I love learning poetry. I love the fact I can recognise snippets, and can recall a fair few of my own. It all started many years ago…
When I was about 10, I didn’t do my homework. Not too much of a shock, it was quite a regular occurrence, but for once I had genuinely completely forgotten about it rather than simply not done it. I got to class and the teacher reminded us that we had all been meant to learn a poem from the book. She gave us ten minutes to wander round outside practising our poems before coming in to perform them.
I scanned through the book and found the shortest poem. I used my ten minutes to the full. When we came back into the classroom and the teacher asked for a volunteer to be first, my hand almost hit the ceiling. You see, I had to be first so I wouldn’t forget it in the time I had to wait. I stood up and recited it perfectly.
In the end, I was heaped with praise. I had learnt it perfectly. I had been brave enough to go first. And that shortest poem? It just happened to be by Shakespeare. No-one else had picked anything by anyone so ‘difficult’.
This gave me a real impetus to learn more. I spent my entire teenage years learning one poem or another. I can quote Shakespeare and Coleridge to my heart’s content. Ironically, that first one I was so worried about forgetting is so lodged in my brain, it is the first that would spring to mind if I was ever asked if I knew a poem. It is the symbol of how I managed to glide through school – because I put the effort in in class I got away with doing very little homework.
Here it is. Do you recognise it?
Be not afraid.
The isle is full of noises. Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hang about mine ears, and sometimes voices that if I then had waked after long sleep, would make me sleep again.
And then in dreaming, the clouds methought would open and show riches, ready to drop upon me, that when I waked, I cried to dream again.
I do apologise if I have made a mistake. I have resisted the urge to get out my Shakespeare to see if I’ve still got it all right (and the punctuation is completely my own). The last time I actually looked at the original was twenty-six years ago.