When I was a kid in High School we learnt things ‘off by heart’:

poems by Keats and Coleridge, extracts from ‘The Ancient Mariner’,

soliloquies from ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’, whole passages from Dickens;

chronologies of The Persian Wars, War of the Roses,

biographies of the Tudors; not neglecting the sciences, we memorized

physics and maths formulas,chemical equations, and slabs from The New Testament —

we were walking Wikipedias; now I’m a big kid, into my senior years,

I’ve grown rusty, which is why I’m in the backyard walking up and down —-

the bees must think I’m mad —- learning by heart my NEW mobile number

which everyone but me knows

  • what things did you learn ‘off by heart’?
  • do you still remember them ?

36 thoughts on “Rusty

  1. My favourite things to learn by heart were the lyrics to songs. I might not be able to sing them to you off the bat, but if a song comes on, I remember them alright! But although I enjoy muttering along, as an adult I have come to fear that I wasted a lot of memory space on those songs. 😀 At school I remember reciting times tables and I remember in senior high school the pressure to learn quotes from our English texts so that we could use them appropriately in exam essays. And for Ancient History, I memorised reams of quotes by lots of historians and ancient sources for my final exam but, although I remembered the quotes well enough, at the exam I was so nervous that I couldn’t remember the sources. It was awful. It’s the only time I remember really freaking out in an exam.

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    • exam pressures are real and terrible; thanks for reminding me: I learnt songs off by heart too: I don’t know where my head found space for all those facts — many of which I half remember but what use is that ?

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      • Lol. I can’t even remember the relevant points from something I read yesterday half the time. I remember that I found it convincing or interesting or whatever but when I go to tell somebody about it, I find key details are missing. It’s very frustrating! Can you still blame baby brain when your youngest is 8?


      • Lol. memory is tricky: I can still remember my editor’s phone number though I haven’t phoned him in twenty years; maybe it’s the little irrelevant things you remember — like who sang what song? — but I did phone him an awful lot: my poems needed a lot of editing 🙂

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  2. Song lyrics, choreography, the presidents in order (no I don’t remember and get stuck right around Cleveland before I can resume). Phone numbers for sure! Back when you only needed 7 of them but we had a rotary dial phone in the 80s. Took me awhile to memorize class schedules and best route to locker-class in the 3 minutes between bells in our big school.


    • Lol; you had an American upbringing; although my school years were spent in Australia, most of what we learnt — with the exception of the sciences — was English oriented —


  3. The Times They Are a-Changin’,
    John. That’s both a comment,
    and an answer to your question.
    My Uncle Graham insisted I learn
    all the lyrics of Bob Dylan as a
    futile means of furthering the
    revolution ✊ He was a strange
    and sadly mistaken man 😪

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  4. Good one John,
    I still remember my childhood home phone number. As a music lover, I memorized countless song lyrics.
    In grade school, we learned multiplication tables from 1 – 13 by heart. Today, I can barely add two numbers together without a calculator!

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  5. Our English teacher set us a four page essay to write. I was convinced that he never read them properly, so, knowing a lot of Beatles lyrics by heart, I inserted a page full into my essay to pad it out. The essay came back with a red line through the lyrics, and the words SEE ME! in large red capitals written across the bottom! 🤣

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  6. Haha! John, this seems to be a problem for many. Maybe the cranial space is already filled up. Or it’s the new trend of no longer using one’s memory.
    What’s the damn phone for? Stored all my contacts by name. Just don’t know my own number.
    Hilarious. 🙂


    • now that’s a poem we never came across in Oz 🙂 Just read it: a rollicking ballad in the style of our Banjo Patterson; at first I thought it was about a cricket match but it soon became apparent it was baseball; would be a stirring thing to declaim to a class 🙂 I bet it went over well 🙂

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  7. I couldn’t think my way through a wet N-95 mask as a school kid, but my memory WAS really sharp. As at 76 my rusty memory is tailing off, despite puzzles, games, crosswords, aerobics and something else I can’t remember, what do I do now?

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