Poetry analysis: “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”

At TAMS and Ed Homeschool, we believe that every child should learn about the song, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”  After all, poet James Weldon Johnson wrote Lift Every Voice and Sing in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It was performed for the first time  by 500 children in Jacksonville, Florida on February 12, 1900. 
In this blog, I have written two lessons, one for younger elementary students and one that can expand to include middle and high school as well. Students identify the parts of speech that Weldon uses to determine his intent and meaning of the poem. I also include simple terms such as free verse, hymn, and tone. 
Life voice
Weldon’s brother, John, set it to music and, shortly thereafter, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), adopted it as its official song. Today it is known as the Black National Anthem and is heralded as one of  the most cherished songs of the African American Civil Rights Movement.
Here are a few definitions that will help you better understand this poem:
  • free verse:  poetry that is free from specific patterns in meter or rhyme. The beauty of free verse is that although it does not follow specific patterns, it still allows the poet freedom to use whatever poetic devices are necessary to create the feeling that the poet wants to convey.  Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing is considered free verse because it does not follow a regular meter pattern.
  • hymn: a song or ode in praise or honor of God, a deity, a nation.
  • iamb a type of poetic “foot” made up of an unstressed and stressed syllable. Think of the way that you tap your feet to the beat of your favorite song.
  • iambic pentameter describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in a line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called “feet.” The word “iambic” describes the type of foot that is used (in English, an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable). The word “pentameter” indicates that a line has five of these “feet”.
  • imagery a poetic device used for language and description that appeals to our five senses including smell, sight, tough, taste, and sound.
  • meter is a stressed and unstressed syllabic pattern in a verse, or within the lines of a poem. 
  • stanza: a set amount of lines grouped by rhythmical pattern and meter. It usually has four or more lines and is can be referred to as a verse.

  • tone: the poet’s attitude, emotions, and feelings towards the topic. 
lift every voice children
Lift every voice and sing   
Till earth and heaven ring, 
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; 
Let our rejoicing rise 
High as the listening skies, 
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. 
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, 
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.   
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, 
Let us march on till victory is won. 
Stony the road we trod, 
Bitter the chastening rod, 
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;   
Yet with a steady beat, 
Have not our weary feet 
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? 
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, 
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, 
Out from the gloomy past,   
Till now we stand at last 
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast. 
God of our weary years,   
God of our silent tears, 
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; 
Thou who hast by Thy might   
Led us into the light, 
Keep us forever in the path, we pray. 
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, 
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee; 
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,   
May we forever stand.   
True to our God, 
True to our native land.

Elementary analysis:

Read each stanza and identify the Parts of Speech that Weldon uses:

Use a red pen and write the following abbreviations over as many Parts that you can identify:

  • Noun n.
  • Verb v.
  • Adjective adj.
  • Adverb ad.
  • Pronoun pro.
  • Conjunction con.
  • Interjection int.
  • Articles art.

v.    adj.      n.     con.   v. 

Lift every voice and sing 

  Till earth and heaven ring, 

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; 

Let our rejoicing rise 

High as the listening skies, 

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. 

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, 

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.   

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, 

Let us march on till victory is won. 

 

2. hymn: a song or ode in praise or honor of God, a deity, a nation.

               Circle the words that Weldon uses that help you identify this poem as a hymn. 

3. imagery: a poetic device used for language and description that appeals to our five senses including smell, sight, tough, taste, and sound.

               Read the following Lines. Underline the words that help you see or feel something. Describe the images that you see or feel.  

  • Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
  • We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
  • We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
  • Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

Advanced Analysis (middle – high school):

The poem begins with an invitation for all voices to join as one and sing until heaven hears and responds rings out with the harmonies of Liberty (freedom). It goes on to encourage us to rejoice with loud singing, in the blessings of heaven.
 
