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Reading Poetry: 'The Ballad of John Silver'

In this worksheet, students read an extract from 'The Ballad of John Silver' by John Masefield and infer what meaning the writer may have had.

'Reading Poetry: 'The Ballad of John Silver'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:   Reading

Curriculum subtopic:   Use Inference and Evidence

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

In this worksheet you will an extract of 'A Ballad of John Silver' by John Masefield. Read the extract from the start of the poem, and answer the following questions.

 

*********************

 

 

We were schooner-rigged and rakish, with a long and lissome hull,

And we flew the pretty colours of the crossbones and the skull;

We'd a big black Jolly Roger flapping grimly at the fore,

And we sailed the Spanish Water in the happy days of yore.

 

We'd a long brass gun amidships, like a well-conducted ship,

We had each a brace of pistols and a cutlass at the hip;

It's a point which tells against us, and a fact to be deplored,

But we chased the goodly merchant-men and laid their ships aboard.

 

*********************

 

 

In this worksheet you will be asked questions about the extract above. If you need to read it again you can do so by clicking on the Help button.

 

Match up the technical language with the definitions below:

Column A

Column B

schooner
sailing ship
rakish
middle part of a ship
lissome
badly behaved
amidships
thin and fast
goodly
great

 

 

What job does the narrator have?

Fisherman

Pirate

Lifeboat Man

The narrator says:  "It's a point which tells against us, and a fact to be deplored

But we chased the goodly merchant-men and laid their ships aboard."   

 

What does this tell the reader about him? Choose THREE options.

That he is kind

That he knows what he is doing is wrong

That he steals from other people

That he gets seasick

That he knows the readers will be shocked

Which adjective does the narrator use in the first stanza to suggest that piracy was part of the 'good old days'?

The rhyme scheme of the poem is clear (you can easily clap along to it) and positive (it sounds upbeat and jaunty). What impression does this give the reader about being a pirate?

That it was grim and difficult

That it was full of adventure, drinking and singing

That it was a violent, bloodthirstly and threatening business

 

The writer says that they "flew the pretty colours/ of the crossbones and the skull".

What technique is he using here?

irony

simile

personification

Although the first stanza is so positive, there are two words used which hint at or suggest a darker, more sinister tone. Write either one of them in the text box below.

Read this student's work. Which quotation should they use to fill the gap?

 

The poem begins in a positive way, but then changes in the second stanza: "____________". Here the narrator admits that the ways of the pirates should be looked down upon by other members of society.

a fact to be deplored

a long brass gun

a well-conducted ship

Read this student's work. Which quotation should they use to fill the gap? 

 

Some of the poor behaviour associated with pirates, the narrator seems proud of: "________". This shows that when it comes to behaving badly towards women, they are ok, but when it comes to stealing from gentlemen, it is "deplorable".

chased

grimly

rakish

Read this student's work. Which quotation should they use to fill the gap?

 

Although the pirates are nasty and thieving, they are also organised and have their own social structure. "________________" suggests that they are far from living in chaos.

a brace of pistols

happy days of yore

a well-conducted ship

  • Question 1

 

Match up the technical language with the definitions below:

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

schooner
sailing ship
rakish
badly behaved
lissome
thin and fast
amidships
middle part of a ship
goodly
great
  • Question 2

 

 

What job does the narrator have?

CORRECT ANSWER
Pirate
  • Question 3

The narrator says:  "It's a point which tells against us, and a fact to be deplored

But we chased the goodly merchant-men and laid their ships aboard."   

 

What does this tell the reader about him? Choose THREE options.

CORRECT ANSWER
That he knows what he is doing is wrong
That he steals from other people
That he knows the readers will be shocked
  • Question 4

Which adjective does the narrator use in the first stanza to suggest that piracy was part of the 'good old days'?

CORRECT ANSWER
happy
EDDIE SAYS
The line reads "And we sailed the Spanish Water in the happy days of yore", informing the reader that the piracy in the poem was part of the 'good old days'.
  • Question 5

The rhyme scheme of the poem is clear (you can easily clap along to it) and positive (it sounds upbeat and jaunty). What impression does this give the reader about being a pirate?

CORRECT ANSWER
That it was full of adventure, drinking and singing
  • Question 6

 

The writer says that they "flew the pretty colours/ of the crossbones and the skull".

What technique is he using here?

CORRECT ANSWER
irony
EDDIE SAYS
This is ironic because the skull and crossbones flag is not pretty or colourful, but the image fits in with the up-beat, jokey way of describing the pirate's life in the poem.
  • Question 7

Although the first stanza is so positive, there are two words used which hint at or suggest a darker, more sinister tone. Write either one of them in the text box below.

CORRECT ANSWER
rakish
grimly
  • Question 8

Read this student's work. Which quotation should they use to fill the gap?

 

The poem begins in a positive way, but then changes in the second stanza: "____________". Here the narrator admits that the ways of the pirates should be looked down upon by other members of society.

CORRECT ANSWER
a fact to be deplored
  • Question 9

Read this student's work. Which quotation should they use to fill the gap? 

 

Some of the poor behaviour associated with pirates, the narrator seems proud of: "________". This shows that when it comes to behaving badly towards women, they are ok, but when it comes to stealing from gentlemen, it is "deplorable".

CORRECT ANSWER
rakish
  • Question 10

Read this student's work. Which quotation should they use to fill the gap?

 

Although the pirates are nasty and thieving, they are also organised and have their own social structure. "________________" suggests that they are far from living in chaos.

CORRECT ANSWER
a well-conducted ship
---- OR ----

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