Lists of Poems to Memorize
For anyone practicing poetry memorization, here is a list of some ideas of poems to memorize:
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson - Tears, Idle Tears
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson - The Charge of the Light Brigade
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson - The Eagle
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson - The Kraken
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson - The Splendor Falls
- Andrew Marvell - The Mower’s Song
- Ben Jonson - To Celia
- Christina Rossetti - An Apple Gathering
- Christina Rossetti - Echo
- Christina Rossetti - Remember
- Christina Rossetti - Up-Hill
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti - The Woodspurge
- Dylan Thomas - Fern Hill
- Edgar Allan Poe - A Dream Within A Dream
- Edgar Allan Poe - Romance
- Edgar Allan Poe - The Raven
- Edgar Allan Poe - To Helen
- Edmund Waller - Go, lovely rose!
- Edna St. Vincent Millay - Sonnet
- Edwin Arlington Robinson - The House on the Hill
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning - A Musical Instrument
- Emily Bronté - Stanzas
- Emily Dickinson - Because I could not stop for Death
- Emily Dickinson - Hope is the Thing with Feathers
- Emily Dickinson - If those I loved were lost
- Emily Dickinson - There is another sky
- Emma Lazarus - The New Colossus
- Ezra Pound - A Girl
- George Herbert - Love (III)
- George Herbert - The World
- Gerard Manley Hopkins - Spring and Fall
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - A Psalm of Life
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Snow-Flakes
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - The Builders
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - This is the forest primeval… (from Evangeline)
- John Donne - At the round earths imagin’d corners
- John Donne - Break of Day
- John Donne - Death be not Proud
- John Donne - No Man is an Island
- John Keats - La Belle Dame sans Merci
- John Keats - Ode to a Nightingale
- John Keats - On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
- John Keats - To Autumn
- On Shakespeare. 1630 - John Milton
- John Milton - When I Consider How My Light Is Spent
- Kenneth Rexroth - Andrée Rexroth
- Langston Hughes - Life Is Fine
- Lewis Carroll - Jabberwocky
- Lord Byron - She walks in beauty
- Lord Byron - So we’ll go no more a roving
- Maya Angelou - Caged Bird
- Maya Angelou - Touched by An Angel
- Oliver Wendell Holmes - The Chambered Nautilus
- Percy Bysshe Shelley - Ozymandias
- Ralph Waldo Emerson - Brahma
- Raymond Carver - Happiness
- Richard Lovelace - To Althea, from Prison
- Robert Frost - Mending Wall
- Robert Frost - Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
- Robert Frost - The Road not Taken
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Kubla Khan
- Sara Teasdale - I’m not Yours
- Stephen Crane - Fast rode the knight
- Ted Kooser - A Birthday Poem
- Thomas Carew - Ask me no more where Jove bestows
- Trumbull Stickney - Mnemosyne
- T. S. Eliot - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
- Walt Whitman - A noiseless patient spider
- W. B. Yeats - Sailing to Byzantium
- William Blake - The Tyger
- William Butler Yeats - The Cloths of Heaven
- William Butler Yeats - The Second Coming
- William Ernest Henley - Invictus
- William Shakespeare - All the World’s a Stage
- William Shakespeare - Blow, blow, thou winter wind
- William Shakespeare - Sonnets, 18, 55, 29, 116, and others
- William Wordsworth - A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal
- William Wordsworth - Character of the Happy Warrior
- William Wordsworth - Composed upon Westminster Bridge
- William Wordsworth - I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
You can find the text of the poems from a web search, on Gutenberg, or at a library or book store.
If the list above seems overwhelming and you want a shorter list to choose from, try memorizing one of these poems:
- So we’ll go no more a roving by Lord Byron
- Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- All the world’s a stage by Shakespeare
You can also suggest ideas or ask questions in our forum thread on more ideas for poems to memorize.
Here are some starting points for kids:
- Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face by Jack Prelutsky
- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- Bear In There by Shel Silverstein
- Shel Silverstein - Messy Room
- Edward Lear - The Owl and the Pussy-cat
See also poems for kids.
This article on memorizing poetry is also interesting.
“Memory is a muscle, not a quart jar.”
I’ve been reading poems and learning the structure of poetry, but I haven’t memorized anything, except through brute force while driving around. I just don’t have enough loci yet, since I’m going to need one locus for every line of poetry. I’m working on building more journeys, but it’s going to take a while…
Cole 20 Oct 2021
Great resources! I wish I'd found this website before spending months with (mainly) rote techniques on some of these poems.
One thing that helped me tremendously with both Poe and Service was finding readings of them on youtube. While my loci / mnemonic techniques were quite primitive, the youtube videos provided the following resources:
- the words
- audio queues: some of the readers have terrific voices that can really stick with you
- visual queues: some of the readings videos - ie The Raven - are done on stages of various complexity, while I was unaware of the loci technique when I memorized these poems, I definitely relied on the connection my mind made between verses and locations.
- walks: again, was unaware of loci technique but had plenty of success (esp with shorter poems) just reciting them to myself while walking around my block in Palermo Bs As (in the case of the road not taken).
Here is a link to a wonderful reading of Service's The Cremation of Sam McGee: http://goo.gl/QkNAK
The Robert Frost poems are really great beginning points - first stopping by woods on a snowy evening and then the road not taken.
nelson dellis 20 Oct 2021
Josh 20 Oct 2021
I started reading Robert Service when I was winter camping up in Alberta. Good stuff...
Grim land, dim land, oh, how the vastness calls! Far land, star land, oh, how the stillness falls! For you never can tell if it's heaven or hell, And I'm taking the trail on trust; But I haven't a doubt That my soul will leap out On its Wan-der-lust.
