Memorizing Poetry

by Matthew Koslowski on November 25, 2009
in Essays

In This Essay

Complete Poems of John Keats
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Speaking of Faith: Learning, Doing, Being: A New Science of Education
 

In college I resolved to memorize Paradise Lost.

Not just “The Invocation to the Muse,” the first twenty-six lines. The entire work. All twelve books.

My inspiration came in part from watching The Crow. One of the villains, T-Bird, picks up a book and reads, “Abashed the Devil stood and felt how awful goodness is, and saw Virtue in her shape how lovely…” Wondering if he were reading from a real book, I searched Google and found that quote comes from Book IV of Paradise Lost.

I developed a plan, in fact, to memorize the poem. After letting this grandiose idea overtake me, I sat down with a copy of the poem and determined how many lines were in each book. Then adding them up, I figured how long it would commit to memory if I memorized a fixed number — I believe it was ten lines — per day. It was a project that was going to take years of dedicated work.

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