Thomas Brock, our resident travelling English teacher wants to share a poem with you. He has been working hard recently on creating his English Poetry course and he is going to talk about one of his new favourite poems. Read, learn some new vocabulary, and practise English!

Vocabulary List

Poetry: A kind of literature that is short, expressive and has rhythm.

Demand: an interest or need for something to be sold or supplied.

Research: a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding.

Theme: the main subject of a talk, book, film, etc..

Style: a way of doing something, especially one that is typical of a person, group of people, place, or period.

Archaic: of or belonging to a very old period in history.

Accessible: able to be reached or easily obtained or understood.

Manageable: easy or possible to deal with.

In-depth: done carefully and in great detail.

Whimsical: unusual and strange in a way that might be funny or annoying.

Comical: funny in a strange or silly way.

Nasty: bad or very unpleasant.

Hymn: best; most likely to bring success or advantage.

Prisoner of War: a member of the armed forces who has been caught by enemy forces during a war.

Trivial: not serious, having little value or importance.

Desperate: very serious or bad.

Inspire: to make someone have a particularly strong feeling or reaction.

This person is doing research in a library. Photo from Abby Chung on
This person looks like they are in a desperate situation. Photo from Nikolaos Dimou on

I recently read a poem.

As I mentioned last week I have just opened my very first course, a poetry course! On the course I am going to be guiding a small group of 5 non-native English speakers through a number of famous British poems.

I am very pleased that my Wednesday course starting on the 29th of March is almost full, with just one place left available. Because of this demand I have chosen to open the course again on a new date!

On Mondays, starting on the 3rd of April!

In researching for the course I have read quite a few poems. Some things that were important were to have a range of different themes in the selection, and also a range of style and language. I also wanted to make sure that the poems that I selected were not too long, or written in too distant and archaic English. I needed the poems to be accessible and manageable.

Click on the image to book now or find out more!

Read more about the course on my website.

Whilst I do expect some in-depth and perhaps advanced-English discussions being held on the course, it is my task to make each idea shared, understandable to all. For this reason the choice of poems is important.

However, I don’t want to share all of the selected poems with everyone, if you want to learn about these poems then you should join the course!

What I would like to do is to share a poem that I read in researching for my course and instantly fell in love with. I felt the poem was a little too long for the course, but I want to share it here and write a few words to explain why I like it.

Ducks (1919)

By F. W. Harvey


From troubles of the world

I turn to ducks,

Beautiful comical things

Sleeping or curled

Their heads beneath white wings

By water cool,

Or finding curious things

To eat in various mucks

Beneath the pool,

Tails uppermost, or waddling

Sailor-like on the shores

Of ponds, or paddling

– Left! Right! – with fanlike feet

Which are for steady oars

When they (white galleys) float

Each bird a boat

Rippling at will the sweet

Wide waterway…

When night is fallen you creep

Upstairs, but drakes and dillies

Nest with pale water-stars,

Moonbeams and shadow bars,

And water-lilies:

Fearful too much to sleep

Since they’ve no locks

To click against the teeth

Of weasel and fox.

And warm beneath

Are eggs of cloudy green

Whence hungry rats and lean

Would stealthily suck

New life, but for the mien

The bold ferocious mien

Of the mother-duck.


Yes, ducks are valiant things

On nests of twigs and straws,

And ducks are soothy things

And lovely on the lake

When that the sunlight draws

Thereon their pictures dim

In colours cool.

And when beneath the pool

They dabble, and when they swim

And make their rippling rings,

0 ducks are beautiful things!

But ducks are comical things:-

As comical as you.


They waddle round, they do.

They eat all sorts of things,

And then they quack.

By barn and stable and stack

They wander at their will,

But if you go too near

They look at you through black

Small topaz-tinted eyes

And wish you ill.

Triangular and clear

They leave their curious track

In mud at the water’s edge,

And there amid the sedge

And slime they gobble and peer

Saying ‘Quack! quack!’


When God had finished the stars and whirl of coloured suns

He turned His mind from big things to fashion little ones;

Beautiful tiny things (like daisies) He made, and then

He made the comical ones in case the minds of men

Should stiffen and become

Dull, humourless and glum,

And so forgetful of their Maker be

As to take even themselves – quite seriously.

Caterpillars and cats are lively and excellent puns:

All God’s jokes are good – even the practical ones!

And as for the duck, 1 think God must have smiled a bit

Seeing those bright eyes blink on the day He fashioned it.

And he’s probably laughing still at the sound that came

out of its bill!

Book now, or find out more information on my website!

Places are limited!

If you are interested in this course, but can’t make the dates, then register your interest here and I will let you know when new dates will be available!

If you are a Patreon member then look out for a discount code!

The main reason I like this poem, and the thing that drew me to it in the first place was the fact that I love ducks. I think ducks may be my favourite animals. I have often had to explain this choice to people, and until now, I never really knew how. Will Harvey does that for me in this poem. He perfectly describes why I love ducks.

Secondly, I think this poem is playful and whimsical, drawing on the comical nature of ducks, but all the while reminding us that they are a breath of fresh air away from the nastier things in life. Not only this but there is a real wealth of language used here. Harvey uses some excellent English words and phrases that might not be common to the English learner.

But this poem is not just a lighthearted hymn to the delightful duck.

Some ducks that I videoed in Sofia, Bulgaria

F.W. Harvey wrote this poem while he was a prisoner of war in WWI. This gives an idea of what he means by ‘the troubles of the world’ – This gives me great hope, that the human mind can keep its focus on the nicer and more trivial things in life, even when we are in dark and desperate places.

I have given just a short account of my thoughts on the poem because I would like anyone reading this to read it themselves, and then to read it again. You should note down any words that are new to you, and any lines or sentences you fail to understand. For the parts that you do understand, think about the images that are created in your mind, and the thoughts and memories that the poem inspires you to find.

Reading poetry is fun.

Whilst I can’t guide everyone reading this through this poem, I can invite you to learn more and even think about joining my poetry course. On the course we will look at five different poems and talk about them in depth. 

My course is designed to be accessible. It is made for intermediate and advanced English learners. If you can read this article then you can take the course.

If you hadn’t guessed it already, I am very excited for the course.

I hope to see you all there!

Find more information about my course on my website!

Have you ever read an English Poem?

Do you read poetry in your native language?

What other things would you like to use your English level for?

Do you have recommendations for future courses on different topics?

Liked it? Take a second to support Thinking in English on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

By Thomas Brock

Hi I'm Thomas and I'm an English language teacher and editor. I teach English to adults from all over the world. I focus on written English and on conversational English. I also edit written English in a number of different fields and areas. When I'm not teaching I'm travelling as much as I can, cooking new dishes, and trying hard to play and watch sports.

Leave a Reply