CD Review: The Poems of T. S. Eliot, Read by Jeremy Irons

Eliot ironsT. S. Eliot’s poetry is some of the finest of the 20th century. I’ve long been a fan of The Four Quartets, four long poems that Eliot wrote between 1935 and 1942, which were has last major works in verse. There are a number of recordings of these poems, by Eliot himself, by Alec Guinness, and by Ralph Fiennes, but this recording of the Quartets, along with much of Eliot’s other poetry, sets a new standard. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

From early poems like The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Hollow Men to The Waste Land, which cemented Eliot’s position as one of the leading modernist poets in the English language, to the Four Quartets, Irons gives riveting performances of these works. They are slow, measured, with a low, sometimes almost lugubrious voice, that suits the poetry very well. For The Waste Land, he is joined by Eileen Atkins, with whom he alternates parts of the poem.

These works were originally recorded a few years ago for BBC Radio 4, and it’s very important that they are now published on CD. It’s the most complete set of Eliot’s poetry, and the set is about 3:40 long.

I strongly recommend not buying the digital version of this on Audible. I did, and requested a refund, because each poem is listed as a chapter, with no name, just numbering; Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. This isn’t something you will always want to listen to in order, and you may want to pick one or more poems when you listen to it, and it’s a shame that Audible can’t provide chapter names.

There is subtle musicality in Irons’ readings, and he brings out the depth of these poems. If you like Eliot, you must own this set.

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