From my experiments with brute force memorization of poetry, I think it's going to be much easier with a journey. I get stuck at certain points and I usually just need a trigger word to remember the next line...
Cole 20 Oct 2021
Dan 20 Oct 2021
IMO here's a better list from Poems to Memorize: http://www.alysion.org/memorablepoems.htm.
The list includes one my (& Churchill and Nelson Mandela) favorites, Invictus:
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.
Cole 20 Oct 2021
That's a great list also. The devil's advocate in me wants to criticize all of the 3 lists for being so Americentric and focusing so much on Romanticism, to the fault of exclusion. But the lists are wonderful starting points, all of them include some great works. I do like the idea of breaking them up into categories based on length/ difficulty / style, as per the first two, and I look forward to helping compile a list like that for our wiki here.
Dan 20 Oct 2021
My fear in memorizing poetry would be my inability to refrain from reciting it to others. I know if someone were to recite it in front of me I would immediately view them as insufferable and pretentious and the whole thing obnoxious. I think I would view it as less tolerable than someone rattling off the names of the starting players from the World Series in 1950, 1951,1952,...
Josh 20 Oct 2021
@Cole Thanks for starting the wiki page! Looks good...
I'm sure that things like storytelling and reciting poetry were common pastimes before television and computers. Today, I don't think
anyone many people would understand -- unless you posted them to YouTube, which probably has a lot of poetry aficionados as users.
Cole 20 Oct 2021
For sure, Josh. Looking forward to spending some more time with that after I finish tonight's last straggler in my present round of exams. I'm inexperienced at building wiki's so hopefully others will lend a hand also.
But on that note, I think it is crucial for the poetry wiki to start out with a very small selection on which to focus, later we can expand the number of wikis relating to poetry and thus also expand the number of poems, but let's not get too crazy too fast! A solid dozen-ish favorites seems like a good preliminary cap. Otherwise the "paradox of choice" may seem overwhelming.
Cole 20 Oct 2021
@Dan - the problematic saving grace about regurgitating poetry in inappropriate (read: pretentious) settings is that poetry tends to take a lot longer to recite properly than it does when you (or at least I) practice it in a rapid-fire mental staccato. I only ever recited the raven to non-intimates on 1 occasion, and those people were still close friends. It took a long time - must have been close to 10 minutes? The result could maybe best be described as a polite blend of interest and annoyance. It about cured me of attempting any repeats. I now view memorized poetry mainly as "furniture for the mind" - a phrase I think Wendell Berry may have coined?
From that perspective, I suppose the only difference between poetry and baseball statistics lies in personal interests and outcomes. Personally, I feel like my mind is already amply full of contemporary statistics and data in the form of CMS systems, mobile device platforms, memory and cpu numbers, even telephone numbers and websites and blah blah blah, not to mention historical data from my studies - to the point that I would rather use my free time for something I personally find more relaxing and restoring. Hopefully that doesn't read as a criticism, it's just what works for me.
Bob 20 Oct 2021
Wow, Robert Service's The Cremation of Sam McGee is turning into a fun challenge. Overlapping references to dogs, sleds and stars. 60 lines is a good mental exercise, especially with a highly structured meter.
Josh 20 Oct 2021
@Cole I think everybody will be memorizing different poems in different order, and it will be hard to limit what which poems people post in the wiki. (There are almost 2,000 visitors per week at the moment and traffic is increasing rapidly.)
One way to organize it might be to split the list of poems into "packets" of maybe 10 poems each. A person could choose a group of poems to work through without being too overwhelmed or limited either...
I'm not sure if this is the best way to organize it, but it's a quick brainstorm of one way to do it:
Beginner Sonnets 1 (10 poems) Sonnets 2 (10 poems) Tales 1 (10 poems) Emily Dickenson 1 (10 poems) etc.
Intermediate Sonnets 3 (10 poems) Tales 2 (10 poems) etc.
I think it would be okay even if the lists overlap a little bit.
Cole 20 Oct 2021
@Josh - You're absolutely right. Making smaller "targets" will allow for more participation while keeping it from getting too crazy. Good thinking.
Chelsea 20 Oct 2021
Juaquin Adams 20 Oct 2021
I agree wholeheartedly with the comments re: "knowing your audience". I memorized Hamlet's soliloquy ("To Be, or Not To Be", etc.), and I have had diametrically opposed responses. Once, at a dinner party, a friend mentioned to the table that I knew the entire thing, and I was "dared" to recite it. I did, and the applause and cheers were raucous. Of course, that got to my head, and a couple weeks later at another restaurant, the topic of memorization came up. I foolishly boasted that I knew the entire soliloquy. Then I stood up and did my thing, only to be pelted with breadsticks, napkins, and sugar packets (even from people across the room!), particularly when I got to such words as "who would fardels bear to grunt and sweat under a weary life". Sometimes we have to simply keep our memorization skills to ourselves.
Curtis Stotlar 20 Oct 2021
I specialize in teaching musical memorization to other pianists. Poetry isn't that far away. Memorization is a skill and as a skill it needs to be practiced. It's helpful to start with smaller things at the beginning, then increase in size. The more sense things mean and how they relate to each other as they follow a thought is invaluable. In other words, the better we know what's going on and why it's happening, the easier the task.
Micah 20 Oct 2021
I must say, I really appreciate your blog, Josh, as I've been working on my own memory here lately. Being able to instantly recall more of my favorite reading really interests me. One web tool I've been working on recently is http://memorytyper.com/, which ia free website folks can use to practice poetry or any other text they're working on memorizing.
liliana 20 Oct 2021
siento que por mi anterior trabajo donde trasnochaba demasiado he perdido mi memoria, me cuesta trabajo memorizar todo, tengo 38 años , esto se puede mejorar con los ejercicios?