Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 15 March 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Armoury against lifeís slings and arrows

In this Digital Age poetry has lost its glamour. Gone are the days when students had to study On Freedomís Way, Plate of Gold and a host of other poetry anthologies as a part of the school curriculum. Today poetry is read and taught minimally as if it is something not worth studying. Speak to any doctor, engineer or accountant and you will be surprised to learn that none of them have read poetry.

Five decades ago, students had not only to study poetry but also memorise them. Today nobody wants to memorise anything because you have access to anything under the sun by pressing a key on the computer. In the past, there were teachers who could recite even long poems by heart. A few of them who could do so today may be in their 60s or 70s.

Modern educationalists will object if somebody suggests that students should learn poems by heart. They would say that it is an outdated practice. But they do not realise the advantages of learning poetry by rote. Unknown to modern teachers, reading poetry is a wonderful way to spend your time. Learning poetry by heart is even a better way of spending your leisure.


Committing some poems to memory is not a waste of time or an attempt to revive an outdated practice. When you memorise a poem, you will add it to your storehouse of knowledge. You will also naturally absorb the most beautiful expressions, words and poetic language. Such a practice is hugely rewarding and it is a skill worth cultivating an any age.

It is true that you cannot learn all the poems by heart. What must be committed to memory are only those poems that have a lasting value. At the beginning, you will not know whether a poem is worth remembering. For this you should cultivate the habit of reading poetry. After some time, could select what is good and worth committing to memory.

Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life. - William Hazlitt

Knowing poems by heart means that they will become a part of your consciousness. This can never be replicated by calling them up on a small screen. Most western countries have now realised the value of memorising poems. Yet the techno-savvy younger generation is hard to be convinced. They must be taught the educational advantages of learning poetry by rote. Those who do so will have an enhanced vocabulary.

Unique library

The renowned literary critic John Walsh likened learning poems by heart to having your own private ďinternal iPoems libraryĒ. Itís about owning someone elseís words, but making them part of your life, your thoughts and your heart. By learning poems by rote, you will have your own unique library for life.

In modern times poetry is confined to the classroom. Most students read poetry only to pass examinations. After passing examinations and finding employment, most people give up reading poetry. Only a very few people read and write poetry on a regular basis. Some newspapers encourage budding poets by publishing their poems. However, newspaper editors are not happy with poems they receive for publication. Most poems appear to be doggerels.

The few poetry fans know that poems are their personal armoury against the slings and arrows of life. When your love is unrequited, you can turn to poetry for consolation. Sometimes our hopes are dashed to the ground. We lose our valuable possessions and loved ones. we become terminally ill or meet with an accident. Human life is full of such vicissitudes. If you are a poetry fan, you will know where to turn for inspiration.


If you are ready to learn a poem by rote, choose a short poem at first. It must be something you love. Add it to your mental furniture. Read the poem several times to get a feel for it. and then start memorising line by line until you can recite it from memory.

There are many poems you can learn by heart. The choice is yours. However, hereís a little poem penned by Wendy Cope for anyone to read and remember.


My heart has made its mind up
And Iím afraid itís you.
Whatever youíve got lined up,
My heart has made its mind up
And if you canít be signed up
This year, next year will do.
My heart has made its mind up
And Iím afraid itís you.

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