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  • Hello.

  • I'm Gill from engVid, and today's lesson is a poem.

  • When I did a previous poem called: "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear, people said:

  • "Oh, please give us some more poems", so here is one which I hope you enjoy.

  • Okay, so it's a poem by a woman called Emily Dickinson, and she was American.

  • And she lived from 1830 to 1886, and she lived in a place called Amherst in Massachusetts

  • in the eastern...

  • On the eastern side of America; New England.

  • Okay.

  • And she...

  • She was the kind of person who likes to stay at home most of the time; she didn't go out

  • much.

  • She stayed in her own room, I think writing poetry most of the time; maybe writing letters

  • as well.

  • But she wrote a lot of poetry; and not much of it was published in her lifetime, but it

  • was found after she died, and then it was all published.

  • I think she only published one or two poems in her lifetime.

  • Okay.

  • So, here is the first half of a poem by Emily Dickinson.

  • And it's very simple, really.

  • It's not a difficult poem.

  • There are some words which may be unfamiliar, but I'll explain them as we go along.

  • Okay.

  • So, here we are, so the poem begins:

  • "I'll tell you how the sun rose, - A ribbon at a time.

  • The steeples swam in amethyst, The news like squirrels ran."

  • Okay, so there may be a few words there that you're not familiar with, so let's have a

  • look.

  • So, she's talking to somebody; maybe the person who's reading the poem, and she's telling

  • them: "I'll tell you how the sun rose".

  • She's going to describe what it looked like when the sun came up in the morning.

  • Okay.

  • And it was "a ribbon at a time".

  • So, when you see the sun and the clouds in the sky sometimes, you have sort of lines

  • in the sky that look...

  • They could look...

  • Be like ribbons; pieces of silk, ribbons that people put in their hair and so on.

  • So, the way it looked as the sun rose, there were coloured lines in the sky-okay-like that.

  • So, a ribbon at a time as the sun came up, these lines appeared.

  • Okay.

  • The steeples... "steeples" are on a building; they're a pointed thing, like this.

  • So, it's often usually a church building where you have a pointed...

  • It's called a "spire" as well.

  • A "steeple" or a "spire", so that's a steeple - that pointed bit.

  • So, the steeples, there's more than one.

  • So, if she's looking out of her bedroom window, seeing the town and seeing the sun coming

  • up, she's seeing all the buildings as well in the town.

  • There may be several church buildings with a pointed spire or steeple.

  • So, the steeple swam... swimming.

  • So, it sounds like...

  • It sounds strange because it's more metaphorical; that's why it's poetry.

  • It's not literally true, but the metaphor.

  • "The steeples swam in amethyst".

  • So, "amethyst" is a deep blue colour.

  • So, there's a sort of blue around the steeples in the sky; a deep blue colour.

  • So, it's as if the steeples are swimming; they're almost moving against the sky because

  • of the effects of the light as the sun comes up.

  • So, the steeples swam.

  • It's almost as if they're in water; swimming in water.

  • So, the blue is like water, as well as being the blue of the sky.

  • Okay.

  • "The news like squirrels ran".

  • "News" we don't know.

  • What?

  • What news?

  • Oh, the news that the sun is rising?

  • Could it be that?

  • Sometimes in a poem it's not exactly clear what's happening; what's going on.

  • What is the news?

  • The news that the sun is rising, perhaps; that a new day is beginning.

  • It's getting light.

  • So, people start to wake up, and animals and birds start to wake up.

  • "Ah, it's a new day."

  • That may be what the news is.

  • And a "squirrel" is a little animal.

  • Oo, I'll try and draw one.

  • The main thing is that it has a long tail, like that.

  • So, little squirrels, they can go up a tree, and think things like that, you know.

  • So: "The news like squirrels ran".

  • The news ran like squirrels.

  • The way squirrels run - very quickly.

  • So, the news spreads very quickly that it's a new day; everybody wakes up and thinks:

  • "Oh, the new day is starting."

