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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty. That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know.
My tastes in poetry tend to be with the modernists, but Keats is one of the two Romantics for whom I make an exception (The other being Hopkins). This disk includes the most famous of his short lyric works and one of his longer (26 minutes) narrative works, The Eve of St. Agnes. Beautiful poems, beautifully read, what is not to like? Only a tragically cynical...
Published on 12 Jun. 2009 by John Ferngrove

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Feeble
There is little magic, delicacy or atmosphere in these anaemic readings. One reason is that, for some inexplicable reason, Naxos recruits readers for its poetry recordings who have very limited vocal resources (no sense that La Belle Dame is a dialogue poem) and, apparently, little sympathy for the works themselves. Everything's delivered as if it's prose of a fairly...
Published 11 months ago by Enobarbus


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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty. That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know., 12 Jun. 2009
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John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Poets: John Keats (Audio CD)
My tastes in poetry tend to be with the modernists, but Keats is one of the two Romantics for whom I make an exception (The other being Hopkins). This disk includes the most famous of his short lyric works and one of his longer (26 minutes) narrative works, The Eve of St. Agnes. Beautiful poems, beautifully read, what is not to like? Only a tragically cynical iconoclast could award anything other than five stars to this item.

As to the medium of poetry by the Audio book, well it has its limitations. Quite simply one has no chance to linger. I made this purchase wondering if it might be a means of 'easily' learning some new poetry, but I can say now that it doesn't work that way, which is not to say that I have any regret for my purchase. This only whets my appetite for the printed words. Once I have come to know these works truly well, through reading them at my own pace, then I can imagine that the audio book will be all the more pleasurable as a medium through which to settle back with old friends.

Actually, I can imagine that the audio book might be, for someone like me, a preferred medium when it comes to the longer narrative stuff like Agnes Eve. I can imagine myself losing patience as a reader with the hyperbolic romanticism of this work, which sounds stereotypical to my modern ear, cynical heart that I am. On the other hand, I find that the audio book medium allows me to bask in the beautiful language without getting too wrapped up in the plot. Having said that, the shorter lyric works are all of the kind that you would wish to have every line burned into memory, and for that the written word is necessary.

Also to be said for the audio book medium is that it is hands off, and thus works well in the car. Also, more unexpectedly, it has proved a very pleasant way to fall asleep (O soft emabalmer of the night). This is something that my wife and I have enjoyed together, creating a warm but wordless bond, and being conducive to a charming hypnagogia.

If you love 'British' poetry at all, that is, poetry that draws on any traditions historically deeper than postmodern multi-culturalism, then you will love Keats. If you love Keats then acquisition of this CD is a no-brainer.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully presented CD of Keats poetry, 9 Sept. 2010
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T. Bently "tbently" (Berkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Poets: John Keats (Audio CD)
This is an intelligently-read CD of selected Keats poems including the odes to Melancholy, a Nightingale, a Grecian Urn, Psyche and Autumn. Sam West and Michael Sheen both recite the works perfectly.

This will appeal to everyone who loves English poetry or is studying Keats for A-level (though the narrative poems Lamia and Hyperion, which are often anthologised, don't feature here). The only slightly strange inclusion is that Simon Russell Beale comes on for a single, short appearance near the end - very strange!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Feeble, 7 April 2014
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This review is from: The Great Poets: John Keats (Audio CD)
There is little magic, delicacy or atmosphere in these anaemic readings. One reason is that, for some inexplicable reason, Naxos recruits readers for its poetry recordings who have very limited vocal resources (no sense that La Belle Dame is a dialogue poem) and, apparently, little sympathy for the works themselves. Everything's delivered as if it's prose of a fairly commonplace variety (though Sarah Woodward brings all too briefly a touch of animation to St Agnes' Eve). If you can find the Argo recordings of these works, you will hear what's missing on this disc.

