George Gordon, Lord Byron
Volunteers bring you 12 recordings of The Castled Crag of Drachenfels, by George Gordon, Lord Byron.
This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for September 5, 2021.
The Castled Crag at Drachenfels is a 4-verse poem embedded in Canto 3 of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by Lord Byron. It is thought to be addressed to his half-sister Augusta Leigh, by whom he was believed to have fathered a child.The Drachenfels crag overlooks the town of Kornigswinter on the river Rhine in Germany, just south of Bonn.
Byron, George Gordon, Lord
Written late in his career, Byron's narrative poem The Island tells the famous story of the mutiny on board the Bounty, and follows the mutineers as they flee to a South Sea island, "their guilt-won Paradise."
Venus and Adonis is Shakespeare's narrative poem about the love of the goddess Venus for the mortal youth Adonis, dedicated partly to his patron, the Earl of Southampton (thought by some to be the beautiful youth to which many of the Sonnets are addressed). The poem recounts Venus' attempts to woo Adonis, their passionate coupling, and Adonis' rejection of the goddess, to which she responds with jealousy, with tragic results. This recording features three different readers performing the narration, Venus, and Adonis.
Both Ovid and Spenser also treat this ancient myth, but Spenser alters the ending, converting the tale into an archetype of fulfilled love, whereas Ovid, like Shakespeare, combines humor with pathos as a buffer against sentimentality. Ovid’s Venus behaves absurdly out of character, becoming a huntress to keep her lover company in the woods. Shakespeare, however, preserves decorum; his Venus remains at all times the queen of love. The humor arises rather from the fact that the would-be paramour isn’t interested. This endows the goddess’s wooing with nearly slapstick over-exertion, and yet her sincerity makes her appealing, while Adonis’s immaturity forces us to respect his chastity. The pathos comes, of course, from the unhappy ending—more unhappy because we do not expect a comedy to end sadly, especially not when we sympathize with the characters.The poetic form or genre, the epyllion, is an erotic narrative based on mythology, like Marlowe's Hero and Leander and, later, Phineus Fletcher's Venus and Anchises, also found in the Librivox catalogue. Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, both narrative poems, are the only works that Shakespeare ever carefully saw through the press.
A young soldier born among Tartars but sired by the mighty Persian lord Rustum, serves in the Tartar army, seeking his great father. To this end, he persuades his general to call a truce and arrange for him to challenge the Persians to single combat. Should he prevail, his father will learn his whereabouts and come to him, or so he thinks, for Sohrab is unaware that his mother, fearing to lose her son, wrote to Rustum that their child was a girl. The Persians agree but have no champion until it is learned that they have recently been joined by Rustum. Although the great hero is contemplating retirement, he reluctantly agrees to be the Persians' champion provided that he may fight unknown. As a result the two warriors engage in a contest that must lead to their mutual grief regardless of who wins—unless they happen to discover their relationship before it is too late. They continually approach but fail to make this discovery until it can no longer give them joy. This tragic poem, like Oedipus Rex, is a sustained piece of dramatic irony, but it differs from that play both in that it is in epic style (though only a episode) and in that the secret which hovers so close to disclosure would produce a happy ending were it ever to break forth.
Thayer, Ernest Lawrence
Volunteers bring you 12 recordings of Casey at the Bat by Ernst Lawrence Thayer. This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for December 16, 2012.
Ernst Thayer was an American writer and poet who wrote "Casey at the Bat", the "single most famous baseball poem ever written" according to the Baseball Almanac.
Edgar Allan Poe
Poe’s famous narrative poem and the author’s reflections on its composition. (David Wales)
George Gordon, Lord Byron
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is a lengthy narrative poem in four parts written by Lord Byron. It was published between 1812 and 1818 and is dedicated to "Ianthe". The poem describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks for distraction in foreign lands. In a wider sense, it is an expression of the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. The title comes from the term childe, a medieval title for a young man who was a candidate for knighthood. Canto IV describes Harold's travels in Italy.
“The Sun to me is dark
And silent as the Moon,
When she deserts the night
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.”
Milton composes his last extended work as a tragedy according to the classical Unities of Time, Place and Action. Nevertheless it “never was intended for the stage” and is here declaimed by a single reader.
Samson the blinded captive, in company with the Chorus of friends and countrymen, receives his visitors on their varying missions and through them his violent story is vividly recalled. Then he is summoned to give a final demonstration of God-given strength to entertain the Philistines, his captors. Famously – and of course, offstage – his performance brings the house down.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
During the late nineteenth century and until the middle of the twentieth, many elementary classrooms in America featured (along with a Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington) a black-and-white print of a group of New England pilgrims on their way to church, the men carrying their muskets. Every school child at that time was intimately acquainted with the story of the Mayflower and the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts. Among the historical figures, one of the best known was Captain Miles Standish, the military commander of the little “army,” which consisted of a bare handful of men, who repeatedly defeated many times their number of hostile Indians. The children also knew the friendly Indian Squanto and the young pilgrim gentleman John Alden and the lovely maiden Priscilla Mullins.
In the middle grades practically all students used to read Longfellow’s long narrative poem The Courtship of Miles Standish, telling the story of these real people. The plot is initiated by Standish’s request that his friend, the better educated and more eloquent Alden, plead his case for him and persuade Priscilla to marry this rough middle-aged widower. What the captain did not know was that John Alden was also deeply in love with the same young girl. Present-day readers will be impressed that the delightful Miss Mullins seems to be a quite modern young lady, with a mind of her own. Many hundreds of Americans trace their ancestry to John and Priscilla, whose descendants also include Presidents John and John Quincy Adams and Longfellow himself. Those who are not familiar with their romance will find it a most pleasant tale.
A ne'er-do-well's life is changed by an encounter with a stubborn animal.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Evangeline is one of Longfellow’s most popular poems and was once a great favorite with the American people. For many years almost every school child studied this poem during the middle school years. Although the decline of the reputation of the once-idolized poet has also brought neglect to this classic, it is still a very touching and expertly written work of art. It is based upon the tragic expulsion of the French settlers from Acadia (located in the Canadian maritime provinces) during the French & Indian War (1754-1763). Many Acadians died as a result of their exile, and many families were separated, including the heroine of this poem and her betrothed. Although she is a fictional character, statues of her and other memorials exist in Nova Scotia and other places now inhabited by descendants of the Acadians, later frequently known as “Cajuns.”
English village life and villagers in the east of England in the late 1700’s and early 1800s—is the subject of The Borough. George Crabbe was an English poet, surgeon, and clergyman. He is best known for his early use of the realistic narrative form and his descriptions of middle and working-class life and people. Lord Byron, an avowed admirer of Crabbe's poetry, described him as "nature's sternest painter, yet the best." Crabbe's poetry was predominantly in the form of heroic couplets, and has been described as unsentimental in its depiction of provincial life and society. Modern critic Frank Whitehead has said that "Crabbe, in his verse tales in particular, is an important–indeed, a major–poet whose work has been and still is seriously undervalued." A borough is an administrative division in various countries. In principle, the term borough designates a self-governing township although, in practice, official use of the term varies widely. Benjamin Britten took the story of Peter Grimes (Letter 22) for his opera of the same name, though Britten changed the import of the story.