A cure for sleeplessness and other things...

These days, in Northern Italy, when it is too hot and muggy to sleep I simply get up. But in the other three seasons I have a method for getting back to sleep which sometimes work...

I've been learning poems by heart, started off by this book:

...and trying to remember the poems as I lie awake in the middle of the night can sometimes get me back to oblivion. Sleep is important, so I say to myself that I can only get the "reward" of getting up once I've recited, in my mind, all the poems I know. Often I don't get to the end of the list before I'm back in the land of Nod.

Actually I do not know any of the poems in that book, I've ended up choosing my own. It has taken me two years to learn 10 poems. Almost all of them have both rhyme and rhythm, much modern poetry seems self indulgent, deliberately obscure and without any artistic discipline.

So here's my choice, not in any particular order.
  1. Tiger by William Blake.
  2. The Peasant Poet by John Clare.
  3. Ozymandias by Percy Shelley.
  4. Lift Not The Painted Veil by Percy Shelley.
  5. She Walks In Beauty Like The Night by Lord Byron. 
  6. The Eagle by Lord Tennyson.
  7. And Death Shall Have No Dominion by Dylan Thomas.
  8. The Rubaiyat of Omar Kayam. (the first three verses)
  9. Xanadu by Samuel Coleridge (the first 20 lines or so)
  10. Our revels now are over, Shakespeare.
Apart from the joy and mystery within these poems, knowing them has two other advantages:
  1. I can check if my memory is still working.
  2. While waiting for something (the end of a train journey, a plane departure,...) I can recite them to myself. (This is much more mentally active than, for example, reading stuff from the Internet (apart from this blog of course).)
I will learn more poems, Emily Dicksinson will be next I think.

I learned the Shelley poems from a book my Mum got from her parents, Christmas 1936: 


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