William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. A pillar of the Irish literary establishment, he helped to found the famous Dublin Abbey Theatre. Recently the Linen Hall’s education and outreach officer devised the activity plan below to introduce children to the resources held in the Linen Hall Library which include the works of this poetic genius.
A reference book called The Moon Spun Round W.B. Yeats for Children (this book can be purchased online) is a useful starting point for children to begin to visualise some of the imagery and meaning in Yeats’s poems.
‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’, ‘The Stolen Child’, ‘The Song of Wondering Aengus’ (these poems can be found on the internet if you don’t have access to a book)
Read one/all of the poems aloud to your child/children.
What was/were the poem/s about? What are myths, legends and folklore?
Do you know any myths or legends?
Additional activity 1: Actions to movements in the poems
Get your child/children to act out some of the lines from the poems. This will create a better understanding of what is happening in the poem. Ask the participants to listen carefully as you read out each of the lines below. Read them one after the other. Now read them one at a time, giving a few seconds for the participants to think about how they can act it out. Say ‘action’ when you think they are ready to show their moves!
Spread the cloths under your feet flapping herons wake, The drowsy water-rats
With a faery, hand in hand Weaving olden dances
whispering in their ears cut and peeled a hazel wand, And hooked a berry to a thread
caught a little silver trout
Additional activity 2: Creative writing
Select one of the lines in activity 1 to create two short stanzas (or more if you like) of poetry. If you are particularly inspired to write your own piece, amazing, do that too!
(Participant) task 2:
On a large sheet of paper (suitable for drawing on) copy down your chosen poem.
(Participant) task 3:
Illustrate the page with images from the poem. This can include nature, stars, fairies, children, but most importantly what you think the poem would look like if you were to illustrate it.