LARRY MCGEHEE: Try Your Hand at Poetry Quiz
Identify the author and title of the poem for each of the first lines of 10 poems.
Correct answers garner five points per author and five points per poem title, so a perfect score is 100.
a. "Out of the hills of Halbersham, Down the valleys of Hall"
b. "The gingham dog and the calico cat Side by side on the table sat"
c. "The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas"
d. "I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by"
e. "When I consider how my light is spent Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide"
f. "The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea"
g. "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone"
h. "Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. Shovel them under and let me work"
i. "I Wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills"
j. "Thou still unravished bride of quietness"
Here's a hint. The 10 poems are among the "One Hundred and One Famous Poems" compiled by Roy J Cook, a slim little book that has gone through several printings and several publishers and millions of copies since it was first published in 1916 -- 90 years ago. At least one source says it ranks among the 50 most popular books of the 20th century.
Next to the Bible, the dictionary, "Bartlett's Quotations," and Louis Untermeyer's "Treasury of Great English and American Poems," "One Hundred and One Famous Poems" is the most-thumbed book in our home library.
There was a time when we could recite a third or so of the poems by heart, having read and re-read them in this book. Our current remaining copy is a 1929 Cable Company of Chicago blue hardback edition (hardback versions are hard to find these days) given my wife in 1952 on her 13th birthday by her Kentucky neighbors, Maymee and Jack.
Most of the authors are, after all this time, still staples in the storehouse of poetry: among them, Longfellow, Emerson, James Whitcomb Riley, Holmes. Whitman, Lowell, Shakespeare, Shelley, Edgar Lee Masters, Tennyson, Kipling, Dickinson, Kilmer, Burns, Scott, Browning, and Poe. Others are long-forgotten or lesser-known: among them, Edward Sill, Francis William Bourdillon, John McCrae, Alan Seeger, Maltbie Davenport Babcock, Cincinnatus Hiner Miller, Winifred M. Letts, and Mary Howitt. There are trademark pictures of the authors so that readers know who is writing for them.
Apart from the authors and the memorizable texts themselves, a good deal of the joy of familiarity that comes with re-reading this book many times over many years are the poem titles, such as "She Was a Phantom of Delight," "The Spider and the Fly," "Invictus," "Thanatopsis," "Abou Ben Adhem," "The Man With a Hoe," "Ode on Intimations of Immortality," "Paul Revere's Ride," "Sheridan's Ride," "The Charge of the Light Brigade," and "Recessional."
"One Hundred and One Famous Poems" molded us and haunts us yet, like other relics of the past we are blessed to have known: croquet sets, Chinese checkers, Parcheesi, Uncle Wiggly, and ice houses.
Here are the answers to our quiz:
a. Sidney Lanier, "Song of the Chattahoochee"
b. Eugene Field, "The Duel"
c. Alfred Noyes, "The Highwayman"
d. John Masefield, "Sea Fever"
e. John Milton, "Sonnet On His Blindness"
f. Thomas Gray, "Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard"
g. Ella Wheeler Wilcox, "Solitude"
h. Carl Sandburg, "Grass"
i. William Wordsworth, "The Daffodils"
j. John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
How did you do? If you scored 90-100 you are a Poet Laureate; 65-85 makes you a Literary Figure; 45-60 makes you Literate; but 20-40 makes you Semi-Conscious and 0 to 15 places you as an Illiterate.
Your prizes: go online or to your local bookstore and buy yourself a copy of "One Hundred and One Famous Poems" (and get some copies for relatives and friends while you are at it). And once you own it, read it!
Larry McGehee, professor-emeritus at Wofford College, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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