Poetry is sometimes described as the musical genre because the words of a poem seem to sing. Rhythms and sounds take fanciful flight and the words travel through time and space. Poetry gives us the feeling that people are the same from generation to generation, continent to continent and mornings to evenings for as long as people have lived. Today we’ll be taking an EVENING stroll with Sappho, an Ancient Greek poet who was born around 630 BC and died around 570 BC. Sappho tells us how she sees EVENING settle… and you’ll see that her vision is much the same as we see EVENING settle all these centuries later.
EVENING by Sappho
Children astray to their mothers, and goats to the herd,
Sheep to the shepherd, through twilight the wings of the bird,
All things that morning has scattered with fingers of gold,
All things thou bringest, O Evening! at last to the fold.
Read the poem with your children. It is a particularly nice poem for a bedtime read. The poem does have a musical sense; note the rhyming couplets herd/bird and gold/fold (2 lines that rhyme and have the same meter). There is a soft lullaby rhythm to the words and the rhymes.
Talk to your children about evening. What are the colors of evening? What are the sounds of evening? What is the feeling of evening? Is it togetherness? Home? Safety? In the poem, who returns when evening settles? Can you see and hear the children return to their mother? Can you see and hear the goats return to the herd? How about the sheep returning to the shepherd? Can you hear the sounds of the birds’ wings? What is the meaning of the word twilight (the soft light of the sun below the horizon, but still casting a diffuse light)? Is twilight the magic time of return?
The poet Sappho writes about morning in the 3rd line of her poem… how morning scatters with fingers of gold. What are the fingers of gold? The sun’s rays? Ask you children to think about morning time in your home. Do your family members scatter with the fingers of gold? Where does everyone go?
What happens in your home as evening settles? Do family members return? Do animals settle? Can you hear the birds’ wings as they fly at twilight? What is the meaning of the word fold (a group)? Does Evening seem to bring everyone and everything back? Have things changed much since Sappho wrote her poem in Ancient Greece? Answer: probably not!
Enjoy sharing this lovely poem with your children… the words in it, the feeling of it and the music to it. LITERACY is all about the WORDS – Written, Spoken, Felt. It’s been this way forever!
Remember the words of Jean-Paul Satre, “To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June.”