Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three. Confucius

31 July 2011

The Poetry of Oscar Wilde

Hi Everyone, and welcome to Monday's Poetry Paradise.

Today I am sharing the poetry of Oscar Wilde. Born in Ireland in 1856, Wilde is widely known for writing stories and plays and fairytales, full of irony and sharp social observation. His poetry appears to be not so widely read, and is worth visiting, I think.

Wilde's poetry, in my opinion, demonstrates the same social awareness of his other mediums, with an added depth and reverence for humanity, life, death and the beauty he discovered in his travels around the world.

The tenderness with which he writes of Italy in particular is evocative of warmth and beauty, as evidenced in the piece:

Madonna Mia

A lily-girl, not made for this world's pain,

With brown, soft hair close braided by her ears,

And longing eyes half veiled by slumberous tears

Like bluest water seen through mists of rain:

Pale cheeks whereon no love hath left its stain,

Red underlip drawn in for fear of love,

And white throat, whiter than the silvered dove,

Through whose wan marble creeps one purple vein.

Yet, though my lips shall praise her without cease,

Even to kiss her feet I am not bold,

Being o'ershadowed by the wings of awe,

Like Dante, when he stood with Beatrice

Beneath the flaming Lion's breast and saw

The seventh Crystal, and the Stair of Gold.

Oscar Wilde

The Ballad of Reading Gaol is a poem detailing the grim reality of life in a Victorian prison. Wilde was imprisoned in Reading Gaol during his 30's, and died not long after his release. Following is an excerpt:

With slouch and swing around the ring
We trod the Fools' Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
The Devils' Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
Make a merry masquerade.

We tore the tarry rope to shreds
With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
And clattered with the pails.

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
Terror was lying still.

So still it lay that every day
Crawled like a weed-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
We passed an open grave.

With yawning mouth the horrid hole
Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
To the thirsty asphalt ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
Some prisoner had to swing.

Right in we went, with soul intent
On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
Went shuffling through the gloom:
And each man trembled as he crept
Into his numbered tomb.

Oscar Wilde

This comment on the prison system of the time is self explanatory, and demonstrates the power of Wilde's genius and versatility as one of the greatest writers of his time.

Cynthia Marston

09 July 2011

Mummifying Stuff

Hi Everyone,

Today we got the mummification process started on 5 apples and some chicken.

Pete, Jay and Freida peeled and cored the apples needed for the experiment to see which salt compound (bicarbonate of soda, sodium carbonate or table salt: individually and combinations of each) mummifies most effectively. Plus one control specimen with no preservative at all.

There was loads of mess....apple peels, cores and salts everywhere, but it was loads of fun, very hands on. Looking at and comparing the results will be interesting.

The chicken experiment was much more straightforward as we are not doing a comparison (couldn't stomach a control specimen after several weeks for that one!!!!).

We cleaned and salted the chicken.....just a few pieces for a science experiment here, wasn't keen to use a whole perfectly good chook that we wouldn't be eating :)

We will change the salt once a week or so and then embalm the flesh with oils and herbs from our garden....will keep you posted.

Besides that, we have been using the Family Math book, which is really useful. We have been doing some concrete numeracy exercises using household objects such as egg cartons and beans, and paper with dots.

The examples I've included are simply encouraging your child to put the corresponding number of beans (or whatever) in each cup of the egg carton (total 72 counters) as a basis of future exercises with number. The dots are for one to one correspondence and you remove the dots once the child is comfortable and place the counters onto blank paper.

Jay found the exercises easy and will move on next time, and Freida enjoyed a feeling of achievement, both finished their maths games happy and wanting to do more :)

We have also been using Silly Sentences by DK books. The children are having a lot of fun, and it is a good way to expose them to grammatical rules and reinforcing sentence structure while remaining creative.

This game not overly expensive, but if you would like a more personalized free version you can make at home, I discovered one
here at DLTK's Growing Together site.

Finally, a bit of an Oh Dear moment when Jay constructed a flying fox for our poodle....I was torn between commending his ingenuity and basic safety...so hopefully I covered both in the chat we had when I came across this one...gotta love those freerange homeschooling kids!

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

04 July 2011

Update on Egyptian Mummification Project...

Oh, an update on the mummification process, Jay, my 6 year old now wants to mummify a chicken as well as an apple. Not sure how I feel about this one, but can see the value of the exercise so will give it a go and keep you posted.....

Spike Milligan's Silly Verse for Kids.

Hi Everyone,

Time for Bluebell Books fortnightly poetry review.... time flies!
Today I'm looking at Spike Milligan's Silly Verse for Kids.

This book of verse is tightly written, irreverant, brilliant and as promised, very, very silly.

Spike Milligan is one of those staples of children's verse that I find never fails to cheer. His style is totally unique in it's blend of wisdom around the human condition and absolute craziness.

This combination in Milligan's poetry, along with it's lack of pretense or the sometimes caustic worldliness of other talented writers such as Roald Dahl is foolproof in getting people of all ages to
have a giggle.

A sample of poems from Silly Verse for Kids are:

Said the General

Said the General of the Army,
'I think that war is barmy'
So he threw away his gun:
Now he's having much more fun.

(Page 21)


I'm trying to write the longest first line that poetry has ever had,

For a start that wasn't bad,
Now here comes a longer oneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
I know I cheated:
It was the only way I could avoid being defeated.

(Page 53)

Mary Pugh

Mary Pugh
Was nearly two
When she went out of doors.
She went out standing up she did
But came back on all fours.
The moral of the story
Please meditate and pause:
Never send a baby out
With loosely waisted draws.

(Page 13)

There's definately nothing else like it!

Cynthia Marston.