Thursday, April 26, 2012

Xanadu. The Ancient Mariner. Good Times.

I fell in love with Samuel Taylor Coleridge when I was in fourth grade and I read this book called The Boyhood of Grace Jones, by Jane Langton.
Grace was a total tomboy and she learned "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by heart, and I fell in love with its rhythm and story, and then promptly devoured everything that Samuel T. ever did.
Yes. I memorized "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in big chunks and I also memorized "Kubla Khan".
And I always wondered what would have happened if the guy who woke Samuel T. up from his, uh, vision realized that he totally screwed up an Important Moment in Literature.
Or maybe the fact that it's a fragment and the rest never happened is part of its mystique.
When I taught English I loved teaching these poems.
I draped myself in black cloth and hung a stuffed bird around my neck and we turned off the lights and I chanted out "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in a way that I thought was dramatic and cool and effective.
My favorite line:
"'Shrive me, shrive me, holy man!'"
You are supposed to shriek this, not say it.
The kids were really, really good sports about this.
"'Shrive me, shrive me'" became a sort of rallying cry one year, and I laughed every single time I heard it.
Kid walks past my room and shrieks, "Shrive me!"
Kid yells across the quad, "Shrive me!"
Kids answer back, "Shrive me, holy man!"
Another line  randomly called out:
"'I shot the albatross.'"
"'No, I shot the albatross.'"
And then there would be a Who Shot the Albatross Smackdown. Who shot it and with what and why.
Good times.


  1. My guy was Poe, and I memorized The Raven and a few other of his poems, but I was too shy to ever recite these poems. I also memorized the Declaration of Independence. Why? I have no idea.

    1. I think it sounds right handy to have the Declaration of Independence memorized!

  2. LOL
    That's awesome.
    The albatross thing, that is.

  3. Love Coleridge, though I'll admit to not having memorized him. I'm with Em-Musing; it was Poe I learned by heart.

    Fabulous kids you had at that school.

    You're one of three Xanadu posts I saw today (counting my own).


    1. Hi Erin!
      Hooray for Poe; he's a good one to memorize as well. I am fortunate in that I have always had great kids, every year.

  4. I confess that I have not memorized any poetry since "I'm Nobody" by Emily Dickenson, and that was in first grade. Nonetheless, I did study and L-O-V-E Samuel T., and Rime of the Ancient Mariner was far and away my favorite.

  5. Hi Kristen .. I was hopeless at memorising anything .. and hated speaking out loud at anything! Would love to have these poems in background DNA .. it's great to read and see things now though - and Xanadu .. is an amazing poem .. great X ... cheers Hilary