Wednesday 19 November 2008

I remember, I remember ...

Left: 'Brek-ke-ke-kex-koax-koax' (the frog chorus in The Frogs, Book X, Aristophanes - in translation).

Daisy Goodwin and Jeremy Paxman are joining forces with fellow poetry aficionados, under the aegis of the BBC, to encourage teachers in schools to breathe new life into the practice (N.B. I avoid the word 'discipline') of learning favourite poems by heart (N.B. I prefer to avoid the word 'rote').

The feature (livelink above) set me thinking about my early - and later - school experiences. Alas, I am not renowned for my memory in an 'examination' kind of way; but I have tried to think of a mixed bag of poetic pieces that I learned (often only in part) at school. All these have travelled with me over the years, bringing a great sense of pleasure and satisfaction.

After 'Incey Wincey Spider', the first poem (or song) that I remember learning in its entirety at school was 'Four ducks on a pond' by William Allingham. Sections - and sometimes quite small sections - from the following literary pieces followed, and have been treasures in 'my memory bag' ever since. They are presented in a rough chronological order of learning rather than in order of preference.
  1. The Lady of Shalott
  2. Flannan Isle
  3. The Frogs Aristophanes (in translation ...)
  4. Macbeth
  5. Antigone by Sophocles (in translation ...)
I have two questions in mind:
  1. What poetic pieces will today's - or tomorrow's - school leavers take with them?
  2. What poetic pieces travel with you from your school days?
A final thought: it must be quite hard (I should have thought) for today's youngsters to commit pieces of contemporary literature to memory, since we now inhabit a world in which rhyme, alliteration and even scansion are not as popular in poetry as they once were.

Further Reading: