Listening Corner

24th February 1995 at 00:00
Great Poets of the Romantic Age Available on two compact discs or two audio- cassettes (Pounds 6.99 or Pounds 5.99 respectively). Naxos Audio Books, 55 Long Lane, London N3 2HY

No voice is quite as good at reading the Romantic poets as the one each of us has inside our heads.

But if we have to make do with second best, it may as well be the voice of one of Britain's most exciting young actors, Michael Sheen.

Whether he's antheming a lonely grief or giving vent to William Blake's anger in the poem "Auguries of Innocence", he is ideally cast for delivering this admirable selection from the works of Romantic poets, including William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Lord Byron and John Clare.

The two cassettes with a playing time of 159 minutes contain over 40 of the selected poets' best-known works, including nearly all of Samuel Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", and a long section from Byron's "Don Juan".

This energetic poem will help to introduce young listeners to the fact that Lord Byron, as well as being described as being "mad, bad and dangerous to know", could also be a very funny writer.

Perhaps one of the most sensible ways of using these cassette tapes would be to let students listen to each of the poems, one at a time, while reading the corresponding printed texts (these are not provided with the audio-cassettes or compact discs).

But it might be the case instead that teachers introducing the Romantic poets to a class of sceptical sixth-formers might well prefer to simply press the play button and let their students luxuriate in the spontaneous overflow of emotion.

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