n.charlton at comcast.net
Mon Feb 23 08:33:38 EST 2004
I have enjoyed reading different ones' vivid memories of memorizing, and
fain would add a couple of my own. (I'm campaigning to bring fain, lest,
sans, and anent back into active use because they are so handy.)
Last fall at a family reunion, my brother and brother-in-law were having a
great time one-upping each other in twitting my sister concerning a wine
purchase she had made that proved to be a dud. It got into a red vs white
debate. Several aperitifs later, as we started dinner, my bro-in-law raised
his glass, looked at me, and said, "Hey Nancy......The king sat in
Dumferlin town," and I joined in: "/ Drinking the blude red wine/ Oh quhere
shal I get good sailor/ To sail this schip of mine?" He continued, in
perfect Scots: "Then up and spak and eldern knicht/ Sat at the king's richt
kne/ Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor/ That sails vpon the se."
Neither of us quite remembered what came next, and the others were looking
nonplussed, so we went on with dinner. When I got home, I took out my
Childe ballads and reread Sir Patrick several times, declaiming it to the
cat. It was easy to memorize, since it was associated with a delightful
moment. I've since recited it a few times, and even if I have to explain
about the "braid letter" and the "cork-heild schoon" it is a great story
and lets me do a bit of closet drama.
My high school teacher for senior English was two years away from retiring
and was ailing, so she didn't take our class on her famed field trip to the
cemetery to look for epitaphs gleaned from the English poets. She did,
however, require us each to memorize ten couplets of Alexander Pope, drawn
from a list she had picked out carefully to exclude any references to God
yet to be helpful sententia for moral instruction. She had early on stated
that she wouldn't allow any discussion of religion or politics. We all
thought, add sex and what's left? Came the day to go round the room with
our couplets, and when it came my turn I got very dramatic. I forget now
which ones I chose, but some of my classmates laughed. The teacher said
"Don't laugh, she's trying to express the meaning." I found much later,
after having studied PL and more of Pope, that I had missed a chance for a
Laugh where we must, be candid where we can,
But vindicate the ways of God to man.
The religion-and-politics exclusion pretty much ruled out Milton in that
class, but I'm sure we did L'Allegro and Il Penseroso; they're pretty safe.
And I know we did Macbeth, because she had us memorize 'Tomorrow and
tomorrow and tomorrow'. Years later I realized she may have thought this a
gloss on her own life, and that in the r-&-p prohibition she was playing it
safe until retirement. Yet somewhere along the line I memorized "I cannot
praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue...".
I find over the years that I remember as opposed to memorize, lingering
over passages that hit me hard, thinking about their meaning(s), and/or
delighting in the rhythms and images. Then, thinking of the PL marathon I
took part in last spring, I would say that speaking and hearing that very
auditory and visual poem should be integral to teaching it. Do whatever is
necessary to get past the mythology, the Dagwood-sandwich syntax, the
structure--but help the class experience its dramatic power. This will be
remembered long after critical analysis is forgot.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Milton-L