Analysis of the first stanza of Jane Taylor’s “Twinkle twinkle little star”


“Twinkle twinkle little Star

How I wonder what you are              twinkle star photo

Up above the world so high

Like a diamond in the Sky”

As few as these lines above are, they tell us about the immense beauty of creation, which often exceeds human’s ability to comprehend. The power of poetry, a genre in Literature, can clearly be seen using the first stanza of this poem as a case study. Let’s now attempt an explication of this stanza.

This stanza, structurally or by its form, is made up of four lines—a quatrain (a poem of four lines). It is also made up of two rhyming couplets (two lines rhyming with each other), with the rhyme scheme: aabb (don’t worry if you can’t relate to some of the registers used in Literature. Just look up their meanings in any dictionary). Now let’s discuss the poem’s message in this stanza, otherwise known as content or meaning.

The poet begins with a repetition of the word ‘twinkle’, referring to the object he is making reference to, a star. The word ‘twinkle’ is well known to denote a state of intermittent glittering. Now this tells us that a star glitters. But did you notice the adjective used to describe or modify the star–‘little’? Now the question is, is a star little? Scientific or astronomical research reveals that compared to the size of the earth, the star is just so big (you can Google it)! But this doesn’t mean that the poet is lying, rather it reveals something vital that helps readers to appreciate the rest of the lines. What is that ‘vital something’?

Simply put, it is the picture it helps us create about the poet and his poem. From the word ‘little,’ readers get the immediate impression of both the physical position and emotional state of the writer. Many of us can well relate to these states. At night sometimes, have you ever taken a look heavenwards—the Sky? If you saw a star, how did it look, size and quality wise? Two things would stand out. First is the apparent small or littleness of the Star (from your view, with your eyes, that is, without the aid of a sophisticated Telescope). Second is the shiny quality of the star. Apart from these, your curiosity broadens, you may begin to wonder, hence the next line “how I wonder what you are”. The fact  is, despite the improvements in Science and Technology, which has enabled humans to get vast amounts of information about our universe including the star, scientists (astrologers) will no doubt still agree that they still “wonder what you (the star) are,” like the poet says in the second line.

Understanding the position from which the poet describes what marvels him, will help us not only to understand the sense of the ‘little’ he/she uses to describe the immense star, but also the fact that the next or third line convey, the fact of a star being “up above the world so high.” Research clearly shows that the stars, including the Sun, are far distanced from the earth. The closer or higher scientist gets to them, the more they realize the immenseness of these heavenly bodies. Now imagine how big our earth is! But comparing it with the stars will be like comparing the size of a basketball or a football to the size of the Basketball court or the Football pitch (get the difference?) So from the poet’s upward gaze of a star from the earth, it is indeed “up above the world so high.”

Furthermore, many of us no doubt compare certain qualities of things with other things, usually with words like ‘like’ or ‘as’. For example, sometimes we may say of someone, ‘he behaves like a goat, so stubborn’. This is technically known as a figure of speech in Literature and it is called a Simile. The poet also, in the last line, uses this figure of speech—Simile in describing the quality of the star being “like a diamond.” When the star shines at night, doesn’t it look “like a diamond” in the sky? It sure looks like it!


The first stanza of the poem, though apparently small in size (especially when compared with some other poetry), has a wealth of meaning (as you likely have seen). It makes us realize how wonderful nature, or better still, creations of God (no apologies to atheists) are. We only just need to meditatively contemplate on them, and we will be ‘wowed’ at the wisdom they possess—whether they are big like the stars or small like the ants. This beautiful message, the poet aptly captures in so few the words or lines of the first stanza of the poem, making it pass as an evergreen literary piece.

Written By: Williams Alfred

©Williams, 2013.

Click to read the complete poetry, “Twinkle twinkle little star”


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