Richard Burton Reads ‘Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait’ and 14 Other Poems by Dylan Thomas

When the actor Richard Bur­ton died in 1984 he was buried, as he request­ed, with a copy of The Col­lect­ed Poems of Dylan Thomas.

Bur­ton was a great friend and admir­er of Thomas, who shared his Welsh her­itage and rak­ish demeanor. The two men also shared a love of lit­er­a­ture. “I was cor­rupt­ed by Faust,” Bur­ton once said. “And Shake­speare. And Proust. And Hem­ing­way. But most­ly I was cor­rupt­ed by Dylan Thomas. Most peo­ple see me as a rake, wom­an­iz­er, booz­er and pur­chas­er of large baubles. I’m all those things depend­ing on the prism and the light. But most­ly I’m a read­er.”

In 1954 Bur­ton read a selec­tion of his friend’s poet­ry for a record­ing that would be released the fol­low­ing year as Richard Bur­ton Reads 15 Poems by Dylan Thomas. The record­ings were made about a year after the poet­’s death, and just when Bur­ton was rid­ing high on the suc­cess of his 1954 per­for­mance in Thomas’s radio play Under Milk Wood. The long poem “Bal­lad of the Long-Legged Bait,” above, is from the 1954 ses­sions. The 14 poems below are most­ly from the same ses­sions, although a cou­ple of them might be from lat­er record­ings made by Bur­ton.

  1. Under Milk Wood
  2. Deaths and Entrances
  3. Lament
  4. Ele­gy
  5. A Win­ter’s Tale
  6. Fern Hill
  7. Before I Knocked
  8. In My Craft or Sullen Art
  9. I See the Boys of Sum­mer
  10. Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed
  11. The Force that Through the Green Fuse Dri­ves the Flower
  12. The Hand that Signed the Paper
  13. And Death Shall Have No Domin­ion
  14. Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night

Relat­ed con­tent:

Dylan Thomas Recites ‘Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night’ and Oth­er Poems

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