This week’s random poetry recording is of Sylvia Plath reading one of her most famous poems. She was a brilliant reader of her own work. Whether or not you’ve heard it before I’d be interested to know your thoughts.
Incidentally, there’s a close reading of the poem on the British Library website here if you want to find out more.
Having struggled with my own mental health issues in the past, I’ve not really been drawn to her writing, (I appreciate that for others the opposite is the case), but I really do need to read more of Sylvia Plath’s work. The technique, imagery and language used is astonishing.
This poem captures the experience so well. We used to go on holiday as a family to the Pembrokeshire coast, and it was the third, or fourth time that we went out that we finally managed to encounter a pod of dolphins. Truly magical. You don’t need to travel halfway around the world to experience something special in nature.
If you haven’t heard this yet then it’s well worth a listen. Recorded on wax cylinders in 1890, it may be the oldest recording in the Poetry Archive. Yes it’s crackly, but you can hear the cadence and power of Tennyson’s diction. I bet he would have done pretty well at a poetry slam if such events had existed in late victorian England!
I’ve shared the poem below the audio link in case you want to read it before clicking through (it is also shared in full on the Poetry Archive page).
The Charge of the Light Brigade
I Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. “Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!” he said. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.
II “Forward, the Light Brigade!” Was there a man dismayed? Not though the soldier knew Someone had blundered. Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.
III Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of hell Rode the six hundred.
IV Flashed all their sabres bare, Flashed as they turned in air Sabring the gunners there, Charging an army, while All the world wondered. Plunged in the battery-smoke Right through the line they broke; Cossack and Russian Reeled from the sabre stroke Shattered and sundered. Then they rode back, but not Not the six hundred.
V Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon behind them Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell. They that had fought so well Came through the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of hell, All that was left of them, Left of six hundred.
VI When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wondered. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!
I thought I would start delving into the marvellous poetry archive of audio recordings. Something to share regularly on a Tuesday night perhaps? If so, let me know your favourites, and I’ll share them here to this blog’s gradually widening audience.
Here’s Charles Causley reading Eden Rock. That last line. Phew.
Charles Causley (1917-2003) was born and brought up in Launceston, Cornwall and lived there for most of his life. When he was only seven his father died from wounds sustained during the First World War. This early loss and his own experience of service in the Second World War affected Causley deeply. His work fell outside the main poetic trends of the 20th century, drawing instead on native sources of inspiration: folk songs, hymns, and above all, ballads. His poetry was recognised by the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1967 and a Cholmondeley Award in 1971. In addition to these public honours, the clarity and formality of his poetry has won Causley a popular readership, making him, in the words of Ted Hughes, one of the “best loved and most needed” poets of the last fifty years.
The above paragraph was lifted directly from the Poetry Archive website.