Friday, April 22, 2011

Lesson Plan: 19th Century Romantic Poetry and Earth Day

We try to incorporate our latest areas of study into every holiday, and Earth Day is no exception.  We've been focusing on 19th Century history and literature this year, so yesterday we prepared for Earth Day by reading nature poems by such 19th Century Romantic Poets as Walt Whitman, Lord Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Wordsworth.

These writers actually go well with Earth Day because one of their favorite topics was the exaltation of Nature, along with comparing the pristine beauty and innocence of the natural world with the corruption of Man and human society.  So poems from that era do a great job of evoking visual images of a gorgeous natural scene, as well as sparking a sense of caring for protecting these lovely wild areas.

Next, my son tried his hand at writing some Romantic poetry.  Realizing that is something of a stretch for a 12 year old boy, it took a few attempts to get in the right mood.  But after his first poem about hallucinogenic mushrooms (rejected not for the topic, since many of the Romantic writers experimented with mind-altering substances, but because it was too comedic, and humor was NOT a feature of the Romantic poets) and his second one about two men arguing over a shark (too anthropomorphic--the Romantics wanted humans to become more like Nature, not for Nature to become more like Man), he came up with one that I thought set a more Romantic tone.  I told him to think about this task like he was writing a love poem to a tree or flower or other particular aspect of Nature, and I think he did just that with this poem:

The weeping willow has little grief
Serenity surrounds it in a wreath
Under its branches lies lovely peace
Its warmth is warmer than any fleece

So right now in North Carolina, we are renewing our Earth with some welcome rain, so it may not be the best day for traditional Earth Day activities like planting vegetables and such.  But if you find yourself housebound, don't worry--try reading and writing some Romantic poetry in honor of our Earth.

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