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Headmaster’s blog Friday 2 December 2011

December 2, 2011

Poetry, prose and public speaking

I have just read an article in the Press about the launch of a new app – the iF poems app created by Allie Esiri and Rachel Kelly containing 200 classic poems. At a swish of the finger on a smart ‘phone you can access poetry by Robert Burns (O my luve’s like a red, red, rose / That’s newly sprung in June), Shakespeare (Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?) and Kipling (If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you) to name but three. The idea is to stimulate afresh an interest in learning by heart some of the great poems in the English language – something I certainly had to do at school from Henry V’s inspirational speech before Agincourt to Robert Frost’s yearning for the Road not taken. I applaud such initiatives and the harnessing of a modern medium to do it. I have to say, however, that learning great passages of literature by rote is still an art practised at Ballard as I was reminded when I attended our Y11 GCSE drama group’s performance of The Importance of Being Earnest this week. They gave two complete performances of Oscar Wilde’s hilariously comic play and changed some of the main parts around between the nine thespians – and all done with barely a prompt. The fact that the audience was treated to tea, cucumber sandwiches and cake in the interval – served by Downton Abbey lookalikes – simply enhanced what was already a wonderful occasion.

Earlier in the week I also had the privilege of attending the local round of ‘Youthspeaks’ organised by the Lymington and New Milton Round Table. We were treated to speeches on the Olympic movement, the war in Afghanistan, dieting and camping. These were delivered by young teenagers with confidence, conviction and great clarity. Such pleasure was given to many at this event and also at the play this week that I was reminded of a couple of lines from one of the classic poems in the iF app collection: For he on honey-dew hath fed / And drunk the milk of paradise (Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan).

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