  • You soon notice when the sun rises.

  • Okay.

  • Next verse.

  • So, these are called "verses" where you have a break in between.

  • Each one is called a verse.

  • Or another word for it is if you're being really particular about your...

  • The words you're using, you'd call it a "stanza" - that's a more professional word.

  • "Stanza".

  • Each section is called a "stanza" with a gap in between.

  • "Stanza" or "verse".

  • Okay.

  • So, second verse, second stanza - so, what happens next?

  • "The hills untied their bonnets, The bobolinks begun.

  • Then I said softly to myself," Quotation marks: "'That must have been the

  • sun!'"

  • So, it's very sort of conversational in style; very normal language.

  • "Ah, it's got light.

  • Ah, that must have been the sun coming up."

  • So, anyway, let's go back to this.

  • The hills, so the hills...

  • She can see hills in the distance, I suppose, through her window; the hills.

  • So, hills don't usually wear bonnets or hats.

  • A "bonnet" is a hat.

  • It's a particular type of hat which people used to wear in this period - the 19th century.

  • And it's kind of curved like that, and it has ribbons that tie under the chin.

  • So that's the person's face, and they have a bonnet which they wear, and it ties under

  • the chin with a ribbon.

  • And so, the idea of a ribbon is coming back, but it's not mentioned.

  • But people know that bonnets have ribbons.

  • So: "The hills untied their bonnets", so it means they untied; they opened up, they loosened

  • the ribbons, and probably took the bonnets off.

  • You don't just untie your bonnet; you usually, if you're wearing one, you untie it, then

  • you take it off completely; which usually meant in those days you've gone to visit somebody,

  • you wore the bonnet out in the street, you then arrived at their house, you go in, and

  • if you're going to sit down and have a nice social chat, you untie your bonnet and take

  • it off, and then you can relax and have a proper conversation, and stay for an hour

  • or more.

  • So, this is quite a strong idea that the hills untied their bonnets; that something's happening.

  • So, I think the idea is partly the light behind the hills.

  • It's getting lighter, so it looks as if they had dark bonnets on, and then they've taken

  • them off and the light is different now; you can see the hills more easily in the light.

  • Okay.

  • "The hills untied their bonnets, The bobolinks begun".

  • So, a "bobolink" is a bird.

  • Okay.

  • It's a kind of mostly-black bird, but it has white markings on it as well, and that's the

  • male bird.

  • I think the female bird is more sort of brown and beige.

  • So, that's the "bobolink".

  • And it's a bird which we don't have in the UK, so I had to look it up on the internet,

  • and I had to find a little video on YouTube to see what a bobolink looked like and what

  • it sounded like; to hear what it sounded like.

  • But they make a lot of chattering noise.

  • So, when she says: "The bobolinks begun", it means they started chattering and making

  • a noise, and singing, and probably going off to find food; insects and things, because

  • that's what birds do when the sun rises.

  • They all make a lot of noise and go off to find food.

  • So: "The bobolinks begun".

  • I think they're called "bobolink" because it's sort of a little bit like the sound that

  • they make.

  • Okay, and also the thing with the bobolink is it's...

  • She's from America, and the bobolink is a native bird of North America, but in the winter

  • the bobolink migrates south to South America.

  • So, if you're in that area of the world, you may know what the bobolink looks like; you

  • may have seen them.

  • Okay.

  • That's a bobolink, then.

  • So:

  • "The bobolinks begun.

  • Then I said softly to myself, 'That must have been the sun!'"

  • So, the sun, it's a sort of almost casual remark: "Oh, that must have been the sun.

  • Huh."

  • You know, it happens every day, the sun rises, so...

  • But it's very important that it does; I don't know what we would do if the sun didn't rise.

  • So, we take it for granted.

  • You know, we expect it to happen every day, but it's very important.

  • So... okay, so that's the first half of the poem, all about the sun rising.

  • I hope you have enjoyed the little images, and the references to birds and animals, and

  • how it looks visually because poetry often creates a picture in your head from the way

  • the language is being used.

