I've been learning poems by heart, started off by this book:
...and trying to remember the poems as I lie awake in the middle of the night can sometimes get me back to oblivion. Sleep is important, so I say to myself that I can only get the "reward" of getting up once I've recited, in my mind, all the poems I know. Often I don't get to the end of the list before I'm back in the land of Nod.
Actually I do not know any of the poems in that book, I've ended up choosing my own. It has taken me two years to learn 10 poems. Almost all of them have both rhyme and rhythm, much modern poetry seems self indulgent, deliberately obscure and without any artistic discipline.
So here's my choice, not in any particular order.
- Tiger by William Blake.
- The Peasant Poet by John Clare.
- Ozymandias by Percy Shelley.
- Lift Not The Painted Veil by Percy Shelley.
- She Walks In Beauty Like The Night by Lord Byron.
- The Eagle by Lord Tennyson.
- And Death Shall Have No Dominion by Dylan Thomas.
- The Rubaiyat of Omar Kayam. (the first three verses)
- Xanadu by Samuel Coleridge (the first 20 lines or so)
- Our revels now are over, Shakespeare.
- I can check if my memory is still working.
- While waiting for something (the end of a train journey, a plane departure,...) I can recite them to myself. (This is much more mentally active than, for example, reading stuff from the Internet (apart from this blog of course).)
I learned the Shelley poems from a book my Mum got from her parents, Christmas 1936: