Check Your Understanding

As you reread the text of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” think about the subject of the song. How does the language change over the course of the song, and how does that change impact the tone? Compare the tone of the first verse to the tone of the second verse. Remember that word choice, sound devices, the song’s subject, and the songwriter’s point of view all contribute to the tone. Highlight evidence from the text to support your answer.

Acceptable highlights in the first verse may include: “harmonies,” “rejoicing,” “resound,” “rolling sea,” “full of faith,” “rising sun”. Highlights in the second verse may include: “Stony the road we trod,” “bitter,” “hope unborn has died,” “weary feet,” “blood of the slaughtered.” The first verse begins in a serious way, asking people to sing for Liberty, but the word choices give the verse an optimistic tone. Words such as “harmonies” give the feeling of people coming together, and “rejoicing” is the happy thing they are doing together, “full of faith.” By contrast, the second verse offers reminders of where the people have been. The figurative meaning of “Stony the road we trod” is that their way through life has been hard and painful. Words such as “bitter” and “weary” reinforce that tone of pain and sadness. This shift shows that they have taken a journey, and while they are now rejoicing for freedom, there was a time when they had no hope at all.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing:” A songwriter can use figurative language to appeal to readers’ and listeners’ senses and create emotional impact. In the second verse, the songwriter writes, “Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.” What kind of figurative language is being used? What does this image mean, and how does it add to the overall meaning of the verse? What other evidence from the text supports the meaning of the verse?

With this line, the writer paints a picture of his reader or listener as a star casting light from high in the sky or from high over the land. “The white gleam of our bright star” is a metaphor, or a comparison of their new freedom to a bright star that will guide their way. The writer expresses hope for great things in the future for all people.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing:” In the third verse, the writer includes the words Thy, Thou, and Thee for the first time. How would you describe effect of these words on the tone in the final verse? What other words or phrases influence the tone? Highlight textual evidence and annotate to explain your ideas. How does this verse relate to the rest of the song?

Highlighted words or phrases include: “God,” “silent tears,” “forever in the path,” Thou,” “Thy might,” “Thee,” and “we pray.” These words give the song a tone of prayer, including words that might be spoken in church in direct prayer to God. The song’s tone shifted from rejoicing in the first verse to a tone of weariness in the second verse, recalling the pain of the journey to liberty. The third verse shifts to a tone of humility, gratitude, and a desire for continued guidance from God.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing:” What does the songwriter mean by the phrase, “drunk with the wine of the world” in the third verse? Explain how the phrase is an example of figurative language. What is the songwriter calling on God’s help to avoid? Look at the context of the song lyrics for text evidence to help you explain its meaning. Cite this evidence in your explanation.

The phrase “drunk with the wine of the world” is figurative, not meaning to literally get drunk on wine, but remembering that worldly pleasures and temptations can cause faithful people to stray from their devotion. Since most of the song talks about the people’s freedom from suffering, readers can infer that they will now be able to enjoy themselves–in the third verse, they hope not to enjoy themselves so much they forget what they value. Evidence supporting this meaning includes the phrases “keep us forever in the path,” “Lest our feet stray,” and “Lest…we forget Thee,” all of which suggest that “drunk with the wine of the world” is a situation in which a person might forget his or her faith.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing:” In the second verse, the songwriter writes, “Bitter the chast’ning rod.” Look at the context of the word chast’ning, (a short form of “chastening”) and the use of the word rod. How does the context of the line in which the word appears help you understand its meaning? What does the songwriter mean by a chast’ning rod? How does this choice of words in the song help to develop a reader or listener’s empathy for the people being described?

A rod could be a stick or cane, and implies a tool for punishment. The word chastening in context means punishing, but more than that: the rod, or tool of punishment is supposed to take away pride and break the spirit. The word bitter gives the reader context to understand that the chast’ning rod was meant to punish and beat down the subjects of this song. This understanding of meaning of this line, “Bitter the chast’ning rod,” helps readers or listeners understand the cruel torture endured by the subjects of the song. It allows readers or listeners who have suffered at the hands of others to empathize with their suffering, as tortured human beings.

“Mending Wall:” Reread lines 1-5. What do you think is the “something” that “does not love a wall”? How could this be interpreted as a larger idea or theme? Highlight evidence from the text and use the annotation tool to support your answer.

The “something” seems to refer either to nature itself or to some element of nature. The lines refer to the thing sending “the frozen-ground-swell” under the wall, which means that the ground shifting in winter helps to break down the wall. The lines also refer to the sun, and specifically say that “the work of hunters is another thing,” suggesting that this is not a man-made problem. This might be interpreted as a larger idea that nature resists being tamed, or does not like boundaries.

“Mending Wall:” Reread lines 17-20 and highlight examples of figurative language being used in these lines. What kinds of figurative language are these, and how do these figures of speech help the reader better understand the actions taking place?

These lines include examples of metaphor (“and some are loaves and some so nearly balls”) and personification (the speaker tells the wall “Stay where you are until our backs are turned,” as if the wall were a person). These figures of speech help the reader better understand the actions going on by giving an impression of the uneven rocks that make building a challenge, and suggesting that only magic could make the wall stay together.

“Mending Wall:” Reread lines 26-33. What do you think is meant by the line, “Spring is the mischief in me”? Is this an example of figurative language? If so, what does it compare? Highlight evidence from the text that supports your interpretation.

The line “Spring is the mischief in me” refers to the speaker feeling an urge to ask his neighbor challenging questions about the wall. From this, readers can infer that Spring makes the speaker feel like a bit of a troublemaker. It may be a metaphor comparing the changing season with a change in mood.

“Mending Wall:” Reread lines 37-41. What can you infer about the speaker’s opinion of his neighbor? Support your answer by highlighting evidence from the text and using the annotation tool to explain your interpretation.

Although the speaker does not seem to dislike his neighbor, he doesn’t think very highly of him. He uses the simile “like an old-stone savage” to describe the neighbor, comparing him to someone uncivilized, and says “he walks in darkness…Not of woods only and the shade of trees”–so some other kind of darkness, such as ignorance.

“Mending Wall:” Do you think that the speaker feels empathy for his neighbor? Why or why not? Use text evidence to support your claim

Answers will vary. Since the speaker is trying to see his neighbor’s point of view, a reader could say he feels empathy for the neighbor. He also tells the neighbor about the gaps in the first place, and helps to repair the wall, even though he disagrees with it. The line “I’d rather he said it for himself” suggests that he doesn’t want to change the neighbor’s mind, but he wants his neighbor to rethink it on his own. On the other hand, while the speaker tries to understand his neighbor’s position, he doesn’t really manage to do it. This is revealed in lines such as “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out.” The phrase “he will not go behind his father’s saying” suggests that the speaker understands at least where it comes from, though; and “he likes having thought of it so well” suggests that the speaker knows it brings his neighbor happiness.