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Identify and Explain the Key Quotes in 'Poppies' by Jane Weir

In this worksheet, students will identify and explain the key quotations from the poem 'Poppies' by Jane Weir.

'Identify and Explain the Key Quotes in 'Poppies' by Jane Weir' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Pearson Edexcel

Curriculum topic:   Poetry, Poetry Anthology Collections

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'Poppies', Conflict: 'Poppies'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

For this activity, you will need to turn to the poem 'Poppies' by Jane Weir in your anthology. It can be found in the Power and Conflict section.

 

'Poppies' describes the love of a mother whose son has gone to war. It fits very well with the idea of Power and Conflict as it's not only about war, but it describes the conflict between the mother and son.  The mother wants her son to stay young and safe, and the son is eager to get out into the big wide world. Although there are clues in the poem that this is a modern conflict, the poem ends with the mother visiting a war memorial.   There is such a sense of sadness that we are led to believe that her son has died, or at least not returned from war.

 

 

Think about what you know about 'Poppies' and look out for how they are symbolic throughout the poem.

Think about the title of the poem 'Poppies'. Which words would you associate with 'Poppies', and which would you not?

 

Field of Poppies

 Words associated with PoppiesWords NOT associated
Remembrance
Holidays
Death
War
Sunshine
Mothers

The first two stanzas of 'Poppies' show a mother preparing for her son to leave. Can you match the word to the definition?

 

White graves in a World War 1 Cemetary

Column A

Column B

Lapel
Extremely happy and slightly out of control
Blockade
The folded out part of a jacket immediately below ...
Bias
A barrier to stop access
Intoxicated
Decorative
Ornamental
Prejudice against someone or something. Or a diago...

Read this quotation from the poem 'Poppies':


 "Before you left,
I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals,
spasms of paper red, disrupting a blockade
of yellow bias binding around your blazer"


 

What does the mother put on his blazer?

 

A scarf

A brooch

A poppy

A name tag

A good luck charm

Which of the following are verbs from the first stanza of 'Poppies', and which are not?

 

Remember you can read the text again in your poetry anthology.

 Verbs in the stanzaVerbs NOT in the stanza
Pinned
Paper
Crimped
Petals
Spasm
Disrupting

Read this extract from the poem 'Poppies':


"Smoothed down your shirt's
upturned collar, steeled the softening of my face"

 

What do you think the mother is trying to do here?

 

Let her tears fall

Trying to be brave and not show emotion

Show him that she will miss him

Make him feel happy to go

Let him know that she loves him

Read this quotation from the poem 'Poppies':

 

"I resisted the impulse to run my fingers through the gelled                   
blackthorns of your hair"

 

 

Choose THREE comments below which you think Jane Weir might be making here.

The mother wants to put gel in his hair

The mother wants to show affection to her son

The boy wants the mother to put gel in his hair

The mother doesn't like his gelled hair

The mother stops herself from touching his hair

The boy has gelled his own hair as he now feels grown up

Read the following quote from the poem 'Poppies':

 

"I was brave, as I walked
with you, to the front door, threw
it open, the world overflowing like a treasure chest"

 


 

Have a look at the underlined section. What language technique does the poet use here to describe the world?

 

Metaphor

Onomatopoeia

Alliteration

Personification

Simile

​We've been looking at how the mother and son feel differently about him going to war.

soldiers fighting

 

 

Can you underline the adjective which tells us that the boy is excited to leave home?

\"A split second and you were away, intoxicated\"

Read this quotation from the poem 'Poppies':

 

"After you'd gone I went into your bedroom, released a song bird from its cage"

 

 

Choose one point which you think the poet might be making here.

 

The bird is singing loudly

The mother is glad she has the bird

A bird flew in after the son had left

A bird was singing a song

Letting the bird go is symbolic of letting her son go

Read the last stanza of the poem:


"On reaching the top of the hill I traced 
the inscriptions on the war memorial,
leaned against it like a wishbone"
 

 

 

Look at the simile in bold above. What does this tell us about how the mother is feeling at the end of the poem?

 

She is heartbroken and wishes her son was home

She rests against the memorial

She is proud of the war memorial

She makes a wish that her son will come back

She goes there to pay her respects

  • Question 1

Think about the title of the poem 'Poppies'. Which words would you associate with 'Poppies', and which would you not?

 

Field of Poppies

CORRECT ANSWER
 Words associated with PoppiesWords NOT associated
Remembrance
Holidays
Death
War
Sunshine
Mothers
EDDIE SAYS
I'm sure you will have seen poppies worn on clothes as a mark of respect on Remembrance Day. They symbolise the fallen soldiers of World War I. They were chosen as a sign of remembrance as they were the first flowers to grow on the battlefields after the war. Jane Weir uses the title to explain the narrator's sense of loss and grief she feels when her much-loved son goes away to war.
  • Question 2

The first two stanzas of 'Poppies' show a mother preparing for her son to leave. Can you match the word to the definition?

