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memorized poems
Posted by: Talia (---.dialsprint.net)
Date: March 09, 2004 01:29PM

Wanting my physicality to consist of poetry I am beginning to memorize a poem or 2, as my mother was not the old-fasioned type to make me do this nor to take piano lessons, I was just curious about what poems any of you have memorized and why.

My first one is "Mad Girl's Love Song" by Sylvia Plath


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: glenda (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: March 09, 2004 04:41PM

As most of us have done, I've memorized lots of poems for school. Oddly enough I still remember most of them. On my own, I've memorized the first 16 and the last 9 lines of Bryant's Thanatopsis just because it pleases me.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: joseph torelli (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: March 09, 2004 05:00PM

Talia:

There have been many. Some I've retained in their entirety while I can only remember portions of others. The very first, other than the usual nursery rhymes, was "Casey At The Bat" by Ernest L. Thayer. I memorized it as a sixth-grade student for an elementary school recital. I didn't do all that well, as I recall - certainly, not well enough to win a prize.

The experience did not deter me from memorizing many more poems, however, and I have no fear of reciting them aloud, no matter the audience. I'm not sure that I recite any better than I did as a youth, but it doesn't bother me at all.

If you love poetry and are enthralled by a certain poem, memorize it. There's nothing quite like the thrill you'll receive from reciting it aloud, or from reciting it to yourself for that matter.

Memorize and recite - Have no fear.

joet


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: IanB (---.tnt2.mornington.au.da.uu.net)
Date: March 09, 2004 05:37PM

Good for you, Talia. IMO memorizing poetry is more enjoyable than taking piano lessons. The first poem I memorized was Byron's 'The Destruction of Sennacherib'. That was at age 5. Knew nothing about the subject, but liked the words and their rhythm. That's been my rule ever since: to commit to memory only what I like and find well written (which is easy compared to the task faced by stage actors who astonishingly manage to remember reams of drivel when they have to). I have kept this up, so that when I get too old to do more than talk to myself I might have something worthwhile to say.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)
Date: March 09, 2004 06:10PM

I've got bits and pieces of lots of poems, plays, etc. It's always fun- and you can really tick people off by quoting bits. (Not us, but the non-poetry types)

pam


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Linda (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: March 09, 2004 06:51PM

I find its the old hymns I remember the words to, modern hymns have no words only repetative choruses, but Hymns A&M there's something to get your teeth into.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Talia (---.ply.kconline.com)
Date: March 09, 2004 08:25PM

I'm assuming most of you who memorized poetry as children are British because the American school I went to? No.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: glenda (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: March 09, 2004 09:00PM

I'm American, but older than dirt. Back in the day, it was a regular thing from second grade on. One of our Senior English requirements was to perform on stage scenes from Shakespeare's plays or to recite a poem of our choosing. Wonderful memories......


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)
Date: March 09, 2004 09:10PM

Yo soy americana- but like Glenda, from the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and we didn't have as much of this blasted testing!

pam


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-03rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: March 09, 2004 09:45PM

Haunting meter, rhyme & theme:


Dream-Pedlary

If there were dreams to sell,
What would you buy?
Some cost a passing bell;
Some a light sigh,
That shakes from Life's fresh crown
Only a rose-leaf down.
If there were dreams to sell,
Merry and sad to tell,
And the crier rang the bell,
What would you buy?

A cottage lone and still,
With bowers nigh,
Shadowy, my woes to still,
Until I die.
Such pearls from Life's fresh crown
Fain would I shake me down.
Were dreams to have at will,
This would best heal my ill,
This would I buy.

But there were dreams to sell
Ill didst thou buy;
Life is a dream, they tell,
Waking, to die.
Dreaming a dream to prize,
Is wishing ghosts to rise;
And if I had the spell
To call the buried well,
Which one should I?

If there are ghosts to raise,
What shall I call,
Out of hell's murky haze,
Heaven's blue pall?
Raise my loved long-lost boy,
To lead me to his joy.--
There are no ghosts to raise;
Out of death lead no ways;
Vain is the call.

Know'st thou not ghosts to sue,
No love thou hast.
Else lie, as I will do,
And breathe thy last.
So out of Life's fresh crown
Fall like a rose-leaf down.
Thus are the ghosts to woo;
Thus are all dreams made true,
Ever to last!
-- Thomas Lovell Beddoes


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Russ (---.olypen.com)
Date: March 09, 2004 11:34PM

'What win I if I gain this thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy:
Who buys a minutes mirth to wail a week?
Or sells the world to buy a toy?
For one sweet grape who would the vine destroy?
Or what fond beggar but to touch the crown,
Would with the sceptre straight be strucken down?

So I stole it . It's worth the steal!!

Or

Scissors cannot cut this thing
Unravelled it binds again and clings
It is the sorrow of seperation
and none other tastes to the heart like this.

I stole this too!


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-03rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: March 10, 2004 11:56AM

[www.4literature.net] />

The first is (misquoted) Willy Shakes, but I don't recognize the second.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)
Date: March 10, 2004 01:39PM

And don't forget The Cremation of Sam McGee- a great work to memorize.

pam


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: joseph torelli (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: March 10, 2004 04:57PM

Talia:

I, too, am American and from a generation that finds merit in commiting beautiful, and often profound, words to memory. I find the mental gymnastics every bit as rewarding for the brain as physical exercise is for the body.

Plus, as Pam said, it can be fun to tick off those who don't appreciate poetry as much as we do.

joet


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Linda (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: March 10, 2004 05:09PM

tick off? Does have the same connotations in this context as I am used to. In Brit English it implies someone has done something mildly wrong, and is getting mild disapproval.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: March 10, 2004 05:36PM

TICK OFF:

I've heard both uses. You can "tick off" items on a list, though Americans usually say "check off." Brits put a tick next to things on their shopping list that they've bought; Americans put check marks there.