He uses similes to convey these ideas.
L5 High as the listening skies, 
L6 Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
What additional similes or metaphors can you find? Please indicate the Line number and describe the comparisons.
Tone is the poet’s attitude, emotions, and feelings towards the topic.
I espouse a somber tone that is designed to remind African Americans of our dark past and the days when we were without hope. Yet, at the same time, he believes that we are facing a “rising sun” that represents a “new day” filled with new hope and a bright future.  Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? Support your position with specific words and lines from the poem.
  1. Lift every voice and sing
  2. Till earth and heaven ring,
  3. Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
  4. Let our rejoicing rise
  5. High as the listening skies,
  6. Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
  7. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
  8. Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
  9. Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
  10. Let us march on till victory is won.
  11. Stony the road we trod,
  12. Bitter the chastening rod,
  13. Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
  14. Yet with a steady beat,
  15. Have not our weary feet
  16. Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
  17. We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
  18. We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
  19. Out from the gloomy past,
  20. Till now we stand at last
  21. Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
  22. God of our weary years,
  23. God of our silent tears,
  24. Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
  25. Thou who hast by Thy might
  26. Led us into the light,
  27. Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
  28. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
  29. Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
  30. Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
  31. May we forever stand.
  32. True to our God,
  33. True to our native land.

TAMS and ED stands for Technology, Language Arts, Math, Science, and Education.We provide a tough yet achievable home school for students who need personal attention in a safe home environment. We utilize a number of cross-curricular teaching tools including standard textbooks, computers and technology, academic excursions, and hands-on learning. Our qualified Board of directors consist of certified educators, parents, and administrators who are passionate about challenging every child to reach for the academic stars. Visit us online, click here.

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Poetic Devices

What is poetry?

Poetry is literature in meter form. It is a form of written word that has pattern and rhythm and rhyme. It can be serious or it can be fun. Poetry is as creative as you make it. 

Poetry for young peopleBasic poetry is in verse form, called a stanza, made up of meters created by feet. The amount of lines there are in a stanza decides what type of poem is written. There can be more than one stanza to a poem and then for effect throw in a chorus and a refrain.

The stanzas can have rhythm and rhyme or just be a blank verse!

Glossary of Terms and Types

acrostic: An acrostic poem is a type of poetry where the first, last or other letters in a line spell out a particular word or phrase. The most common and simple form of an acrostic poem is where the first letters of each line spell out the word or phrase.

adjective: a word that describes a noun in a sentence.

alliteration: the repetition of a sound at the beginning of a word in a sequence of nearby words

alternate rhyme: It is also known as ABAB rhyme scheme, it rhymes as “ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH.”

anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses

appositive: When a noun or word is followed by another noun or phrase that renames or identifies it, this is called appositive. This is a literary device that appears before or after a noun or noun phrase. It is always set off with commas.

assonance: the repetition of identical or similar vowels

ballad: a poem that tells a story, which are often used in songs because of their rhyme. A ballad is a poetic story, often a love story.

consonance: the repetition of the same consonant or consonant pattern two or more times in short succession.

Image result for danitra brown class clown imagescouplet: a pair of lines of the same length that rhyme and complete one thought. There is no limit to the length of the lines.

hyperbole: the use of exaggeration for effect

Iambic pentameter: describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in a line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called “feet.” The word “iambic” describes the type of foot that is used (in English, an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable). The word “pentameter” indicates that a line has five of these “feet”.

idiom: an expression where the literal meaning of the words is not the meaning of the expression

One Last Wordimagery: appealing to one of the five senses

interjection: a word that strongly expresses feelings and emotions. Fire! Help! Yaay! 

line: Similar to a sentence in prose, poetry is written in lines.

 metaphor an implied comparison between things essentially unlike

noun: a word that is a person, place, thing, or idea

onomatopoeia: a word whose sound seems to resemble closely the sound it denotes OR sounds that imitate another sound

personification: an inanimate object or concept is given human characteristics or feelings

preposition: a word that shows location in time and/or space. 

prose: the ordinary form of written or spoken language. repetition is when a word or sentence is placed more than once within a poem

quatrain: Four lines of poetry with similar meter and a specific rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme follows one of four patterns: AABBABAB, ABBA, or ABCB. A quatrain might be a poem by itself, or a poem might consist of a series of quatrains grouped together.

rhyme: the repetition of sounds at the end of words

rhyming words: words that sound the same when spoken, they don’t necessarily have to be spelled the same

rhythmrhythm: the pattern of stresses within a line of verse. All spoken word has a rhythm formed by stressed and unstressed syllables. When you write words in a sentence (line) you will notice patterns forming.

simile: a figure of speech that compares two things by using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ something else. They are compared indirectly.

stanza: a set amount of lines grouped by rhythmical pattern and meter. It usually has four or more lines and is can be referred to as a verse.

syllable: a single unit of written or spoken word, an unbroken sound used to make up words

theme: the underlying message

tone: an attitude (sad, happy, angry, determined, etc…) of a writer toward a subject or an audience 

symbol: a word or an image that signifies something other than what it represents, with multiple meanings and connotations

verb:  a doing word. It’s the word that gives the action in a sentence.

powerful verb: is when you use a synonym to make your writing more descriptive and exciting.

