Am I doing it right?

I am memorizing some lines from Vergil’s Aeneid for a Latin class. I had to do this a couple of semesters ago for a Greek class for which I memorized lines from Sophocles’ Antigone. When I set out to memorize lines like this, regardless of the language, I do something that I think might be a little odd. I’ll explain using the first ten lines of the Aeneid. They are:

Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit
litora, multum ille et terris jactatus et alto
vi superum, saevae memorem Junonis ob iram
multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem
inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum
albanique patres, atque altae moenia Romae.
Musa, mihi causas memora, quo numine laeso
quidve dolens regina deum tot volvere casus
insignem pietate virum, tot adire labores
impulerit. Tantaene animis caelestibus irae?

I’ve highlighted the first letter of each sentence because the first thing I do is isolate these. Thus we have A I L V M I A M Q I I. I then write the letters down the margin of a page and I come up with a sentence for this. The more I can provide a back story in my mind about the sentence, the easier it will stick. So, I came up with a scene in my head of a woman leaving her husband for another man. She says to him, “Alfred, I Love Victor. My Intentions Are Many. Quiet! I’m Irked.”

I memorize this sentence and it helps me memorize the order of the letters, which helps me to remember the first word in each line of the poem. Then I just write the first letters down the margin and fill in the poem as best I can over and over and over until I absolutely have it.

Does anyone else do anything weird like this?


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3 responses to “Am I doing it right?

  1. Only with the license plate on my old car. I still know it because it was Yo Yo 685 Tony.

  2. Matt Archer

    “There are four things whereby a man perfects his memory. First, when a man wishes to remember a thing, he should take some suitable yet somewhat unwonted illustration of it, since the unwonted strikes us more, and so makes a greater and stronger impression on the mind; the mind; and this explains why we remember better what we saw when we were children. Now the reason for the necessity of finding these illustrations or images, is that simple and spiritual impressions easily slip from the mind, unless they be tied as it were to some corporeal image, because human knowledge has a greater hold on sensible objects. For this reason memory is assigned to the sensitive part of the soul. Secondly, whatever a man wishes to retain in his memory he must carefully consider and set in order, so that he may pass easily from one memory to another. Hence the Philosopher says (De Memor. et Remin. ii): “Sometimes a place brings memories back to us: the reason being that we pass quickly from the one to the other.” Thirdly, we must be anxious and earnest about the things we wish to remember, because the more a thing is impressed on the mind, the less it is liable to slip out of it. Wherefore Tully says in his Rhetoric [Ad Herenn. de Arte Rhet. iii.] that “anxiety preserves the figures of images entire.” Fourthly, we should often reflect on the things we wish to remember. Hence the Philosopher says (De Memoria i) that “reflection preserves memories,” because as he remarks (De Memoria ii) “custom is a second nature”: wherefore when we reflect on a thing frequently, we quickly call it to mind, through passing from one thing to another by a kind of natural order.”

    Aquinas, Summa T., 2-2.49.1

  3. I also had to memorize Virgilian hexameters for a Latin class, in my case the first fifty lines of the Aeneid. I did three things which worked well for me: first, I scanned each line so that the rhythm would aid my memory (like memorizing song lyrics); second, I made sure I knew what it meant so that I knew what line should come next; and third, I broke it up into ten sections of five lines each, then strung the sections together in my head. Check out my recitation.

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