I recently watched a talk Coach John Wooden gave and noticed how much poetry he had memorized. I think it would be a good way to make myself more well-rounded and I was curious what you all think a man should have in his poetry repertoire.
I have always liked Invictus but I feel like it's not quite as special anymore because more people know it from the movie.
I think it does men good to at least find and memorize a few poems he feels express sentiments he agrees with, or articulate a reaction to a subject close to his own feelings, or is just beautiful.
A few poems I memorized through love, not effort - in no particular order:
The Hangman by Maurice Ogden (Well, almost know this one by heart - it's a bit long)
I'm sure I'll think of more.
Excellent post. Thank you.
Jules: There's a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you." Now... I been sayin' that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ass. You'd be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this mornin' made me think twice. See, now I'm thinking: maybe it means you're the evil man. And I'm the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here... he's the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. And I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
Go back to the beginning. Start with the Iliad and Odyssey, and start working your way forward from there.
Take a look at Yeats' "The Second Coming" or Agee's "Sure on this Shining Night".
1. Kublai Khan
2. Anything by Edward Lear
If you want soemthing more meaningful, then either stop looking for meaning in the art of arranging words nicely, or just write a poem yourself. I found Stephen Fry's book on writing poetry very good, but I've never looked in any other book on it.
Here is one of my favorite poems. I learned it in American Lit. during high school--50 years ago. I've used the wisdom of these 4 lines with great success over the past half century.
"He drew a circle that shut me out.
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win,
We drew a circle that shut him in."
Edwin Markham (1852-1940
Remember there are a ton of great contemporary poets as well. You don't have to only read stuff from the 19th century.
My favorite contemporary poets:
and there are plenty more
Anything by Rudyard Kipling
I do believe he could do without Danny Deever.
Hands down, my favorite poet is Robert Frost.
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift,
The road is forlorn all day,
Where a myriad snowy quartz stones lift,
And the hoof-prints vanish away.
The roadside flowers, too wet for the bee,
Expend their bloom in vain.
Come over the hills and far with me,
And be my love in the rain.
The birds have less to say for themselves
In the wood-world’s torn despair
Than now these numberless years the elves,
Although they are no less there:
All song of the woods is crushed like some
Wild, easily shattered rose.
Come, be my love in the wet woods; come,
Where the boughs rain when it blows.
There is the gale to urge behind
And bruit our singing down,
And the shallow waters aflutter with wind
From which to gather your gown.
What matter if we go clear to the west,
And come not through dry-shod?
For wilding brooch shall wet your breast
The rain-fresh goldenrod.
Oh, never this whelming east wind swells
But it seems like the sea’s return
To the ancient lands where it left the shells
Before the age of the fern;
And it seems like the time when after doubt
Our love came back amain.
Oh, come forth into the storm and rout
And be my love in the rain.