Train Poems

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SpringbloghopIf you’ve read a Thomas the Train Engine story, you might have noticed that the trains tend to speak in a particular rhythm. “I’m going to burst! I’m going to burst!” cries Thomas when his boiler is plugged with fish. “I hope it’s all right, I hope it’s all right,” Annie and Clarabelle (the train cars) whisper to each other. There’s a rhythm to the train cars speech that resemble the sounds of the train wheels jostling over the tracks. The stories are of course in prose but well written prose often contain elements of poetry.

The poet Ford Madox Ford also noticed the rhythm of poetry with the rhythm of the train journey but he saw the connection as a bad thing. He described the poetry recitals was forced to listen to as a child as torturesome: monotonous, polysyllabic, unchanging rhythms,

And it went on and on – and on! A long, rolling stream, of words no-one would ever use, to endless in which rhymes went unmeaningly by like the telegraph posts, every fifty yards of a railway journey.

Ford Madox Ford described poetry recitals he went to as a child, where "rhymes went unmeaningly by like the telegraph posts, every fifty yards of a railway journey."

Railway poems:

I decided to share a collection of train poems with my kids as part of a discussion about the industrial revolution and because trains are just a fun topic to play with. Here are the links to where I found the poems online, but you can also download the version I put together with all but Auden’s poem.

“Night Mail” and “From a Railway Carriage” have a similar meter and both resemble the chugging sound of a train passing. After reading them both separately I read lines from each interspersed together to show my kids the similar sounds.

“From a Railway Carriage” and “The Egg and the Machine” make a good contrast for talking about the experience of the train from inside compared to outside. “From a Railway Carriage” talks about the view outside flitting past:

“And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!”

“The Egg and the Machine” is from the point of view of a man standing as the train passes.

Then for a moment all there was was size
Confusion and a roar that drowned the cries
He raised against the gods in the machine.
Then once again the sandbank lay serene.

 

Wordsworth and his opponent arguing about benefit and hindrance of the train provide an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons the trains. How did it change life? How did it fit with the industrial revolution? The arguments they bring up are applicable to other modern situations. The subdividing of lakeside land or the building of a new resorts will allow more “town-cramp’d soul[s]” to have access to the beauty of nature but will also disturb the serenity of those already there. One thing missing from both poems is the knowledge of environmental damage to be caused. The engineer’s description of the train companies paying for the land they take creates an interesting contrast with the land that is being expropriated for oil pipelines these days, since the pipelines with their risk of leaks do not increase the value of the remaining land.

If from “paternal fields” we take a part,
We pay most handsomely by way of smart;
We give a double value for the slice,
And make the remnant worth a double price.

April is National Poetry Month, and I’ll be posting much more about poetry throughout the month. Sign up to have new posts emailed to you or follow me via Bloglovin or Google+ using the links on the sidebar. And in the meantime, this post is part of a spring poetry blog-hop so you can hop onto the next post by clicking the following button:

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3 thoughts on “Train Poems

  1. Pingback: Spring Has Sprung Poetry in Elementary Blog Hop | Burke's Special Kids

  2. I love the connection! We read our share of Thomas book *groan* but I never though to turn to train POEMS for some reason. My son will LOVE it. Thank you so much for getting those poems all pulled together for us to use!

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