There are few things I find more pleasurable than hearing the lilt and flow of poetry read aloud, especially if read by a skilled orator or by a loving family member.
My father was both, and it was he who read one of my abiding favourites, The Night Before Christmas, a classic tale by Clement Moore, on every one of the sixty Christmas times we shared before his death. Here are the beginning stanzas—
My siblings and I would lie in our beds, literally quivering with anticipation as we listened to that familiar tale, and I miss hearing my Dad read it to this day.
Another favourite poetic tale is The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, which I first heard read aloud by a high school English teacher who loved her calling. Here is the first stanza—
The final stanza before the coda sent shivers up and down my spine as I sat listening in the classroom, and so it still does—
That same teacher also introduced me to one of my favourite poets, Robert Service, whose rhythmic cadences entrance me even now, especially The Cremation of Sam McGee. Here are the first two stanzas—
So enamored am I of that rhythm and rhyme scheme that I have even written similar poems of my own, pale comparisons, but still a joy to read aloud. Here is a stanza from one example, I Haven’t the Time—
As a young father, I would often read this excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s poem, On Children, to my own daughters as I tucked them into bed. Although too young to grasp its full meaning, they seemed to enjoy the sound of my voice as I pondered the deeper implications of the verse—
I think my all-time favourite poem is When You Are Old, penned by my all-time favourite poet, William Butler Yeats. It speaks of the eternal nature of love and loss, and evokes in me both sadness and an abiding happiness each time I hear it—
I think I shall die before I am finished discovering more and more poetry whose lilt and flow lifts my soul, and I wonder if doing so will still be possible in the afterlife. What joy I would find meandering the roads of eternity while listening to symphonic music from the maestri, and hearing great poetry from the masters read aloud.
And who knows, perhaps that is the way it will be, as this stanza from J.R.R. Tolkien’s poem, Roads Go Ever On, might imply—
Whether it will be so or not, I have always loved the lilt and flow of the spoken word. I hope you do, too.