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The Study of Poetry and Literature for Children & Young Adults

Poetry Break #4: Two Similar Poems--Classic and Contemporary

Introduction: My daughter is 15 years old and loves poetry. For this entire semester she has pestered me to be allowed to help with my homework. I have consistently refused but this poetry assignment, I told her she could help me pick out the classic poem, mainly because she knows many more classic poems than I do. She insisted on William Blake's (1757-1827) The Tyger as it is one of her favorites. She has had many talented teachers that have included poetry in their curriculum. I was not as fortunate, my teachers chose to dissect poetry until all the magic was gone. I am seeing first hand through this course and her example how important it is to incorporate poetry across all aspects of the curriculum.
The second modern poem The Tiger, though similar in subject matter is strikingly different in complexity.
Poetry Extension: For middle and high school students. Read The Tyger aloud, pay attention to William Blake's pulse-like meter. Then, have the students read, alternating paragraphs. Do the same with The Tiger. Then discuss, talk about the fact that the poems were written well over a hundred years apart. What is the same? Different? What do they think when they read the poems? What do they like about each one? Dislike?
On a trip to the library, have the students find classic poems and then find a modern one with a similar subject. How have poetry styles changed? Stayed the same? Do they want to try writing in the old style? What about the new? Assemble a class scrapbook with the old and new examples of similar poetry.


The Tyger

By William Blake


Tyger, Tyger. burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye.

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?


In what distant deeps or skies.

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand, dare seize the fire?


And what shoulder, or what art,

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat.

What dread hand? & what dread feet?


What the hammer? What the chain,

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? what dread grasp.

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


When the stars threw down their spears

And water'd heaven with their tears:

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


Tyger, Tyger burning bright,

In the forests of the night:

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


Bennett, William J. 1993. The Book of Virtues. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671683063


The Tiger
By Joan E. Cass
In the immensity of the jungle
the orange tiger lives.
Silently he moves
and gives
the soft sound of his padded feet back to the silent night.
The hot wind blows,
the treetops bend
and sway beneath the cloud gray sky.
And where the water spills
cold from the distant hills,
he crouches low to drink.


Prelutsky, Jack. 1997. The Beauty of the Beast. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 067970584

Click on the following link to proceed to the next poetry break.

Poetry Break #5