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.”

Recorded in October 2019. Delivered to the House of Commons in 1653.

Recorded in October 2019. Rumi was born in 1207, and died in 1273. The translation, by R. A. Nicholson, the greatest Rumi scholar in the English language, was made in 1898. The poem is taken from the Diwani Shamsi Tabriz, a collection of 3,229 lyric poems (called “ghazals”) which is considered one of the greatest works of Persian literature. A diwan is a collection of poems; Shams-i-Tabrizi was the spiritual teacher and friend of the poet, in whose honour the work was named. It is poem 48 in Nicholson’s collection of Selected Poems; in the original, it is ghazal number 3051.

A commentary on a few points that may potentially be obscure:

“Thou wert a favourite falcon, kept in captivity by an old woman.”—Nicholson informs us that a story of a “white falcon, whose beak and claws were cut by a vile old woman,” is related in the Masnavi. With respect to the falcon-drum, he says: “When the huntsman wishes to call his bird back, he beats a drum: the hawk, having an affection for the drum, returns speedily.” He adds that, according to Kaempfer, “it is carried by kings and nobles on the left side of their saddles.” The beater of the drum, then, seems to be God; the old woman, the evil of this world.

“Thou wert a love-lorn nightingale among owls.”—The owl is a major predator of the nightingale. Hence the owls, I presume, represent the ills of this life; the rose-garden, the world hereafter and refuge with God. Presumably Rumi likens the subject of this poem to a nightingale because of his beauty of soul, since the nightingale is renowned for its beauty of song; calls it love-lorn, as a metaphor for yearning to be with God.

“The tavern of Eternity.”—Meaning God.

“The world gave thee false clues, like a ghoul.”—A ghoul is the Arabic and Persian word for a kind of demon.

“Since thou art now the sun, why dost thou wear a tiara?”—Presumably, he who enjoys eternal bliss, has no need of earthly power. “Why seek a girdle, since thou art gone from the middle?”—Nicholson explains that “to be gone from the middle” is a Persian idiom meaning “to die,” and that it is analogous with the Latin phrase “e media abire.”

“I have heard that thou art gazing with distorted eyes upon thy soul,” etc.—Nicholson: “You look back with regret on the life of your individual soul, which is now exalted above life.”

“Since thou hast taken refuge with so loving a friend.”—Nicholson: “The soul, waking from the dark night of the world, enjoys eternal day in the bosom of God.”

Recorded in October 2019. Veda Vyasa, the author of the Mahābhārata, the Sanskrit epic about twenty times the length of the Iliad, probably flourished about the 9th century B. C. The translation, by John Muir, was published in 1876. The excerpt is taken from Book iii., 17392.

Recorded in October 2019. Homer (portrait left, with eyes closed owing to his blindness) flourished probably in the 8th century B. C.; George Chapman (portrait right), the first translator of all of Homer into English out of the original Greek, began publishing his Iliad in 1598, and finished in 1616. The incident is taken from Book Twelve, Lines 435 to 471.

In A. T. Murray's prose version:

"Evenly was strained their war and battle, until Zeus vouchsafed the glory of victory to Hector, son of Priam, that was first to leap within the wall of the Achaeans he uttered a piercing shout, calling aloud to the Trojans: “Rouse you horse-taming Trojans, break the wall of the Argives, and fling among the ships wondrous-blazing fire.” So spake he, urging them on, and they all heard with their ears, and rushed straight upon the wall in one mass, and with sharp spears in their hands mounted upon the pinnets. And Hector grasped and bore a stone that lay before the gate, thick at the base, but sharp at the point; not easily might two men, the mightiest of the folk, have upheaved it from the ground upon a wain—men, such as mortals now are—yet lightly did he wield it even alone; and the son of crooked-counselling Cronos made it light for him. And as when a shepherd easily beareth the fleece of a ram, taking it in one hand, and but little doth the weight thereof burden him; even so Hector lifted up the stone and bare it straight against the doors that guarded the close and strongly fitted gates—double gates they were, and high, and two cross bars held them within, and a single bolt fastened them. He came and stood hard by, and planting himself smote them full in the midst, setting his feet well apart that his cast might lack no strength; and he brake off both the hinges, and the stone fell within by its own weight, and loudly groaned the gates on either side, nor did the bars hold fast, but the doors were dashed apart this way and that beneath the onrush of the stone. And glorious Hector leapt within, his face like sudden night; and he shone in terrible bronze wherewith his body was clothed about, and in his hands he held two spears. None that met him could have held him back, none save the gods, when once he leapt within the gates; and his two eyes blazed with fire. And he wheeled him about in the throng, and called to the Trojans to climb over the wall; and they hearkened to his urging. Forthwith some clomb over the wall, and others poured in by the strong-built gate, and the Danaans were driven in rout among the hollow ships, and a ceaseless din arose."

Recorded in October 2019. Homer (portrait left, with eyes closed owing to his blindness) flourished probably in the 8th century B. C.; George Chapman (portrait right), the first translator of all of Homer into English out of the original Greek, began publishing his Iliad in 1598, and finished in 1616. The incident is taken from Book Five, Lines 625 to 670.

