Day 65: Today learn a poem by heart.Posted: March 6, 2011
I have a decent memory (sometimes and for some things) but I’m not particularly good at remembering the verbatim of things – which includes poetry, obviously.
I can fake my way through several Shel Silverstein poems from my childhood – “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too,” “The Dragon of Grindly Grun,” and “Always Sprinkle Pepper In Your Hair,” are a few examples – though my father, who read the poems to my brother and me, remembers more of them, and remembers them more accurately.
I can recite pieces of Eliot’s Four Quartets, and the first dozen or so lines of “Prufrock” – though I haven’t done so in a while, and it’s possible I remember less of it than I think I do. I remember bits of various Hardy poems: “The Darkling Thrush,” “In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations,'” “The Convergence of the Twain.” At one time, I knew the entirety of the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V – “Gentlemen in England now a-bed / Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, / And hold their manhoods cheap…” and all that – but these days the pun on the English “foot” and the French “foutre” seems more important (or more entertaining, anyway).
Verse is hard for me. I’m rhythmically-challenged, and so I have trouble grasping even the basics of one of the fundamental structural elements of poetry. Not understanding the intricacies of meter doesn’t prevent me from memorizing the words, of course – but it is part of what makes poetry difficult for me, and that difficulty means that I don’t read much poetry for pleasure – and I certainly don’t re-visit individual poems with the frequency and semi-regularity that would facilitate committing them to memory.
It’s something I ought to make the time for; at the very least, being able to toss off Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” would make me a hit at parties. The problem – which is the problem today’s task presented me with – is choosing a poem to start with: even limiting myself to the relatively-easy-to-memorize sonnet, there are still too many for an indecisive guy like me to choose from.
I’m going to avoid spending fruitless hours trying to make that choice. Instead, I’m going to bring forth from my memory a poem I already know, and share it with all of you. It doesn’t have a title, and its authorship is uncertain. You may find it challenging, or offensive, or nonsensical – but I have always found it a source of comfort and inspiration:
it be friday slob
i am messhe yes