|Image courtesy of Michaela Kobyakov of Leonding,|
Austria and sxc.hu
I find your project to memorize poetry and then write about it intellectually stimulating, lovely, and touching. You may be right about only poets wanting to read about poetry, but a huge percentage of people are poets who just don't write poetry. If they have the ability to be moved, they can and do love poetry. --Philip Lee WilliamsWhat do you think about that lovely summation? Is it true?
Perhaps I'll continue writing notes about the poems I memorize; perhaps not. At any rate, I am learning and feeling things about poems that one can't learn in any other way. A memorized, delivered poem (in the mind or outloud) seems to engage the whole person, and the importance of pauses increases. One is not longer juggling words and doing a degree of study about how to read the poem when the poem flows forth, memorized. I find that the longer one repeats a poem, the more subtle variation in in pause and emphasis becomes evident. A memorized poem partakes of a natural out-springing like a stream from earth and rocks.
The second poem I memorized was this one by Shakespeare (no. 98), not one of the best known of his sonnets. I memorized it once in college for an exam, but had forgotten much of it over the years.
From you have I been absent in the spring,This one does not want to stay lodged in my head, and though I have it now, I fear that I'll have to work to keep it from tumbling out again (rather like the two knotty lines in the Hopkins poem I memorized first.) Some of the difficulty may be due to inversion of syntax, but while memorizing it I noticed other things as stumbling points. "Nor the sweet smell / Of different flowers in odour and in hue" always feels a little redundant to me, so I kept thinking that I had the lines wrong. The stop in the third quatrain gives a bit of trouble because the quatrain splits into related parts, and the jump from the rose and lily to the "figures of delight" (which seem to work both as images and as rhetorical figures) drawn after the red and white complexion trope beloved of Renaissance writers made me go blank a few times.
When proud-pied April dress'd in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem'd it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.
Also, the turns in thought that mark the Shakespearean sonnet happen remarkably early, and so I didn't expect a shift in the fifth line. In fact, the whole poem with its yets and nors becomes turn, turn, turn, long before the closing couplet and the closing turn from summer to winter, from bright to dark.
|Courtesy of Istvan Benedek of Budapest, Hungary and sxc.hu|