Forget the David Cross-Ginsberg meme, how about Tennyson-Ginsberg?
The great English Victorian, Alfred Lord Tennyson passed away on this day, October 6, 1809
Despite the undeniable poor quality, (these recordings were made in the very earliest days of recording technology on wax cylinders), we still have a remarkable artifact – the preservation (allbeit buried behind a formidable wall of static) of the actual voice of Tennyson, the authentic voice of Tennyson, reading/reciting.
According to notes from the BBC, Thomas Edison sent his agents, (a Colonel Jourand & a Mr Stiegler), around to the Poet Laureate’s home, (Farringford, in the Isle of Wight), to record his voice on May 15, 1890. Tennyson made approximately thirty recordings, but, due to poor storage by his grandson, Charles Tennyson, leaving them for many years, nearby, or next to, a radiator, they became damaged by mould, and only about seven of these recordings still survive, (and these, poems mostly in partial form).
Here’s a treat – (our thanks to You Tube uploader,“videocurios“) – the first half of a rare and remarkable 33-rpm 7-inch EP, issued by the Tennyson Society in 1969 (with introduction from aforementioned Tennyson grandson) featuring the bulk of those poems,
beginning with a recitation of “The Charge of the Light Brigade”.
(This is followed by several stanzas, a short section, of “Song of Elaine” (from “Lancelot and Elaine“),
Cannon to right of them,/Cannon to left of them,/ Cannon in front of them/ Volley’d and thunder’d;/ Storm’d at with shot and shell,/ Boldly they rode and well,/ Into the jaws of Death,/Into the mouth of Hell/Rode the six hundred.
Flash’d all their sabres bare,/ Flash’d as they turn’d in air/Sabring the gunners there,/ Charging an army, while/ All the world wonder’d:/Plunged in the battery-smoke/ Right thro’ the line they broke;/ Cossack and Russian/ Reel’d from the sabre-stroke/Shatter’d and sunder’d./ Then they rode back, but not/ Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,/ Cannon to left of them,/ Cannon behind them/ Volley’d and thunder’d;/ Storm’d at with shot and shell,/ While horse and hero fell,/ They that had fought so well/ Came thro’ the jaws of Death,/ Back from the mouth of Hell,/All that was left of them,/ Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?/ O the wild charge they made! /All the world wonder’d/ Honor the charge they made!/ Honor the Light Brigade,/ Noble six hundred!
Love, art thou sweet? then bitter death must be;/Love, thou art bitter; sweet is death to me./O Love, if death be sweeter, let me die.
Sweet love, that seems not made to fade away,/Sweet death, that seems to make us loveless clay,/I know not which is sweeter, no, not I/
I fain would follow love, if that could be;/I needs must follow death, who calls for me:
Call and I follow, I follow! let me die!
(not included here is the second section of the record, featuring “The Charge of the Heavy Brigade“, a section from “The Northern Farmer” and a section of “Come into the Garden Maud” (tho’ that, and much else besides, can be heard on this informative video made by “videocurios” – see here)
The militaristic jingo-ism of the first poem (not to mention the morbid sentimentalism of the second) are hardly likely to have appealed to Allen, tho’ we can be sure he would have been sparked by the triumphant rhetorical tone of Tennyson’s classic “Charge of the Light Brigade”
“The Charge of the Light Brigade” is the focus of Allen’s class
The recording of that session begins in media res – (The recording of Tennyson that he plays and reads along with is actually a truncated one. The full recording can be heard above )
AG: ..No actually its three stanzas, three whole stanzas,
JR: …but more than five lines..
AG: It’s full stanzas. I hadn’t realized because I hadn’t (examined) so closely. Yeah, Harry Smith thought it was..
JR: (You got it from Harry?)
AG: No, actually, I got this from Simon Pettet.
Actually he begins with “Cannons to the left of them,/Cannon in front of them’ [Editorial note – missing out the stanza’s first line -“Cannons to the right of them”]- or maybe that’s broken? – “Volleyed and thundered,/Stormed at with shot and shell,/Boldly they rode and well into…” – [Allen begins playing the Tennyson tape] -“Volleyed and thundered;/Stormed at with shot and shell..” ( The words are difficult to decipher. Allen, to elucidate, reads along with the tape) – Okay, now what we’re going to get is “Flashed all their sabres bare” (he’s just done that). The next line will be “Flashed as they turned in air/Sabring the gunners there,/Charging an army, while/All the world wondered” – ‘So you’ll hear “”Flashed as they turned in air/Sabring the gunners there,/Charging an army, while/All the world wondered”
AG: I don’t know..
JR: But the tone of his voice
AG: Well actually you can hear. You can hear the words
JR: And now you can go back to the poem and know that it reads “Cannon to the right of them” (JR stresses the oratory]….. That’s what he’s telling us with his voice right?
AG: Well actually he has a whole thing…. [Allen continues to read along with Tennyson]
“Flashed as they turned in air/ Sabring the gunners there,/Charging an army, while/All the world wondered./Plunged in the battery-smoke/Right through the line they broke;/Cossack and Russian/Reeled from the sabre stroke/Shattered and sundered/Then they rode back, but not/Not the six hundred./ Cannon to right of them,/ Cannon to left of them,/ Cannon behind them/ Volley’d and thunder’d;/ Storm’d at with shot and shell,/ While horse and hero fell,/ They that had fought so well/ Came thro’ the jaws of Death,/ Back from the mouth of Hell,/All that was left of them,/ Left of six hundred.
You got it. Did you get the words more or less…