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Poetry Analysis: Family Gathering by Nikki Grimes (Grades 3rd – 8th)

 

P.L.O.R.E. a reading strategy that teaches children to Predict what the passage is about, Locate new vocabulary words, names, dates, and facts, Organize thoughts and ideas, Read / Re-read the passage for better understanding, and Evaluate what the passage is about.

Setting:  the where” and “when” of the poem. Setting is an environment or surrounding in which an event or story takes place. 

Tone: the poet’s attitude toward a subject or an audience. Tone is generally conveyed by the words that the poet uses. The tone can be formal, informal, serious, comic, sarcastic, sad, or cheerful, or it may be any other existing attitude.

Image result for aneesa lee and the weaver's gift imageAneesa Lee and the Weaver’s Gift is a book of poetry about a girl, Aneesa, who is Japanese and black. The book opens with what author NIkki Grimes calls “Weaving Words.” Throughout the book, Grimes weaves poetry that adventures through Aneesa’s personal experiences including being teased about her family heritage.  

In Family Gathering we will use P.L.O.R.E. reading strategies (Predict, Locate, Organize, Read/Reread, and Evaluate) to determine setting and tone. 

Family Gathering

by Nikki Grimes

Beneath the forest canopy

Aneesa and her family

Enjoy a Sunday’s peaceful pleasure

Gathering blueberry treasure

Then all join in Aneesa’s search

For maple, alder, and white birch,

For marigold and goldenrod,

Raw dyestuff sprouting from the sod

All dandelions, roots, and nettles,

Berries and wildflower petals

Possess within at least a hint

Of Mother Nature’s rainbow tint.

Aneesa works her spade and dreams

Of dipping silk in saffron pools,

And elderberry lilac streams,

Of wringing green from privet leaves,

And all the while her cuffs and sleeves

Are staining green and purple.

Let’s explore with P.L.O.R.E.

 

20150525_194208

P stands for PREDICT.  Read the title and predict what the text will be about. Jot down a few ideas. 

What does the title, Family Gathering, suggest?  

20150525_194229

 Next, LOCATE and circle key words, names, and dates. Underline significant ideas and important passages.

How do the words, “peaceful,” and “pleasure” set the tone?

 

20150525_194259

ORGANIZE  your thoughts. Use the space space in the margins to jot down thoughts and ideas that you develop as you read.

As you read, consider words that you do not know the meanings of. Write them in your vocabulary journal. For example, what do the following words mean?

  • canopy
  • alder
  • saffron
  • privet

 

What are some other key thoughts that help you understand this poem? Jot down a few ideas that will help you Evaluate this poem. Remember, you must be able to prove your Evaluation with evidence from the text. This is know as “text evidence,” or “proof.”

20150525_194316RE-READ the poem. Summarize your second reading. Now that you have defined vocabulary words and considered setting and tone, is your understanding more clear?

 

 

20150525_194244

 Carefully EVALUATE the poem.

  • Number the lines.
  • Answer the following:
    • What makes this a poem?
    • What is this poem about?
    • What is the poet’s message?
    • What tools did the poet use to help show his/her meaning?
  • Highlight Line 1. How does this line describe the setting of this poem?
  • Highlight Line 2. Which words or words set the tone of this poem? Why?
  • Go back an look at the ideas you wrote down in the section called “Organize.” Use those ideas plus the other P.L.O.R.E. strategies to write your evaluation. 

Image result for NIKKI GRIMES imagesABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nikki Grimes was born in Harlem in 1950. She began writing when she was six, and was a voracious reader throughout her childhood; she gave her first public poetry reading at a local library there when she was 13.

