Written in the early 19th century, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ by Jane Taylor has become one of the most popular English lullabies. It was first published in 1806 in Rhymes for the Nursery. This work includes poems by both Taylor and her sister. When the poem was adapted into a song, the tune from the French song ‘Ah! vous dirai-je maman’ was used.
There are a few variations on the verses and considering its widespread popularity this isn’t surprising. One of the most widely known variations comes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when the song is sung by the Mad Hatter.
Explore Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Structure of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ by Jane Taylor is a five stanza poem that follows the simple rhyme scheme of AABB CCDD, and so on, changing end sounds as the stanzas progress. The last stanza repeats the end sounds of the first with “are” and “star” ending lines three and four. The lines are all similar in length as one would expect with a simple children’s nursery rhyme and the rhyme itself falls in line with other similar songs.
Children’s poetry more often than not leans heavily on rhyme, sound and rhythm in order to embellish the text. These songs are usually read out loud and therefore the assonance, consonance, internal and end rhymes are incredibly important. They make the lines all the more engaging for a young audience.
Poetic Techniques in Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Despite its apparent simplicity, there are a few poetic techniques that Taylor made use of in the composition of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’. These include alliteration, repetition, simile, and personification.
The first alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “shines” and “sun” in the second stanza and “shut,” “sun,” and “sky” in stanza four.
A simile is a comparison between two unlike things that uses the words “like” or “as”. A poet uses this kind of figurative language to say that one thing is similar to another, not like metaphor, that it “is” another. In the first stanza, which is the most widely know, the speaker compares the star to “a diamond in the sky”.
Repetition is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. This technique can be seen through the rescue of end rhymes as well as the refrain of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”. Personification occurs when a poet imbues a non-human creature or object with human characteristics. In stanza four the speaker refers to the stars “eye” and how it never shuts.
Analysis of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
In the first stanza of the poem the speaker uses very simple language to address a “little star in the sky”. These lines are the best known of the four stanzas and are often repeated rather than elaborated on. The poet uses a simile in lines three and four to compare the star to a “diamond”. It is as beautiful and as valuable.
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Next, anaphora is used when the poet repeats “When” at the beginning of lines one and two of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’. This creates a list of features. It is “when” the sun has gone away and nothing else is shining that the star shows its “little light”. Despite being small, the light is powerful and important.
Then the traveler in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
How could he see where to go,
If you did not twinkle so?
The third stanza of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ addresses how helpful the star is to travellers that might pass by. They see the star’s light and thank “you” for it. The speaker asks another rhetorical question, trying to prove to the star that its light is important.
In the dark blue sky you keep,
Often through my curtains peep
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.
In the fourth stanza of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ the poet uses personification to give the start human-like features. Its light is like an open eye and it “peep[s]” through the speaker’s curtains. The eye only shuts when the “sun is in the sky”.
As your bright and tiny spark
Lights the traveler in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Lastly, in the fifth stanza of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’, the end sounds from previous lines are reused and the speaker addresses her lack of awareness about the location of the star. She’s okay with not knowing where exactly the star is as long as it continues to light the way for travellers in the dark.