Do you Remember an Inn?

Have you ever found yourself reciting a poem you learnt many, years ago at school? One that you were tasked to learn by rote and recite out loud in front of the class?

Why do these words stick like Super Glue to our permanent memory cells?

When so much else fails to the memory wayside?

Is it because rote learning is a little like brainwashing?

On the way to Cromwell.....the Lindis pass

After reading Margaret’s post today, the poem ‘Tarantella’ came to mind. I love the use of onomatopoeia in that poem, and I like that the poem is factual, apparently.

I cannot reproduce the whole of the poem below for copyright reasons, so I have redacted some lines. Which sort of spoils the effect, so I have redacted minimal amounts and cited the author, of course.

Where am I

All it needs is a semi-related trigger and I’ll robotically begin to articulate those words from the poem, learnt word for word, so very long ago.

School years where chanting and rote learning was commonplace

If it is a type of rote learning, then for goodness sake why do we spend hours teaching our kids complicated strategies to work out their times tables, when a few weeks of chanting would translate to a life long skill without need for any mental refreshment, ever.

Equally concerning is what other values or words might be ingrained in our memory banks at a tender age by chanting brainwashing?

Luckily for me, this brainwashing is nothing more sinister than my times tables and a Hilaire Belloc poem with a bouncy repetitive rhyme. But as a gift to Miranda, that poem has a conclusion filled with doom, albeit twenty years later, (when it was written), and the memory of the inn may have faded?

The Miranda of Hilaire Belloc’s “Tarantella” is Miranda Mackintosh whom Belloc met at an inn in the Pyrenean hamlet of Canranc on the River Aragon in 1909. The poem, written twenty years later, was a New Year’s present to the Scottish Miranda. The holograph copy is inscribed: “For Miranda: New Year’s 1929.”

Tarantella by Hiliare Belloc

Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?

Do you remember an Inn?

And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark veranda)?
****************** ?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
Who hadn’t got a penny,
And who weren’t paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the din?
And the hip! hop! hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the swirl and the twirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of the clapper to the spin
Out and in–
And the ting, tong, tang of the guitar!
Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?

Never more;
Never more.
Only the ****************;
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No sound
In the walls of the halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground,
No sound:

Of the far waterfall like doom.

The ting, tong, tang of the guitar

Do you have an poem that has become an earworm over time?

Something that sticks?

Inspired by Margaret‘s photos of the Pyrenees.


72 thoughts on “Do you Remember an Inn?”

  1. I feel proud to have inspired this – very different – post! I too have this poem in my memory box. Other examples of rote-learning were pure torture. Mine was church school, and I remember trying so hard to commit, as demanded, the whole of 1 Corinthians 13 to memory, failing, and spending an hour in detention as a result: ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal……’ – all 13 verses! It put me off rote learning for life, and I STILL don’t know my times tables! Nevertheless, other poems often come unbidden to mind (not this minute, obviously!) and I quite welcome them. Brainwashed by such experiences? I’m not sure. On the contrary, it may have caused me to question things more. My values and ideals now are not the ones my father in particular tried to instill in me. Interesting! I’ll think more about this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess it is not intentional brainwashing. But it feels like that effect in that it is indelible in one’s mind. But in order for it to be indelible, I guess I have to recall it with some fondness?
      I do like the rhyme and words in this one!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. While learning by reading only our mind diverts to other things to what we are watching. By repeating your mind takes note of what you hear. We had to learn poems and tableslike this. I enjoyed and still remember but it doesn’t brainwash. Perhaps rythem in rote learning plays a great part.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No doubt. Rhythm is attractive to our ears and our sense of order and predictability. It is also important for children in learning to spell. This persistent memory sounds like a sort of brainwashing but I did mean this in a tongue in cheek sense, Indira.
      Do you think distractions are less with listening than reading? I find the reverse, is the case for me. I get more distracted when listening.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We all react differently in a particular situation. I also think that in childhood we may get distracted and so out elders thought and induced this way of learning. If the subject is of our choice we don’t get distracted when reading or hearing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m with M-R on this. Alfred Noyes:

    The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
    The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.
    The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
    And the highwayman came riding—
    The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

    It tells a full (sad) story, rhymes and scans. Naturally, it would be sneered at these days.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Each country seems to have a standard collection of poems that they drill into students. Perhaps the choice reflects cultural likes/dislikes? I know we were heavily invested in following the British model here until more recent times.


    1. It seems to be poems and times tables that stick, Peggy! Times tables don’t rhyme so I wonder what it is that makes them so persistent. I don’t know Henry’s Invictus, so will have to look it up. Is it good?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. There you go! The explanation of why they persist in one’s ear for so long! Rhyme is such fun. My brain seems particularly attuned to looking for rhyme, if I do try to write poetry. That sing-song characteristic of up and down tones is quite addictive!

          Liked by 1 person

    1. A Fairy went A Marketing – Different teachers choose different poems for their students, assuming these ones originated from your school years, Luanne? Or was or a favorite bedtime story?

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Well, for me they had a profound effect because I’m a poet. So they probably had a hand in making me into a poet. Nursery rhymes and childhood songs like “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” also had a hand in it. I like to think that memorization of poems and nursery rhymes is a building block of reading. It also helps with all forms of writing, the development of creativity, and learning math and science, too.
            I wish they still had kids do it. My kids did, but their school was a bit unusual. The first poem they memorized was “Keep a Poem in Your Pocket.”

