Committing Poetry to Memory – December 1900

Lorna in the British Weekly suggests the committing of poetry to the memory as a good recreation for winter evenings but I doubt whether grown up people who have not acquired the facility in their youth will find it possible to do so. Youth is emphatically the time for poetry. I scarcely know whether it is taught in schools now so much as in my own school days.

The pieces one learns to recite and those which are learned for the love of them are of a quite different nature. There may even be a little alloy in the virtues of recitation — some vanity, unworthy rivalry and emulation. Have you heard a mother criticise the recitations of some other woman’s daughter? But the silent commitment to memory of a choice piece is good in its effects upon the mind and in the lasting pleasure it gives.

At school we used to have a short piece from one of the simpler poets every week; when old enough to enter for university examinations we got Shakespeare and Milton by the yard. There was French and German poetry too. Not having a head for languages, however, I could not retain any of that but only some simple German verses.

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