Memorizing Poetry

We tend to do poetry in passionate bursts and then leave it for a while. Without fail though, our children get their very first poem to memorize when they are around 4 years old:

Happy Thought

By Robert Louis Stevenson

The world is so full of a number of things,

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

It is always this one.

It’s simple and easy and beautiful and I love it. It brings me joy to see older siblings say, “Hey, I remember that poem!”

The younger kids often get their poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.verses.jpg

Such charming illustrations.


So sweet. So wholesome.

Sometime around 4th grade my kids get Paul Revere’s Ride by Longfellow as an assignment. They are always quite daunted but one stanza at a time they knock it out, and gain a real sense of pride in the process.

Those are our mainstays. The rest of the time I let them choose what they’d like to memorize. The older kids usually study the poem as well. Why this word and not another?

One child chose the Anima Christi to memorize which is a beautiful and very old prayer. She chose the translation by John Henry Newman which has a better cadence than some of the other translations:


SOUL of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ’s side, wash out my stains;
Passion of Christ, my comfort be;
O good Jesu, listen to me;
In thy wounds I fain would hide,
Ne’er to be parted from Thy side;
Guard me, should the foe assail me;
Call me when my life shall fail me;
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end. Amen.

We’ve used the classic The Harp and Laurel Wreath to choose our poems many times.

One of the wonderful things about having so many children is that by the time everyone has memorized their poems, they also know everyone else’s because they’ve heard it so many times! We have even played games, naturally, going around in a circle saying one word/line at a time.

What are your favorite poems to memorize?