Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Memorization blog.

Behold the power of Google. Sometime in the miasma of my morning commute, there in my train seat, a poem I'd memorized about 30 years ago, in junior high school, came floating into my mind. Or rather, its first stanza did, since I could remember no more.

I'm not a fanatic believer in enormous rafts of memorization -- leave that to the bards of preliterate places. (Not everyone agrees. I had a chemistry teacher in high school who said, "Now, you don't have to memorize this material. You just have to know it.") Still, a moderate amount of memorization is probably good mental exercise. I don't remember the exact circumstances of how I came to commit this poem to memory, but I'm fairly sure that I wasn't assigned it, but rather was assigned to memorize something, and found it in a some book or other at the Alamo Heights Junior School library.

Only a few years ago, an old memorized piece of verse would have come and gone. But now, with the great search engine, I can spent (waste) a few minutes looking up all of the poem, just using a few words from one of the lines: "shoulder, truculently, bore." In went those words, and out Google spat at least three sites with the poem in toto:

The Angry Man
by Phyllis McGinley

The other day I chanced to meet
An angry man upon the street --
A man of wrath, a man of war,
A man who truculently bore
Over his shoulder, like a lance,
A banner labeled "Tolerance."

And when I asked him why he strode
Thus scowling down the human road,
Scowling, he answered, "I am he
Who champions total liberty --
Intolerance being, ma'am, a state
No tolerant man can tolerate."

"When I meet rogues," he cried, "who choose
To cherish oppositional views,
Lady, like this, and in this manner,
I lay about me with my banner
Till they cry mercy, ma'am." His blows
Rained proudly on prospective foes.

Fearful, I turned and left him there
Still muttering, as he thrashed the air,
"Let the Intolerant beware!"

I haven't had time to do more than a cursory look into Phyllis McGinley (1904-1978), but apparently she was an American poet from a time when poetry was actually published in popular magazines, and a few poets actually achieved a modicum of popularity (but nothing, I'm sure, like a radio or movie star). She even made it into anthologies for junior high schoolers.


Post a Comment

<< Home