Recorded in December 2020. Seneca the Younger flourished during the first century A. D. The translation, by Richard M. Gummere, was published between 1917 and 1925.

(The picture in the thumbnail is a portrait, by Rubens, of an ancient bust once thought to be of Seneca. Rubens was very fond of Seneca, and used to have his works read out loud to him as he painted. This bust was once called "The Farnese Seneca," but is now thought to depict Hesiod. It was, however, how people envisaged Seneca for hundreds of years, from the Renaissance onward, and so I make use of its image. Its rough nobility is fitting to his character.)

00:00 Introduction
00:06 I received your letter many months after you had posted it
01:32 You know Harpasté, my wife's female clown
02:41 You can see clearly that that which makes us smile in the case of Harpasté happens to all the rest of us
04:29 Suppose that we have begun the cure
06:00 No, we must work
08:08 There is nothing, Lucilius, to hinder you from entertaining good hopes about us

Recorded in December 2020. Aesop (portrait left, by Landseer) flourished in the sixth century B. C. The translation, by Robert Dodsley (portrait right), was published in 1761.

00:00 The Countryman and the Snake. Moral: "The folly of conferring either power upon the mischievous, or favours on the undeserving."

01:31 The Dog and the Shadow. Moral: "That an over-greedy disposition often subjects us to lose what we already possess."

02:31 The Sun and the Wind. Moral: "Gentle means, on many occasions, are more effectual than violent ones."

Recorded in December 2020. Aesop (portrait left, by Landseer) flourished in the sixth century B. C. The translation, by Robert Dodsley (portrait right), was published in 1761.

00:00 The Wolf and the Lamb. Moral: "Those who do not feel the sentiments of humanity, will seldom listen to the pleas of reason."

01:52 The Lion and the Mouse. Moral: "We may all need the assistance of our inferiors; and should by no means consider the meanest among them, as wholly incapable of returning an obligation."

03:40 The Stag Drinking. Moral: "The false estimate we often make in preferring our ornamental talents, to our useful ones."

Recorded in December 2020. Seneca the Younger flourished during the first century A. D. The translation, by Richard M. Gummere, was published between 1917 and 1925.

(The picture in the thumbnail is a portrait, by Rubens, of an ancient bust once thought to be of Seneca. Rubens was very fond of Seneca, and used to have his works read out loud to him as he painted. This bust was once called "The Farnese Seneca," but is now thought to depict Hesiod. It was, however, how people envisaged Seneca for hundreds of years, from the Renaissance onward, and so I make use of its image. Its rough nobility is fitting to his character.)


00:00 Introduction
00:05 Greetings from Seneca to his friend Lucilius
02:20 Therefore, Lucilius, do as you write me that you are doing
04:04 You may desire to know how I, who preach to you so freely, am practising
05:20 What is the state of things, then?

Recorded in December 2020. Aesop (portrait left, by Landseer) flourished in the sixth century B. C. The translation, by Robert Dodsley (portrait right), was published in 1761.

Recorded in November 2020. Published in 1609. Reflection on the decay of even the greatest things, leads Shakespeare to fear the death of his love.


The magnificent things which Shakespeare perceives the decline of, are wealth, which no man takes beyond the grave ("the rich proud cost of out-worn buried age"); mighty cities, when sacked ("lofty towers down-razed; eternal brass, slave to mortal rage"); both the sea and the land, as they war against each other; and civilizations ("state itself confounded to decay").

Observe that "win of," in the seventh line, simply means "win against" or "prevail over." This usage is rare, even in Shakespearean English, but I find it in Cymbeline, Act 1, Scene II. Posthumus gives his ring to Imogen, calling it "a manacle of love," and adds: "In this trifle, I win of you." (i. e., prevail over you). Only in later English does the word "win," in the phrase "win of," require an object; where we win _something_ of somebody. e. g., "I won an immense sum of money of him." The eighth line of this sonnet, "Increasing store with loss, and loss with store," is, therefore, not an object, but a participle phrase, which governs, adjectivally, both the "hungry ocean" and the "firm soil." "Store" is increased with "loss," and "loss" with "store," as the sea and land struggle against each other.

