Friday, 30 November 2012


Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824) was as famous in his lifetime for his personality cult as for his poetry. He created the concept of the "Byronic hero" - a bold, proud, rebellious, though at times melancholy,  young man, brooding on some mysterious, unforgivable event in his past. Byron's influence on European poetry, music, novel, opera, and painting has been immense and prolonged, although the poet was widely condemned on moral grounds by his contemporaries.

He was the only English poet of his age to achieve a European reputation and to exert a significant  influence  on the Romantic movement  -  Alfred de Musset was his disciple in France, Aleksandr Pushkin in Russia, Heinrich Heine in Germany, Adam Mickiewicz in Poland. His poetry inspired musical compositions by Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky; operas by Gaetano Donizetti and Giuseppe Verdi; and paintings by J. M. W. Turner and Eugène Delacroix. His spirit animated liberal revolutionary movements: the Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini associated Byron with the eternal struggle of the oppressed to be free. 

Click here to find a précis of the “Byronic hero”.
You can download a useful mind map of  Lord Byron  here.

Click here to see the BBC biographical movie about Lord Byron.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Published in Songs of Experience in 1794, it is one of the few poems in Songs of Experience which does not have a corresponding poem in Songs of Innocence.

The poem has a total of sixteen lines which are split into 4 stanzas with a rhyming ABAB pattern throughout the poem. Repetition is the most striking formal feature of the poem, and it serves to emphasize the prevalence of the horrors the speaker describes.

I wandered through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
A mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,
In every infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear:

How the chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning church appals,
And the hapless soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls.

But most, through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


Thanksgiving Day  in the United States falls on the fourth Thursday of November.
Almost every culture in the world has held celebrations of thanks for an abundant harvest. The American Thanksgiving holiday began as a feast of thanksgiving in the early days of the American colonies almost four hundred years ago.

The first Thanksgiving  was celebrated in 1621 by the Pilgrim Fathers, the founders of America, to thank God for their first good harvest. They celebrated it with the native Indians, who had helped them  survive and taught them how to plant their crops. That first  feast lasted three days.
In the second half of the 1600s, thanksgivings after the harvest became more common and started to become annual events. However, it was celebrated on different days in different communities and in some places there were more than one thanksgiving each year. George Washington, the first president of the United States, proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789.
Then in 1863, at the end of a long and bloody civil war, President Abraham Lincoln asked all Americans to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving.

Today the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving  on the fourth Thursday  of November, a different date every year. 
There is no school and most government offices and  businesses close for four days.  Thanksgiving Day is  traditionally a day for families and friends to get together for a special meal. 

The meal includes a roast turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, and vegetables.  It is a time for many people to give thanks for the many blessings that they have.  

Thanksgiving Day parades are held in some cities and towns on or around Thanksgiving Day. Some parades also mark the opening of the Christmas shopping season. 

New York celebrates  with  the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, starting at 9 am at the Museum of Natural History  near Central Park: more than two million people join this wonderful parade every year.

Now let's watch a short educational video that explains how Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the United States.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


This sonnet conveys some of the emotions felt by William Wordsworth while crossing Westminster Bridge on an early September morning 1802. It is an Italian sonnet, written in iambic pentameter, the rhyme scheme of the poem is abbaabbacdcdcd.
Sonnets were traditionally the way love poems were written, so it could be claimed that this is a love poem to the city of London in the morning.

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
   Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
   A sight so touching in its majesty:
   This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
   Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
   Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
   All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. 
Never did sun more beautifully steep
   In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
   Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will: 
   Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
   And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Monday, 19 November 2012


As you already know, music motivates foreign language students and develops their language skills. In fact,  singing is an amazing way to dramatically improve your language learning strategy. 

Today let's sing along with Sting!

To close, don't forget  to read this nice article about  the role of  music in  foreign language learning. 

Sunday, 11 November 2012


William Wordsworth  was born in 1770 in the Lake District. In 1791 he graduated from St John’s College, Cambridge. He left England in the same year for a walking tour of France, the Alps and Italy. It was during this period that, enthusiastic about new ideas of democracy, he became a supporter  of the French Revolution.

In 1791, Wordsworth visited France, which was engaged in the Revolutionary war with Britain at that time. During his stay there, he fell in love with a French woman, Annette Vallon, and the next year in 1792, their daughter Caroline was born. Due to the ongoing war between the two countries he returned alone to England the next year. There are strong suggestions that he  did not marry Annette, though he continued to support both child and mother in the best possibly way for the rest of his life.

After returning to England, Wordsworth  published two long “travel diaries”,  An Evening Walk and  Descriptive Sketches in 1793.  A walking  tour that year took the poet across the Salisbury Plain and to Tintern Abbey (East Wales), both subjects of later poems. In 1795, in London, he met  the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, thus beginning one of the great friendships of literary history. The two poets had similar ideas on both love and poetry and enjoyed taking long walks together.                                                                                                                                           
By this time Wordsworth  had become intensely disillusioned with the Revolution whose initial ideals had degenerated into the so-called “Terror” (the years of Robespierre’s dictatorship when traitors to the new French Republic were executed by guillotine).  Politically he turned very conservative.  In 1798 Wordsworth  and Coleridge published anonymously Lyrical Ballads. The year after Wordsworth  and his sister Dorothy settled at Dove Cottage in the Lake District.  Later  he married Mary Hutchinson, a childhood friend, and they had five children together. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


The US President Barack Obama is on stage to deliver his Victory Speech in Chicago after decisively winning a second term.

Here's  his speechHe refers to  the US as a union that is “greater than the sum of our individual ambitions… more than a collection of red states and blue states.”

The Empire State Building is lit blue after Barack Obama wins the presidential election.

Supporters of President Barack Obama celebrate in Times Square in New York City.