Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Poetry of Our Lives Redux: Some of My Pieces

It seems that several of us memorized the first lines of the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales at one point or another in our educational careers!  I started writing down some of the bits and pieces of poetry that figure in some of my thinking on a regular basis, and discovered that I have a lot of first lines.  I guess that Beatles songs are the only genre I've memorized in their entirety!

Take a guess, or add your own:

In the middle of my life I found myself in a dark wood . . .

Because I do not hope to turn again . . .

Hope is the thing with feathers . . . 

After great pain a formal feeling comes . . .

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting . . .

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy . . .

Words, words, words . . .

A cold coming we had of it . . .

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame . . .

Those are pearls that were his eyes . . . (you can get credit for two here)

I will take a crowbar and pry out the broken pieces of God in me . . .

[Life] is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing . . .

(Image: John W. Waterhouse, Miranda in The Tempest - 1916)


  1. I caught this morning, morning's minion . . .

    Margaret, are you grieving over golden grove unleaving . . .

    The world is chaged with the grandeur of God, it will flame out like shining from shook foil . . .

    I love the Jesuits, too. Before God promised me I could come back as a lesbian, she promised me I could come back as a Jesuit.

  2. Oh, JC, I love all of those!

  3. I love poetry and love all these lines, but I don't think I have any memorized. May steal some of yours.

  4. I recognize Mary Oliver and Wm Shakespeare. xoxo

  5. And Dante, and Emily Dickinson.

  6. I still have "tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace..." in my head from high school, along with "two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both..." and "home is that place, where, when you go there, they have to take you in..."

    This is fun. Thanks Robin!

  7. Well, I (of course) recognize Mary Oliver and Shakespear...but I really love, "I will take a crowbar and pry out the broken pieces of God in me . . ." ok, maybe love is the wrong word....But I get that one, totally!

  8. Ok, here is one of my all-time favorite first lines, but it's not from a poem, it's from a novel:

    "Five friends I had, and two of them were snakes."

    Do you know it?

    And it's too funny that so many of us had to memorize Chaucer.

    P.S. My word verification is "forkin." Doesn't that sound like Middle English?

  9. Had to look it up Ruth - and I don't think I've ever read it, although I have read tons of his nonfiction.

  10. If anyone cares:
    T.S. Eliot
    Emily Dickinson
    Emily Dickinson
    Mary Oliver
    T.S. Eliot
    Gerard Manley Hopkins
    Shakespeare/T.S. Eliot
    Anne Sexton
    Shakespeare (Picked up by William Faulkner as a novel title)

  11. Whose woods these are I think I know...

    Your last quote is one of my very favorites. It's an interesting and familiar list.

  12. Thanks for the list :)

    I'm with Mompriest - I find the "crowbar" image compelling.

    "Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
    As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
    That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
    Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new."

    "I know a lot of fancy words.
    I tear them from my heart and my tongue.
    Then I pray."

  13. Here are two of my favorites:

    My faith is a great weight hung on a small wire, as doth the spider hang her baby on a thin web

    Tonight, I can write the saddest lines. Write, for example, "The night is starry and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance...

    (Anne Sexton's Small Wire and a translation of Pablo Neruda's "Poema XX").