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Now that is an appropriate poem for your kids to memorize, especially with their Mum being a poet!
              Maths and Science being aided by poetry. I am sure there is a link but I can’t see it myself. I hear that music and maths have close connections too. I can’t see evidence of that in my family, as my child who is a maths wiz is not that musical at all, and the music progeny is not that mathemathical! But I will take your word for it.
              My earliest poems were those of A A Milne, (of Winnie the Pooh fame), but I always loved reading, Luanne. Were you an early reader too?

              Liked by 1 person

            2. I was. I can’t remember how I learned to read, but at 5 I was reading Bobbsey Twins series books. I have a very distinct memory from that period about it. I also remember learning how to spell ice cream because my parents used to spell it out 😉 when I was very tiny. Mom taught my brother to read with flashcards, but I know I did not have those nor would I have needed them. I was a voracious reader from the getgo.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Tarantella! I hated poetry at school, but learnt parts of poems in adulthood, including one of Paul Celan’s, in German and the English translation….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is the melody within the words that draws me back time and time again to Tarantella. Like an old song we know so well. How does that poem translate, Sue? Do you get the same sense, the same feel from both language versions?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, I suspected that to be so. Language is quite specific. I have been frustrated to find that novels change significantly when they are translated. And we all know what happens when American movie studios get hold of a blockbuster foreign film/story and try to re-make it into their own. Moreoften, it doesn’t work as well as in the original culture.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I do indeed! One poem my grandmother used to recite to me often springs to mind and that’s ‘The Pedlar’s Caravan’ by William Brightly Rands. I’ve absolutely no idea why she favoured this one, but it has definitely stuck in my brain over the years !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I looked up this one. The rhyming couplets give that sing song -y feel to this poem. Perhaps your Grandma remembered a visiting pedlar or wished to be a nomad travelling around on the road? Her granddaughter clearly inherited a love for travel, Marion?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ahhh, you worry about the copyrights for the poem written in 1929 and that’s why you didn’t quote it in full?? You are a much more… let’s say holy person than I am. But we knew this.

    I have memorised a dialogue which was used to drill the British English phonetics into us at the university. The professor was the same that taught my mother 24 years earlier. The dialogue wasn’t the same:

    – Have you seen Othello on the television last night?
    – The opera, you mean. I didn’t, I was out.
    – I saw it, and quite enjoyed it.
    – Did you? I thought you didn’t approve of television.
    – I don’t, as a regular thing. But I happened to be round at my sister’s and she wanted to see it. So I watched it too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me – Holy?! Nah…. perhaps I do respect copyrights more than most because I have had my artwork pinched and used by someone else in a video he was making money from.
      Great dialogue to teach the various vowel sounds. Clever idea. I had to scratch my head to remember a dipthong lesson or two I had at school in Speech and Drama lessons. That hasn’t stuck like the poem did! Unfortunately. Fancy the Professor being the same on that taught your Mother! Wow – that is loyalty. Tell me, was it English you studied?

      Liked by 1 person

            1. So that is the issue in Slovenia too? Education used to be completely free here from seventies till the nineties. Of course students can opt for an interest free loan for the tuition fees but it is a loan and eventually has to be paid back unless you don’t intend to work.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh yes Amanda, a poem I recite everytime I buy practical shoes.

    New shoes, new shoes
    Red and pink and blue shoes
    Tell me what would you choose
    If they’d let us buy.

    Buckle shoes, bow shoes
    Pretty pointed toe shoes
    Like some
    So would I.


    Fat shoes, flat shoes
    Stomp along like that shoes
    Wipe them on the mat shoes
    That’s the sort they’ll buy!

    And now that will be in my head all day…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry Chris!! It is another earworm!! I still have Tarantella in my head and just when it goes away, another comment revives it again. Not that I mind at all as I love the bounce of the words. Where did that poem originate?


  8. When it’s daffodil time I always think and say To Daffodils by Robert Herrick … Fair daffodils we weep to see you haste away so soon. Then there is one Afrikaans Oktober maand (Month October) Dit is die maand Oktober, die mooiste, mooiste maand …. It is the month Oct the most beautiful month…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. October is a beautiful month, Ineke! I don’t know that poem but it sounds lovely, as are Daffodils themselves. I wish I could grow them here. It seems too hot for them here


  9. The night was dark and stormy
    The toilet light was dim
    I heard a crash and then a splash
    My gosh, he’s fallen in!

    I don’t remember any poems from school but we had a book called ‘Cinderella Dressed in Yella” which had some quite naughty poems in it. That’s the main one I remember.

    I also used to be able to recite whole chunks of dialogue from The Goon Show. Friends just thought I was weird.

    I do like your Hilaire Belloc poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Goon show- oh my. My ears were force fed that every saturday lunchtime as my father listened to it religiously. I hated it so, mostly tuned out to it. That high pitched voice is hard to eliminate from my memory, though. If you liked the goons, I suppose you were able to appreciate Benny Hill. His TV show’s theme tune is another rather annoying earworm and I will have that in my ear for the rest of the night, now that I have thought of it. Aah!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our regular Saturday listening was The Goon Show, My Word/My Music and the Science Show. I had to buy CDs to introduce my boys to the Goons. Fortunately, they loved them too!
        Oh, no. Couldn’t stand Benny Hill. We did, however, love the Goodies. Put that theme tune in your head instead. 😀


  10. We do swing from extreme – rote or exploratory. I think there are certain things (like you said, multiplication tables) which are simply memorized…. no mess no fuss. While others are better learned through experience. Schools seems to have difficulty incorporating both types of learning in their curriculum. I wonder why.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think curricula try to move with the times and this are subject to fads. In trying to incorporate so much, there is no time for things like chanting. It seems sometimes that the educators might decide to give children a small taste of lots of things rather than deep learning in a smaller number of areas. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on each individual child.


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