Though somewhat mannered, the readings of these poems by Ralph Richardson now available on Old-Thundridge Records are wonderfully rhythmic and atmospheric and read with great intelligence.
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5.0 out of 5 stars HAUNTING WORK, 9 Mar. 2015
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A Happy Chappie (Surrey England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Poets: John Keats (Audio CD)
Keats is Keats and this is a very good recording with no hiss or crackle. Both West and Sheen do a very good job as readers, no complaints there :-) Has most of the favorites, the Odes, St Agnes, Old Meg etc some 24 poems in all runs just over the hour.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The splendid poetry of John Keats", 18 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: The Great Poets: John Keats (Audio CD)
My review of the poetry of John Keats does not cover all the poems on this cd. Instead I prefer to focus my review on just one of Keats poems: `Ode on a Grecian Urn'.

I have assumed customers reading this will have some knowledge of Keats's writings, either from reading his poems and letters, or studying modern critical commentaries and contemporary reviews. This review however, is not meant, nor should be seen, as a long critical literary analysis, nor an academic essay of Keats as a poet or his poetry. Instead I have taken from contemporary commentators and critics their ideas and thoughts, and set them out in a fairly simple form of commentary. I hope this approach will not detract from our understanding of the poem, but enhance our enjoyment of it.

The CD Recording.
The majority of recorded poetry when performed by professional actors, gives the impression the recording has been produced with a radio audience in mind, and these selective poetry readings of Keats are no different. Four professional actors were employed to read the poetry of Keats by Naxos, the recording label. Samuel West has been given the task of reciting the bulk of Keats's poetry, sixteen of the twenty four poems, including sonnets and some odes are read by himself. Including, with Sarah Woodward, they recite the long narrative poem, `The Eve of St. Agnes', which lasts for just over twenty six minutes. Michael Sheen reads, the `odes': `To Autumn'; '... to a Nightingale' ; '... on Melancholy' and '... on A Grecian Urn'. Simon Russell Beale reads just one poem, `There was a naughty boy'. All twenty four poems are recited in just under seventy minutes.

The recordings are handled adeptly and resonant with the poems chime; particularly the poems recited by West:`Wherein lies happiness?'; and in the sonnet, `Bright Star!' and `Deep in the shady sadness of a vale'. Michael Sheen's, recordings of the odes -with the exceptions of, `to a Nightingale'; `To Autumn'- however, while atmospheric, comes with a slight echo that hangs in the back ground, as if they had been recorded in a confined space -some vault, a cellar perhaps; the readings are forward and close, drawing the listener in.

Why Poetry should be read out loud.
My principal aim in this review is to encourage the listener to reread Keats's poems for themselves. Out loud; daunting to anyone perhaps, but nevertheless a pleasurable experience. A point also made by Stephen Fry, "...Among the pleasures of poetry is the sheer physical, sensual, textual, tactile pleasure of feeling the words on your lips, tongue, teeth and vocal cords."(1)
Secondly, When read out loud it's possible with temper, to find the measure of rhyme, the pace of rhythm and the implied metaphor. Similarly its possible to form different ideas about the nature of a poem, or have those ideas re-enforced as to the poem's essence and meaning. Keats poetry has meant many different things to different people.(2) A viewer of visual art for instance, like the reader of poetry creates his or her own impressions, filling gaps and imposing meaning.

The Review (a commentary).
`Ode on a Grecian Urn' was probably written in May 1819. It is one of several odes composed at the height of Keats creative output during the late summer of 1818 and August 1819. Keats was familiar with the writings of the classical world; the ode reflects this fascination with Greek art and culture. It is highly probable Keats would have visited the British Museum to see the Portland vase, the Townley vase and the Elgin Marbles; his visits would have fired his creative imagination to write.(3) The Urn is partly Keats's own invention, and partly a composite drawn from his reading about, and viewing of, classical art. The urn Is funerary.(4) It is a contrast between art and life.

The poet in addressing a Grecian urn, `Ode on a Grecian Urn', the poem contains five stanza's, he reflects upon the images contained thereon, which unlike reality are eternal. The ode as presented to us appears timeless; its description is enjoyed by the participants on the vase, by the poet in his concentration on the urn, and by the reader absorbed in Keats poem. (5)

Commentators and critics have over a hundred years gazed in puzzlement, as well as argued over, what the urn is supposed to represent given the many ambiguities and therefore, paradoxes. However they all seem to be in agreement with the general themes which run through the poem. They are art, the function thereof and its relation to life, beauty and time and mortality.

