Six Centuries of Verse

Thirty years ago I remember watching a wonderful TV series, Six Centuries of Verse. I loved it so much, I bought the book, written by Anthony Thwaites, who selected the poetry for the series which spanned English & American poetry from 1384-1984, Chaucer to Ted Hughes, over 16 episodes. The series was presented by Sir John Gielgud & featured actors reading the poetry. As well as the attraction of hearing some of my favourite poetry read by great actors, the series was filmed in beautiful locations – stately homes, gardens & churches.

I was so pleased to discover that the series has been released on DVD at last. I’ve spent the last few weeks watching my favourite episodes again. Although it’s a melancholy experience too, because so many of the great actors featured have since died. Gielgud, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Sir Ralph Richardson, Ian Richardson, Lee Remick. Still, this is a beautiful series. Anyone who enjoys poetry would love it. It seems to be available on You Tube, but only in bits & pieces so the DVD is the best option.
There is one clip on You Tube that I came across the other day which I think is just stunning. Christopher Eccleston reading Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.

One of my favourite actors is Julian Glover. I remember him in By the Sword Divided, the Civil War drama series. Here he reads his own translation of Beowulf, as well as John Donne’s The Flea & The Good-Morrow as well as a chilling reading of Browning’s My Last Duchess. Peggy Ashcroft reads George Herbert & plays Cordelia to Gielgud’s King Lear. Ian Richardson reads Blake’s The Tyger & Christopher Smart’s To His Cat Jeoffry, while sitting in a barn cuddling a cat. Lee Remick reads Emily Dickinson & Edgar Allan Poe. Six Centuries of Verse is a real treat for poetry fans.

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