Plethora of Poetry for All Ages

BOOK PICK: ‘Poems Every Child Should Know’ will delight readers and read-aloud listeners alike.

‘Rosa Mystica’ is one of the compilation’s featured poems; art: Madonna, by Pompeo Batoni, 1742
‘Rosa Mystica’ is one of the compilation’s featured poems; art: Madonna, by Pompeo Batoni, 1742 (photo: Public domain)

Poems Every Child Should Know

By Joseph Pearce

TAN Books, 2022

344 pages, $29.95

To order: or (800) 854-6316

What do G.K. Chesterton, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti and Joyce Kilmer have in common with Mother Goose? Plenty, poetically. They also all are highlighted in Poems Every Child Should Know.

The title really refers to children of all ages, from 3 to 103 (Part II is subtitled, “Poems for Children of All Ages”), even though it starts with Mother Goose and then moves on to some of the greatest poets over the last centuries — all compiled by Joseph Pearce.

This book is filled with poems giving delight with their musical qualities, their rhythm and rhyme. As a visual treat meaning to enhance its worth, this treasure chest of poems appears on gold-edged pages bound within a leatherette cover.

The poetry will delight readers and read-aloud listeners alike.

For Part I, Pearce suggests, “Mothers and fathers are encouraged to read all the poems to their littlest children. Even if the child does not understand the words, he or she will hear the music as the words dance with each other.”

Reading together will make for a grand time together watching youngsters’ delight, whether it's older teens, college students, young adults through senior citizens; reading the likes of Gerard Manley Hopkins, for example, everybody is going to have a wonderful time with this marvelous wonderland of verse.

Young and old can take a breathless Skate with Herbert Asquith; mull over The Road Not Taken with Frost, cheer either way for Casey at the Bat, have fun with Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, chuckle along with Hillary Belloc’s animal poems from the Yak and Polar Bear to the Hippopotamus, and play along with Robert Lewis Stevenson’s My Shadow.

Everyone will marvel at Hopkins’ Rosa Mystica, A.A. Milne’s silly verses, Sarah Teasdale’s soul-stirring lines, and even a bit of T.S. Eliot, not to mention Tennyson’s The Eagle and epic The Lady of Shalott. Travel to Jerusalem with William Blake. Sail along with Chesterton in Lepanto. Tag along on Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride. Join the Charge of the Light Brigade. Have a silly laugh with Belloc’s whimsical people, too.

Even cry along with Coventry Patmore in his heartfelt The Toys.

“This poem about a father’s love for his son is transfigured by the poet’s prayerful contemplation of the judgment and mercy of God,” writes Pearce. So goes his “Things to Think About,” a beautiful addition to most of the poems throughout Part II in which Pearce presents a question or statement that opens up broader perspectives.

Take for example Shakespeare’s poetic The Quality of Mercy speech from The Merchant of Venice. Pierce asks readers to think about: “What is being said in this speech about the relationship between justice and mercy? Why does mercy drop from Heaven? Why is it twice blessed? Why is the seasoning of justice with mercy a Divine attribute?”

And, to consider, regarding Jerusalem: “This poem is inspired by the pious legend that the Christ Child was brought to England by St. Joseph of Arimathea. Even if the story is untrue, what do you think of the way that it inspires the poet with a vision of an England transfigured by the presence of Christ?”

Then there is Chesterton’s The Donkey, a beautifully simple poem yet with layers. Pearce begins, “At first sight, this is simply a simple poem about a donkey. At second glance, it is a meditation on the words of Christ that the humble shall be exalted. God did not choose an Arabic charger to bear him into Jerusalem; he chose a donkey. The Blessed Virgin was born not to Bethlehem on a stallion but on a donkey.”

Rossetti’s highlights different qualities of roses, pondering both beauty and suffering.

For the plethora of Mother Goose poems, Pearce reminds readers that these poems have become “part of the shared cultural inheritance of generations of children” and that “song is one of the greatest aids to memory.”

As Pearce writes, “The poems in this book are full of the childlike wonder which is necessary for the Kingdom of Heaven” and “can help serve as a beginning for a lifetime of wonder and poetic vision that seeks after and finds the good, the true, and the beautiful, and serves as a prelude to the Beatific Vision.”

As Pearce also advises: “Be fearless, adventurous, and enjoy the journey into the realm of the good, the true, and the beautiful.”