Poem Memory Tip # 7

Some poems contain a line that seems almost perfect.  Or if not perfect, at least rare, clever, beautiful, and therefore, completely memorable.  I recently finished memorizing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 99 and recited it to my bride on our 3oth wedding anniversary this past week.  The poem’s theme is familiar: the sight of something beautiful, in this case flowers, reminds the poet of his love.  In fact, he can’t even see or smell flowers without being reminded of her and in fact, finding her superior to any of them.  Robert Burns’ poem, Of A’ the Airts, conveys the same theme.

Here are the first five lines of Sonnet 99.

The forward violet thus did I chide:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love’s breath?  The purple pride
which on the soft cheek for complexion dwells
In my love’s veins thou hast too grossly died.

Line two is an example of a rare, lovely line.  Its structure and melody, its rhythm and flow make it easy to remember.  It almost memorizes itself.  First, it contains ten syllables, just what you’d expect from a sonnet.  Second, it fits a rhyme scheme (smells and dwells).  But the almost magical part is the interplay of S and Th.  Except for the words whence and didst, every word begins with either S or Th.  The last six words alternate Th with S and form a kind of melody.  When memorizing a line like this, it helps to know the pattern.  And if, while memorizing, you get stuck on a particular word, you can at least know that it starts with an S or a Th.

Memorize a poem.  Discover a perfect sentence.  Make your bride smile.

About literarylee

I sling words for a living. Always have, always will. Some have been interesting and fun; most not. These days, I write the fun words early in the morning before the adults are up and make me eat my Cream of Wheat.
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