Frieda, the daughter of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, was about two when the poem was written and the family were living in the countryside of Devon in England, near Dartmoor. At that age, the little girl would have been taking delight in trying out new words.
Students should consider the following points in their presentations
Main idea of the poem – this can be stated briefly and then explored through the following aspects
Poet`s description of setting
The use of the senses – this is rich and reflects the alertness of the little child. How has the poet achieved this through the entire poem?
Imagery – similes, metaphors and personification. The poem is rich in imagery. In what way does this reflect the child`s way of seeing the world? Identify some of the most striking images – such as the description of the cows. What are the different ways the poet has described them; how does this reflect the child`s view of the world? Suggest that groups draw or find pictures of these images to illustrate to the class.
Characters and relationships – there`s a relatively complicated relationship with the personified moon described at the end of the poem. How does this illustrate the child`s relationship with the universe and with the poet? Think very carefully about the image of the artist gazing at his work.
Structure – irregular, free verse structure. How might this reflect the young girl’s way of looking at the world?
Repetition – of sounds: alliteration, assonance and the overall consonance. What is the effect? The opening line is particularly striking for its sounds: how and to what effect? Are any key words repeated? Why do you think this is and what is the effect?
The overall tone or emotion of the poem. Looking at the poem as a whole, what is the general feeling of it? Is it a happy or a sad poem; is there a sense of wonder and peace in the poem?
On the Grasshopper and the Cricket
Keats was born in England in 1795 and died of tuberculosis when he was just 25, by which time he had composed an astonishing amount of powerful poetry. This particular sonnet was written when he was 21. It is in the Petrarchan or Italian form of the sonnet with an octave (here quite clearly divided into two quatrains) and a sestet, without a rhyming couplet at the end. Like Milton, who also used this form, he wrote sonnets about many different subjects, not specifically, as early sonnet writers tended to, about love.
The poem was written as a response to a sort of competition between himself and his great friend, Leigh Hunt, as to who could write the best verse, in a short time, on a specified topic. Keats won on this occasion, although he generously avowed that he preferred the other poet’s attempt.
The structure of this poem is extremely important. Students need to count the syllables of each line and work out very carefully the rhyme scheme. This is a Petrarchan sonnet, lines 1,4,5 and 8 rhyme with each other. The word dead, for example, would have been pronounced with more northern English accent, perhaps more similar to modern Scots.
As the rhyme scheme changes there will be some small shifts in tone and meaning. This especially apparent between lines 8 and 9. This shift is reflected in the layout of the lines; they seem to walk across the page – what is the effect of this?
Meter of the poem is important – rhythm and pauses: students need to practise a reading to subtly emphasise the natural pauses and stresses. This is a very finely wrought poem so we can fairly assume the poet has made no mistakes with his intentions.
Subject: what is the difference between a grasshopper and a cricket? It`s related to the time of day they are most active: how is this reflected in the poem and why do you think the poet has chosen this subject?
Tone and mood – there are two distinct moods in the...