The Poems of T. S. Eliot

Read by Jeremy Irons
Narrated by: Jeremy Irons
Length: 3 hrs and 41 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (247 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Jeremy Irons' perceptive reading illuminates the poetry of T. S. Eliot in all its complexity. Major poems range from 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' through the post-war desolation of 'The Waste Land' and the spiritual struggle of 'Ash-Wednesday', to the enduring charm of 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'.

The Spectator praised Jeremy Irons' interpretation as 'so accessible, reading Eliot as if finding his words for the first time, grappling with them, relishing them, using them to express feelings that we all share as we struggle to accept, to recognise or relinquish'. Dame Eileen Atkins also appears alongside Jeremy Irons in the reading of 'The Waste Land'.

©2015 BBC (P)2016 BBC

Critic Reviews

"For such a major poet, Eliot left a fairly sparse body of work, and all his mature poems are here. And while many consider him to be a fairly austere modernist, these readings by Jeremy Irons bring out the human passion (and sometimes the intellectual passion) that lurks in the poems.... His versions are simply more human, as beautifully crafted as the poems themselves." (AudioFile)

Featured Article: 10 Best Poetry Audiobooks for the Ultimate Lyrical Experience


It’s a common turn of phrase that poetry is meant to be heard. Tone, pauses, cadence, and inflections in the voice all serve to further the emotional pull of modern and historical poetic masterpieces. And now, with the rise of the audiobook format, poetry can be heard and enjoyed in the way they were meant to be. Taking into account not only the words themselves but the way they are spoken, our list provides a look at the power behind a poem.

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Horribly Frustrating to Follow

I love these poems and Jeremy Irons’ interpretation of them, but the Audible version is too frustrating to follow with no chapter titles /- at the very LEAST — identified. I’m so disappointed.

62 people found this helpful

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Not really an audio book - it’s a radio broadcast

A repeated complaint is that the poems are not identified. It just says “chapter 1, chapter 2...). Given that there are over 70 “chapters” this is annoying. You might just want to hear Wasteland, or a particular cat poem. I wondered why. I’d also tried to find the actual boom that Jeremy Irons was reading from, and couldn’t. There is no identification. At the end of the audio the answer is clear. This isn’t from an actual book, it is a 2015 radio reading Irons did for the BBC.
Irons did a nice job (does everything sound better with a British accent?). But, the absence of chapter titles is a big deal. It will make it unlikely I will return to this audio to brush up on Eliot poetry. Also, for simply being a recording of a radio broadcast, this Audible price ($12 when I bought it) is a rip off.

50 people found this helpful

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No way to listen to poetry

Jeremy Irons is a masterful interpreter of T.S. Eliot. He gets the sounds and rhythms. He gets the feeling. He plays the poems with the fine instrument of his voice and makes the meaning clear. Why do I give his overall two stars? Because there is no way to navigate among the poems. There are only chapter numbers, not poem titles. You can’t skip a poem, go to a favorite poem, find a poem you want to hear again. This is simply unforgivable. To do a collection of poems properly, the titles of the poems must be the dividers, not meaningless numbers.

39 people found this helpful

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Finally!

Where does The Poems of T. S. Eliot rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is easily one of my top 5 favorite audiobooks. I've been searching audible for the last year waiting for them to finally make this wonderful performance available.

Which scene was your favorite?

I really enjoyed Macavity the Mystery Cat. It was my first favorite poem and holds a special place in my heart.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I originally heard Jeremy Iron (and Dame Eileen Atkins) read T.S. Eliot on BBC and had tears in my eyes from their performance.

Any additional comments?

My only nick-pick is the very occasional "singing" that happens at moments. It's different than how I read the text, but not off-putting.

17 people found this helpful

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Ironsis wonderful but Book is hard to Navigate

Jeremy Irons readings are wonderful. However chapters have been assigned numbers but NO TITLES: consequently a reader cannot go directly to a poem. A puzzling omission since poetry collections of this type (classics) are seldom read (listened to in this case) cover to cover. I hope this deficiency is an oversight that will be rectified. It also would have been nice to include a printable text since at times one wants to read along with Irons. These poems are available with some research but it would have been convenient to have them at hand even for a nominal charge.

