Welcome to Poetropia, an arena for discussion about children's poetry, specially designed for my graduate Special Topics (LS 5903 Section 22) at Texas Woman's University. Please feel free to visit as often as you like and to give me your reactions to my reactions of the poems and poetry collections I'll share here throughout the Spring 2007 semester. Thank you for your visit. You can leave the door ajar for the next visitor as you leave. Happy reading!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Poetry Break Five: A Poem With A Refrain

Wright, Blanche Fisher (Illus.) (2003). The Real Mother Goose. New York: Barnes & Noble Publishing. ISBN 0880297719.

Who can take credit for folkloric poetry—rhymes which have been passed down for ages, from father to son, from mother to daughter, from generation to generation? Mother Goose, that’s who. The Real Mother Goose is a collection of hundreds of the traditional nursery rhymes with which we Westerners grew up. Wright’s pen/ink/watercolor illustrations give us a window into how things used to be in the “times of yore” and look like they are as old as the poems themselves.

One thing common in Mother Goose rhymes is that many of them are repetitious. In early children’s poetry, repetition seemed to help the rhythm of the verses along. Sometimes the repetition was within the verses themselves, and at other times, they were separated from the rest of the poems. Both could be considered refrains (shown in italics) and are illustrated by the following poems.

Sleep, Baby, Sleep

Sleep, baby, sleep
Our cottage vale is deep:
The little lamb is on the green,
With wooly fleece so soft and clean
Sleep, baby, sleep.
Sleep, baby, sleep,
Down where the woodbines creep;
Be always like the lamb so mild,
A kind, and sweet, and gentle child.
Sleep, baby, sleep.

For Baby

You shall have an apple,
You shall have a plum,
You shall have a rattle,
When papa comes home.

The preceding Mother Goose rhymes illustrate the repetition as a separate and as an integrated refrain. Ironically, both of these poems might also be considered lullabies because they are for babies—but that is something that poetry shares with music lyrics: refrains are found in both. The refrains in the above poems give them a musical quality, perhaps most likely spoken softly or sung along with the rocking of a chair while lulling a baby to sleep.

Thus, these poems (and other rhythmic Mother Goose poems with refrains) can be used to teach babies and toddlers about rhythm and rhyme. With older children, the vocabulary could be discussed—they might have a difficult time understanding what a “vale” or a “woodbine” is. A discussion of the vocabulary could reveal a lot about the culture and period of the poem.


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