 

White graves in a World War 1 Cemetary

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Lapel
The folded out part of a jacket i...
Blockade
A barrier to stop access
Bias
Prejudice against someone or some...
Intoxicated
Extremely happy and slightly out ...
Ornamental
Decorative
EDDIE SAYS
These words show the very different emotions of the mother and son. Pinning a poppy on the boys 'lapel' shows the close relationship between them, but also how the mother is desperate to hang on to him. He, on the other hand, feels 'intoxicated' by the thought of going to war, the excitement of it is making him feel giddy, which perhaps suggests an innocence.
  • Question 3

Read this quotation from the poem 'Poppies':


 "Before you left,
I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals,
spasms of paper red, disrupting a blockade
of yellow bias binding around your blazer"


 

What does the mother put on his blazer?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
A poppy
EDDIE SAYS
The mother pins a poppy on to her son's blazer just before he leaves. It is her way of showing her respect for the men that are going to war and maybe she even thinks it will bring her son good luck. There is also the sense that she is taking her time, making her son look presentable, before sending him out into the world. She knows that this might be the last time she gets to fuss over him.
  • Question 4

Which of the following are verbs from the first stanza of 'Poppies', and which are not?

 

Remember you can read the text again in your poetry anthology.

CORRECT ANSWER
 Verbs in the stanzaVerbs NOT in the stanza
Pinned
Paper
Crimped
Petals
Spasm
Disrupting
EDDIE SAYS
There's a lot happening in this first stanza and the amount of verbs used reflects that. Did you notice anything about the verbs used? They are all so violent! Pinned, crimped and spasms suggest injury and pain - perhaps this is a sign of what's in store for the young soldier. The use of the verb "blockade" seems like military language when you try to stop someone or something, but it could also suggest that the mother wishes she could stop her son from leaving.
  • Question 5

Read this extract from the poem 'Poppies':


"Smoothed down your shirt's
upturned collar, steeled the softening of my face"

 

What do you think the mother is trying to do here?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Trying to be brave and not show emotion
EDDIE SAYS
This sentence really shows the power of a mothers love. The poet uses a metaphor "steeled the softness" to show how the mother is desperately trying to hide her emotions. The word 'steel' is made into a verb here to describe the action of the mother making her face seem normal when what she really wants to do is cry! Did you also notice this is the spelling of a type of metal, meaning that the mother is trying to be strong?
  • Question 6

Read this quotation from the poem 'Poppies':

 

"I resisted the impulse to run my fingers through the gelled                   
blackthorns of your hair"

 

 

Choose THREE comments below which you think Jane Weir might be making here.

CORRECT ANSWER
The mother wants to show affection to her son
The mother stops herself from touching his hair
The boy has gelled his own hair as he now feels grown up
EDDIE SAYS
This quotation tells us of a conflict between the mother and son, a common one that parents and their children often face. He thinks he is now grown up and she wants to keep him a child. He has gelled his hair in preparation for walking out as a soldier and the mother wishes that she could still stroke his hair like she did when he was a child.
  • Question 7

Read the following quote from the poem 'Poppies':

 

"I was brave, as I walked
with you, to the front door, threw
it open, the world overflowing like a treasure chest"

 


 

Have a look at the underlined section. What language technique does the poet use here to describe the world?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Simile
EDDIE SAYS
The poet uses a simile to describe how the world is "overflowing like a treasure chest". A simile is a figure of speech used to compare two things in an interesting way - it usually uses the words 'like' or 'as'. In this case, the writer is describing how exciting and full the outside world is to someone young like her son. Although she doesn't want him to go, she realises that she must let him experience the world.
  • Question 8

​We've been looking at how the mother and son feel differently about him going to war.

soldiers fighting

 

 

Can you underline the adjective which tells us that the boy is excited to leave home?

CORRECT ANSWER
"A split second and you were away, intoxicated"
EDDIE SAYS
In this line, we learn that the boy can't wait to start his new life as a soldier. He is giddy with excitement and cannot hide his emotions from his mother. During World War I, many young men were eager to leave home and join the army. The poem ends with a stark reminder that the journey did not always end well.
  • Question 9

Read this quotation from the poem 'Poppies':

 

"After you'd gone I went into your bedroom, released a song bird from its cage"

 

 

Choose one point which you think the poet might be making here.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Letting the bird go is symbolic of letting her son go
EDDIE SAYS
Releasing the bird is a metaphor for the mother letting her son go. The songbird is something that she values, something that brings her joy - but she knows that she needs to set it free. Later the songbird is also referred to as a dove which is a symbol of peace. This could refer to the peace that the boy has found in death.
  • Question 10

Read the last stanza of the poem:


"On reaching the top of the hill I traced 
the inscriptions on the war memorial,
leaned against it like a wishbone"
 

 

 

Look at the simile in bold above. What does this tell us about how the mother is feeling at the end of the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
She is heartbroken and wishes her son was home
EDDIE SAYS
The last stanza of the poem is very emotive and describes the mother's emotions - we are led to believe that her son has not returned from war. The verb "leaned" tells us that she is exhausted, maybe from the walk to the church, but most likely from the emotional distress of losing her son. This simile tells the reader that her greatest wish is to have her son back.
---- OR ----

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