24 people found this helpful

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DEVASTATINGLY BEAUTIFUL

Both TS Eliot and Jeremy Irons are great immortal favorites of mine, and the pairing of their talents is unparalleled. Refracted through the dazzling, prismatic performance of Irons, Eliot's abstract modernist verses shine, and filled with the light of Eliot's verses, Irons is entirely illuminated, vivid and achingly lovely as a stained glass window. I cannot recommend this collection enough to those who are passionate about great poetry and enthralled by wondrous, rolling performances of marvelous verses.

3 people found this helpful

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Accessible and enjoyable....

Jeremy Irons narration is so spot on... to the tone, tenor and feel of T.S. Elliot's poetry that I re-listened to many of the poems.
Yes, it takes a bit of life experience to enjoy Elliot and yes, he writes from his time and from his insights and passions, but much of good literature and poetry takes some care and attention to digest..... still, it is so good the soul. Your life is richer for taking the time while driving in the car, in the kitchen, in the garage, out on a walk or sitting in a good chair by the fireplace. I strongly recommend this audible book. I have 200 plus audible books and this one ranks in my top 10.

3 people found this helpful

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No chapter titles

I was drawn to this edition by the allure of Iron’s voice and I was not disappointed.
However if I were to want to find one particular place in the book, one particular poem, I would be out of luck. There are no titles in the table of contents. Now that is disappointing!

2 people found this helpful

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No poem titles in the chapters? Really?

A perfectly fine reading of incredible poems. But the BBC or Audible couldn’t be bothered to label the chapters? So you have no idea what you’re about to hear, nor can you get back to a particular poem. A little pride in craft, please.

1 person found this helpful

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No poem titles?

If they had included the poem title in the "chapters", It would have bee n a 5 star.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Peter Clinch
  • 06-12-18

I hope this helps........

POEMS OF T.S.ELIOT
Read by Jeremy Irons

Prufrock and other Observations 1917
1/ The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
2/ Portrait of a Lady
3/ Preludes
4/ Rhapsody on a Windy Night
5/ Morning at the Window
6/ The ‘Boston Evening Transcript’
7/ Aunt Helen
8/ Cousin Nancy
9/ Mr. Apollinax
10/ Hysteria
11/ Conversation Galante
12/ La Figlia Che Piange

Poems, 1920
13/ Gerontion
14/ Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar
15/ Sweeney Erect
16/ A Cooking Egg
17/ The Hippopotamus.
18/ Whispers of Immortality
19/ Mr Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service
20/ Sweeney Among the Nightingales

The Waste Land. 1922
21/ The Burial of the Dead
22/ A Game of Chess
23/ The Fire Sermon
24/ Death by Water
25/ What the Thunder Said
——
26/The Hollow Men. 1925

Ash-Wednesday. 1930
27/ Because I do not hope to turn again
28/ Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
29/ At the first turning of the second stair
30/ Who walked between the violet and the violet
31/. If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
32/ Although I do not hope to turn again

Ariel Poems
33/ Journey of the Magi, 1927
34/ A Song for Simeon. 1928
35/ Animula, 1929
36/ Marina, 1930
37/ The Cultivation of Christmas Trees 1954

The Four Quartets
38/ Burnt Norton 1935
39/ “”. II
40/. “” III
41/. “”. IV
42/ “”. V
43/ East Coker 1940
44/ “”. II
45/ “”. III
46/ “”. IV
47/ “”. V
48/ The Dry Salvages. 1941
49/ “”. II
50/ “”. III
51/ “”. IV
52/ “”. V
53/ Little Giddings. 1942
54/ “”. II
55/ “”. III
56/ “”. IV
57/ “”. V

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
58/ The Naming of Cats
59/ The Old Gumbie Cat
60/ Growltiger’s Last Stand
61/ The Rum Tum Tugger
62/ The Song of the Jellicles
63/ Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer
64/ Old Deuteronomy
65/ The Pekes and the Pollicles
66/ Mr. Mistoffeles
67/ Macavity: the Mystery Cat
68/ Gus: the Theatre Cat
69/ Bustopher Jones: the Cat about Town
70/ Skimbleshanks: the Railway Cat
71/ The Ad-dressing of Cats
72/ Cat Morgan Introduces Himself

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



174 people found this helpful

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  • Kirk McElhearn
  • 04-24-18

A great recording marred by crappy metadata

Any additional comments?

