English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Annotation
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Greek Mythology
  • Pygmalion
  • Reading
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Comparisons To Law In Poetry

    Comparisons To Law In Poetry


    In this lesson, students continue to discuss Dr. King’s writing style. Then they will read and discuss W. H. Auden's “Law Like Love,” focusing on the comparisons to law in the poem.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.

    Effect of Dr. King's Writing Style

    • After students share their response with a partner as a review, have some students briefly share their responses with the whole class.


    Review your response from Lesson 9’s Closing with a partner.

    • What is the effect of Dr. King’s writing style (purposeful repetition) on you, the reader?

    Notice that Dr. King’s writing is full of literary devices and stylistic devices that are particularly effective when read aloud.

    "Law Like Love"

    • Provide students with copies of or access to “Law Like Love” by W. H. Auden. A version of the poem is on .
    • Read “Law Like Love” by W. H. Auden aloud for students and then ask them for their questions about the meanings of words or phrases.
    • Two words from the poem students might need help with are impotent, meaning “powerless,” and treble, meaning “high-pitched.”
      • ELL: It is sometimes hard to understand when a person is reading in a language other than our own. Be sure your pace is adequate, and provide ample wait-time to allow for students to process the information.
    • Call on two or three students to read the poem aloud again.
    • Assist students as they point out the different ways that people in Auden’s poem compare the law to some other thing.
    • Sample annotations or notes for the poem include:
      • ✓ Stanza 1: For gardeners, law is like the importance and certainty of the sun. Auden may be suggesting that for some people, law is natural law. What happens when you substitute sun for law in this stanza?
      • ✓ Stanza 2: Auden suggests that point of view determines what law is: for the old, law is wisdom; for the young, law is the senses. In this stanza, he pits them against each other with the “shrilly scold” of the old against the young sticking out their tongues.
      • ✓ Stanza 3: The point of view is priests who see law as the “divine” law of their pulpits and steeple (tower on a church).
      • ✓ Stanza 4: The judge condescendingly “looks down his nose” and expounds about his understanding of law. Ironically, he can’t say much more than law is what it is, the law.
      • ✓ Stanza 5: This stanza makes the point, in opposition to stanza 4, that law is not absolute; it depends on crimes “Punished by places and times.”
      • ✓ Stanza 6: This stanza presents what “others say”: fate, state, no law.
      • ✓ Stanza 7: Another contrast is made in stanza 7: the loud, angry voice of the people saying law is “We” opposes the individual who says it’s “Me” softly and idiotically.
      • ✓ Stanza 8: Auden’s speaker addresses the reader and juxtaposes “we” with “they.” Then there are two more “if” clauses, setting up an argument coming to a conclusion. If “we know more than they”; if we can only agree that law is; if “thinking it absurd / To identify Law with some other word,” then “I cannot say Law is again.”
      • ✓ Stanza 9: Timidly, the speaker suggests that law is like love.
      • ✓ Stanza 10: The speaker completes his analogy or comparison by giving four examples of how law and love are alike.
    • Give students time to go back over their notes with a partner and to explain in writing what each of the comparisons suggests about law.
      • SWD: If struggling students seem confused, pull them into a small group and discuss.
    • Remind students that it is important always to identify the speaker of a poem.
    • Ask them who they suppose the speaker is and who is the audience being addressed.

    Work Time

    Look at “Law Like Love” by W. H. Auden and follow along as the poem is read aloud, noting any words or passages that you don’t understand.

    In his poem, Auden makes a series of comparisons between law and how different people see law (for instance, the gardeners say law is the sun).

    • Annotate or take notes on all of the different comparisons. For example, the first stanza compares the law to the sun that gardeners obey. The second stanza compares the law to the wisdom of older people.
    • Then work with a partner to explain what you think each of these comparisons means: how is law like the sun? Like the “wisdom of the old”?
    • Record your ideas in writing.

    Open Notebook

    "Law Like Love"

    • Circulate through the room to assist and encourage.
      • SWD: As you circulate, monitor the ability of students to reflect on what they’ve read. If necessary, provide individual support.
      • ELL: Make sure that students understand the task. If there are concerns, address them one by one to allow them to fully participate in the activity.
    • As students share with a partner, eavesdrop to hear interesting ideas for the Whole Group Share.

    Work Time

    Notice that Auden makes a shift in his poem when he introduces the word if near the end.

    • Paraphrase each sentence (not line) in the poem beginning with line 35 (“If we dear, know we know more”).
    • Write a paragraph about which comparison in this last section is most important.
    • Finally, explain why you agree or don’t agree with the speaker when he or she says law is like love.

    Open Notebook

    Share your writing on the Auden poem with a partner and talk about your ideas with the whole class.

    Is the Law Like Love?

    • Facilitate a conversation about Auden’s poem.
      • SWD: Students may be reluctant to contribute ideas during the Whole Group Share for a variety of reasons. It may be helpful to circulate as students write so that you can coach students and suggest which of their ideas may be interesting to share. It may also be less intimidating for some to have the option to complete this activity in a smaller group discussion.
      • ELL: Be sure all students are clear about the topic of the discussion before starting. Monitor that students know what is expected of them in this discussion. Encourage ELLs to share.
    • Use the following questions if needed:
      • ✓ What are the various ways Law is compared in the poem?
      • ✓ What, for you, is the most important comparison?
      • ✓ Explain each sentence in the last stanza.


    So is the law like love?

    • Share your ideas on and questions about the Auden poem with your classmates.

    Independent Reading

    • Remind students to continue reading their Independent Reading Group Novel and to turn in journal entries.


    Continue your ongoing homework assignment:

    • Read your Independent Reading Group Novel.
    • Remember to submit two journal entries a week to your teacher and publish some of your journal entries so others can read your work.