We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
Toast and tea, we used to figger, was the final Communion - Brit-style.
When I was in high school, we all memorized Prufrock. Not because we had to, but because we liked to. As I always say, I define poetry as any writing which contains an inevitability of versification, with some coherence of imagery. Poetry is song-writing. I wish we had recordings of Kipling singing his poems. It would be a hoot, I am sure.
(We memorized things competitively when I was in high school. Shakespeare sonnets and soliloquies, lists of Chem equations and math theorems, Civil War dates and other historical dates. From all that I use 1569 today as one of my main ID codes (Shakespeare's birth year). Sophocles. Ozymandius. Kipling. Le Bateau Ivre. Paradise Lost. We had an official annual school tournament to see who could memorize the most lines of the opening of the Iliad, and another with the opening lines of Canterbury Tales in the original good Old English. Many folks would do 100-200 lines without faltering. The kids taking Latin, of course, had their famous and traditional speed declension contests. I even remember memorizing Babi Yar in Russian for kicks - and I spoke no Russian. It just sounded cool, imitating Yevtushenko's voice. Our hockey team specialized in the Iliad contest - somebody on the team always won. Our hockey coach also taught Ancient Greek. It was a point of honor for the team. A good high school, good fun. I hope high school kids still do amusing things like this. God knows what kids learn in college.)
Understatedly spectacular is the way Eliot�s career strikes one today, at time when, it is fair to say, poetry, even to bookish people, is of negligible interest and literary criticism chiefly a means to pursue academic tenure. Literary culture itself, if the sad truth be known, seems to be slowly but decisively shutting down.
The fame Eliot achieved in his lifetime is unfathomable for a poet, or indeed any American or English writer, in our day. In 1956, Eliot lectured on �The Function of Criticism� in a gymnasium at the University of Minnesota to a crowd estimated at 15,000 people.
Read the whole thing. Eliot was a bank teller, of course - and a rock star. Still is a rock star, in my book. His stuff sticks like Velcro. Christ was his rock.
I was the only kid in High School to have checked out his collected poems in the 8 years Ringgold High School had owned the book. It's why I became an English major. Why I was unskilled and had to join the Navy after college; Why I sell bonds. I reckon all us literati are still at our second jobs.
I memorized The Wasteland in college just for the hey of it, and later Prufrock and (most of) Ash Wednesday. I've forgotten parts of those now, but I keep Journey of the Magi fresh, it's so much fun to be able to recite it around Christmas.
Nice post. In my family we were made to memorize "The Midnight RIde of Paul Revere" (an ancestor), but the first poem I chose myself to memorize was really doggerel (awful pun intended) that one about
''I'm a lean dog, a keen dog, a wild dog alone,
A rough dog, a tough dog, a hunting on my own, etc."
I loved "The Boy stood on the burning deck, whence all but he had fled!"
Also used to like to recite various of the Just So stories, especially the Elephant's Child (I could relate to him).
My godfather gave me a Robert Louis Stevenson collection of poems and Imemorized many of them.
In my London girls' day school years later, we would memorize Shakespearean solilioquoys and act them out, sometimes rather odd choices for girls. I remember later auditioning to get into my arts high school with Shylock's "Signor Antonio, many a time and oft in the Rialto, have you rated me about my money..." Why on earth a 13 year old WASP ballet dancing girl would have identified with that character? I think my judges were so startled they let me in out of curiousity as to what lay behind the choice of text...
At one point, at that school we were forced to take a horrible Musical Comedy course and memorize a gazillion show songs. Being shy and serious, I suffered acutely being made to sing and dance numbers like "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No" and to this day refuse to go to any musicals.
One course we got to read the Iliad an Odyssey aloud and memorize bits we specially enjoyed. Heaven. Also Aeschylus. And there is that great speech of Antigone demanding to be allowed to bury her brother.
I also remember memorizing songs for "A Ceremony of Carols" and many of the Anglican hymns, which still come into my head at odd moments. I probably remember them, and the Psalms and part of sung Morning and Evening Prayer than all the poems and dramatic pieces. Because I think it's easier to remember things sung than said.
I love Prufrock too, Bird Dog. "Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? I shall wear white flannels and walk along the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing each to each. I do not think they will sing to me..."
What a thoroughly civilized way to express the sadness of old age. I thought so the night I first heard someone in Cambridge read Prufrock out loud, in the first month I was in my freshman year. I think so even more poignantly now. Eliot was a great poet, and he has enriched my life, I know.
I have him taped, reciting The Wasteland and Prufrock on my phone. I fall asleep at least once a week listening to it. It is amazing and sad to hear him ennunciate "It's so elegant; So intelligent".
Strangely, there is a lot of fog and mist in my dreams those nights...
Speaking of the joys of memorizing great quotes, Lincoln memorably said in one of his speeches, "a house divided against itself cannot stand..." Actually, there are sometimes, like right now, a House divided against itself, in the next Congress, will be functioning a heck of a lot better than it has for the past two years.