The Duchess of Cornwall reads Auden poetry to mark National Poetry Day

30 September 2020, 23:14

The Duchess of Cornwall reads Auden to mark National Poetry Day - listen here

By Fiona Jones

Thursday 1 October marks National Poetry Day - writer Gyles Brandreth exclusively shares the Duchess of Cornwall's recital of W H Auden's poetry as part of his national event, Poetry Together.

Mr Brandreth told Iain that in these troubling times, people have been turning to poetry and writing poetry, making this year's National Poetry Day even more significant.

Mr Brandreth's passion project is Poetry Together which unites young and old, with school pupils learning and reciting poetry to those in care homes.

This year, while the restrictions will not allow any tea parties , Poetry Together is encouraging schools and care homes to connect virtually to ensure all are still able to enjoy the beautiful art form.

The Duchess of Cornwall and others, including Dame Judi Dench and poet and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen support this worthy cause.

The Duchess of Cornwall joined Gyles Brandreth in Poetry Together to commemorate National Poetry Day
The Duchess of Cornwall joined Gyles Brandreth in Poetry Together to commemorate National Poetry Day. Picture: Gyles Brandreth

Please see below the poem that Her Royal Highness has recited:

Night Mail by WH Auden

This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.

Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.

Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,

Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.

Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.

In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends,
Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers' declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep,
Dreaming of terrifying monsters
Or of friendly tea beside the band in Cranston's or Crawford's:

Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and hope for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?