Poems for memorization and reading aloud
Fall 2010 and Spring 2011
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(Click on US for a reading of the poem in American English, or on RP for a reading in standard British English
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1. Limericks
2. For each ecstatic instant  
Emily Dickinson
That she forgot me was the least  Emily Dickinson
Debtor  Sara Teasdale
5. Im happiest when most away  
Emily Brontë
6. The Dreariest Journey  Percy Bysshe Shelley
7. As the Ruin Falls  C. S. Lewis

8. The Nose on Your Face  Susan Browne
two nights before my 72nd birthday  Charles Bukowski

10. Alone With Everybody  Charles Bukowski
11. maggie and milly and molly and may E. E. Cummings
On the Ning Nang Nong  Spike Milligan
13. Alone  Edgar Allan Poe
Across The Red Sky  Katherine Mansfield

    US      RP

There was a young student of Kent
Who worked doubled up in a tent.
When his friends asked "Why so?"
He replied "I don't know,
I suppose its my scholarly bent."


An avid sightseer named Bernie,
quite sotted set out on a journey.
Fell asleep at the wheel
of his automobile
and took his last trip on a gurney.

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2. For each ecstatic instant    US    RP
Emily Dickinson
  American (1830-86)


For each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstasy.

For each beloved hour
Sharp pittances of years,
Bitter contested farthings
And coffers heaped with tears.

3. That she forgot me was the least    US    RP
Emily Dickinson   American (1830-86)

That she forgot me was the least,
I felt it second pain,
That I was worthy to forget
What most I thought upon.

Faithful, was all that I could boast,
But Constancy became,
To her, by her innominate,
A something like a shame.

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4. Debtor    US    RP
Sara Teasdale  American  (1884-1933)

So long as my spirit still
Is glad of breath
And lifts its plumes of pride
In the dark face of death;
While I am curious still
Of love and fame,
Keeping my heart too high
For the years to tame,
How can I quarrel with fate
Since I can see
I am a debtor to life,
Not life to me?

5. Im happiest when most away
   US    RP

Emily Brontë  English  (1818-1848)
Not as good a bio:
Better bios: 1. Wikipedia
2. The Literature Network

I'm happiest when most away
I can bear soul from its home of clay
On a windy night when the moon is bright
And the eye can wander through worlds of light.

When I am not and none beside
Nor earth nor sea nor cloudless sky
But only spirit wandering wide
Through infinite immensity.

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6. The Dreariest Journey    US    RP
http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2010/08/22 (with audio)
Percy Bysshe Shelley  English (1792-1822)

I never was attached to that great sect,
Whose doctrine is, that each one should select
Out of the crowd a mistress or a friend,
And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend
To cold oblivion, though it is the code
Of modern morals, and the beaten road
Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread,
By the broad highway of the world, and so
With one chained friend, perhaps a jealous foe,
The dreariest and the longest journey go.

7. As the Ruin Falls    US     RP
C.S. Lewis (Clive Staples Lewis)  English  (1898-1963)

All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love - a scholar's parrot may talk Greek -
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

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8. The Nose on Your Face    US    RP
http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2010/08/28 (with audio)
Susan Browne  American

In all your life, you will never see your actual face.
If you close one eye, you can gaze
at the side of your nose, but that's it.
Is that why when looking at group photographs,
it's yourself you stare at the longest?
Sometimes you're mistaken for someone else,
And you want to meet her, see for yourself yourself,
but even if you met a gang of doppelgangers,
you will continue searching in hubcaps, sauce pans,
toasters, the backs of spoons, the bases of lamps,
in sunglasses, in another person's eyes,
and if that person is standing in just the right light,
there you are, trying to get closer.

In class we mentioned a chapter in the classical Chinese novel
The Dream of the Red Chamber ӹ in which Jia Baoyu _
learns that he has a doppelganger, and how an uncovered mirror
near his bed causes him to dream about it.
This part of the story is in the last nine paragraphs of chapter 56:


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9. two nights before my 72nd birthday    US    RP
http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2010/08/16 (with audio)
Charles Bukowski  
American (1920-1994)

sitting here on a boiling hot night while
drinking a bottle of cabernet sauvignon
after winning $232 at the track.
there's not much I can tell you except
if it weren't for my bad right leg
I don't feel much different than I did
30 or 40 years ago (except that
now I have more money and should be able
to afford a decent
burial). also,
I drive better automobiles and have
stopped carrying a
I am still looking for a hero, a role model,
but can't find one.
I am no more tolerant of Humanity
than I ever was.
I am not bored with myself and find
that I am the only one I can
turn to in time of
I've been ready to die for decades and
I've been practicing, polishing up
for that end
but it's very
hot tonight
and I can think of little but
this fine cabernet,
that's gift enough for me.
sometimes I can't
believe I've come this far,
this has to be some kind of goddamned
just another old guy
blinking at the forces,
smiling a little,
as the cities tremble and the left
hand rises,

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10. Alone With Everybody    US    RP
Charles Bukowski  
American (1920-1994)

the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
but keep
crawling in and out
of beds.
flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than

there's no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular

nobody ever finds
the one.

the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill

nothing else

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11. maggie and milly and molly and may    US    RP
E.E. Cummings
(Edward Estlin Cummings)  American (1894-1962)


maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

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12. On the Ning Nang Nong    US    RP
Spike Milligan
(Terence Alan Patrick Sean Milligan)  Irish (1918-2002)

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There's a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can't catch 'em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

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13. Alone     US    RP
Edgar Allan Poe American (1809-1849)

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

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14. Across The Red Sky    US    RP
Katherine Mansfield (Beauchamp)
New Zealander/English (1888-1923)

Across the red sky two birds flying,
Flying with drooping wings.
Silent and solitary their ominous flight.
All day the triumphant sun with yellow banners
Warred and warred with the earth, and when she yielded
Stabbed her heart, gathered her blood in a chalice,
Spilling it over the evening sky.
When the dark plumaged birds go flying, flying,
Quiet lies the earth wrapt in her mournful shadow,
Her sightless eyes turned to the red sky
And the restlessly seeking birds.

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Readings in General American by Karen Chung;
readings in standard British English (RP) by Colin R. Whiteley.