Vincent Price Reads the Poetry of Shelley; Ralph Richardson Reads the Poetry of Coleridge

Many of us today think of Vin­cent Price as the face, and an even more so the voice, of mod­est­ly bud­get­ed mid­cen­tu­ry hor­ror movies. But over his long and pro­lif­ic career, he showed just what mul­ti­tudes he could con­tain. Price could ele­vate schlock, of course, but he could also rise to the chal­lenge of mas­ter­pieces: here on Open Cul­ture, we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured his read­ings, on record and on cam­era, of the work of Edgar Allan Poe, the orig­i­nal mas­ter of the psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly trou­bling tale. Today, we have for you a set of recita­tions well out­side the realm of the scary: Price read­ing the poet­ry of Per­cy Bysshe Shel­ley, free on Spo­ti­fy (whose soft­ware you can down­load here).

Shel­ley, as any­one inter­est­ed in 19th-cen­tu­ry Eng­lish poet­ry knows, did­n’t have a long career, but the can­dle that burns quick­ly, as they say, burns bright. Before his death at the age of 29 in a storm on the Gulf of Spezia, he man­aged to write such immor­tal works as Music, When Soft Voic­es DieOzy­man­diasTo a Sky­lark, Ode to the West Wind, and the dra­ma Prometheus Unbound, all of which we hear Price read whole, or in part, in this playlist. And for its final four tracks, we hear famed Eng­lish stage actor Ralph Richard­son deliv­er four poems from the equal­ly endur­ing lega­cy of Shel­ley’s rough con­tem­po­rary Samuel Tay­lor Coleridge, includ­ing Kubla Khan and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The vivid­ness of the imagery and the time­less res­o­nance of the themes in both poets’ work hold up well on the page, but no mat­ter how many times you’ve read it, hear­ing it inter­pret­ed by per­form­ers like Price and Richard­son can let you expe­ri­ence it in a new way. Their dra­mat­ic back­grounds empow­er them to bring out lev­els of emo­tion you might nev­er have felt in your own read­ing; cer­tain­ly Price’s world-weary yet faint­ly arch tone does well with Ozy­man­dias’ gaze-into-the-abyss evo­ca­tion of hubris, imper­ma­nence, and the ulti­mate fate in obliv­ion of all things great and small. Maybe the man who starred in The Pit and the Pen­du­lum nev­er real­ly strayed far from hor­ror after all.

The Price/Richardson read­ing will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

5 Hours of Edgar Allan Poe Sto­ries Read by Vin­cent Price & Basil Rath­bone

Watch Vin­cent, Tim Burton’s Ani­mat­ed Trib­ute to Vin­cent Price & Edgar Allan Poe (1982)

Watch Vin­cent Price Turn Into Edgar Allan Poe & Read Four Clas­sic Poe Sto­ries (1970)

Bryan Cranston Reads Shelley’s Son­net “Ozy­man­dias” in Omi­nous Teas­er for Break­ing Bad’s Last Sea­son

Learn to Write Through a Video Game Inspired by the Roman­tic Poets: Shel­ley, Byron, Keats

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.