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INTRODUCTORY Many teachers have more difficulty in interesting their pupils in poetry than in any other form of literature. This difficulty may be due to any one of a number of causes. It may be due to a lack of poetic appreciation on the part of the teacher, leading to poor judgment in selecting and presenting poetry. It may be due to the feeling that there is something occult and mysterious about poetry that puts it outside the range of common interests, or to the idea that the technique of verse must in some way be emphasized. The first step in using poetry successfully with children is to brush away all these and other extraneous matters and to realize that poetry is in essence a simple and natural mode of expression, and that all attempts to explain how poetry does its work may be left for later stages of study. It is not necessary even for the teacher to be able to recognize and name all the varieties of rhythm to be able to present poetry enthusiastically and understandingly. Least of all is it necessary to have a prescribed list of the hundred "best poems.” Some of the best poems for children would not belong in any such list.

The selections in this section cover a wide variety. They are not all equally great, but no teacher can fail to find here something suitable and interesting for any grade. The few suggestions which it is possible to make in this brief introduction may best, perhaps, and without any intention of being exhaustive, be thrown into the form of dogmatic statements:

1. If in doubt about what to use beyond the material in the following pages, depend upon some of the fine collections mentioned in the bibliography. Every teacher should have access to Stevenson's Home Book of Verse for Young Folks, which contains many poems from recent writers as well as the older favorites. If possible, have the advantage of the fine taste and judgment of the collections made by Andrew Lang, Miss Repplier, E. V. Lucas, and as many of the others as are available.

2. Remember that in poetry, more than elsewhere, one can present only what one is really interested in and, as a consequence, enthusiastic about. Even poems about whose fitness all judges agree should be omitted rather than run the risk of deadening them for children by a dead and formal handling.

3. Mainly, poetry should be presented orally. The appeal is first to the ear just as in music. The teacher should read or, better, recite the poem in order to get the best results. There should be no effort at “elocution" in its worst sense, but a simple, sincere rendering of the language of the poem. The more informal the process is, the better. There should be much repetition of favorite poems, so that the rich details and pictures may sink into the mind.

4. There should be great variety in choice that richness and breadth of impression may thus be gained. It is a mistake to confine the work in poetry entirely to lyrics or entirely to ballads. Wordsworth's "Daffodils" and Gilbert's "Yarn



of the Nancy Bell" are far apart, but there is a place for each. Teachers should always be on the lookout for poetry old or new, in the magazines or elsewhere, which they can bring into the schoolroom. Such "finds" are often fresh with some timely suggestion and may prove just what is needed to start some hesitating pupil to reading poetry.

5. The earliest poetry should be that in which the music is very prominent and the idea absent or not prominent. The perfection of the Mother Goose jingles for little folks is in their fulfillment of this principle. Use and encourage strongly emphasized rhythm in reading poetry, especially in the early work. Gradually the meaning in poetry takes on more prominence as the work proceeds.

6. Children should be encouraged to commit much poetry to memory. They do this very easily after hearing it repeated a time or two. Such memorizing should not be done usually as a task. Children are, however, very obliging about liking what a teacher is enthusiastic about, and what they like they can hold in mind with surprising ease. The game of giving quotations that no one else in the class has given is always a delight. Don't be misled by the fun poked at the "memory gem method" of studying poetry. The error is not in memorizing complete poems and fine poetic passages, but in doing this in a mechanical fashion.

7. It is a mistake to use too much poetry at one time. Children, as well as grown people, tire of it more quickly than they do of prose. The mind seems soon to reach the saturation point where it is unable to take in any more. Frequent returns to a poem rather than long periods of study give the best results.

8. Encourage children to read poetry aloud. By example and suggestion help them keep their minds on the ideas, the pictures, the characters. Only by doing this can they really read so as to interpret a poem. No one can read with a lazy mind, or merely by imitation. Encourage them to croon or recite the lines when alone.

9. It is not necessary that children should understand everything in a poem. If it is worth while they will get enough of its meaning to justify its use and they will gradually see more and more in it as time passes. In fact it is this constantly growing content of a poem that makes its possession in memory such a treasure. Neither should the presence of difficult words be allowed to rule out a poem that possesses some large element of accessible value. Many words are understood by the ear that are not recognized by sight.