 

VISIT US ONLINE: 

TAMS and ED stands for Technology, Language Arts, Math, Science, and Education. We provide a tough yet achievable home school for students who need personal attention in a safe home environment. We utilize a number of cross-curricular teaching tools including standard textbooks, computers and technology, academic excursions, and hands-on learning. Our qualified Board of directors consist of certified educators, parents, and administrators who are passionate about challenging every child to reach for the academic stars. Visit us online, click here.

We promote diversity and tolerance in a safe learning environment. For TAMS and ED students, the world is their classroom. Come and join us!

 

African-American Poets: Milestones in History (grades 3rd – 8th)

What is African-American poetry?  Poetry in general is  like regular writing with a few tweaks. Instead of sentences, poems consist of lines. Instead of paragraphs, poems consist of stanzas. Poetry uses a lot of “sensory” language, which consists of words that help us see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the experience.  

African American poetry is a type of writing that’s seeped in history, culture and rich family traditions. It details things like oxtails, greens, and candied yams served up on Sundays after church and  old folk’s stories about growing up black in America. African-American poetry helps us feel the hot sun during a long day of picking cotton, the belting of whips beating down on a slave’s back, and it reminds us of the days when blacks could not drink from the same water fountain as whites. 

I could go on and on describing the beauty of African American poetry, but I think Lucy, Jupiter, Phillis, and George, can explain better than I can. You see:

  • Lucy Terry’s Bars Fight (1746), is the first poem that we know of that was written by an African American.
  • Jupiter Hammond, a religious poet who led many slaves to Jesus Christ, is the first African American who published a poem.
  • Phillis Wheatley the first African American woman who published an entire book of poetry.
  • George Moses Horton, the slave from North Carolina who became the first African American to use verse to argue against slavery.

Take a look:

Image result for Lucy terry image
Lucy Terry Prince (c. 1730–1821) is the author of the earliest known work of literature by an African American. She was stolen from Africa and sold into slavery as an infant, and became a free woman in Massachusetts, 1756.

The first known poem written by an African-American was Bars Fight, by Lucy Terry. Bars Fight is a ballad. A ballad is a type of poem that tells a story. Bars Fight is about an attack on two white families by Native Americans. The title of the poem comes from the area where the attack took place, The Bars , which is an area in Deerfield. 

Her poem is also written in formal couplets. In poetry, a couplet is a pair of lines in a verse. Usually they rhyme and have the same , meter (rhythm). Each couplet makes up a unit or complete thought. 

Bars Fight (1746)

by Lucy Terry 

August ’twas the twenty-fifth,

Seventeen hundred forty-six;

The Indians did in ambush lay,

Some very valiant men to slay,

The names of whom I’ll not leave out.

Samuel Allen like a hero fout,

And though he was so brave and bold,

His face no more shalt we behold

Eteazer Hawks was killed outright,

Before he had time to fight, –

Before he did the Indians see,

Was shot and killed immediately.

Oliver Amsden he was slain,

Which caused his friends much grief and pain.

Simeon Amsden they found dead,

Not many rods distant from his head.

Adonijah Gillett we do hear

Did lose his life which was so dear.

John Sadler fled across the water,

And thus escaped the dreadful slaughter.

Eunice Allen see the Indians coming,

And hopes to save herself by running,

And had not her petticoats stopped her,

The awful creatures had not catched her,

Nor tommy hawked her on the head,

And left her on the ground for dead.

Young Samuel Allen, Oh lack-a-day!

Was taken and carried to Canada.

Image result for jupiter hammon images
Jupiter Hammon was the first African American poet to be published in the United States. He was born a slave Lloyd Harbor, New York, on October 17, 1711. The Lloyd family encouraged Hammon to attend school, where he learned to read and write. In his early years, Hammon was heavily influenced by a major religious movement called, “The Great Awakening.” His poems reflected his love for Jesus Christ and encouraged slaves to accept Christ as well. 

As you read this poem, consider the author’s message. What message do you think Hammond is trying to convey? 

A Poem for Children with Thoughts on Death (1792)

by Jupiter Hammond

O Ye young and thoughtless youth,

Come seek the living God,

The scriptures are a sacred truth,

Ye must believe the word.

Tis God alone can make you wise,

His wisdom’s from above,

He fills the soul with sweet supplies

By his redeeming love.

Remember youth the time is short,

Improve the present day

And pray that God may guide your thoughts,

And teach your lips to pray.

To pray unto the most high God,

And beg restraining grace,

Then by the power of his word

You’ll see the Saviour’s face.

