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Readers Respond: The First Poem I Ever Knew by Heart

Responses: 20


From the article: Classic Nursery Rhymes
Poems are often among our earliest memories—the lullabyes, counting games, riddles and rhymed fables that introduce us to the rhythmic, mnemonic, allegorical uses of language in songs sung to us by our mothers. What’s the first poem you really knew? Share it, please! Share Yours.

“The Witch”

“I saw her plucking cowslips and marked her where she stood, she never knew I watched her while hiding in the wood. ” (Anyone remember the rest?) GUIDE NOTE: I can’t vouch for it 100% because I’ve never seen it in print or even found a date of publication, but this poem is posted in several places on the Internet: THE WITCH I saw her plucking cowslips, / And marked her where she stood: / She never knew I watched her / While hiding in the wood. // Her skirt was brightest crimson, / And black her steeple hat, / Her broomstick lay beside her— / I’m positive of that. // Her chin was sharp and pointed, / Her eye were—I don’t know— / For, when she turned towards me— / I thought it best—to go! // by Percy H. Hott
—Guest doris

Pat A Cake

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man. / Bake me a cake as fast as you can; / Pat it and prick it and mark it with an A, / Put it in the oven for Amber and me. GUIDE NOTE: The original of this personalized poem is at http://poetry.about.com/od/poems/l/blpatacake.htm.

The first poem I memorized...

that I read in school was Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Eagle.” I found it very vivid and I enjoyed the drama of it. I probably also loved that it rhymed. GUIDE NOTE: You can read “The Eagle: A Fragment” here—http://poetry.about.com/od/poemsbytitlee/l/bltennysontheeagle.htm.
—Guest lkw787

In Flanders Fields

The first poem I had to memorize was titled “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrae. I was in first grade and the teacher asked me to say this poem on stage during a presentation. GUIDE NOTE: Read this most famous rondeau of World War I here—http://poetry.about.com/od/poems/l/blmccraewar.htm.
—Guest diannealvine

Again Emily

It was “Success is counted sweetest,” etc., no title that I can recall. I was sports editor of the school newspaper and wanted to use it in a story. The sponsor didn't think it appropriate for a sports page. GUIDE NOTE: The text of this poem is at http://poetry.about.com/od/poemsbytitles/l/bldickinsonsuccess.htm.
—Guest Joe Turner

“My Shadow”

It’s been 64 years, but I can still recall my first-grade class reciting in unison Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “My Shadow.” When we stumbled on a word, Sister Ladislau would prompt us! “I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me / And what can be the use of him is more than I can see...”
—Guest Salvatore Buttaci

“Because I could not stop for Death”

Given my poetic sensibilities, it’s odd that I didn’t really memorise a poem until my mid-30’s—and I didn’t really do it on purpose. I found Emily (the second time) by accident, and this is, perhaps, the best way. As for this particular poem, I just kept going back to it, and realised one day that I actually knew it by heart. (Note from your Guides: You can find “Because I could not stop for Death” here: http://poetry.about.com/od/poems/l/bldickinsonbecause.htm.)

Interesting to Say

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Old Roger is Dead” were my first poems.... and as a growing child then, I will always look forward to seeing the star at night and singing to it.... while “Old Roger is Dead” keeps reminding me that greediness kills.
—Guest Precious Osaya

My Shadow

Apparently, I was already enamored with the idea of casting a long personal memory--especially one that moved!
—Guest Peggy Carr

“Twins” by Henry S. Leigh

Don’t know why I was so captivated by this as a child - but - In form and feature / face and limb / I grew so like my brother / That folks got taking me for him, / and each for one another. // It puzzled all my kith and kin / It reached an awful pitch / For one of us was born a twin / Yet not a soul knew which. // One day to make the matter worse / Before our names were fixed, / As we were being washed by nurse / We got completely mixed. // And thus you see by fate’s decree / or rather Nurse’s whim, / My brother John got christened me, / And I got christened him. // This fatal likeness even dogged / My footsteps when at school, / And I was always getting flogged / For John turned out a fool. // I put this question, fruitlessly, / To everyone I knew, / “What would you do, if you were me, / To prove that you were you?” // Our close resemblance turned the tide / Of my domestic life, / For somehow, my intended bride / Became my brother’s wife. // In fact, year after year the same / Absurd mistakes went on, / And when I died, the neighbors came / And buried brother John. //
—Guest pat

“Silver” by Walter De La Mare

Slowly, silently, now the moon / Walks the night in her silver shoon: / This way and that she peers, and sees / Silver fruit upon silvrt trees; / One by one the casements catch / Her beams beneath the silvery thatch; / Crouched in his kenel, like a log / With paws of silver sleeps the dog; / From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep / Of doves in a silvered-feathered sleep; / A harvest mouse goes scampering by, / With silver claws and silver eye; / And moveless fish in the water gleam / By silver reeds in a silver stream. // I loved this at school.
—Guest Kath

I remember my first poem

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”... Also one in hindi which all schools in India still teach: “machhali jal ki rani hai”
—Guest teena

“Johnny Johnny Yes Papa”

What I like about this poem is its interaction between father and son.
—Guest Vyomesh

“My Country” by Dorothea Mackellar

“I love a sunburnt country, / A land of sweeping plains” (Note from Poetry Guide Margy Snyder: You can read the entire poem at the Dorothea Mackellar Web site, http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/.)
—Guest David

Wallace Wood Strikes

The first significant poem I memorized—from Wallace Wood, cartoonist extraordinaire: It seems a singular twist of fate / Has made the urge to procreate / So strong in all who now draw breath / That we may soon kid ourselves to death
—Guest Ed

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The First Poem I Ever Knew by Heart

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