Books such as Woodberry's Heart of Man and Appreciation of Literature are of especial value for getting the right attitude toward poetry. The most illuminating practical help would come from consulting the published lectures of Lafcadio Hearn, explaining poetry to Japanese students. His problem was not unlike that faced by the teacher of poetry in the grades. These lectures have been edited by John Erskine as Interpretations of Literature (2 vols.), Appreciations of Poetry, and Life and Literature. The whole philosophy of poetry is treated compactly in Professor Gayley's "The Principles of Poetry,” which forms the introduction to Gayley and Young's Principles and Progress of English Poetry.

Then they began to sigh,
“Mee-ow, mee-ow,

mee-ow." Then they began to sigh,

“Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.”

269 Mrs. Follen (1787–1860) was a rather volu

minous writer and adapter of juvenile material. Her verses are old-fashioned, simple, and child-like, and have pleased several generations of children. While they have no such air of distinction as belongs to Stevenson's poems for children, they are full of the fancies that children enjoy, and deserve their continued popularity.


The three little kittens washed their

mittens, And hung them out to dry;

“Oh, mother dear,

Do not you hear That we have washed our mittens?"

"Washed your mittens!

Oh, you're good kittens! But I smell a rat close by;

Hush, hush! Mee-ow, mee-ow.” “We smell a rat close by,

Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow."




ELIZA LEE FOLLEN O look at the moon!

She is shining up there; O mother, she looks

Like a lamp in the air.

Three little kittens lost their mittens;
And they began to cry,

"Oh, mother dear,

We very much fear
That we have lost our mittens."

"Lost your mittens!

You naughty kittens!
Then you shall have no pie!"

“Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.” “No, you shall have no pie.” The three little kittens found their mit

And they began to cry,

“Oh, mother dear,

See here, see here!
See, we have found our mittens!”

“Put on your mittens,

You silly kittens,
And you may have some pie."

“Purr-r, purr-r, purr-r, Oh, let us have the pie!

Purr-r, purr-r, purr-r.” The three little kittens put on their mit

And soon ate up the pie;

"Oh, mother dear,

We greatly fear
That we have soiled our mittens!

“Soiled your mittens!
You naughty kittens!"

Last week she was smaller,

And shaped like a bow; But now she's grown bigger,

And round as an O.

Pretty moon, pretty moon,

shine on the door, And make it all bright

On my nursery floor! You shine on my playthings,

And show me their place, And I love to look up

At your pretty bright face. And there is a star

Close by you, and maybe That small twinkling star

Is your little baby.


273 Mrs. Prentiss (1818–1878) was the author of

The Susy Books, published from 1853 to 1856, forerunners of many series of such juvenile publications. The following poem has retained its hold on the affections of children.


ELIZA LEE FOLLEN "Stop, stop, pretty water!"

Said Mary one day, To a frolicsome brook

That was running away. You run on so fast!

I wish you would stay; My boat and my flowers

You will carry away. “But I will run after:

Mother says that I may; For I would know where

You are running away.” So Mary ran on;

But I have heard say, That she never could find

Where the brook ran away.


Once there was a little kitty

Whiter than snow;
In a barn she used to frolic,

Long time ago.
In the barn a little mousie

Ran to and fro;
For she heard the kitty coming,

Long time ago.
Two eyes had little kitty

Black as a sloe;
And they spied the little mousie,

Long time ago.
Four paws had little kitty,

Paws soft as dough;
And they caught the little mousie,

Long time ago.
Nine teeth had little kitty,

All in a row;
And they bit the little mousie,

Long time ago.
When the teeth bit little mousie,

Little mouse cried, “Oh!"
But she got away from kitty,

Long time ago.


Ding dong! ding dong!

I'll sing you a song; 'Tis about a little bird;

He sat upon a tree,

And he sang to me,
And I never spoke a word.

Ding dong! ding dong!

I'll sing you a song; 'Tis about a little mouse;

He looked very cunning,

As I saw him running About my father's house.

Ding dong! ding dong!

I'll sing you a song About my little kitty;

She's speckled all over,

And I know you'll love her, For she is very pretty.

274 Mrs. Hale (1788–1879), left a widow with

five children to support, devoted herself to a literary career. She wrote fiction, edited the Ladies' Magazine of Boston, afterward the Ladies' Book of Philadelphia, compiled a book of poetical quotations, and

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