Saturday, 24 January 2015

Reflections on hearing Hiawatha on Radio 4

Years ago, when just a schoolgirl,
For my homework, I learned poems
Off by heart. I would be tested
Standing up before my classmates,
Mocked and pilloried for errors.
Then one day, we all were given
Lines from Hiawatha's Childhood,
And I thought (though young and callow)
"Hiawatha" is a copout!
Not for Longfellow the problems
We all have with finding rhymes for
Words like 'oranges' and 'quietly'.
Not for Longfellow the challenge
Of the limerick or sonnet.
Longfellow has got off lightly!
On and on and on he rambles,
And I thought, there is no reason
Why this soporific poem
Should not ramble on for ever.
On and on and on and on and
On and on and on and
On and on and
On and on
And on.......


  1. Rhyming poetry is easier to memorise. I'm not entirely sure what point there is to learning poetry by heart though. Wouldn't it be better to read lots of different pieces rather than the same one over and over?

    I'm not a poet - maybe that's why I don't get it?

    1. Patsy, you're obviously too young to have had to memorise poetry. However, I've found all those poems I had to learn really useful. I have them to hand, in my head, any time I want them. I re-live them when I feel like it. I really recommend it!

  2. You got eight beats in every line just like Longfellow. But I agree he just rambles, and I cant see the talent in that. I will admit to knowing nothing about him until I looked him up.

    1. Maggie, Hiawatha is quite pleasant, but that rhythm sends me to sleep...zzz...

  3. I have the memory span of....I forget what. Apart from some lines of poetry (and Collects and Epistles etched on my memory by the threat of violence of a 'Christian' prep school) I have no ability to memorise verse.

    1. I doubt whether I could do it now, Graham, but am o glad I had to at the time. It's stood me in good stead.

  4. Like any of the arts. I enjoy some and hate other examples poetry is no exception.
    I used to love the Liverpool Beat Poets.
    I can remember having to memorise Longfellow and dozens of other long rambling poems. Awful it was. I disliked school.
    I never fail to be impressed by your Poetry.

    I have always liked this piece.

    Gust becos I cud not spel
    It did not mean I was daft
    When the boys in school red my riting
    Some of them laffed

    But now I am the dictater
    They have to rite like me
    Utherwise they cannot pas
    Ther GCSE

    Some of the girls were ok
    But those who laffed a lot
    Have al bean rownded up
    And hav recintly bean shot

    The teecher who corrected my speling
    As not been shot at al
    But four the last fifteen howers
    As bean standing up against a wal

    He has to stand ther until he can spel
    Figgymisgrugifooniyn the rite way
    I think he will stand ther for ever
    I just inventid it today

    Brian Patten.

    1. And I thought you'd written that yourself, Adrian. It's

    2. Yes. I like artists who think like I do but express what I'm thinking better.
      Brian Patten I enjoy more than Roger McGough

    3. Roger McGough can be good but is a bit too polished for me. Brian Patten has written some crap but when he was young did well.
      I must start buying poetry again as I enjoy the medium.

  5. Mostly I enjoyed my school days; but several things are still a nightmare, one of which was having to learn poems by heart. My mother was an actress, and could learn huge swathes of lines without any effort at all.

    1. Ah, but were you really trying, Cro? As the mother of three sons, I found boys to be quite exceptionally idle.

    2. Very true; especially in MY case.

  6. Great way to get your point across, Frances!

  7. As we used to say in Texas when I was a boy:

    You're a poet
    And don't know it
    But your feet sure do show it
    'Cause they're Longfellows.