In A. T. Murray's prose version:

"So these toiled in the mighty conflict, but Tlepolemus, son of Heracles, a valiant man and tall, was roused by resistless fate against godlike Sarpedon. And when they were come near as they advanced one against the other, the son and grandson of Zeus the cloud-gatherer, then Tlepolemus was first to speak, saying: “Sarpedon, counsellor of the Lycians, why must thou be skulking here, that art a man unskilled in battle? They speak but a lie that say thou art sprung from Zeus that beareth the aegis, seeing thou art inferior far to those warriors that were sprung from Zeus in the days of men of old. Of other sort, men say, was mighty Heracles, my father, staunch in fight, the lionhearted, who on a time came hither by reason of the mares of Laomedon with but six ships and a scantier host, yet sacked the city of Ilios and made waste her streets. But thine is a coward's heart, and thy people are minishing. In no wise methinks shall thy coming from Lycia prove a defence to the men of Troy, though thou be never so strong, but thou shalt be vanquished by my hand and pass the gates of Hades.” And to him Sarpedon, captain of the Lycians, made answer:“Tlepolemus, thy sire verily destroyed sacred Ilios through the folly of the lordly man, Laomedon, who chid with harsh words him that had done him good service, and rendered him not the mares for the sake of which he had come from afar. But for thee, I deem that death and black fate shall here be wrought by my hands, and that vanquished beneath my spear thou shalt yield glory to me, and thy soul to Hades of the goodly steeds.” So spake Sarpedon, and Tlepolemus lifted on high his ashen spear, and the long spears sped from the hands of both at one moment. Sarpedon smote him full upon the neck, and the grievous point passed clean through, and down upon his eyes came the darkness of night and enfolded him. And Tlepolemus smote Sarpedon upon the left thigh with his long spear, and the point sped through furiously and grazed the bone; howbeit his father as yet warded from him destruction. Then his goodly companions bare godlike Sarpedon forth from out the fight, and the long spear burdened him sore, as it trailed, but no man marked it or thought in their haste to draw forth from his thigh the spear of ash, that he might stand upon his feet; such toil had they in tending him. And on the other side the well-greaved Achaeans bare Tlepolemus from out the fight."

Recorded in October 2019. Written in 1816.

"Keats's generation was familiar enough with the polished literary translation of Alexander Pope, which gave Homer an urbane gloss similar to Virgil, expressed in heroic couplets. Chapman's vigorous version was put before Keats by Charles Cowden Clarke, a friend from his days as a pupil at a boarding school in Enfield Town. They sat up together till daylight to read it: 'Keats shouting with delight as some passage of especial energy struck his imagination. At ten o'clock the next morning, Mr. Clarke found the sonnet on his breakfast-table.'"

Recorded in September 2019. Printed in 1783.

Recorded in September 2019. Ratified in 1791. A very imperfect attempt to bring out the grammatical meaning of these laws by pause, emphasis, and inflection.

Timestamps: One 00:06, Two 00:49, Three 1:12, Four 1:41, Five 2:31, Six 3:53, Seven 5:02, Eight 5:45, Nine 6:13, Ten 6:37.

Recorded in September 2019. Written in 1863. This is a tentative experiment in giving a more measured delivery to this speech. It is conventionally said to have been read in under two minutes, but this appears to me far too rushed, and perhaps based on a seemingly merely rhetorical comparison by Edward Everett between the "two hours" of his speech and the "two minutes" of Lincoln's. John Nicolay, at any rate, claims the time taken to have been something under four minutes, and some sources even say five; with as many as six interruptions for applause.

"What should not be forgotten is that Lincoln was himself an actor, an expert raconteur and mimic, and one who spent hours reading speeches out of Shakespeare to any willing (and some unwilling) audiences. He knew a good deal about rhythmic delivery and meaningful inflections. His delivery was emphatic, and he read in a slow, clear way to the farthest listeners." -- Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg

Recorded in September 2019. Published in 1909, as chapter three in the book "Literary Taste: How To Form It."

Recorded in September 2019. Marcus Aurelius lived from 121 to 180 A. D. The translation, by George Long, was made in 1862.

Recorded in September 2019. Written in 1781, on the death of his father.

Recorded in August 2019. Written in 1861.

Recorded in August 2019. Written in 1756.

Recorded in August 2019. Published in 1711, as essay number 33 of The Spectator.

Recorded in June 2019. Taken from the Memoirs of Socrates by Xenophon, Book 3, Chapter 12. Socrates lived from circa 470 to 399 B. C..; Xenophon, from circa 431 to 354 B. C. The translation, by Sarah Fielding, was published in 1762.

Recorded in July 2019. Published in 1599.

Recorded in July 2019. Published in 1595.


Created 10 months ago.

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CategoryArts & 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 many uploads on this channel is rushed, and fatiguing to the ear; in others, it is painfully slow and halting, especially because I am trying to develop a new way of reading that allows the listener enough time truly to comprehend what is heard. I can only plead as an excuse for this 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.