Alternatively, "That reallys ticks me off" is politer than "pisses me off." I don't think there's any connection between the two.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: March 10, 2004 05:42PM

I don't remember the first poem I memorized on purpose, but I know I learned "The Rockabye Lady of Hushabye Street" by hearing my mother recite it at bedtime.

And I've memorized scads of Shakespeare, some by effort and some by exposure and osmosis. from the sonnets: "Shall I compare thee..." and "My mistress' eyes..."

THE MIDNIGHT RIDE OF PAUL REVERE: I memorized most of it one night before I realized how much I DIDN'T want it stuck in my head.

NEXT TO OF COURSE GOD AMERICA I: that's an e e cummings poem that I love to recite out loud so I had to memorize it.

John Berryman, DREAM SONG 14 ("Life, friends, is boring.") - ditto

Keats - sonnet: "When I have fears..."

Wordsworth - sonnet: "The world is too much with us..."


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: March 10, 2004 05:43PM

I've shared this before, but Talia wasn't on the forum then:


From WORDSTRUCK
By Robert MacNeil

Nothing makes a poem yours, and so prepares you to absorb it seriously, as commiting it to memory. Then you can live with the lines intimately, saying those you wish to dwell on to yourself again and again. As you do so, all the subtler poetic devices reveal themselves: the deeper music, and the less obvious layers of meaning. If you memorize a poem—even coldly, without enthusiasm—the chances are your regard for it will grow. Something learned that well—“learning by heart” is a good expression, “taken to heart”—becomes part of your mind’s ear, another part of the mechanism that lets you weigh words.

In the wisdom of the ancient Greeks, the mother of all the muses who governed creativity was the goddess of memory, Mnemosyne. Obviously, they thought that if you can’t remember, you can’t create.

Take the famous “Elegy written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray. I had to memorize about four stanzas when I was 13 or 14. The well-worn phrases have come into my head hundreds of times over the years:

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
. . . .

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

Interesting things happen when you own a poem like that. It evolves with you as you gain more experience, like a strongly tannic wine gradually oxidizing. However obvious, the felicity of expression mingles with your later experiences, which resonate with the aptness of the poet’s vision.

The horror-dulled 20th-century spirit may thirst for musings more existential than

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

But what modern poet could condescend to a line like

And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds

A learned poem becomes a lens through which you see the world, like the different lenses an oculist drops one at a time when testing your vision. A lens for all the senses—a lens for the soul’s eyes. The over-familiar, the too brightly painted, the too-innocent phrase, may become an ironic lens, an antique/antic focus on today’s reality. It may become part of your personal cliché-avoidance system, the bat-like verbal radar, operating semi-consciously, that keeps you from blundering into the obvious and overused (unless you mean it facetiously).


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: March 10, 2004 05:56PM

In American, the ticking off comes from the annoying person- You tick me off! or I really ticked him off by being late- rather than from the person doing the scolding.

pam


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Talia (---.dialsprint.net)
Date: March 11, 2004 03:11PM

I am truly impressed, Marion-NYC....I've got a long way to go, as I'm still working on "Mad Girl's Love Song"...and it's an easy one.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)
Date: March 11, 2004 07:06PM

Talia,

Try acting it out- the physical movement can help you remember better. One thing you may notice as you commit work to memory is that work with strong rhythm or rhyme is easiest to memorize.

pam

Mad Girl's Love Song
Sylvia Plath

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: March 11, 2004 07:29PM

That's a hell of a poem to memorize -- but I think you'll be glad when you've GOT IT.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)
Date: March 11, 2004 08:16PM

I love this line-

Exit seraphim and Satan's men:

pam


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: rikki (---.mas.optusnet.com.au)
Date: March 11, 2004 08:53PM

"The Rockabye Lady of Hushabye Street" was an early favourite of mine too.

And i'm still grateful to the teachers who made us memorise all kinds of things from Shakespeare, Donne, Thomas Hardy, to Australian bush ballads, Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics and Samuel Beckett ("Was I sleeping, while the others suffered?").
It's wonderful to have a head full of old friends.
I recall having to memorise and recite Belloc's 'Matilda' at a primary school concert - it's still indelibly printed in my memory - if i ever meet anyone called Matilda, even now, i immediately wonder if she tells dreadful lies that make one gasp and stretch one's eyes.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)
Date: March 11, 2004 09:46PM

Plus the whole 'Waltzing Matilda' thing.

pam


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Russ (---.olypen.com)
Date: March 12, 2004 06:30AM

Marian you have Maud Mullered me!


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: March 12, 2004 11:23AM

Rikki wrote: "It's wonderful to have a head full of old friends."

Wouldn't that be a great title for an anthology?

A HEAD FULL OF OLD FRIENDS: Favorite Poems ...


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: March 12, 2004 11:24AM


Russ - Should I apologize? Can I undo it somehow?


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Talia (---.dialsprint.net)
Date: March 12, 2004 11:54AM

Thanks for your precious advice. You have just inspired me to spend my Friday afternoon on this poem.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: Talia (---.dialsprint.net)
Date: March 13, 2004 03:42PM

I just want to report that I've got it now! Sucessfully recited it in the shower this morning 5 times, came to work and wrote it out! Now, I'll be doing an Emily Dickinson one next. ( I just watched a bio movie on her last nigt made by the Voices and Visions series...good stuff). So many good ones, I'll have to pick a few.


Re: memorized poems
Posted by: russ (---.olypen.com)
Date: March 19, 2004 12:29PM

How can you undo? Why? I thank you. You make me think of "old friends".




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