The current phrase in educational settings is to ‘have a poem in your pocket’. If a piece of poetry is memorized, it can be carried along wherever a person travels.
I remember sitting on my grandfather’s knee when I was very, very little and having him tell me the story-poem of the “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (Alfred, Lord Tennyson), or “Gunga Din” (Rudyard Kipling). My brothers and I would listen to our mother recite “The Highway Man” (Alfred Noyes), or my uncle tell the story of “The Cremation of Sam McGee” (Robert William Service). These were not simply poems to us, but rich, intricate tales, full of powerful images and complex plots told in rhyme. They were brought to life through the creative narration of our elders. Just days before her death, my mother recited to us from one of her favorite poems:
“I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within Himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson “Morte D’Arthur” 1845
As you can see, poetry is deeply threaded through the fabric of our family. And although it may be considered an outdated skill in this rapidly evolving educational arena, there is still a place for purposeful, focused memorization in learning . . . But I suppose that is another blog entry.
So, the tide line . . . I often hear bits and pieces of the poetry that I “hold in my pocket” as I walk the beach. These two short, divergent lines of pebbles and a shell immediately brought to mind Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled”. I will include the poem here below and encourage you to make it your own.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.