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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