Memorizing passages of great poetry and literature offers a myriad of benefits to a man. So it's time to start getting into the habit of strengthening our memorization muscles. To do so, your task today is to memorize the poem "If."
During the last week of class of my eighth grade year in school, our teacher, Mr. Edwards, assigned the task of memorizing Invictus by William Ernest Henley, To this day I can still remember what he said before he recited the poem and handed out our copies of it: "At some time in your life, you won't know when or how, but at some time, you will be tested. If you can remember the message of this poem, you will successfully past your test, whatever it is".
He was right, and I still remember the poem:
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've not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeoning of chance,
My head is bloody but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the horror of the shade.
The menace of the years finds,
And shall find me unafraid.
For it matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my fate
I am the Captain of my soul>
My father and grandfather have quoted "If" to me regularly to me through my childhood and teenage years - and as I started writing in my newly rebooted journal the other day, I found myself thinking of it regularly. This shouldn't be too hard !
Regarding tips on how to memorize data, I wrote an Instructable on memory palaces a while ago for the SuperStruct series. The method can seem a little exotic (ok, it really is), but I can testify that it works if you dedicate the time.
This is a great idea -- I think many of us memorized passages in high school or college, but failed to review them over the years. If you're like me, a random snippet floats through your consciousness from time to time, and you struggle to remember who wrote it or what the next line is.
In college I used a dry-erase marker to write information to be memorized on my bathroom mirror. I reviewed it when brushing my teeth, shaving, flossing, etc. As information started to stick, I simply erased what I knew & left what I still needed to review.
This passage is a bit long for that technique, so I copied it into my journal, where I can review it regularly.
As an aside, I also printed a copy and cut the margins down so the paper is roughly 4"x6" ... I had the crazy idea to tape it on the backside of one of the stall doors in the restroom at work. Wonder who will notice & what reaction they'll have?
The ancient Hebrews were excellent at memorizing too. They not only memorized the Torah but what past rabbi has said about what the past rabbi had said about a past rabbi had said about a Bible passage.
I just downloaded a few copies of "If" as mp3 files, and will listen to them in the car this evening. A two hour solo ride should be enough to get it down.
Thanks everyone for sharing other favorites poems and quotes. Some bring back memories and others I want to check out. The two I can't shake from my head:
"Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valient never taste of death but once."
"Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold; For a cap and bells our lives we pay"
A friend of mine a graduate of Tuskegee could quote "IF" on demand. He said that it was part of the freshman must do list. Any upper class man had the obligation to stop the freshmen and quiz them on "IF". I have since then worked on memorizing it and made it a part of schooling for my three sons. It is time to revive and old friend so I have sent it to my sons now in college to "Man up" and memorize it again for the very first time.
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