Monday, May 27, 2013

Famous Lines - Poetry

I mentioned last week that each famous poem seems to have (at least) one line that really sticks out, that pierces the atmosphere and becomes a part of our culture.  I thought I'd go back through what I've read so far and pick out those lines.

Illiad by Homer - My book only covers the first half dozen lines and none of the phrases jump out at me.
He is More Than a Hero by Sappho - A great poem but nothing seems to have stuck, which is a shame.
Psalm 23 - "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
Song of Songs - Nothing here, or at least nothing on par with Psalm 23.  And my theory is seeming a bit shaky.
Song 5 to Lesbia by Catullus - Another great poem but no quotes that would be readily understood.
The Aeneid by Virgil - "Arms, and the man I sing..."
Metamorphoses by Ovid - Nothing from the section in my book.
Drinking Alone in the Moonlight by Li Po - Still another great poem with nothing.  Maybe in China though.
Moonlit Night by Tu Fu - Same as the previous.
Madly Singing in the Mountains by Po Chu-I - Nothing here, but I am reminded that I need to find a good book of Chinese poetry.  The samples here are fantastic.
Rubyiat 51 by Omar Khayyam - "The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, moves on;"
Inferno by Dante - Nothing from the book, but, as with the other epic poems, this is only the beginning section.
Remembrance by Thomas Wyatt - Nothing here.
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer - Same problem as the other big poems.
The Ballad of Ladies of the Past by Villon - A very nice poem but nothing that has stuck.  Maybe in France?
Sonnet 18 by Shakespeare - "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
Go and Catch a Falling Star by Donne - Same as the title, "Go and catch a falling star"
Song to Celia II by Ben Johnson - "Drink to me only with thine eyes, And I will pledge with mine"
To The Virgins to Make Much of Time by Herrick - "Gather ye rosebuds, while ye may"
Jordan by George Herbert - Nothing here.
When I Consider How my Light is Spent by Milton - "They also serve who only stand and wait"
The Prologue by Anna Bradstreet - No, but the line "Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are" deserves to be well known.
To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace - "Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage"
To His Coy Mistress by Marvell - "Had we but world enough, and time"
An Old Pond by Matsuo Basho - Nothing that stand out.  Off the top of my head, I can't think of any well known haikus.
Epigram: Engraved on the Collar of a Dog... by Pope - This whole thing should be well known but I don't know that it is.
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray - "Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air"
To Jeoffrey His Cat by Christopher Smart - Nothing here.
Amazing Grace by Newton - "Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound"
Tyger! Tyger! by Blake - "Tyger! Tyger! burning bright, In the forests of the night"
To a Mouse by Robert Burns - "The best laid schemes of Mice and Men, Gang aft agley [often go astray]"

Of the 31 poems that I've read through so far, 16 of them had lines that I thought were fairly well known.  Of the other 15, there were a number of epic poems that are known more for their full story than for a turn of phrase.  There were some that are really outside of western literature and unfair for me to judge.  Which means that only about half a dozen were deemed part of the "100 best poems of all time" even though they didn't have a stand out line.  I'll do this again when I get another third of the way through.  I'll be curious to see if the newer poems have more 'stick' to them or not.
I'm not sure what (if anything) I showed here but at least it was interesting to me.

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