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?