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We have an extra homeschool poem this week, for tonight’s grand astronomical event: a beautiful sonnet-masterpiece from Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) that asks three questions and gives no answers. Why not read it with your students tonight.
At a Lunar Eclipse
Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon’s meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line
Of imperturbable serenity.
How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
That profile, placid as a brow divine,
With continents of moil and misery?
And can immense Mortality but throw
So small a shade, and Heaven’s high human scheme
Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?
Is such the stellar gauge of earthly show,
Nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?
What wonderful words have you found and what literary discoveries have you made in your homeschool this week? 😊
❡ Count and map: When you introduce your students to a new poem, especially one in a traditional form, the first thing to have them do is count the syllables and map the rhyme scheme. How many syllables in each line in this poem? Ten throughout. (And that gives you a clue about how certain words should be pronounced: Heaven’s is one long syllable, not two.) The ten syllables in each line follow a generally iambic pattern, with the accent on the second syllable of each pair (most of the time). That makes this poem iambic pentameter. What about the rhyme scheme? The first two stanzas are sea–shine–line–serenity and symmetry–thine–divine–misery. That looks like ABBA ABBA. The next six lines follow a different pattern: CDE CDE. By uncovering these details of structure your students will come to appreciate good poems as carefully crafted pieces of literary labor.
❡ The stellar gauge of earthly show: 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 and learn a few lovely words that will stay with you for life. 😊
❡ Explore more: The Poetry Foundation’s website includes biographical notes and examples of the work of many important poets (including Thomas Hardy) that are suitable for high school students and homeschool teachers.