William Wordsworth's autobiographical poem The Prelude is arguably the most important piece of poetic writing in our language. Recorded in Wordsworth's home in Grasmere, Cumbria, Wordsworth looks back over events in his early life. Wordsworth believed that poetry should be written in the natural language of common speech, and in that way it was revolutionary in its time.
Parts of the poem are famous, with lines quoted often such as the description of the young Wordsworth stealing a boat. Other parts are more introspective. The young poet leaves Grasmere to go to University in Cambridge, and is homesick. Wordsworth grapples with his political feelings - travelling to France at the time of the French revolution. He enjoys the hustle and bustle of London, and is euphoric when crossing the Alps. All the time this poem is accessible, bursting with colour and description, full of gripping storytelling.
The Prelude is read by Sir Ian McKellen, with specially composed music by John Harle, performed by John Harle on saxophone and Neill MacColl on guitar. The Prelude was directed in Manchester by Susan Roberts.
What listeners say about The Prelude: Complete Series (BBC Radio 4: Classic Serial)
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I first heard this on the radio, and have listened to this audio book many times since. One of my favourites
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