Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mary Had a Little Lamb

by Sarah Josepha Hale

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day,
Which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play
To see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned it out,
But still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about
Till Mary did appear.

Why does the lamb love Mary so?
The eager children cry;
Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,
The teacher did reply.

Summary of Mary Had a Little Lamb

  • Popularity of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”: The poem is also known as Mary’s Lamb. It was written by Sarah Joseph Hale, a famous American writer and editor. It is a famous nursery rhyme written for children and was first published in May 1830. The poem presents the story of a girl who had a lovely lamb as a pet. It also shows the attachment and affection of that lamb with the girl. The poem is popular even after so many years of publication and is still read and taught in different pre-school syllabuses across the globe.
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb” As a Representative of Love: As this poem is for children, it has been written from the perspective of a young girl who had a little white lamb. Her lamb used to accompany her, no matter where she went. One day, it followed Mary to school, which was against the rules but the children at school got excited. They laughed and played with the lamb. On seeing this, the teacher turned the lamb out of the school. To their surprise, the lamb returns for Mary. On finding the lamb nearby, the eager children questioned about its love with Mary. The teacher told them that lamb was attached to Mary because Mary loved it a lot. The expression of wonder starts from the first line and runs throughout the poem.
  • Major Themes in “Mary Had a Little Lamb”: Love, affection, and excitement are the major themes of this poem. The poem exhibits Mary’s deep love and friendship with the lamb. It is her care and attachment that forces the lamb to follow her everywhere; even at school. The presence of the lamb at school provides immense pleasure and excitement for the children. Thus, everyone feels so strange about the love of lamb for Mary.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

Literary devices are tools that enable the writers to enhance their simple texts to bring richness and uniqueness in the texts and open multiple interpretations. Sarah Joseph Hale has also used literary devices in this poem to show the everlasting love between Mary and the lamb. The analysis of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “And everywhere that Mary went”.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /s/ in “Its fleece was white as snow” and the sound of /r/ in “And so the teacher turned it out.”
  3. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Mary had a little lamb”, “It made the children laugh and play” and “But still it lingered near”.
  4. Simile: It is a figure of speech used to compare an object or a person with something else to make the meanings clear. For example, in the second line, the poet has compared lamb’s fleece with white snow.
  5. Enjambment: Enjambment refers to the continuation of a sentence without the pause beyond the end of a line, couplet or stanza such as;

“And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.”

  1. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which the writer purposefully and exaggerate to an extreme. For example, “It followed her to school one day”. It is impossible for a lamb to follow a child to school.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem and each stanza comprises four lines.
  2. Quatrain: Quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here, each stanza is quatrain.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues to the end.
  4. End rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. The poet has used end rhyme in this poem such as in the second and third stanzas the rhyming words are, “out/about”, “day/play” and “near/appear.”

 Quotes to be Used

The lines below and the entire poem can be used while teaching phonics to the children at pre-primary level. These could also be used by someone to show affection with the animals.

“Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.”