Spacious spans the starlit sky;
Silver shines its light;
Vast the veil,
Drawn o’er the dusky night;

Silently the star-strewn brooks
Through flow’ry meadows flow;
Glitt’ring gleams
On silver streams
With crystal glory, glow;

Whisp’ring breathes the whirling wind
O’er the grasses gray;
Deep in the dell
The starry spell
Breaks at the dawn of day:

All in a moment
Glimmers and shimmers,
Fades with the dawn, and away!



John Freeborn is a 15-year-old 9th grade student homeschooled in Kansas. 

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23 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    Your poem was very evocative, John, but in the first line of the third stanza, did you mean “breathes” rather than “breaths?”

    And you probably don’t need to use apostrophes in “flowery,” “glittering” or “whispering.” In ordinary speech these medial “e”s (schwas) are often elided, and any practiced reader keeping track of the meter will know to elide them anyway.

    • John Freeborn

      Thank you for pointing that out! Yes, “breathes” is what I intended. Also, I appreciate the note on the apostrophes.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Let me second what C.B. Anderson says about apostrophes. They are unnecessary as a device to eliminate syllables in words if those same words can be read by the reader with the unstressed schwa syllables disregarded. Besides this, writing “whisp’ring” and “flow’ry” makes your verse seem totally affected and quaint. It hasn’t been done by professional poets since the eighteenth century.

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    John, I’m impressed! C.B. makes some excellent points, but this does not detract from your ear for the music of poetry and your eye for just the right word to employ to paint a beautiful image. I love your poem!

  3. John Freeborn

    Thank you for your comments, everyone!

    While reading Macbeth, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Henry V (Shakespeare), I observed that apostrophes were frequently used. Was that an older poetic devise, or one used specifically in the writing of plays, and thus not intended for regular poetry?

    Thank you,
    John Freeborn

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      See my remark above. Earlier texts do use the apostrophe at times to indicate elision, but today the apostrophe is pretty much limited to the possessive case (“John’s book”) or to recognized contractions such as “can’t,” “won’t,” or “doesn’t.” In poetry it does survive (but very rarely) in literary usages like “o’er” for “over, and “ne’er” for “never.”

      • John Freeborn

        Thank you for the clarification! I really appreciate it!

  4. Julian D. Woodruff

    I echo the praise above, Mr. Freeborn. But the comma after “crystal glory” seems unnecessary.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Right you are, Julian. Too many commas can ruin a line. They’re a lot like fishhooks.

  5. John Freeborn

    For poetry, am I correct in understanding that the comma rules are the same as those for prose? Or are there any differences?

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Some of the normal comma rules apply in poetry, such as the need for a comma to separate the two sections of a complex sentence, or if you are listing a series of objects, or simply if you feel the need for a pause. In general, in poetry if a comma can be omitted without damage to the sense and rhythm of a line, it probably should be omitted, but taste varies from poet to poet, and you have some latitude here,

      I would suggest that you keep in mind the possibilities of the semicolon, the colon, and the dash. They are indispensable tools when composing verse. The semicolon, of course, MUST be employed if you are separating two independent clauses, and you have used it properly in the above poem.

  6. Gail Root

    I’m wondering how long you’ve been writing poetry, and which poets you like to read. This site is a great place to learn. Truth be told, I disliked poetry, because unpopular–for good reason!–teachers of English literature tried to force me to like it. Then I went road-tripping with an elderly woman who could recite a lot of sentimental claptrap from memory; I was trapped! In hindsight, the antidote would’ve been to recite poetry I liked. So! It was time to learn to like poetry. Not all my experiences were bad–a co-worker preparing for grad school used to recite the translated works of Wislawa Szymborska on slow nights at the library where we worked. I read along and corrected her if she got anything wrong; that was nice. (I homeschooled my kiddos. It’s the best!)

    • John Freeborn

      I’ve been writing/reading poetry ever sense I could write, but I only began more in earnest last year (2020). Some of my favorite poets are as follows:

      George Herbert
      Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
      C.S. Lewis also wrote some excellent poetry (though he is certainly more well known for The Chronicles of Narnia, The Space Trilogy, & Mere Christianity, etc.

      • Cynthia Erlandson

        John, I am also impressed with your skill! And I also love Dante (I’m re-reading “The Divine Comedy now, and am halfway through Purgatory), and agree that C.S. Lewis wrote some great poetry that I wish were better-known. Have you read his “The Birth of Language”? It’s my favorite of his!

      • Gail Root

        Thanks so much for replying. I’ve resisted Dante in the way that I used to resist poetry, and for much the same reason. C. S. Lewis, on the other hand . . . I re-read ‘An Experiment in Criticism’ and the more recently published collection of his letters, ‘Yours, Jack’ every year or so. He had a very hard life, and never says so himself. To have a hard life is to be well-instructed in compassion if you’re willing. I think that’s why he is earnest, genuine, transparent, and forthright in his letters.

  7. John Freeborn

    Yes, I have read “The Birth of Language.” I really liked that one, as well! {As a side note, I will say that there seems to be a hint of evolution in it (‘how near his “sire’s” careening fires/must Mercury the planet run,’ etc.), which I strongly disagree with. I don’t know quite what he believed about this issue (one of his poems appears, on the surface, to support it, but it seems somewhat satirical as well)}. I really like the way he ends The Birth of Language: “So dim below these symbols show/ Bony and abstract every one/ Yet if true verse but lifts the curse/ They feel in dreams their native Sun.”

    Thank you for the clarification, Mr. Salemi!

    John Freeborn

    • David Gosselin

      Dear John,

      I wrote a comment earlier, but I think there was a glitch. So here it is again:

      I think you demonstrate a genuine poetic sensibility. You’re using a relatively common Romantic theme in your poem, but you treat the theme with grace and freedom, demonstrating your poetic ability.

      Given this piece, I think it would be a good challenge to investigate and really work through Keats’ Great Odes, see what kind of paradoxes he is wrestling with. Compared to his Romantic contemporaries, Keats did something that none of his contemporaries could do. Keats’ revolution in poetic composition should be looked at not so much from the standpoint of sensual beauty or technical prowess, but by paying special attention to how he deals with certain fundamental paradoxes concerning man and nature. The typical Romantic writer tends to treat the beauty of nature or of a beloved as an escape, but in his Odes, Keats expressly states the inadequacy of all such attempts, and instead ops to face the paradoxes head on. The result is a series of profoundly rich ironical Odes.

      If I had to make one recommendation, it would be to read the essay on Keats’ Great Odes written by the poet Daniel Leach.



  8. A. K.

    I just saw that you won first place in the HSLDA contest last year too! Well done! ‘Twas a remarkable poem.


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