WordS on Wednesday

The limits of my language are the limits of my mind - Ludwig Wittgenstein

13th January

can a person be an island?

Today's poem is awash with words and things to think about - enjoy!

No Man is an Island

John Donne 1624

Like Michael Rosen's These Are the Hands, this is not a poem for children - rather like Michael Rosen's poem and Tove Jansson's Moomins it is one that can be understood differently at different ages.

This poem is a metaphysical poem - metaphysical is where two very different things might be thought about as similar in some way. A metaphysical poem compares these two different things, as if they are alike - a bit like personification or metaphor (you older ones might know about these - can you explain them to your family?). Have a look at the phrases - is there one bit you like more than the rest? Write that bit down and remember it!

No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as

well as any manner of thy friends or of thine

own were; any man's death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


John Donne was writing back in the 17th Century and spelling was very different then - the first dictionary wasn't published until 1755. So all around Britain, people spelled words pretty much as they said them. So things were spelled differently in different parts of the country, depending where you lived and how you spoke. Some of us might be thinking that was No Bad Thing!

I wonder if a poet would write 'No man...' today? What do you think? Why? How might a modern poet who wants everyone to be included start a poem about humanity?

Below is how John Donne wrote his poem. Can you see any words that are spelled differently? Do you think the old spellings are good, bad or perhaps just interesting? Why? What do you notice in the punctuation?

Olde English Version

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man

is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;

if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe

is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as

well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine

owne were; any mans death diminishes me,

because I am involved in Mankinde;

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

6th January

These are the hands

Michael Rosen - many of you will remember seeing Michael live at Storyhouse Chester. He is getting on now and has inspired generations of children, teachers and children who are now teachers. Thank you.

Michael Rosen's poem was written in 2008 to celebrate the NHS 60th Birthday. It took on an even more special meaning, with Michael bing in intensive care with Covid for some months, he knows more than ever the value of the doctors, nurses, cleaners and office staff who keep us healthy and well.

I have written a short one - I wonder who it is for?


These are the hands

That spot the dust

Check the fridge

Scour the rust

Fill the soap

Clean the loo

They keep our school

Safe for you


These are the hands

That wipe down doors

Sweep up bits

And mop the floors

Shine the taps and

Polish the wood

These hands work hard

So we can do good


These are the hands

Who go back to their home

Tired but ready

To work some more

For these hands have families

People they love

We must look after them

As well as we should


You can hear Michael perform his poem here.

new word?

Be a word detective and see how many words you can learn.

  1. When you read or listen to someone reading aloud, or in a conversation, take a second to notice new words.

  2. Note it! Write it down or say it out loud and if you decide you do want to know what it means, do the following:

  3. Think about what you do understand and know from the other words, the sentence or phrase - give it your best deduction (a deduction is an intelligent guess, one based on the evidence you have - the police are great at deducing, it's how they catch criminals!).

  4. Ask someone else what it means or use a dictionary (if you haven't one at home, here's a link to an online dictionary)

  5. Think about how close you were. It's remarkable how the rest of a phrase or sentence can help you be a super sleuth with words.

  6. Try to find three times in the same day where you use the word in your writing or talking to someone else - this is the magic bit for learning the word and remembering it.