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Poll: Can you quote literary passages from books or poetry by memory?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 19:04
Sep 23, 2009

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Can you quote literary passages from books or poetry by memory?".

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Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:04
German to English
+ ...
The Witch had a Cat Sep 23, 2009

.. and a very tall hat,
and long ginger hair
that she wore in a plait.
How the witch wailed
and how the cat spat,
when the wind blew so wildly
it blew off her hat.

Does this count? I know whole children's books off by heart. Also a few chunks of more erudite poetry, primarily Shakespeare, by virtue of having been made to learn it all off by heart at school oh so many years ago!


Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
French to English
+ ...
Drilled in at school Sep 23, 2009

Like Mary, I had to memorise Shakespeare all through high school and I can still soliloquise from Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, and Macbeth, at least.

My personal favourite is, "Fie, fie! Unknit that threatening unkind brow, And dart not scornful glances from those eyes, To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor..." (Kate in The Taming of the Shrew).

Taking after my mother who performs it at least once a year, I used to be able to make it through Robert Service's The Cremation of Sam McGee, but I don't know that I could do it now without a bit of practice first.

I love going to readings and recitations, although my partner is about the only person who gets to listen to mine!



Nathalie Reis  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:04
English to French
Paul Verlaine Sep 23, 2009

Il pleure dans mon coeur
Comme il pleut sur la ville;
Quelle est cette langueur
Qui pénètre mon coeur?

I absolutely adored this poem and the symbolists in general.



Dusan Rabrenovic  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
German to Slovenian
+ ...
George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" Sep 23, 2009

As Daenerys Targaryen rose to her feet, her black hissed, pale smoke venting from its mouth and nostrils. The other two pulled away from her breasts and added their voices to the call, translucent wings unfolding and stirring the air, and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.

May not look like much, but ASOIAF is my favorite book series ever, and the cliffhanger ending of volume 1 still makes me sweat. I could probably recite the final two sentences in my sleep.


Marjolein Verhulsdonck-Roest
Local time: 04:04
Member (2009)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Sonnet 18 Sep 23, 2009

by William Shakespeare. I had to learn one sonnet by heart in school. And I can recite a good part of 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' by Keats, but that's about it.
My children listen open-mouthed when I pull this feat, though! (They are my only admiring audience...)

PS Strange, isn't it, how you can still remember those things flawlessly after 25 years (in my case).

[Edited at 2009-09-23 08:53 GMT]


Samantha Payn  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:04
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Pushkin Sep 23, 2009

A couple of chunks of Pushkin, learnt at university and very useful to trot out when people say "Go on, then! Say something in Russian!". My mind always used to go blank at that point, so I learnt something classy to recite.


Antti Pyykkönen  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:04
English to Finnish
+ ...
From Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - 5-part trilogy"... Sep 23, 2009

I can't say if this is a 100 % quote or just my own false memory.
However, I think it caught the idea of the original. I have only read
this series of titles in Finnish.

"If he was asked at that moment where he would have wanted to be, he would
probably have said he would like to be on an island with at least 50 beautiful
women and a small team of experts..."

This quote, although in a slightly German-sounding English form,
also appears on one classic techno track from Jam & Spoon, the name
of which I unfortunately do not remember right now.


Laura Miccoli  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
Spanish to Italian
+ ...
Dante Alighieri (just to share an example) Sep 23, 2009

Being Italian, when I was a student I had to memorize the incipit of Dante Alighieri's "Divina Commedia":

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

...and a lot of Italian poems by Leopardi, Foscolo, D'Annunzio, etc...


Ivette Camargo López  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
English to Spanish
+ ...
Rather bits and pieces Sep 23, 2009

As some have commented, I am also from the times when you had to memorize poems to recite in front of the class, but I can't say I actually memorized them, because I remember mostly the embarassment part...icon_frown.gif

Anyway, I remember bits and pieces of many poems, like:

Romance de la luna (Federico García Lorca)

La luna vino a la fragua
con su polisón de nardos
el niño la mira mira
el niño la está mirando

Cantares (Antonio Machado)

Todo pasa y todo queda
pero lo nuestro es pasar
pasar haciendo caminos
caminos sobre la mar

(I actually remember most of this poem, since a very known Catalonian/Spanish singer/composer called Joan Manuel Serrat put music to some of Machado's poems.)

Marcha triunfal (Rubén Darío)

Ya viene el cortejo,
ya viene el cortejo, ya se oyen los claros clarines

Piececitos (Gabriela Mistral)

Piececitos de niño,
azulosos de frío

The tyger (William Blake)

Tyger, tyger burning bright
in the forests of the night,
what immortal hand or eye
could frame thy fearful symmetry?

