Monday, May 16, 2011

What Poem Do You Have Memorized?

In my early 20's I wrote out a list of things I wanted to accomplish in my life, including run a marathon (check), travel to Europe with no plans and see what happens (check), stay up all night to watch the sun rise (check - unfortunately more than once). One of the things on there was to memorize my favorite poem, "Invictus," by Robert Ernest Henley. I read it over and over and said it out loud over and over and did commit it to memory, and now I can recite it anytime, anywhere. A few years later I added "Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds," Sonnet 116 by Shakespeare. Both poems have meaning to me. Invictus is a powerful poem, written by a soldier in the Civil War fighting to stay alive and keep his spirits up. Saying that poem and especially the last two lines "I am the Master of my Fate, I am the Captain of my Soul" really helped me through some things, including finishing the marathon and the 300 infertility treatments I went through. As for Shakespeare, everyone knows the first verse of Sonnet 116, and it's become almost cliche at weddings. But the rest of the Sonnet is amazing, and so true. My favorite line is "Love is not Love which alters when it alteration finds." Through traveling and studying abroad in England I came to love Shakespeare and his very modern themes and I really wanted to know that one by heart.
If you haven't memorized your favorite poem yet, I highly recommend it. Maybe as part of a bucket list? Or just as something for you to say "I did that" and feel good about it. 

Invictus - Robert Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


SONNET 116 - Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

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