The word "state," in the ninth and tenth lines is a pun. "State" in the ninth line means conditions, or circumstances; in the tenth, it means civilizations. "When I have seen such interchange of state" means, "When I have seen powerful things change their conditions to such an extent." But "when I have seen state itself confounded to decay" means, "when I have seen civilizations themselves destroyed."

Recorded in October 2020. Published in 23 B. C. The Earl of Roscommon lived from 1637 to 1685, and his poems were collected in 1701.


Scythia was in central Eurasia; Libya, in North Africa.

Hydaspes is a tributary of the Indus. The great Persian Empire stretched as far as India.

"Sabine Farm" was Horace's estate in the Sabine hills, outside Rome.

The Hercynian Forest was an ancient and dense forest, which stretched eastwards, from the Rhine River, across southern Germany.

Carthage was a powerful civilization in North Africa, which was defeated by Rome. The great Hannibal was a Carthaginian. Numidia was a kingdom to the south.

Neptune was the god of the sea. He controlled the winds and storms.

Jove is Jupiter, or Zeus.

According to the ancient mythology, the sun was pulled across the sky by the chariot of Apollo.

Caelia is Horace’s love, whom he seems to identify with virtue itself. The choice of name is Roscommon’s. In the original Latin, the name is Lalage.

Recorded in September 2020. Published in 1849.

Recorded in August 2020. Plato flourished in the fourth century B. C.; the translation was published by Thomas Taylor in 1804.

The speaker of this narrative is actually Protagoras, and it is possible that he, and not Plato, is the author of it. But the style, at least, is that of Plato.

To my mind, there are two chief morals which this story imparts:

First, that reason is the highest gift of man. The other animals surpass him in physical qualities; but he, by his intellect, is the master of them all.

Secondly, that, without virtue, technology is worthless. Seneca and the Elder Pliny speak on this theme, as does Orwell in his essay “You and the Atom Bomb.” It is a lesson which modern society should learn. The world would be a paradise if we lived like the Houyhnhnms of Swift; but a cruel technocracy would be hell itself. Hence the need for literature and philosophy, which make man into a better being. Technology is a luxury, virtue is a necessity.


Notopoulos (1936, p. 515) argues that Percy Bysshe Shelley was friends with Thomas Taylor. Thomas Taylor's first collection of dialogues was also found among Shelley's books (Notopoulos, 1969, p. 32).

Recorded in August 2020. This poem was included in a letter sent by Keats, to his brother George, on the 24th of October, 1818.

“It is obvious that these verses were given without premeditation, and on the spur of the moment. They seem to me the most striking, perhaps, among all the productions of their extraordinary author.” -- John Howard Payne

Recorded in July 2020. Written in 1781.

"Do you recollect a Sunday we spent together in Eglinton woods? You told me, on my repeating some verses to you, that you wondered I could resist the temptation of sending verses of such merit to a magazine. It was from this remark I derived that idea of my own pieces, which encouraged me to endeavour at the character of a poet." – Letter to Richard Brown, December 1787.

The text, from King James’s version:

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

Recorded in July 2020. This poem was included in Poor Richard’s Almanack, after the death of Franklin’s son Francis. The death occurred in November, 1736.

"Herodotus asserts, that, when a Thracian child was born, his relations assembled, and, sitting round him in a circle, deplored his ill-fortune, in entering upon the theatre of human trials and calamities; but, when any one died, they committed him to the ground with great rejoicings, repeating the afflictions he had exchanged for perfect felicity." -- William Fordyce Mavor

[It is sometimes asserted that Franklin wrote this poem himself; but this is mistaken. The author is anonymous. The poem was first written in Latin by Vincent Bourne; it was then translated in "Miscellaneous Poems by Several Hands," published by D. Lewis, 1726. The most likely candidate is Samuel Wesley the Younger.]

