Medieval epic poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:



Simon Armitage reads selections from his translation of the medieval epic, The Death of King Arthur:



One of the anonymous folk songs collected in Francis James Child’s “The English and Scottish Popular Ballads”:

Modernized lyrics to the above song:


High upon Highlands,

and low upon Tay.*

Bonnie George Campbell

rode out on a day.

He saddled, he bridled,

and gallant rode he,

and home came his good horse,

but never came he.

Out came his mother dear,

grieving full sore,

and out came his bonnie bride,

rending her hair.

“The meadow lies green,

the corn is unshorn,

but Bonnie George Campbell

will never return.”

Saddled and bridled

and booted rode he,

a plume in his helmet,

a sword at his knee.

But bare came his saddle

all bloody to see.

Oh, home came his good horse,

but never came he.

*Tay = river in Scotland.


“Westron Wynde”, anonymous song from c1350 sung by Maddy Prior and Tim Hart:



Tom O’Bedlam reads Thomas Wyatt’s “They Flee From Me That Sometime Did Me Seek”:


Anonymous group performs Ralph Vaughan Williams’ music to George Herbert’s poem “The Call”:


Benedict Cumberbatch reads Shakespeare’s “The Seven Ages of Man” (All the World’s a Stage) and other poems:

Alan Rickman reads Sonnet 130:

Text to the above poem:


My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.



Richard Burton reads John Donne’s “Song: Go and Catch a Falling Star:

Simon Schama documentary on John Donne:



A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General

by Jonathan Swift


His Grace! impossible! what dead!

Of old age too, and in his bed!

And could that mighty warrior fall?

And so inglorious, after all!

Well, since he’s gone, no matter how,

The last loud trump must wake him now:

And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,

He’d wish to sleep a little longer.

And could he be indeed so old

As by the newspapers we’re told?

Threescore, I think, is pretty high;

’Twas time in conscience he should die

This world he cumbered long enough;

He burnt his candle to the snuff;

And that’s the reason, some folks think,

He left behind so great a stink.

Behold his funeral appears,

Nor widow’s sighs, nor orphan’s tears,

Wont at such times each heart to pierce,

Attend the progress of his hearse.

But what of that, his friends may say,

He had those honours in his day.

True to his profit and his pride,

He made them weep before he died.


Come hither, all ye empty things,

Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings;

Who float upon the tide of state,

Come hither, and behold your fate.

Let pride be taught by this rebuke,

How very mean a thing’s a Duke;

From all his ill-got honours flung,

Turned to that dirt from whence he sprung.



The Day of Judgment

By Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)


WITH a whirl of thought oppress’d,
I sunk from reverie to rest.
A horrid vision seized my head,
I saw the graves give up their dead!
Jove, arm’d with terrors, bursts the skies,         5
And thunder roars and lightning flies!
Amazed, confused, its fate unknown,
The world stands trembling at his throne!
While each pale sinner hung his head,
Jove, nodding, shook the heavens, and said:         10
‘Offending race of human kind,
By nature, reason, learning, blind;
You who, through frailty, stepp’d aside;
And you, who never fell from pride:
You who in different sects were shamm’d,         15
And come to see each other damn’d;
(So some folk told you, but they knew
No more of Jove’s designs than you;)
—The world’s mad business now is o’er,
And I resent these pranks no more.         20
—I to such blockheads set my wit!
I damn such fools!—Go, go, you’re bit.’


Christopher Smart’s “For I Will Consider My Cat, Jeoffrey”:

For text to the above poem click here.