  • And it's very simple, really, and there's very little rhyming; there's just "begun"

  • and "sun", really, in this half of the poem.

  • And there's a bit more rhyme to come.

  • So, let's move on to the second half of the poem.

  • Okay, so let's have a look at the second half of the poem.

  • So, we started with the sun rising, and now the sun is setting.

  • So, there's no...

  • There's nothing about the middle of the day in the poem; it's just sunrise, sunset.

  • What happened in between - just another day.

  • So, let's read the third verse, the third stanza:

  • "But how he set, I know not.

  • There seemed a purple stile Which little yellow boys and girls

  • Were climbing all the while."

  • Okay, so we've heard how the sun rose.

  • "I'll tell you how the sun rose", she begins, but how he set - "he" meaning the sun, so

  • she's using "he"; not: "how it set".

  • She's calling the sun "he".

  • "How the sun set, I don't know.

  • I know not".

  • She didn't...

  • Well, she does because she then goes on to tell us, so she does know, really.

  • But this is what she saw when the sun was setting: "There seemed"...

  • It's less clear probably because it's getting darker when the sun is setting, so you can't

  • see so much, but what she did see: "There seemed a purple stile".

  • So, a "stile"...

  • I'll try to draw one.

  • It's...

  • If you have, in the country between different fields, you get a fence and there might be

  • a hedge on either side; something growing on either side, and then there's a wooden

  • fence.

  • But you may want to climb over it, so what people do, they put a piece of wood across

  • partway up, like that, so that you can step onto the piece of wood and step over to the

  • other side and get down into the next field.

  • So, that's called a "stile".

  • Whoops.

  • So, that's called a "stile", okay.

  • Something that helps you jump... not jump over a fence.

  • Climb over a fence.

  • Okay.

  • So, that's the impression she got.

  • So, when you think of the ribbons when the sun was rising, this is a little bit similar.

  • That...

  • Well, she doesn't say what colour the ribbons were, but she said here this is purple.

  • So, the dark sort of purple colour in the sky often in the evening, and maybe some lines

  • again.

  • But: "There seemed a purple stile" in the distance, on the horizon, "Which little yellow

  • boys and girls were climbing all the while".

  • So they're climbing over the stile; little sort of spots of yellow that look like children.

  • Okay.

  • So, which is a bit strange, but that's the impression; some sort of effect with all the

  • colours at sunset.

  • So, little children, little yellow dots in the distance.

  • Okay.

  • "Till"-meaning "until", "until"-when they reached the other side", the other side of

  • the stile, further away into the next field.

  • "A dominie in gray Put gently up the evening bars,

  • And led the flock away."

  • Okay.

  • So, the children, if they are children, go over the stile to the other side; it's getting

  • darker and darker.

  • And then: "A dominie in gray" - this is like a churchman wearing gray.

  • A "dominie" is like a sort of religious leader, and he's wearing gray, I think because the

  • light is fading now; the light is going as the sun sets.

  • The purple is quite dark already, and then gray - you don't see so much colour at night;

  • everything is gray, or black, or white.

  • So, dominie in gray, wearing gray.

  • And in British English, we spell "grey" with an "e", but this is the American spelling

  • with an "a".

  • Okay.

  • So, he's wearing gray.

  • "Put gently up the evening bars", so it could be these bars, here.

  • It's almost like the bars of a prison; makes you think of bars, whichever way they're going,

  • so it's like saying sort of closing down for the night, really.

  • "Put gently up the evening bars", but it's gentle; it's a very nice feeling.

  • "And led the flock away".

  • The children, boys and girls, are like a flock and a "flock" is the word for sheep.

  • So, it's like this man is like a shepherd, looking after a flock of sheep, which has

  • slight sort of religious connections because people, boys and girls, adults as well, are

  • sometimes in the church called a flock; the people who are being looked after by the minister,

  • the church minister.

  • So, there's something a bit religious about the poem at the