Poetry Unit

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Last updated: November 30, 2019
What are the 4 subjects that the Fireside Poets wrote about?
home/family; religion/morality; nature; patriotism

All the fireside poets were from the same century. What century is this?

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When/where was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow born?
1807 in Maine

When/where was John Greenleaf Whittier born?
1807 in Massachusetts

When/where was Oliver Wendell Holmes born?
1809 in Massachusetts

When/where was James Russell Lowell born?
1819 Massachusetts

Where did Longfellow attend college?
Bowdoin College

Where did Whittier go to school?
he has no formal education

Where did Holmes attend college?

Where did Lowell attend college?

What were Longfellow’s professions?
college language professor

What were Whittier’s professions?

What were Holmes’s professions?
medical doctor; professor of literature

What were Lowell’s professions?
lawyer, journalist, newspaper editor, professor, politician

What was Longfellow’s background?
traveled extensively in Europe to sharpen language skills; first American poet honored at Westminster Academy

What was Whittier’s background?
grew up poor; Quaker; slavery abolitionist

What was Holmes’s background?
descendant of Anne Bradstreet; advocate of women’s admission into medical school

What was Lowell’s background?
death of wife and children influenced writings

What were some of Longfellow’s works?
“Nature”; “The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls”

What is Longfellow’s most famous work?
“Paul Revere’s Ride”

What were some of Whittier’s works?
Snowbound (novel)

What were some of Holmes’s works?
Old Iron Sides (novel)

What were some of Lowell’s works?
“The Courtin'”

What subjects did Longfellow write about?
mainly nature; patriotism

What subjects did Whittier write about?
family; nature

What subjects did Holmes write about?
patriotism; nature

What subjects did Lowell write about?
family; patriotism

Who was the most popular of the fireside poets?

Who was the most versatile of all the poets?

Define stead.
place or location

Define transcend.
to rise above something

Define analogy.
comparison of 2 situations to show similarities

Define diction.

word choice

What is the rhyme scheme of “Nature”?

Why are children (in this poem and in general) “half willling, half reluctant” to go to bed (in the poem “Nature”)?
they are tired, but they are afraid of the dark, monsters, etc.

This poem is based on an analogy. What 2 things are being compared in this poem?
children going to bed and death

In what sense is a person of any age like a “little child” in leaving life behind?
A person is scared of dying/death and doesn’t know what to expect; they don’t want to miss anything

Our occupations of this world are spoken of as “playtings.” In what sense do they become “broken”?
the older we get (the closer we are to dying), daily things we did everyday when we were younger become more challenging (jobs/occupations; monetary status; relationships; family/friends)

Define alliteration.
repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words

Define personification.
giving human qualities to an inanimate object

Define curlew.
large wading bird associated with the evening

Define efface.

erase or wipe out

Define hostler.
person who tends horses at an inn or stable

Defien refrain.
word or series of words that are repeated

Define hasten.
to make quicker or faster; to hurry something

Give 2 examles of alliteratin in “The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls”.
the curlew calls, sea sands

What words are in the refrain? Why are these words appropriate?
The tide rises, the tide falls; whatever may happen to people (dying), life will go on as usual

Give 1 example of personification.
the sea in the darkness calls; waves erase footprints in the sand

The analogy between the sea and human life is developed mostly though details of atmosphere and setting. What details of setting in the first stanza suggest that this traveler is nearing death?
the day is ending, twilight darkens, curlew calls

Literally, where is the traveler in the poem appear to be going?
towards the town

Metaphorically, why won’t the traveler be returning from his journey?
he is dying

Although the traveler will not be returning (literally or metaphorically), what happens to day-to-day life in his absence? What line in the poem proves this?
day-to-day life is the same; the last line in the stanza (“the morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls stamp and neigh”)

What does the tidal action of the sea represenet?
life on a day-to-day basis (people living and people dying)

What does the tide symbolize?

What is the figurative (as opposed to literal) meaning of the footprints’ effacement in line 9?
they are erasing the memories of the events of that day

Define rhyme.

repetition of sounds at the end of words

Define rhyme scheme.
regular pattern of rhyming words in a poem

Define alliteration.
repetition of vowel sounds

Define imagery.
representation of 5 senses to create a picture for reader

Define hyperbole.
huge exaggeration

Define apostrophe.
direct address of something that can’t talk back

Which US President ordered the building of the U.S.S Constitution?
George Washington

For how many years did the ship sit in Massachusetts Bay without sailing?

For what victory did the U.

S.S Constitution first gain fame?

