A Crow and a Scarecrow
Junior Workshops on selected poems
by Chris Stephens
A crow and a scarecrow fell in love
out in the fields.
The scarecrow’s heart was a stuffed leather glove
but his love was real.
The crow perched on the stick of a wrist
and opened her beak:
Scarecrow, I love you madly, deeply.
Crow, rasped the Scarecrow, hear these words
from my straw throat.
I love you too
from my boot to my hat
by way of my old tweed coat.
The crow crowed back,
Scarecrow, let me take you away
to live in a tall tree.
I’ll be a true crow wife to you
if you’ll marry me.
The Scarecrow considered.
Crow, tell me how
a groom with a broomstick spine
can take a bride.
I know you believe in the love
in these button eyes
but I’m straw inside
and straw can’t fly.
The crow pecked at his heart
with her beak
then flapped away,
and back and forth she flew to him
all day, all day,
until she pulled one last straw
from his tattered vest
and soared across the sun with it
to her new nest.
And there she slept, high in her tree,
winged, in a bed of love.
The slow moon rose
over a meadow,
a heap of clothes,
an empty glove.
CAROL ANN DUFFY
…it’s weird, for a start crows are supposed to be scared of scarecrows (who can’t talk anyway)… most love poems end in love, not with one person pulling another apart… so she’s killed him so he could be with her for ever…..she’s pulled him to pieces, like crows take the hearts out of dead cats on the road, and peck at black bags… it’s a kind of dialogue isn’t it… like ‘The Snowman’, where there’s just a puddle and a scarf at the end…
After discussing the poem, and the characteristics of the two lovers, separate into teams of 4 and play a game of poetry consequences, beginning with
‘a straw stuffed scarecrow…. met a crafty black crow….. in……
He said………..She replied………………..They went off to live
in…………………..where he gave her……….and she gave him…..’
Readjust the phrases if necessary, to create a poem entitled ‘The Consequence of Love’. ( It is essential for the fun of this exercise, that you turn over the paper twice before passing it on to the next person – and that you don’t peep at what has been written above!)
Make a collection of scarecrow and crow poems, and arrange these around your own display of painted scarecrows and crows. You might even make simple stick puppets, so that you can act out the poems together. Some poems to begin your collection might be nursery rhymes, such as ‘Scarecrow’s Song’
‘Pigeons and crows, take care of your toes,
Or I’ll pick up my clackers,
And knock you down backards,
Shoo away! Shoo away! Shoo!’
or the well-known ‘The Lonely Scarecrow’ by James Kirkup, which begins
‘My poor old bones – I’ve only two –
A broomshank and a broken stave’
Lots of villages are now holding scarecrow-making competitions in the summer. Watch out for one near your home town, and visit it. Alternatively, organise your own scarecrow-making competition : encourage people to create unusual scarecrows from fiction and real life – rather like Madame Tussauds!
A story with a similar theme is Oscar Wilde’s classic fairy tale, The Happy Prince where a most beautiful jewelled statue allows his decoration to be peeled away by a loving swallow, and given to the poor people of the city. The Prince ends up as a bald lead statue, whom nobody in the city appreciates, or wants to look at.
Other stories with which to link the poem might be The Fox and the Crow from Aesop’s fables, and a traditional British folk tale, The Shepherd and the Crows
Challenge the children to produce some mini-ACROSTICS using the word crow, within say a two-minute time limit. If appropriate you might differentiate the task with different requirements – single words for single lines, or questions.
Examples of children’s responses in poetry
The Consequence of Love
A crafty crow called Fly-by
met a brainless scarecrow
in a muddy field.
Will you be my friend?
No, not today, thank you he replied,
I don’t actually want to….
So they broke up, never to speak again.
A carefree crow, called Chirp
met a weary scarecrow, called Stringy.
in the corner of an old Dutch barn.
Will you marry me today?
I doubt it!
So they walked down the aisle
and he gave her a handful of straw
Junior groups, Wolfscastle
Catrin Year 6
Rushes to her true love
Over the hundred acre field
Wanting to tear him to pieces
Rhys , Year 3
Could she steal?
On lies and trickery?
Emily Year 6