Poems for Memorization
Spring 2009
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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)


1. Choosing Shoes   Frida Wolfe
2. Three Songs of Shattering Edna St. Vincent Millay

To his Book   Robert Herrick
Invictus   William Ernest Henley

5. Spring Song  Robert Louis Stevenson
6. Sanctuary   Elinor Wylie
7. The Oven Bird   
Robert Frost
8. There Are Delicacies  Earle Birney

Choosing Shoes
   US    RP
Frida Wolfe

New shoes, new shoes,
Red and pink and blue shoes.
Tell me, what would you choose,
If they'd let us buy?

Buckle shoes, bow shoes,
Pretty pointy-toe shoes,
Strappy, cappy low shoes;
Let's have some to try.

Bright shoes, white shoes,
Dandy-dance-by-night shoes,
Perhaps-a-little-tight shoes,
Like some? So would I.

Flat shoes, fat shoes,
Stump-along-like-that shoes,
Wipe-them-on-the-mat shoes,
That's the sort they'll buy.

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2. Three Songs of Shattering    US    RP
Edna St. Vincent Millay   American (1892-1950)
Recordings of Edna St. Vincent Milly reading her poems

The first rose on my rose-tree
Budded, bloomed, and shattered,
During sad days when to me
Nothing mattered.

Grief of grief has drained me clean;
Still it seems a pity
No one saw, - it must have been
Very pretty.

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3. To his Book    US    RP
Robert Herrick
    English (1591-1648)

Make haste away, and let one be
A friendly patron unto thee;
Lest, rapt from hence, I see thee lie
Torn for the use of pastery;
Or see thy injured leaves serve well
To make loose gowns for mackarel;
Or see the grocers, in a trice,
Make hoods of thee to serve out spice.

4. Invictus    US    RP
William Ernest Henley
  English (1849-1903)

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.

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5. Spring Song    US    RP
Robert Louis Stevenson
  Scottish (1850-1894)

The air was full of sun and birds,
The fresh air sparkled clearly.
Remembrance wakened in my heart
And I knew I loved her dearly.

The fallows and the leafless trees
And all my spirit tingled.
My earliest thought of love, and Spring's
First puff of perfume mingled.

In my still heart the thoughts awoke,
Came lone by lone together -
Say, birds and Sun and Spring, is Love
A mere affair of weather?

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6. Sanctuary    US    RP
Elinor Wylie
 American (1885-1928)

This is the bricklayer; hear the thud
Of his heavy load dumped down on stone.
His lustrous bricks are brighter than blood,
His smoking mortar whiter than bone.
Set each sharp-edged, fire-bitten brick
Straight by the plumb-line's shivering length;
Make my marvelous wall so thick
Dead nor living may shake its strength.
Full as a crystal cup with drink
Is my cell with dreams, and quiet, and cool. ...
Stop, old man! You must leave a chink;
How can I breathe? You can't, you fool!

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7. The Oven Bird    US    RP
Robert Frost
  American (1874-1963)

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

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8. There Are Delicacies    US    RP
Earle Birney
  Canadian (1904-1995)

there are delicacies in you
like the hearts of watches
there are wheels that turn
on the tips of rubies
& tiny intricate locks

i need your help
to contrive keys
there is so little time
even for the finest
of watche

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