Tripoli (a pirate fight)

Why is the ship best remembered for its role in the War of 1812?
it was the best naval force in the world at the time (couldn’t be defeated)

How many times did the ship face deterioration? Who helped to save the ship on each of those occasions?
2; Oliver Wendell Holmes

In the first stanza of “Old Ironsides,” what does the speaker suggest doing with the ship? Is he being sincere?
tear down the flag; no

The speaker refers to the ship as “the meteor of the ocean air” and “the eagle of the sea.” What do these names imply about the ship?
it’s really fast

What do the phrases “knelt the vanquished foe” and “know the conquered knee” suggest about the ship?
it has been through a lot and the ship has known a lot of victories

Explain the line “Her thunders shook the mighty deep” in stanza 3 in “Old Ironsides.”
when they fire the ship’s cannons

How is Holmes appealing to the American sense of patriotism through speaking of the ship’s historic role?
her victories instill American pride

Why do you think Holmes feels so strongly about Old Ironsides? Is there any historic object in the US today that would arouse a similar public reaction if authorities suggested it be torn down/destroyed? Explain.

his era left behind (feels personal about the ship); yes- American sense of patriotism and pride

“Old Ironsides” was instrumental in saving Old Ironsides. Could a poem have such and effect today? Explain.
no; there are many more influential factors in saving things today than back then (media, TV, etc.


The first lines of “Snowbound” describe the approaching storm. What clues in the physical world around the farm indicate that a blizzard is on the way?
sun rose cheerless; mute sky; bitterness of cold; darkening sky, ominous, etc.

What nightly chores does the speaker perform regularly?
brought wood inside; raked (cows); fed cattle

How does the speaker describe the world on “the second morning” after the heavy snowfall? What is the speaker’s attitude toward the transformed world? How does he feel about shoveling a path?
it’s familiar-he’s in awe; it’s different and he has fun doing it

How do the various animals in the barn react when the humans arrive there?
the animals greet him happily

What happens to the weather after the snow stops? How do the humans inside the house react?
it gets extremely cold; they make a fire (they could use a break)

There is a contrast in “Snowbound.” What are the 2 things being considered?
cold/bitterness of outside to warmth/coziness of inside

Give an example of personification, a simile, and a metaphor in “Snowbound.”
sun rose cheerless; like a ghost; the sun was a snow blown traveler

What are the 3 allusions in “Snowbound.”
Leaning Tower of Pisa (in Italy); Aladdin (Arabian Nights); Amun (Egyptian god w/ lamb’s head)

In lines 1-5 in “Birches,” why does the speaker hope that the birches are bent from a boy swinging on them rather than from an ice storm?
if it’s an ice storm, it’s bent forever; if it’s just a kid swinging, the birch will go back to normal (it’s a happier image)

In lines 6-20 in “Birches,” list at least 3 images the speaker gives of birch trees which have been brutalized by ice storms.
cracked enamel, crystal shells, broken shells, broken glass, inner dome of heaven

What does the speaker mean in line 21 when he states, “But I was going to say when Truth broke in/ With all her matter of fact about the ice storm,” ?
he knows it was an ice storm but he was hoping it wasn’t real

Why is Truth capitalized?
personification; Truth= life, reality

Why does the young boy described in lines 23-40 play on the birch?
he’s a boy and that’s all he could do; he lived in the country where there was nothing to do

What is the connection between the boy and the speaker?
the boy is the speaker (younger)

What does the activity of swinging on birches come to symbolize for the speaker?
childhood and freedom

What does the speaker say he’d like to “begin over”?
his life

What kinds of events, life experiences, and feelings in his life may have caused the speaker to make the admission contained in lines 48-49?
responsibilities, aging, laziness/poor decisions, relationships

What aspects of this poem reflect the speaker’s conflicting attitude about life?
wants to start over, but wants to leave and never return

In “Mending Wall”, what 2 causes of gaps in walls does the speaker identify?
hunters and frozen ground

What do these 2 causes each represent?
freezing and thawing=nature; hunters=man

Characterize the 2 types of damage to the wall.
freezing and thawing= natural/unintentional; hunters= deliberate/intentional

Why does something in the poem “not love a wall”?
creates separation; alienates; creates boundaries

What saying does the neighbor repeat?
“Good fences make good neighbors.

What does this saying mean?
walls define your boundaries and lessen the conflict; privacy

What purpose does the wall serve? Does the speaker think the wall is necessary?
separation; no

Describe 2-3 character traits for the speaker and the neighbor.
public, open, social vs. distant, private

Is there more than one wall between the speaker and his neighbor?

What do you think is the theme of the poem?
Because walls bring unnatural separation, there will always be natural forces trying to break them down.

In “Out, Out”, which is more disturbing: the boy’s death or the onlooker’s reaction to it?
onlooker’s reaction (everything went back to normal)

Where is “Out, Out” set?

