Thursday, September 25, 2008

Memorizing Frost

My thirteen year old daughter and I memorized a Robert Frost poem together this evening. It was amazing to see how memorizing it helped the lights to come on in her mind.

Memorizing such a poem requires one to rework it with Frost, following patterns that he made. Obvious in these patterns is the rhymes at the end of the lines: a/a, b/b, etc. But there are also the patterns of how he pairs the front of the lines, and these he offsets from the rhyme scheme so that lines 2 and 3 are paired (with the word "Her"), 4 and 5 (the words "But" "Then"), 6 and 7 ("So"), and the last line somewhat pairs back to the first ("Nature," "Nothing"). Then there is the reiterated time flow of first contrasted with later: flower-->leaf; Eden-->loss of Eden; dawn-->day, etc. And always the sense that the former excelled the latter.

My daughter did not see these things until she began to memorize it. And she did not understand what the poem was about. In memorizing we need to notice these little patterns and connections, and we then can use them as roadmaps to guide our memory as we recite.

Because our minds cling to the connections when we memorize, memorizing helps us to more fully understand. I have noticed this before, especially when memorizing parts of Isaiah.

Here is the poem we memorized.


Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


The Realistic Dreamer said...

one of my fave poems ;)
very beautiful

JforJames said...

Like your blog, Doug. Too many poets bypass the canon for the contemporary.

Certainly a few poets must drift thru the home of IU?

Doug P. Baker said...

Thanks Grace and James,

Yes, I agree that far too many people ignore the long history of poetry and especially English poetry.

There are occasional readings here, but less than one would expect.