This is a wonderful recording of some of the greatest poetry of the 20th century. But, as often, Audible ruins it with crappy metadata. How do I know which poem is Chapter 1, or Chapter 2, and so on? If I want to find specific poems - such as the Four Quartets - how do I find them? This is simply contempt for listeners. I feel cheated.

87 people found this helpful

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  • bristolfamily
  • 12-22-18

Why no titles to the chapters?

Downloaded as I love TSE and thoroughly enjoyed listening to Jeremy Irons Reading 4Q on R4. But completely impossible to navigate this audible compilation as there is no indication as to what each of the 72 chapters contains.

38 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-07-19

Thank you Mr Clinch!

Jeremy Irons is pitch perfect and interprets the poems imaginatively yet faithfully and with the style, veracity and acumen we have come to hugely respect from the consumate interpreter of verse.

Chapter titles are woefully missing but you will find them all listed on this page in a review by Mr Peter Clinch for which he deserves much credit and I for one am very thankful.

Exactly why I needed to rely upon the kindliness of this stranger for a very basic function I do not know. Without Mr Clinch's generous help this download would be all but worthless. Not because of the quality of the content - but if you can't find the one you want what's the bloody point??

The readings are wonderful. Mr Clinch did a better job at the packaging! Give the man some free books and a job!

29 people found this helpful

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  • Goshawk
  • 02-01-19

Impossible to navigate

The reading is excellent although as mentioned there should be a longer pause between poems as you have hardly digested the ending of one before you are into the next .

However... I am mystified how Audible can produce this and other audio books without anyway to navigate the poems , there are purely numerical chapter titles which means you have absolutely no idea which of the poems is about to be read and no way of going back to or forward to the one you want .

For a linear novel this layout maybe this is adequate however with poetry or short stories there MUST be a better way of laying out the menus so listeners can select from a menu the poem they wish to hear

I have no idea whether Audible reads these reviews but if so please action this problem which has been commented on by virtually every reviewer

Thank you !

26 people found this helpful

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  • Colin Brodie
  • 06-27-18

Very good, but...

Excellent narration, but no index with poem titles. This means that one is unable to select a piece by title.

Another gripe is that there is too short a pause after each piece, giving no time for reflection or contemplation.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Sean Kiely
  • 04-30-18

One Of The Greatest Recordings Of A Great Poet

Jeremy Irons understands the music in Eliot's poetry like no other reader I have heard, Including the poet himself. This is an outstanding recording and I recommend it enthusiastically.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Enobarbus
  • 02-10-20

Misanthropos

Like Hopkins, T S Eliot produced a small body of work of immense richness and disproportionate significance. Nobody writing after them can write as if they hadn't existed. Poets who have reacted most deliberately against them have been most shaped by the work those two masters produced.

This complete recording of Eliot's verse (it omits the juvenilia: no great loss) enables us for the first time to hear everything at a sitting - there's less than four hours of it - and to realise that, essentially, it's a single, organic work, produced over about thirty years. Eliot found his subject early and stayed within very prescribed territory.

He wrote some of the most distinguished prose in the language. Trenchant, concise and lyrical, so much of what he produced has found its way into the Tribe's every day, educated discourse. His longer poems and even the short lyrics are accumulations of brilliant fragments and what ended up in one work or another was to some extent arbitrary and accidental. T S Eliot is the master of the striking image, the withering insight. His work is really a collection of powerful aphorisms: very handy in our Twittering world. Whether taken together they add up to the shrewd social diagnosis and wise prescription he believed they did is another matter. He uses words with an economy and energy which is inspirational. We can all learn a lot about how to write memorably from listening to T S Eliot.

Jeremy Irons has a beautifully clear and pleasant sounding voice: every word is clearly articulated. But he has a disastrously narrow range of expression. His default setting is Adagio Melancholia and as the work proceeds, his delivery becomes slower and slower, ever more lifeless. This means he misses entirely that dramatic juxtapositions of registers, styles, rhythms and textures which characterise this most urbane and ironic of poets. It's as if Eliot has been recast as a pompous and haughty Victorian sermoniser who takes himself as seriously as Prufrock does. The effect is increasingly ludicrous. Where are the different voices which characterise Eliot's cosmopolitan desert? There is a serious shortage in this recording not only of ecstasy but of wit. Of basic intelligence.

