Tuesday 28 October 2014

Auden and Tennyson

I was surprised and - yes - flattered to be sent this link by a Salvete reader to a tiny bit of radio I did five long years ago.

Click here and scroll down to 07:45 to hear me get hugger-mugger with the great Evan Davies on Radio 4's flagship Today programme. This item was prompted by my discovery, in the now-closed British Film Institute archive off the Tottenham Court Road, of some unknown Auden poetry, based on interttitles for the Dziga Vertov film Six Songs of Lenin.

Simon Callow kindly agreed to record some of the verses for the programme and I picture listeners across middle England choking on their cornflakes and spluttering indignantly at the sound of Communist propaganda from the Stalin era. This early morning interview was a hair-raising experience, as you may be able to tell from they air of mild hysteria that prevails throughout.

All of which is by way of preamble to something else: Alfred Lord Tennyson himself, in person, reading 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' on an 1890 wax cylinder recording. That's strange enough, but just look at the uncannily animated photograph (copyright Jim Clark, who has kindly given me permission to link up). Click here.

Jim has produced several of these unsettling animations, and they can be found on YouTube under the generic heading of 'poetryreincarnations'. There's even one of Auden, in colour, reciting 'Musée des Beaux Arts'. What an idea!

Auden, by the way, in his introduction to a 1945 anthology of Tennyson's poetry, said the senior poet “had the finest ear, perhaps, of any English poet” but “was also undoubtedly the stupidest".

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