Andrew Motion, himself a working poet and biographer of Keats, Sees Keats poetry as often inseparable from the life he led or witnessed. Motion's biography usefully relates Keats life to the intellectual and political world of the time. Motion is unequivocal the urn is a representation of the past. Motion's observations are particularly useful, for they add a not unlike critical dimension to the reading of Keats poetry. Motion as poet, and before as Poet Laureate, refers to the ode as, "alternating between hymn and argument and introducing two voices to dramatise its dialectic".(6)

In the first half of the first stanza:

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
"What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals or both,"

The first four lines are both metaphorical and paradoxical.(7)
The speaker may look on the urn as a bride of quietness, a child of time, and a teller of pastoral tales.

Motion's reading of the first stanza, "likens the Urn as an embodiment of isolation. Its subtle subjectivity is a kind of social historical loneliness, its ambiguities are outward signs of withheld insecurities"-themes he says appear in the first line of the poem.(8)

Stanza 2, alternates between the beholder and object, reader and text of.

Keats use of punctuation and repetition even exclamations; tools of rhetoric, add to the tone and feel of the poem. For example the word 'happy' is used six times in the third stanza.

"Ah happy, happy boughs! That cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
And, happy melodist unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!"

This use of repetition Marian Cox believes, conveys a desperation of desire for and envy of happiness, creating an illusion of spontaneity and a sense of flux.(9)

The last lines to the fifth and final stanza are the two most perplexing and most debated lines in Keats poetry. They read as follows,

`Beauty is truth, truth beauty', - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

How do we read the two lines above? What do they actually mean? Alternative meanings can be created by moving or removing the inverted commas.
Cox provides over twenty different interpretations as to the message above, such as one below:-

"" Truth can only be experienced empirically through the senses, through intense experience, not through statements of fact or proved propositions." "I have never yet been able to perceive how anything can be known for truth by consecutive reasoning"" (letter to Bailey, 22 November 1817). (10)

Another critic, John Strachan, asks, are both lines addressed to man by the urn? Or are the words after 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty' addressed by the poet to the urn? Or by the poet to the reader? The case however, remains unsettled and each reading has critical validity.(11)

In closing, I hope I have been able to provide the listener/reader with some further insight into the ideas held by commentators and critics when assessing the poetry of Keats. There is in the poems of John Keats, a richness of the metaphor, ambiguity and paradox. Keats was an extraordinarily young man with great promise; his poetic development was astonishingly rapid. Yet the shortness and difficulty of his life, Fatherless at eight, nursing his Mother, he was to become motherless at fourteen, and his brother Tom, during their fatal illnesses bestowed on Keats an immediate experience with death; the loss of close family adds poignancy to a study of his poetry.

Notes:
1) Stephen Fry. `The Ode Less Travelled' (Introduction) p. XXIII
2) Glennis Byron York Notes on `Selected Poems John Keats'. p.6
3) John Strachan: Edited. `The Poems of John Keats': A sourcebook p.150-151
4) Ibid., p.151; Marian Cox `The Poetry of John Keats'. p.52
5) Cox ibid., p.54
6) Andrew Motion ``Keats' A Biography'. p.389
7) Byron. p.39
8) Motion. p.392
9) Cox.p.53
10) ibid., p.56-58 Point Number 15, Lists twenty four different interpretations to the message, `Beauty is truth.'
11) Strachan. p. 152-153

Books Consulted:
Glennis Byron. John Keats York Notes Advanced. (2003)
Charlotte Carstairs: `Longman Literature Guides: York Notes on Selected poetry John Keats'. (1983)
Marian Cox `The poetry of John Keats AS/A Level Student Text Guide'. (2004)
Evert and Rhodes `Approaches to Teaching Keats's Poetry'. (1993)
Garrod H.W. Edited, `Keats Poetical Works'. (Reprinted 1978)
Andrew Motion `Keats A biography'. (1997)
John Strachen Edited by, `The Poems Of John Keats A Sourcebook'. (2003)
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The Great Poets: John Keats by John Keats (Audio CD - 3 Dec. 2007)
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