Although this is a public domain website, it is also a ‘private anthology’, and wonderful will be the day when I have committed to memory more than a handful of its treasures. These notes and quotes concerning learning things by heart are the ground preparation for a new spate of memorizing.
And as I gear up, I hope you are inspired by Leigh Fermor’s idea of stocking up for a spell on a desert island, or other form of solitude, to do your own learning. See also Molly Peacock’s metaphor for memorizing lines.
At school some learning by heart was compulsory, though not irksome. But this intake was out-distanced many times, as it always is among people who need poetry, by a private anthology, both of those automatically absorbed and of poems consciously chosen and memorized as though one were stocking up for a desert island or a stretch of solitary. (I was at the age when one’s memory for poetry or for languages – indeed for anything – takes impressions like wax and, up to a point, lasts like marble.)
Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts: On foot to Constantinople: from the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 84
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