Nigel Hawthorn performs John Betjeman's poem A Russell Flint - From the 1993 BBC film Late Flowering Lust A Russell Flint by John Betjeman (1906-1984) I could not speak for amazement at your beauty As you came down the Garrick stair, Grey-green eyes like the turbulent Atlantic And floppy schoolgirl hair. I could see you in a Sussex teashop, Dressed in peasant weave and brogues, Turning over as firelight shone on brassware, Last year's tea-stained Vogues. I could see you as a large-eyed student, Frowning as you tried to learn, Or, head flung back, the confident girl prefect, Thrillingly kind and stern. I could not speak for amazement at your beauty; Yet when you spoke to me, You were calm and gentle as a rock pool Waiting, warm, for the sea. Wave on wave, I plunged in them to meet you — In wave on wave I drown; Calm rock pool, on the shore of my security Hold me when the tide goes down.
W. H. Auden reads his poem In Memory Of W. B. Yeats In Memory Of W. B. Yeats by W. H. Auden (1907-1973) I He disappeared in the dead of winter: The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted, And snow disfigured the public statues; The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day. What instruments we have agree The day of his death was a dark cold day. Far from his illness The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests, The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays; By mourning tongues The death of the poet was kept from his poems. But for him it was his last afternoon as himself, An afternoon of nurses and rumours; The provinces of his body revolted, The squares of his mind were empty, Silence invaded the suburbs, The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers. Now he is scattered among a hundred cities And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections, To find his happiness in another kind of wood And be punished under a foreign code of conscience. The words of a dead man Are modified in the guts of the living. But in the importance and noise of to-morrow When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse, And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed, And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom, A few thousand will think of this day As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual. O all the instruments agree The day of his death was a dark cold day. II You were silly like us; your gift survived it all: The parish of rich women, physical decay, Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry. Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still, For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives In the valley of its making where executives Would never want to tamper, flows on south From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs, Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives, A way of happening, a mouth. III Earth, receive an honoured guest: William Yeats is laid to rest. Let the Irish vessel lie Emptied of its poetry. In the nightmare of the dark All the dogs of Europe bark, And the living nations wait, Each sequestered in its hate; Intellectual disgrace Stares from every human face, And the seas of pity lie Locked and frozen in each eye. Follow, poet, follow right To the bottom of the night, With your unconstraining voice Still persuade us to rejoice; With the farming of a verse Make a vineyard of the curse, Sing of human unsuccess In a rapture of distress; In the deserts of the heart Let the healing fountain start, In the prison of his days Teach the free man how to praise.
Robert Graves reads his poem The Cool Web The Cool Web by Robert Graves (1895-1985) Children are dumb to say how hot the day is, How hot the scent is of the summer rose, How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky, How dreadful the tall soliers drulling by, But we have speech, to chill the angry day, And speech, to dull the roses's cruel scent, We spell away the overhanging night, We spell away the soldiers and the fright. There's a cool web of language winds us in, Retreat from too much joy or too much fear: We grow sea-green at last and coldly die In brininess and volubility. But if we let our tongues lose self-possession, Throwing off language and its watery clasp Before our death, instead of when death comes, Facing the wide glare of the children's day, Facing the rose, the dark sky and the drums, We shall go mad, no doubt, and die that way.
Sir John Gielgud reads Shakespeare's Sonnet 93 Sonnet 93 by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) So shall I live, supposing thou art true, Like a deceivèd husband; so love's face May still seem love to me, though altered new, Thy looks with me, thy heart in other place. For there can live no hatred in thine eye, Therefore in that I cannot know thy change. In many's looks, the false heart's history Is writ in moods and frowns and wrinkles strange, But heaven in thy creation did decree That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell; Whate'er thy thoughts, or thy heart's workings be, Thy looks should nothing thence, but sweetness tell. How like Eve's apple doth thy beauty grow, If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show!
