to read it aloud with my students. Every word conjures pictures so vivid that I can't help but live the moments and sing the song.

Before reading the poem, my students wrote their own poem on the title 'We are seven' and that was an overwhelming experience to draw the pictures with their words. Pictures of seven stars that wrote, pictures of seven friends they spoke, and pictures of the seven beautiful colors of the rainbow arched over snow caped mountains and the wide open sky did they draw. It is a beautify poem, 'We are Seven', the simplicity with which Wordsworth touches on the subtle pleasure of being innocent and living in ignorance of death and the bliss that follows.

We Are Seven

———A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.

“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.

“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”

“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”

“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
And they are side by side.

“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

“The first that dies was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
’Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”


  1. Another strong theme/motif that the poem carries is that of the filial ties- which even death do not seem to undo. That which god brought together, let death not separate. This is conveyed strongly by the little girl's insistence saying they are seven. In some communities of our country too, when the elder brother/sister passes away, the second eldest is not referred to as the eldest. The place of the deceased is still kept in the family. A beautiful poem, Nobu. Happy teaching and learning.

  2. It is so very beautiful to be innocent. It is an interesting thing you shared, thank you for your comment and good wishes.