Monday, December 14, 2009

To the Waters and the Wild

What was the first poem that you remember memorizing? I probably learned Robert Louis Stevenson's My Shadow first, but the one I remember reciting was his poem The Cow. I was in third grade.
The friendly cow all red and white
I love with all my heart.
We are not asked to memorize, or recite, very much any more. It's an art, and it's good practice for--something--our brains, or our hearts?

My son had to memorize, and recite, a poem this past month. He enjoyed it. He came home commenting on how much he liked the poem another child had memorized. "And it was really long," he said--indirectly praising his classmate's performance.

The poem? The Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Do you think the kids all understood it? Does it matter?

In tenth grade, my teacher required us to choose one of two sonnets to memorize. I thought they were both really hard to learn, and I didn't understand either one, so I chose the one that seemed slightly easier. The road not taken--the poem I didn't learn--was Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. [I didn't learn it, but I still remember which poem it was.]

The one I did learn, but I didn't understand, was William Wordsworth's The World Is Too Much With Us. I didn't understand it then, but now? Now, it speaks to me.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
 Do you have a favorite poem? One that speaks to you?

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