John Donne - The Flea - Read by Bob Gonzalez The Flea by John Donne (1572-1631) Mark but this flea, and mark in this, How little that which thou deniest me is; It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee, And in this flea our two bloods mingled be. Thou know'st that this cannot be said A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead; Yet this enjoys before it woo, And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two; And this, alas! is more than we would do. O stay, three lives in one flea spare, Where we almost, yea, more than married are. This flea is you and I, and this Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is. Though parents grudge, and you, we're met, And cloister'd in these living walls of jet. Though use make you apt to kill me, Let not to that self-murder added be, And sacrilege, three sins in killing three. Cruel and sudden, hast thou since Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence? Wherein could this flea guilty be, Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee? Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou Find'st not thyself nor me the weaker now. 'Tis true; then learn how false fears be; Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me, Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.
Alfred Drake reads Edward Fitzgerald's translation of The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam - Music by Dhafer Youssef Text Of The Poem: http://www.facebook.com/notes/poetictouch/the-rubaiyat-of-omar-khayyam/396565063691827
John Milton - Sonnet 16 - On His Blindness - Read by Hilton Edwards On His Blindness Sonnet 16 by John Milton (1608-1674) When I consider how my light is spent Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, And that one Talent which is death to hide, Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, lest he returning chide, Doth God exact day-labour, light denied? I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need Either man's work or his own gifts, who best Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his State Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed And post o'er Land and Ocean without rest: They also serve who only stand and wait.
Percy Bysshe Shelley - Lift Not The Painted Veil - Read by Michael Sheen Lift Not The Painted Veil by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) Lift not the painted veil which those who live Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there, And it but mimic all we would believe With colours idly spread, — behind, lurk Fear And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear. I knew one who had lifted it — he sought, For his lost heart was tender, things to love, But found them not, alas! nor was there aught The world contains, the which he could approve. Through the unheeding many he did move, A splendour among shadows, a bright blot Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.
Wesley McNair reads John Keats's When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be by John Keats (1795-1821) When I have fears that I may cease to be Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain, Before high-pilèd books, in charact'ry, Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain; When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face, Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, And feel that I may never live to trace Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance; And when I feel, fair creature of an hour! That I shall never look upon thee more, Never have relish in the faery power Of unreflecting love; — then on the shore Of the wide world I stand alone, and think, Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.
William Blake - The Question Answered - Read by Michael Elphick - From the documentary William Blake: Singing For England - BBC Omnibus 2000. The Question Answered by William Blake (1757-1827) What is it men in women do require? The lineaments of Gratified Desire. What is it women do in men require? The lineaments of Gratified Desire.
William Blake - A Poison Tree - Read by Michael Elphick - From the documentary William Blake: Singing For England - BBC Omnibus 2000. A Poison Tree by William Blake (1757-1827) I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow. And I watered it in fears, Night and morning with my tears; And I sunned it with smiles, And with soft deceitful wiles. And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright. And my foe beheld it shine. And he knew that it was mine, And into my garden stole When the night had veiled the pole; In the morning glad I see My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
William Blake - The Sick Rose - Read by Michael Elphick - From the documentary William Blake: Singing For England - BBC Omnibus 2000. The Sick Rose by William Blake (1757-1827) O Rose, thou art sick! The invisible worm That flies in the night, In the howling storm, Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy: And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy
William Blake - The Garden Of Love - Read by Michael Elphick - From the documentary William Blake: Singing For England - BBC Omnibus 2000. The Garden Of Love by William Blake (1757-1827) I went to the Garden of Love, And saw what I never had seen: A Chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green. And the gates of this Chapel were shut, And Thou shalt not. writ over the door; So I turn'd to the Garden of Love, That so many sweet flowers bore. And I saw it was filled with graves, And tomb-stones where flowers should be: And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds, And binding with briars, my joys & desires.
Fiona Shaw reads T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land - Part 4: Death By Water The Waste Land Part 4: Death By Water by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead, Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell And the profit and loss. A current under sea Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell He passed the stages of his age and youth Entering the whirlpool. Gentile or Jew O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.