Little children they may die,

Turn to their native dust,

Their souls shall leap beyond the skies,

And live among the just.

Like little worms they turn and crawl,

And gasp for every breath.

The blessed Jesus sends his call,

And takes them to his rest.

Thus the youth are born to die,

The time is hastening on,

The Blessed Jesus rends the sky,

And makes his power known.

Then ye shall hear the angels sing

The trumpet give a sound,

Glory, glory to our King,

The Saviour’s coming down.

Start ye saints from dusty beds,

And hear a Saviour call,

Twas a Jesus Chirst that died and bled,

And thus preserv’d thy soul.

This the portion of the just,

Who lov’d to serve the Lord,

Their bodies starting from the dust,

Shall rest upon their God.

They shall join that holy word,

That angels constant sing,

Glory, glory to the Lord,

Hallelujahs to our King.

Thus the Saviour will appear,

With guards of heavenly host,

Those blessed Saints, shall then declare,

Tis Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Then shall ye hear the trumpet sound,

The graves give up their dead,

Those blessed saints shall quick awake,

And leave their dusty beds.

Then shall you hear the trumpet sound,

And rend the native sky,

Those bodies starting from the ground,

In the twinkling of an eye.

There to sing the praise of God,

And join the angelic train,

And by the power of his word,

Unite together again.

Where angels stand for to admit

Their souls at the first word,

Cast sceptres down at Jesus feet

Crying holy holy Lord.

Now glory be unto our God

All praise be justly given,

Ye humble souls that love the Lord

Come seek the joys of Heaven.

 

Image result for phillis wheatley images
Phillis Wheatley was born in Gambia, West Africa. No one knows for sure when she was born. However, when she was kidnapped and shipped to America, experts guessed she was around seven years old, because of her missing front teeth.  She was sold into slavery and purchased by the prominent Wheatley family of Boston. Although it was illegal to educate slaves, the Wheatleys taught Phillis how to read and write. She is the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry. 

Vocabulary

  • mercy – compassion shown towards someone
  • pagan – ungodly
  • benighted – in a state of moral ignorance
  • redemption – the act of being saved from sin
  • diabolic – connected to evil, the devil
  • angelic – like angels

How does Wheatley feel about  Africa?

On Being Brought from Africa to America

by Phillis Wheatley

‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

“Their colour is a diabolic die.”

Remember, ChristiansNegros, black as Cain,

May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

 

Image result for george moses horton images
George Moses Horton (1797? – 1884) was born a slave in North Carolina. He was the first African American to use poetry to promote antislavery messages. He earned money writing love poems for men who wanted to woo the ladies.

Horton’s poem is written in formal couplets. In poetry, a couplet is a pair of lines in a verse. Usually they rhyme and have the same , meter (rhythm). Each couplet makes up a unit or complete thought.

mood and tone help the reader find meaning in a poem. We can identify both by looking at the setting, characters, details, and word choices. 

mood – is the atmosphere of the story.

tone – the author’s attitude towards the topic. 

What is the tone of the poem, “Weep”? 

Support your answer with words from the poem and their meanings.

 

Weep

By George Moses Horton

Weep for the country in its present state,

And of the gloom which still the future waits;

The proud confederate eagle heard the sound,

And with her flight fell prostrate to the ground!

Weep for the loss the country has sustained,

By which her now dependent is in jail;

The grief of him who now the war survived,

The conscript husbands and the weeping wives!

Weep for the seas of blood the battle cost,

And souls that ever hope forever lost!

The ravage of the field with no recruit,

Trees by the vengeance blasted to the root!

Weep for the downfall o’er your heads and chief,

Who sunk without a medium of relief;

Who fell beneath the hatchet of their pride,

Then like the serpent bit themselves and died!

Weep for the downfall of your president,

Who far too late his folly must repent;

Who like the dragon did all heaven assail,

And dragged his friends to limbo with his tail!

Weep o’er peculiar swelling coffers void,

Our treasures left, and all their banks destroyed;

Their foundless notes replete with shame to all,

Expecting every day their final fall,

In quest of profit never to be won,

Then sadly fallen and forever down!

Additional Resources

Dream in Color, a collaborative effort for elementary-aged children. 

Please visit our website http://www.tamsanded.com