Poetry can be an excellent way of helping young EFL students to know and enjoy the English language. One poet whose work may be enjoyable to young children is Christina Rossetti. As a poet she experimented with various poetic forms and consequentially produced a range of works from which teachers can choose the ideal poem for their lesson. Below I’ve discussed the three poems that I’ve found to me most useful, but more Christina Rossetti poems can be found here:
Christina Rossetti was born in 1830, in London, England. Her family were very artistic. Her father was an Italian poet and her uncle was a well-known writer. The most famous of her three siblings was Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a famous painter.
While her father taught Italian at King’s College, Christina and her siblings were educated by their mother. Their mother had been a governess and was determined to have well-educated children. She read to them often and encouraged them to read by themselves when they were old enough. They all enjoyed imaginative fiction, and soon Christina began writing stories and poems.
Christina had a happy childhood and was especially close to her brother, Dante Gabriel. She also had a sister, Maria, and another brother, William. She would later become closer with Maria after they both converted to Catholicism, along with their mother. Religion is a theme of many of her poems, which depict internal conflict and self-doubt. Despite this, Christina was known as a devout Catholic. Her brother William described her as “vivacious” as a child, and noted that she became more restrained as she got older.
Her first published poem was printed in a magazine when she was seventeen years old. Two years later, she finished Goblin Market, one of her best known works. She was soon compared with the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Although Elizabeth Barrett Browning has always been the better known of the two, many people argue that Christina Rossetti’s more experimental approach to writing poetry made her work more unique and imaginative.
Below are three poems by Christina Rossetti that my students have particularly loved.
Hurt no living thing
This is a short, manageable poem for even young children. The rhyme scheme and rhythm make the poem easy to repeat, which is good for developing a more native style of speech.
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.
A bird song
This is a lovely poem because it describes the beginning of summer. The speaker misses someone they love, which can lead to fantastic discussions about who that person could be. You could also discuss the good things about summer and what you both remember about fun summers you’ve had.
It’s a year almost that I have not seen her:
Oh, last summer green things were greener,
Brambles fewer, the blue sky bluer.
it’s surely summer, for there’s a swallow:
Come one swallow, his mate will follow,
The bird race quicken and wheel and thicken.
Oh happy swallow whose mate will follow
O’er height, o’er hollow! I’d be a swallow,
To build this weather one nest together.
This is a very long poem about two friends called Lizzie and Laura. They get into trouble when they meet some goblins, but their friendship helps them through it. You can listen to the poem here.