For live links, click to: riverhouses.org/2019-dickinson
Today is the birthday of the great American poet Emily Dickinson (1830–1886), so she provides us with our homeschool poem-of-the-week for the second week of December. It’s poem for all lovers of books and language, and a great one for your young homescholars to memorize:
He ate and drank the precious Words —
His Spirit grew robust —
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was Dust —
He danced along the dingy Days
And this Bequest of Wings
Was but a Book — What Liberty
A loosened spirit brings —
Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, a small farming town in the Connecticut River valley. Her father was a town lawyer and a somewhat prominent state politician, and she grew up with an older brother and a younger sister who were the focal points of her home life. (“Mother does not care for thought,” she sadly reported.) Dickinson’s poetry came to be appreciated only in the twentieth century — almost none of it was published during her lifetime — and she is now regarded as one of the most important American writers of the nineteenth century.
Most of Dickinson’s poems are written in a traditional form, although they often employ striking and innovative imagery. “He ate and drank the precious Words,” for example, uses the same meter found in hundreds of traditional Protestant hymns, the so-called eights-and-sixes arrangement. For a little lesson, have your students count the syllables: they will find a perfect 8-6-8-6 pattern throughout. The rhyme scheme in this poem is also regular, but not so heavy as to produce a sing-songy result — I make it out to be ABCB DFGF, with the second and fourth lines rhyming in each stanza.
Introduce your homeschool students to Emily Dickinson this week on the occasion of her birthday — your local library will be a great place to start — and they’ll have a new friend and a loosened spirit for life.
What wonderful words have you found and what literary discoveries have you made in your homeschool lately? 😊
❡ He ate and drank the precious words: If a special line or turn of phrase happens to strike you in one of our weekly poems, just copy it onto your homeschool bulletin board for a few days and invite your students to speak it aloud — that’s all it takes to begin a new poetical friendship. 😊
❡ Explore more: The website of the Poetry Foundation includes biographical notes and examples of the work of many important poets (including Emily Dickinson) that are suitable for high school students and homeschool teachers. 🖋
❡ Here, said the year: This post is one of our regular homeschool poems-of-the-week. Add your name to our River Houses mailing list (riverhouses.org/newsletter) to get posts like these delivered right to your mailbox, and print your own River Houses Poetry Calendar (riverhouses.org/calendars) to follow along with us as we visit forty-eight of our favorite friends over the course of the year. 📖