I had to bring a plagiarism case to the Dean of Students this morning, a lovely guy that used to be an English teacher. He's clever and sarcastic and smart, so I love conversing with him. After we dealt with the pesky issue of the plagiarism, we started talking about poetry, which led to Robert Frost's "Walking by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" which led, somehow, to Chaucer's Caterbury Tales.
We both had to memorize the prologue to the Tales in college, in Old English mind you, and he said that his professor told his class that they would forget lines 5 through whatever almost immediately, but they would remember the first four lines forever.
This is true. He asked me how much I remembered, I ran it through under my breath and, barring some unfortunate pronunciation slips, I was able to recall exactly the first four lines which I haven't thought about in years.
I told him the story of when I had to recite it to the head of the English department at St. Olaf and then regailed him with the story of how one night during a progressive, my friend Julia and I took off our shirts (because reciting poetry is so much easier when you're half naked) and ran across the campus, from Thorson to Hill-Kitt, screaming the first twenty lines of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Prologue at the tops of our lungs. It was the shirt removal and the laughing and the pausing to catch our breath that led us to be late to the next leg of the progressive, allowing us to be outside when the room was busted. Go Chaucer.
This memory ranks right up there with a game of truth or dare in Manitou when my friend Melissa took "dare" and I made her take off her shirt and sing the Norwegian national anthem. Funniest dare ever.