And sometimes I also remember parts of plays, like from L'annonce faite à Marie, from Paul Claudel:

Ô ma fiancée à travers les branches en fleurs, salut

Etc. etc. (just wanted to share some of my favorites).

Amazing how your brain's "hard disk" seems to be so selective about certain things.

icon_confused.gif (Ivette)


Anke Formann  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
E. A. Poe Sep 23, 2009

I admire him, his poetry, and anything else he has ever written. I wrote my thesis in defense of him, pointing out that he was nothing but a victim of circumstances and the fact that in the pioneer spirit and atmosphere of departure in the United States in those days people just could not identify themselves with his rather solemn, yet very witty and well composed pieces.

I adore the way he plays with words, which is why I keep reading some of his poems again and again, I just cannot get enough of them. On top of all, there is of course his masterpiece, The Raven:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered week and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'...


[Bearbeitet am 2009-09-23 11:08 GMT]


Amélie Ragot  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
English to French
+ ...
La Fontaine Sep 23, 2009

I had to learn off by heart quite a few of La Fontaine's Fables when I was at primary school. One of them was The Grasshopper and the Ant, originally La Cigale et la Fourmi:

La Cigale ayant chanté
Tout l'été
Se trouva fort dépourvue
Quant la bise fut venue :
Pas un seul petit morceau
De mouche ou de vermisseau.
Elle alla crier famine
Chez la Fourmi sa voisine,
La priant de lui prêter
Quelque grain pour subsister
Jusqu'à la saison nouvelle.
Je vous paierai, lui dit-elle,
Avant l'août, foi d'animal,
Inérêt et principal.
La Fourmi n'est pas prêteuse :
C'est là son moindre défaut.
Que faisiez-vous au temps chaud?
Dit-elle à cette emprunteuse.
Nuit et jour à tout venant
Je chantais, ne vous déplaise.
Vous chantiez? J'en suis fort aise :
Eh bien! dansez maintenant.


analytical (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
German to English
+ ...
Robert, Edna and Pete Sep 23, 2009

I shall be telling this with a sigh
somewhere ages and ages hence
two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and I, I took the one less travelled by
and that has made all the difference.

From one of my favourite poems by Robert Frost.

My candle burns at both ends
it will not last the night
but ah, my foes and oh, my friends
it gives a lovely light.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

As in life or revolution
rarely there is a quick solution
anything worthwhile takes a little time.

from the 'Maple Syrup Song' by Pete Seeger

[Edited at 2009-09-24 06:24 GMT]


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I´d better vote no!! Sep 23, 2009

... in this erudite company.

I too had to learn this and that by heart at school. Some of it stuck, some did not.

When I was younger it was a constant source of friction that my mother was an English graduate, and felt at times there was no higher calling than propagating literature, while I hated H.G. Wells and Thomas Hardy, did not really like E.M Forster, and refused to read 'Lark Rise to Candleford', 'Under Milk Wood' and a whole lot of other things on the GCE syllabus at the time. If that was "English", then I was not interested! TV saved me from total illiteracy, and I do read a few novels each year, but no, I don't read many and can't quote them.

I am still "tone deaf" as far as a lot of poetry is concerned, with just a few exceptions.

I managed better with French and German at school, perhaps because we did not discuss the texts so exhaustively (or exhaustinglyicon_biggrin.gif )! However, biographies, travel and non-fiction generally appealed far more. I ploughed my way through school textbooks and library books. But quoting literature?
You do have to read it first!!

I wonder what would have happened if I had not ended up in Denmark. Where of course I only have a disgracefully superficial knowledge of the literature, although I read everything else I can get my hands on!

I am slowly coming round to literature. But no, I can't quote it!


Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Dante and Leopardi in particular Sep 23, 2009

La Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri (first passages)

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita
Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte che nel pensier rinova la paura!
Tant'è amara che poco è più morte;
ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai, dirò de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte.
Io non so ben ridir com'i' v'intrai,
tant'era pien di sonno a quel punto che la verace via abbandonai.

L'infinito by Giacomo Leopardi

Sempre caro mi fu quest'ermo colle,
E questa siepe, che da tanta parte
De l'ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.
Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati
Spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani
Silenzi, e profondissima quiete
Io nel pensier mi fingo, ove per poco
Il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
Odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello
Infinito silenzio a questa voce
Vo comparando: e mi sovvien l'eterno,
E le morte stagioni, e la presente
E viva, e 'l suon di lei. Così tra questa
Infinità s'annega il pensier mio:
E 'l naufragar m'è dolce in questo mare.

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Poll: Can you quote literary passages from books or poetry by memory?

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