Meditation 17

By John Donne. Read by Ros from London.

No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.<br If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were.
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;<br it tolls for thee.

The Ruined Maid

By Thomas Hardy. Read by Sue from Poole, Dorset

“O ‘Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?” —
“O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?” said she.

— “You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!” —
“Yes: that’s how we dress when we’re ruined,” said she.

— “At home in the barton you said thee’ and thou,’
And thik oon,’ and theäs oon,’ and t’other’; but now
Your talking quite fits ‘ee for high compa-ny!” —
“Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.

— “Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!” —
“We never do work when we’re ruined,” said she.

— “You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you’d sigh, and you’d sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!” —
“True. One’s pretty lively when ruined,” said she.

— “I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!” —
“My dear — a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain’t ruined,” said she.

The General

By Siegfried Sassoon. Read by Robin from Jersey.

“Good-morning, good-morning!” the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
“He’s a cheery old card,” grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

Copyright Siegfried Sassoon by permission of the Estate of George Sassoon.

Something Told the Wild Geese

By Rachel Field. Read by Cally from Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered,—‘Snow.’
Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned,—‘Frost.’
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

Lines and Squares

By AA Milne. Read by Pennie from Spalding, Lincolnshire.

Whenever I walk in a London street,
I’m ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, “Bears,
Just look how I’m walking in all the squares!”

And the little bears growl to each other, “He’s mine,
As soon as he’s silly and steps on a line.”
And some of the bigger bears try to pretend
That they came round the corner to look for a friend;
And they try to pretend that nobody cares
Whether you walk on the lines or squares.
But only the sillies believe their talk;
It’s ever so portant how you walk.
And it’s ever so jolly to call out, “Bears,
Just watch me walking in all the squares!”

To the White Fiends

By Claude McKay. Read by Patricia from London.

Think you I am not fiend and savage too?
Think you I could not arm me with a gun
And shoot down ten of you for every one
Of my black brothers murdered, burnt by you?
Be not deceived, for every deed you do
I could match – out-match: am I not Africa’s son,
Black of that black land where black deeds are done?

But the Almighty from the darkness drew
My soul and said: Even thou shalt be a light
Awhile to burn on the benighted earth,
Thy dusky face I set among the white
For thee to prove thyself of highest worth;
Before the world is swallowed up in night,
To show thy little lamp: go forth, go forth!

From a Railway Carriage

By Robert Louis Stevenson. Read by Sue from Poole, Dorset.

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

Wind On The Hill

By AA Milne. Read by Yvette from Yorkshire.

No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.

It’s flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,<br Not if I ran.

But if I stopped holding
The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.

And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.

So then I could tell them
Where the wind go…
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.

My Country was a Party

By Lisa Kelly. Read by Jan from Chingford, London.

until it was broken up. Many people had been invited.
You could say it had an international flavour.
Guests brought food from their own countries
for everyone to try. It was a smorgasbord. Delicious.
The invite said bring your own bottle and some brought
more than one. The spirit was one of generosity.
Not everyone understood each other perfectly,
but imperfectly was enough. When the music got loud,
we communicated with smiles, handshakes, hugs.
There was dancing. If you didn’t know the steps,
someone would teach you how. We took it in turns
to DJ, mix the decks. A party like that appears effortless,
but we all knew the amount of preparation it took –
and we thanked the people who had taken the time
to create such an atmosphere. But it wasn’t to last.

We are not sure exactly how it got broken up, who
called who, who was thrown out first, what got
trashed, but the aftermath was chaos. Invited guests
had belongings chucked onto the streets, red wine spilled
and stained the floor, the sound system was broken.
It happened quickly and we couldn’t understand why.
Couples who had been dancing together, were screaming
at each other. There was talk of gatecrashers – a gang
of thugs who planned destruction for the sake of destruction.
Perhaps they felt left out, perhaps they felt aggrieved
that such a party was possible that they had nothing
to do with. All we know is that the party was broken up,
and now there is talk of a different sort of party –
one with a strict guest list, one where the music is
pre-recorded, one where we all dance in a straight line.

Used with kind permission from the author.

Sonnet 9

By William Shakespeare. Read by Jenny from London.

Is it for fear to wet a widow’s eye,
That thou consum’st thy self in single life?
Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;
The world will be thy widow and still weep
That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
When every private widow well may keep
By children’s eyes, her husband’s shape in mind:
Look what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it;
But beauty’s waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unused the user so destroys it.
No love toward others in that bosom sits
That on himself such murd’rous shame commits.