To deeply study the works of a few good poets, one at a time, is the aim of the new Poetry Readers from Cottage Press. These Poetry Readers are not mere anthologies, arranged thematically, but a lineup of great poets, containing considerable study of each poet’s life and background, followed by a selection of his poems. Volume I Presents Robert Burns, Alfred Lord Tennyson, George Herbert, and William Shakespeare and Volume II covers William Wordsworth, John Milton, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and a little more Shakespeare.
A unique feature of the poet backgrounds is the inclusion of references to a poet’s influence on other authors or poets – such as George Herbert’s influence on C. S. Lewis or William Wordsworth’s influence on Samuel Taylor Coleridge. These references open the door to conversations about the Great Conversation. Another writer whose work is included in the readers is Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. His instruction guides teachers to seek the best for their students, with advice such as “Go on: just read it to them” and “Be sure when children get the thrill of it, for which you wait, they will be asking more questions, and pertinent ones, than you are able to answer.”
These two slim volumes are packed with beauty, not just in the poems, but in the inspirational studies of each poet’s life. These poets were men who saw the beauty of goodness and truth and used their talents to communicate it with passion and delight.
Learning to know the authors of the poems they study can warm students’ hearts to the endeavor, if the loveliness of the poems themselves is not enough!
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.
– from “The Day is Done” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
You can learn more about the poetry readers and how to use them at The Reading Mother blog. To place an order for the first volume of the Poetry Readers, visit Cottage Press.