This was one of the poems last week on Writer’s Almanac.

The Cross of Snow

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face—the face of one long dead—
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Although I’ve never been a huge Longellow fan, I had been thinking of Rhiannon right before I clicked on the site, so this poem really spoke to me.

Of course, I had to look up “benedight” (it means blessed) and that led me down a rabbit hole where I eventually found this spoken version on YouTube.

The poem is read by Jean Aked, but I found it a little off, partly because it’s a woman’s voice narrating a poem from the point of view of an older man, but also because of her English accent; Longfellow was such a quintessential American poet.

Several years ago I might not have really noticed this, but listening to lots of audiobook has made me a bit of a voice “connoisseur”.  There are quite a few book narrators whose voices I recognize when I hear them and I have favorites: Simon Vance, Robert Bathurst, Jayne Entwhistle.  I usually like it when authors narrate their own books (like Bill Bryson) because they bring a special nuance to their own material.  Occasionally I don’t like a narrator at all, which can actually sour an audio book for me.  One of the most prolific audio book narrators is George Guidall.  Unfortunately, the very first audio book that I heard him narrate was something I just couldn’t stand.  So even after several years, every time I hear his voice it takes me right back to that dreadful book and I have to really concentrate to get past my negative feelings.  But he is a very good narrator so I continue to try to get past this.

All this leads me back to the Longfellow poem.  I’ve heard two narrators read it now and I think I’ll stick with the Garrison Keillor version!

It’s the story of your life.  Who would you like to narrate it?

85 thoughts on “Narration”

  1. My daughter went through a period when she liked falling asleep to tapes of audio books, especially Tony Hillerman reading his own novels.

    The first day I worked in the DFL Meida office at the state legislature, my boss surprised me. Dave, an old radio man, said my voice sounded exactly like Robert Reich, then the labor secretary in Bill Clinton’s cabinet. Most folks hate the sound of their voice, but I’m okay with the Reich comparison. Like me, he is short, bearded and liberal.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. there was a barney miller episode where the guy was talking through a door and the guy he was talking to noticed the voice sounded exactly like gregory peck. you didn’t notice it before and couldn’t help but notice it afterwards
      it was memorable

      Liked by 2 people

  2. scott simon

    it’s fun thinking of the different voices walter cronkite, garrison, robert redford, robert de niro, bob keeshan, john wayne,

    i think i’ll read my own

    good way to remember rhiannon

    Liked by 5 people

    1. She wrote an autobiography that’s long out of print. I bought a used version quite a few years ago that was very fun to read. She was quite a character.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I knew Peter in college. His voice has always fascinated me. I have tried to understand why it is so appealing. My conclusion is that the way Peter talks conveys his intelligence, and that’s a big reason we like listening to him.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anyway, I think Meryl Streep doing my Minnesota accent should do my life story. Some people think I look like her so double reason for her to do it. On video. Good idea

    Liked by 2 people

  4. OT and really idiotic. Son and Dil cannot find the right size diapers for their son in Brookings, so I ran to the store and found them and we will send them by UPS on Monday.


        1. We are fine. I need to bring some to my friend in Howard Lake next weekend when I go to her to help her after her rotator cuff surgery.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. you cant go afternoon. it is the first thing they run out of. 5 minutes before opening will not even guarantee because others wait in line. not as bad today as yesterday but .. still out at costco by 15 minutes after opening


        3. I was at Trader Joe’s and Target on Thursday and both had some toilet paper in stock although their supplies were low. I didn’t buy any. What I wonder about is the bottled water. Both places had pallets of bottled water and people were buying multiple flats of it. What’s driving that?


        4. Last Thursday I stopped at target just to pick up some clementines and some Kleenex and it was wild. The item of the day was clearly the 12 pack of bounty paper towels. I think every third person I saw at least one. We see someone else buying something or in this case more than someone else and feel like “oh maybe we should get that too.”


        5. My impression of Costco is that it’s the outlet of choice for the hoarding-inclined even under the best of circumstances.


        6. I probably only go to Costco every two or three months but I always wonder where do people put all that stuff? I don’t have room for boxes that big or seven cans of something because they’re blister wrapped together.


  5. Just closed up after a dance show at the college. Perhaps the last public event for a while. And they were fighting a lot of parents who thought it should have been cancelled as well.
    And you know, they were here for 6 hours yesterday and 6 hours today and I never heard a sneeze, wheeze, or cough from anyone.
    Bonus to the fact this is a group I’ve known and worked with for 30 years and they’re great people and it was all very nice.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I listened to almost all of her books on CD a few years back. It took me a bit to realize that that was really her voice and she wasn’t making it up. But then once you get used to it, you don’t want to hear anyone else reading her stuff. I wish she would write more.


  6. If someone else is narrating my life story, it’s probably because I’m dead. That affects my choice. I’m thinking I’d like the story told jointly by those two hookers in the movie Fargo. Keep things light, don’tcha know.

    Meanwhile, the rules are changing rapidly in this institution where I dwell. We’re heading for something like solitary confinement. No more dining in groups at small tables where we can’t get six feet apart from each other. I’m so relieved that our president has told us this is a piffle that will soon pass.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. At my mom’s and our friend W’s, there are no “non-essential” visitors at this point. We can see W only if we have to perform some task like laundry when his VA aide can’t get there.
      Same at my mom’s (which is nursing home, not just asst. living) – I’m going to have to be in touch by phone for a while, which should be interesting…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As of this moment my eye surgery for Tuesday is still on, but I wouldn’t be surprised to get a call tomorrow cancelling it. Guess it all depends how this whole situation develops in the next twelve to eighteen hours. I’d like to get it over with but understand if it needs to be postponed.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, it is outpatient surgery and you won’t take up a bed, so perhaps it will still be on. I hope they don’t cancel my friend’s rotator cuff repair for the 23rd.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I would go for Dessa (local poet/hip hop artist and all around bad a$$) or perhaps Nina Totenberg. Sally Wingert could be fun. Another local talent choice – just because I’d love to find out how my story would be told – is Kevin Kling. I think my life would sound more interesting if Kevin Kling could tell the tale, especially the little stuff that is so often overlooked.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Dessa is a fascinating woman. The more I hear about her the more I like her. Saw her at a street concert here in Rochester a few years ago. Her music doesn’t do much for me but her language and creativity certainly do.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Her performances with the MN Orchestra are fabulous. They just released a recording of live concerts from last fall. If you have Spotify, look for “Ring the Bells” and take a taste or two. Her storytelling in her lyrics is great. (“Firedrills,” “Dixon’s Girl,” “The Chaconne” does some interesting character building…or the tune used in RBG’s move, “The Bullpen”… )

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Spotify.There’s another bandwagon I have yet to climb on.
          One of the dancers yesterday used it and my son rolls his eyes at me everytime I tell him ‘No, I don’t have spotify’. Even the college kids tell me to get it.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. My life story would definitely need some imaginative and perhaps philosophical enhancement. The storyteller I nominate for that job would be Stephen Tobolowsky, whose podcasts I’ve mentioned before. He recounts stories from his own life, which is a good deal more eventful than mine.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. A little OT, but I know you guys were dying to hear the results of my “Murder on the Orient Express” test. The 1974 version of the movie is absolutely based on the book; the new one not so much.

    Liked by 2 people

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