Recorded in July 2020. First published in 1645, in the Works of Edmund Waller.

Lord Chesterfield wrote the following letter, in 1739, to his seven-year-old son:

“I will give you, here, a very pretty copy of verses of Mr Waller's, which is extremely poetical, and full of images. It is to a lady who played upon the lute… Mind all the poetical beauties of these verses. He supposes the sounds of the strings, when she touches them, to be the expression of their joy for kissing her fingers. Then, he compares the trembling of the strings to the trembling of a lover, who is supposed to tremble with joy and awe, when touched by the person he loves. He represents Love, (who, you know, is described as a little boy, with a bow, arrows, and a quiver,) as standing by her, and shooting his arrows at people's hearts, while her music softens and disarms them. Then he concludes with that fine simile of Nero, a very cruel Roman emperor, who set Rome on fire, and played on the harp while it was burning: for, as Love is represented by the poets as fire and flames; so she, while people were burning for love of her, played, as Nero did, while Rome, which he had set on fire, was burning. Pray get these verses by heart against I see you. Adieu.”

[N. b.: Although this poem was first published in 1645, this version is that of the posthumous works of 1686; where, instead of “o’er _the_ spirit reigns,” it says, “o’er _our_ spirits reigns.” This reading is preferable; because, otherwise, the metre is deficient, and the voice’s stress is made to fall upon a feeble preposition.]

Recorded in July 2020. Published in 1592, in Sonnets to Delia.


Snows: Observe that this is a verb, and not a noun. The subject of the clause is "winter."

Sable: A poetical word for black.

Near: Nearly; an adverb governing "nipt," or nipped. "To an extreme extent."

To limn: To depict or describe in painting or words.

Recorded in July 2020. This story was published, in 1812, by the Brothers Grimm; the translation is from Lang's Red Fairy Book of 1890. Its title in the Red Fairy Book is, not "Snow White," but "Snowdrop"; but, as "Snowdrop," rather than "Snow White and Red Rose," is the story which the well-known Disney film is based upon, I have decided to put "Snow White" in the title of the video as well.


Introduction: 00:01
Lost in the wood: 06:50
Dwarfs return: 09:45
Queen with the lace: 15:32
Queen with the poisonous comb: 21:11
Queen with the poisonous apple: 25:39
Dwarfs discover the body of Snowdrop: 30:38
Prince arrives: 33:45
Queen attends the wedding: 36:41

Recorded in July 2020. Published in 1609. A reflection upon the march of time. The title "Revolutions" is given to this poem by Palgrave.

Recorded in June 2020. The original author of this work is unknown, although he was presumably English; it was first published in 1711, and is therefore a modern fairy-tale. This version is the adaptation found in Lang's Blue Fairy Book of 1889.

"As the eighteenth century wore on, Jack became a familiar figure. Henry Fielding alluded to Jack in Joseph Andrews (1742); Dr. Johnson admitted to reading the tale; Boswell read the tale in his boyhood; and William Cowper was another who mentioned the tale."


Introduction, and the first giant, Cormoran: 00:06
The second and third giants, Blunderbore and Rebecks: 03:28
The Welsh giant: 07:32
The fifth and sixth giants: 13:26
The last giant: 17:54

Recorded in May 2020. Published in 1609. In this poem, Shakespeare argues that spiritual and intellectual things ought to be preferred to the pleasures of the body.

A printing error has destroyed the first two words of the second line. Various conjectures have been made to fill it; I made my own mind up before looking at any of them, in order not to be prejudiced, and decided upon the words “Slave to.”

The title “Soul and Body” is given to this poem by Palgrave.


“Sinful earth”: A metaphor for the body. Sinful, because we use the body to sin, it provokes us to sin, and often does sin.

“Those rebel powers that thee array”: Again, a reference to the body. “Rebel powers,” because the body rebels against the will of the soul. To “array” means to dress; as the body dresses the soul.

“Why dost thou pine within,” etc.: Shakespeare asks, metaphorically, why do we give no attention to intellectual and spiritual things, and only care for the beauty of our outward form?

