How difficult is it to learn a poem by heart? Stephen Moss a Guardian journalist makes a pretty good stab at it. It seems the British Government wants all school children to learn poems by heart as I was forced to do when I was a child.
Is it worth it? Not sure. I just know I spent hours and hours memorising poems which I did not understand. I can remember little of Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality today. Never did find out what is was about and it seems I am not alone.
Once I had to learn the 32 verses of Grey's Elegy in a Country Churchyard during the Easter Holidays. I did this on the seven hour train journey back from Devon. Lucky I did because the headmistress, a Mrs Jack, examined us on arrival. Mark you I was at a stage school, AES London. She did me favor because the ability to learn lines is an asset if you want to be an actor which I did.
Mrs Jack also made us do this in French, Le Lievre est la tortu springs to mind. Only French I know and not very useful when trying to find the way out of La gare! Never could spell in French or English come to that!
When I eventually got into professional theatre I was amazed at just how long it took some actors to become word perfect. Some never managed it until after first night. I got my chance in London because of this ability as I was forced to takeover a huge lead role with no rehearsal. I knew the lines and never looked back. I think the huge bunch of roses from a fan convinced the management I had something and I kept the role.
Still I don't think this skill is useful in everyday life and it takes hours to memorize properly. Don't think I could do it today. Is it worth the effort? No! Far better to learn about The Modern Scientific Theory of Evolution! Now that is useful!