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Readers Respond: The First Poem I Ever Knew by Heart

Responses: 15

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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!

“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.)
—Leafmann

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

Unknown

Johnny dear, / And did you hear / The news that’s going round? / Shamrocks are forbid by law / To grow on Irish ground.
—Guest jbqdgq

“Mice”

I think mice are nice. / Their tails are long, their face is small. / They haven’t any cheeks at all. / Their ears are pink, their teeth are white. / They run about the house at night. / They nibble things they shouldn’t touch / and no one seems to like them much, / but I think mice are nice.
—Guest RawArtWork

“The Owl and the Pussycat”

“The Owl and the Pussycat” (written by Edward Lear) was the first poem that I memorized and loved. It was a class assignment: memorize a poem. I must have been around 6 or 7 years old and I wanted to be prepared in case the teacher called my name in class. I was terrified of public speaking and terribly shy (I still am); as an adult, I have never read my own poems aloud to anyone. But when I was a young girl, that one time, I was frightfully prepared and very proud that I chose a fairly long poem. Unfortunately, the teacher never called my name, but that poem has always been creatively dwelling in my head and represented one thing: the agony of being brave.
—Guest Mary Hamrick

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

I had always believed that I knew “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” by heart. I had never read it. I grew up listening to it from other children and caretakers. I hadn't begun to learn how to read when it became a permanent fixture in my mind! When I walk with my dog at night, it often runs through my mind unconsciously. Today I have read it here for the first time. Unfortunately, my childhood memory has now been altered.
—Guest

“Hey Diddle Diddle”

I suppose that this was my first poem. I ate out of a plate that had a picture of a cat playing a violin, a cow jumping over the moon, and a dish and spoon running hand and hand. I have the plate still. I keep in on my dressing table in my bedroom.
—ColetteGigi

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