How does the setting contrast with the events of the poem?
peaceful/quiet (Vermont) vs. tragic/unnatural/life-shattering death

At what time of day does the accident occur?
suppertime (closing time/ quitting time)

What is ironic about the fact that the boy is injured at just that time?
he was old enough to do that type of work; end of work–> end of life

What does the speaker mean by the expression “the boy saw it all” in line 22?
he knew he was about to die

In the last line, what is the family’s response to the boy’s death?
they went on about their daily activities

How do you explain this response?
they are in shock

The poem’s title comes from a scene in William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” in which Macbeth laments the death of his wife with these words: “Out, out, brief candle!/ Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,/ And then is heard no more.” What does this quotation reveal about the poem’s theme?
Life is fragile

According the background presented at the beginning of “The Gift Outright” what is the history of the poem?
JFK’s inauguration

What time period does the poet discuss in the poem?
colonial times

What does the title of the poem itself?
Americans need to give more without expecting anything back

Who was Robert Frost named after?
Robert E. Lee (he has some trace of Southern blood)

Frost won this award 4 times.
the Pulitzer Prize

In what years did Frost live?

Frost was a _______ _________ nature man.

New England

Robert Frost was ___________ of his school along with his wife.

What book of poems did he write?
North of Boston

Frost said this quote: “A poem should begin in ___________ and end in ___________.”
delight; wisdom

How many times did Frost win the Pulitzer Prize?

Explain what the poet is hearing in “I Hear America Singing”.

the singing of the workforce

List the various occupations that the poet mentions. Why are all these workers singing?
mechanics, carpenter, masons, hatters, shoemakers, boatmen, etc.; they’re happy with their jobs and their lives

How are the songs in the last 2 lines different from the songs elsewhere in the poem?
they aren’t working, they’re doing recreational activities; all work isn’t good–you need a balance between work and play

What do you think the theme of the poem is?
work and work hard but a balance between work and play; when America (or people in general) works together, they are the heroes and everything runs smoothly

What American war prompted the writing of “Beat! Beat! Drums!”
Civil War

What literary device is most evident in the first line of each stanza? What does the sound represent?

Name at least 3 of the groups of people who are disturbed by the drums.
students (scholars), congregation, farmers, lawyers, bride and groom, etc.

Why do the drums have such a disturbing effect?
they never stop (constant)

What do you think the old man, the child, and the mother are asking for in the 3rd stanza?
they are losing their people (relationships)

Whitman describes the effect that war had on people during the Civil War. How are these effects different today?
we can turn it off (just change the channel)

What is the refrain of the poem? Why is it appropriate?
Beat! Beat! Drums!- Blow! Bugles! Blow!; reminds them that there is war

In what years did Whitman live?

Whitman was impacted by what event?
Lincoln’s assassination

What is Whitman’s most famous work?
Leaves of Grass (a collection of poems)

What is his most famous poem from this work?
“Songs of Myself”

What does wanton mean?
senseless; unjustified

On whose faces has the speaker seen the “marks of wanton hunger” in “Chicago”?
women and children

Chicago is compared to a young man, a fighter, and a youth.

What are they all doing? What does this action suggest?

laughing; they’re happy, confident

Name one of the industries for which the poem claims Chicago is famous.

What ‘wicked’ influences did immigrants into the city face upon their arrival?
prostitution, crime

What positive qualities does Chicago have, according to the speaker?
fierce, strong, proud, lively, young, energetic

What details in the poem show that the poem is set in the early 20th century?
industry talk, gas lamp, mafia

Define free verse.
unrhymed verses with no metrical pattern

Define parallelism. Give examples from the poem?
repeating same grammatical structure; lines 14-17= ‘-ing’; lines 7-8= ‘And they tell me’

Identify 2 similes.
fierce as a dog; cunning as a dog

Identify 1 metaphor.
Hog butcher for the world

List several examples of personification.
lifted head, shoveling, wrecking, planning, breaking

In “Grass” what do Austerlitz, Waterloo, Gettysburg, Ypres, and Verdun all have in common?
all battle sites; death

In the first stanza, what does the grass claim to do?
work, covers everything up

What is the poet suggesting about the death and destruction of war?
it is forgotten: What is this place? Where are we now?

In what years did Carl Sandburg live?

Carl Sandburg was a ________ that lived in _________.
hobo; Chicago

Sandburg is best known as what?
leading biographer on Abraham Lincoln (studied him for 30 years)

Sandburg was America’s leading _________ _______.
folk singer

Sandburg won the Pulitzer Prize how many times?
2 (once for literature and once for history)

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