Sometimes people think of poetry as being alien and hard to understand. But some of the first poems you probably ever heard were simple nursery rhymes like this one:
Hey, diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
One of the things children like about nursery rhymes is their songlike quality. They are easy to learn and remember because they have rhyme and meter. Rhyme and meter are not essential to a poem (yesterday’s poem had neither!), but they are two of the things we most closely associate with poetry.
Rhyme occurs when words end with similar sounds; meter occurs when the rhythm follows a pattern, resulting in a regular “beat.” What words rhyme in “Hey, Diddle, Diddle”? (diddle and fiddle; moon and spoon) Try saying “Hey, Diddle, Diddle” while stomping on the strong beats and clapping on the weak beats. Can you describe the pattern? (strong-weak-weak, strong-weak-weak, etc.)
Here’s another nursery rhyme. What is its beat pattern (meter)? Stomp and clap again to figure it out.
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.
Do the last words of the two lines in “Jack and Jill” rhyme? (Not exactly.) Do they sound a little alike? (Yes.) This is called slant rhyme. Slant rhyme is also sometimes called near, half, or approximate rhyme.
What are some other nursery rhymes you remember from when you were younger? I bet you can think of quite a few! Today, see if you can find an old Mother Goose book on your bookshelf and read some more just for fun!
Post images courtesy of Project Gutenberg.