“Why so large cost,” etc.: The same point is repeated. “Fading mansion” is another metaphor for the body, and carries on the picture of “painting our outward walls so costly gay.” “Having so short a lease” is a metaphor for life: “In view of the fact that the life which God lends us is so short.”

“Charge”: A charge is that which is entrusted to us; as God entrusts us with the body.

“Is this thy body’s end?”: Is this the purpose for which our body was created?

“Thy servant”: Another metaphor for the body. Shakespeare says, addressing his soul: “Let vain attention to your body waste away, in order to enrich yourself.”

“To aggravate thy store”: In order to increase your, the soul’s, wealth. To aggravate, radically, means to add to the weight of something; from Latin gravāre, to make heavy.

“So shalt thou feed on death”: The man who prefers his soul to his body conquers death, and enters into eternal bliss.

Recorded in March 2020. Written in 1875.

"When Henley was sixteen years old, his left leg required amputation owing to complications arising from tuberculosis. In the early 1870s, after seeking treatment for problems with his other leg at Margate, he was told that it would require a similar procedure. In August 1873, he instead chose to travel to Edinburgh to enlist the services of the distinguished surgeon Joseph Lister, who was able to save Henley's remaining leg after multiple surgical interventions on the foot. While recovering in the infirmary, the poet was moved to write the verses that became "Invictus"."

Recorded in February 2020. Printed in 1789, in "Songs of Innocence and Experience." In this poem, the argument is made, by analogy with our own compassion for suffering, that God, who is all-good, must also sympathize and suffer with all living creatures.

Recorded in January 2020. This poem, first made in 1859, went through several versions; this one is that of 1862, which Dickinson sent to Thomas Wentworth Higginson when she first opened her correspondence with him. It was given the title “The Sleeping” on being published in the Springfield Daily Republican.


Rafter of satin: A metaphor; the satin literally being the material inside a casket.

Crescent: The moon, and therefore (by a metonymy) the world above.

Worlds: Planets

Arcs: Courses

Diadem: A jewelled crown

Doge: The chief magistrate of Venice or Genoa. Here a metonymy for rulers in general.

Recorded in December 2019. Published in 1826, in Friendship's Offering. The title "Past and Present" is given to this poem by Palgrave.

Recorded in December 2019. Published in 1640.

In case I failed to bring it out with my voice, the listener should be aware that, in line 4, "And like the ravished shepherds said," the word "like" is an adverb, not a preposition; i. e.: "And the ravished shepherds spoke _likewise_."

Recorded in December 2019. Published in 1850, in Sonnets from the Portuguese.

Recorded in November 2019. Perrault published his Contes des Fées in 1697. This translation is taken from Lang’s celebrated Blue Fairy Book of 1889. That version, however, is merely a slightly edited and modernized form of Robert Samber’s original translation of 1729, in his work “Tales of Passed Times by Mother Goose,” a fact which is rarely or never mentioned in places which reproduce the text. The name is forgotten today, but his English silently became the foundation for all versions which followed.

The moral of this story, according to Perrault, is as follows:

“Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say "wolf," but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.”


Created 1 year, 8 months ago.

90 videos

Category Arts & Literature

My principal aim in making this channel is to read literature that I consider interesting or great, in the most effective way I can. With pause, emphasis, and inflection, I want to find a way to make classic works intelligible and enjoyable to everybody, including those to whom, on the printed page, they appear perplexing and meaningless. The ultimate goal for me (although I know that it is many years away) is to be able to make something as difficult as Paradise Lost or the Faerie Queene, as easy to understand as a common newspaper. The delivery of some uploads on this channel is rushed, and fatiguing to the ear: in others, it is painfully slow and halting; and this is because I am trying to develop a new way of reading, which gives the listener enough time truly to comprehend what is heard. I can only plead as an excuse for failure that I am still in an early stage of growth and experimentation, and intend to improve, gradually, with every new recording I make, for the rest of my life.