Everywhere I go, it seems,
My memory tags along
It recollects my daily life
And usually gets it wrong.

A friend will say, “Remember when…?”
And, always, I’m surprised—
To find that I’d forgotten
What I thought was memorized!

I look to early childhood, but
There’s nothing there to note;
I can’t remember poetry
(Including stuff I wrote)

I sort through faded photographs—
The names are but a blur
Back then, they meant so much to me—
I wonder who they were

A fragment of a memory
A snippet of a song
A figment or a fantasy—
It’s more than likely wrong

I cherish, though, the present
And the time I spend with you
I never will forget it, love…
Unless, of course, I do.

Strangely enough, today’s verse was inspired by something almost, but not completely, unlike the result. The New York Times Parenting Blog has a cute little article making The Case for Bribing Kids to Memorize Poetry. Some of us, back in high school or earlier, were assigned to memorize a selection of poems (I often ask about this in my own classes; over the years, this “some of us” has been shrinking). Most of the ones I had “committed to memory” I have long since forgotten.

I have a very few poems memorized, at present. Even fewer of my own. This one. And this one. Snippets of lots of others, of course. I don’t think I have a single sepielle committed to memory. I have one or two of the high school selection still memorized, but most of those are long forgotten–even the titles.

Mind you, I very much enjoy reading poetry–even old favorites–usually aloud.

What poems have you committed to memory?


  1. coragyps says

    Mostly Ogden Nash’s very short works and highly obscene ( for 1963, at least) schoolboy doggerel.

  2. says

    Some of the ones I wrote, but not all. `Jenny kissed me.` Juliet`s challenge, `Oh bid me leap, rather than marry Paris, …` Snatches of old classics, Tennyson, Byron and the like.

    And, unfortunately, hundreds of hymns, from 50 years of church services. I never used a hymnbook, but memorized the hymns, instead. Now they wallpaper the inside of my braincase.

    (My computer has gone bonkers again, and won`t do normal punctuation. Why is thatÉ)

  3. steffp says

    A case of cultural difference, maybe: I was born and raised in post-war Germany, when memorizing poems was strongly encouraged. So I remember quite a few poems (by international unknowns like Chamisso, Fontane, Rilke, Trakl, Ringelnatz, Enzensberger… ) plus a few Schiller ballads I wish I could delete but can’t.
    Later I found Pablo Neruda, and can still quote most of his “Canto General”.
    On the English side, Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poems (“Jabberwocky”, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”).
    In general, the older I get, the shorter the poems I add to the list…

  4. StillAwake says

    I find it hard to recall poems I specifically memorized for a LARP bard character 2 years ago. They’ve become a little muddled. Others I learned just for fun I still know. A few of my favourites include:
    The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
    The Splendor Falls and The Kraken by Tennyson (?)
    Not With A Bang, Or A Wimper, But A Quack by Robert Rankin.

  5. Kylie S says

    A few Lewis Carroll verses (“Jabberwocky” seems to startle people if you know it by heart). Used to know “Annabel Lee” by heart.

    I’ve recited some of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” while stuck in a broadcasting building – walking around and around, as I guarded the handbags left behind by event participants. “Water water everywhere,” is a nice beat to stomp along to when in a sour temper.

    There’s a Salon blogpost that writes on the importance of beat in these cases:

  6. says

    I remember lots of poetry (UK education in 50’s and 60’s)—Chesterton’s ‘Lepanto’, vast swaths of the ‘Lays of Ancient Rome’ (“Then up spake brave Horatio the captain of the gate/ ‘To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late,/ And how can man die better than facing fearful odds/ For the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods’ (or as I like to misremember it ‘the temples of his fathers and the ashes of his gods’)… Xanadu, chunks of Owen (inc. the whole of ‘Strange meeting’ “It seemed that out of battle I escaped/Down some profound dull tunnel long since scooped…”) and (of course) a great deal of Chaucer’s Prolog and Milleris Tale (even of courser) in Middle English…
    I’m sure I flubb and misremember and get all lacuna-ish, and the weird thing is I HAVE to start from the beginning, if I do flubb or misremember or develop lacunæ I have to start from the beginning again. It’s insane! In fact here’s a silly essay or so about it:
    “Today I’m going to appeal to you on behalf of sufferers from a most ghastly affliction, one that is both a disease and an addiction.
    Forced to the wastes of society’s border.
    We can but pity those with Compulsive Poetry Disorder. …”
    Sorry Man, No Xanadu

  7. philipelliott says

    I memorized this in grade school, 2nd or 3rd grade:

    A green little chemist
    on a green little day
    Mixed some green little chemicals
    in a green little way.
    Now the green little grasses=20
    tenderly wave
    O’er the green little chemist’s
    Green little grave.

    I have no idea where it came from.

  8. philipelliott says

    Found it. Jackie Surdo, of New London, Connecticut wrote in the 6th grade, 1968

  9. Al Dente says

    I once got a free oyster by reciting “The Walrus and the Carpenter” to a man selling shellfish.

    “A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
    “Is what we chiefly need.
    Pepper and vinegar besides
    Are very good indeed.
    Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
    We can begin to feed.”

    “But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
    Turning a little blue.
    “After such kindness, that would be
    A dismal thing to do!”
    “The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
    “Do you admire the view?

  10. pensnest says

    The Story of Matilda, Who Told Lies, and was Burned To Death, by Hilaire Belloc. Plus a variation on that particular theme which I wrote a while back.
    Also the first four verses of The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

  11. Don F says

    On a bridge spanning o’er a ravine
    Archibald was screwing Kathleen
    The force of his lunge
    Caused the whole thing to plunge
    The worst fcuking disaster I’ve seen
    –Isaac Asimov

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *