MW Cook

An illiterate scribe

Category: memorization

Memorizing Mondays: O Me! O Life! by Walt Whitman

Oh me!  Oh life!  of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring–What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.
That you are here–that life exists and identify,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Memorizing Mondays – Ode

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

– Arthur O’Shaughnessy

I looked this up after hearing Gene Wilder quote a fragment of it as Willy Wonka.  There are actually nine stanzas, though most publications only present the first three.  Full of awesome lines and clever rhymes.  It’s a fun one to recite.  It’s also where we get the famous line, ‘movers and shakers.’

Memorizing Mondays: Ozymadias

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said — “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. … Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings.
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains.  Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

– Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelly

Memorizing Mondays: Invictus

William Ernest Henley

Memorizing things is fun.  Back in the day I used to memorize tons of Bible stuff, even packing down an entire epistle once.  It’s a great way to keep the brain in shape, look awesome in front of friends and carry beautiful things around in your head.

I am resolving to memorize a bit of awesome every week.  Last week’s awesome was William Ernest Henley’s poem, ‘Invictus.’

Out of the night that covers me,

black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

for my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

my head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

looms but the horror of the shade.

And yet the menace of the years

finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

how charged with punishments the scroll.

I am the master of my fate.

I am the captain of my soul.

This week I’ll either memorize ‘If-‘ by Rudyard Kipling, ‘Ozymandias’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley or the soliloquy from Act 3, Scene 1 of Hamlet (To be or not to be…).

What awesome things have you memorized and which ones should I add to my list?