So don't expect any transfiguring moments. Has there ever been less rapture than in the way Irons delivers this, the culminating, transfiguring moment in 'the Waste Land':

My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract,
By this and this only have we existed.

Irons's second name is Prudence. He sounds like a tea-totaller at a wine tasting.
Has anyone ever delivered the children’s nursery rhyme

London Bridge is falling down, falling down...

with less animation? The whole of "The Waste Land" is very oddly presented. It is a play for voices and works best with a small cast of clearly differentiated types. Here we get two voices, one male, one female, equally lugubrious and used according to no discernable plan. For example, in the Thames Maiden sequence of the Fire Sermon, the female voice reads two of them (in exactly the same manner) whilst Irons plays the third (but not in drag). It's as if the producer was drunk. In What The Thunder Said, Irons is oddly animated but with bitter anxiety, with nothing approaching the Questors sense of awe. There seems to be no understanding of the poem's emotional logic. From the perspective of today, we can see that "The Waste Land" was in its day wildly over praised, became a kind of modernist anthem. But it has wonderfully lyrical stretches and makes its points with considerable wit, Little of that comes across in this confused. monotonous and poorly rehearsed recitation.

It's even worse in 'Four Quartets', the whole of which Irons delivers like a Coroner's Report. He misses the contrasting moods, shifts of perception in 'Burnt Norton' entirely. Where's the tension? The ambiguity? There's no magic or even partial ecstasy in this rose garden, even the thrush sounds like a depressed opium addict, and as for the excited children giggling in the undergrowth - they behave like funeral mutes.

Everything thereafter is Gloom at Five Miles an Hour. We never experience the moments of transfiguration, of Erhebung, of joy. Mankind is doomed, the world is a horrible place. Living is joyless, pointless monotony. Why would anybody want to go around again, to know the place for the first time, if this is all Life has to offer?

The reading of "Prufrock" with which the enterprise begins is the dullest experience of this hilariously touching poem I've ever had. Most sixthformers do a better job. I blame Jeremy's teachers. He simply doesn't understand what he's reading, seems to think Prufrock is Eliot and that he himself is standing in for T S Eliot. There's no sense of ironic detachment.

And in the best of the early poems, Irons fails completely to realise the withering archness of the Lady or to capture the precise quality of the narrator's sense of his own insignificance. Everyone Irons characterises is manically depressed so there no comedy of manners, of differentiation, very little drama. Oddly, Irons is very much better in the minor poems in the Prufrock collections: sprightly, ironic, even perceptive to some of the poetic jokes: it's as if somebody has given him a bit of coaching. But when we get to "la Figlia", he drops back into his syrupy gloom. Irons just doesn't realise when Eliot is sending up the pretensions and affectations of the narrator.

Notwithstanding its shortcomings, it is good to have these recordings. But they give a gravely misleading impression of the range and subtlety of Eliot's satire. Eliot can be ponderous, priggish and insufferable:

You are here to pray where prayer has been valid

but there's so much more to him than patrician self-righteousness, anti-Semitism, misogyny, misanthropy and gloom. We have a lamentable shortage of actors interested in reading poetry well. Where are today's Edith Evans, Prunella Scales, Dorothy Tutin, Lawrence Olivier, Richard Burton or Michael Redgrave?

Irons has a very fine vocal instrument but very little idea of how to use it.

***

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  • j hellings
  • 04-05-20

Impossible

How can a poetry collection work if you have no way of finding a poem or navigating the book? The performances are superb. The poems sublime. But there is no way of finding the one you want when all you have is an numerical chapter list which even splits poems. so this is a useless audio book

5 people found this helpful

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  • Christian
  • 05-27-18

Fantastic... :-)

In my view this is one of the best audiobooks I have ever enjoyed. Jeremy Irons reading T. S. Eliot is really as good as it gets. Highly recommended.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Pia Horan-Gross
  • 09-22-18

It was over all too quickly!

Just brilliant! Jeremy Irons is simply the best! T.S. Eliot has always inspired me. We have a love of cats in common! !

1 person found this helpful

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  • Simon
  • 07-05-19

Stunning

I have always loved Jeremy Irons’s voice but this is extraordinary. He has obviously thought deeply about Eliot’s complex poetry and brings it to life, with all its drama, tragedy and comedy. (Yes, Eliot can be funny.)

I’ll be listening to this many times. It is incredibly beautiful.