About this Recording
NA216812 - Collection: Naked She Lay - Classic Erotic Verse

Naked She Lay

Naked She Lay

An Anthology of Classic Erotic Verse


It is natural that poets should write about erotic love. The erotic urge is amongst the most raw and primeval of human impulses and it would be odd indeed if it were ignored in literature. Rather, the intensity of that emotion, and that of the whole creative process, makes this a natural subject for writers.


Erotic love, or lust, differs from other kinds of love in that it is possesses a certain degree of physicality — in very early Egyptian and Sumerian literature it is perceived as a sickness. This anthology of classic erotic verse is a celebration of this most irrational yet irrepressible of emotions.


Of course, the word love (derived from the Sanskrit lubh — to desire) has come to denote a variety of meanings in our language. As so often, the Greeks had a word for it — three in fact — but it was eros, which indicated sexual love.


As in all literary genres, poetry reflects the time and society in it is composed. This is perhaps particularly apparent in literature, which concerns itself with matters of love, and especially sexual love.


The well-documented Victorian period stands as an obvious example of repression (though often accompanied by hypocrisy) and represents one extreme on the scale of tolerance. The sexual revolution of the 1960s and the liberation it heralded (in matters sexual, as well as self-expression) typify the other. Thus, 19th century prudery can give rise to a slightly amusing use of metaphor, which may not always be immediately apparent.


On the other hand, the 16th and 17th centuries produce literature, which is far more forthright, while often retaining great beauty of language and form — and a seductive tenor. Rochester, for example, is a particularly good example of the sexual freedom and bawdiness, which came to symbolize the Restoration.


This collection draws mainly on poetry from the English language though Baudelaire, Verlaine and Rimbaud also represent French literature with poems. There is a rich sensuous tradition in the East as well, and we have poems from the Chinese, Sanskrit and Arabic.


By its very nature, the poetry of erotic love — perhaps as opposed to romantic love — is introspective and selfish in that the poet generally writes it for him or herself. It has been suggested that true eroticism — the wisp of a veil, the sheen on the skin, the curve of a thigh — is largely a private affair; when it becomes public, it moves into the area of the bawdy. In spite of this, there is a thread that runs through much of this verse, which is derived from the commonality, and passion of human emotion.


This collection has been structured in three ages and, inevitably, there are more poems written from a youthful perspective than from a mature point of view. Clearly, this does not mean that these poets were young when they wrote these lines, but rather indicates the ideal of young love.


I have included poems, which are homosexual in nature; as to omit this area of literature would be to gloss over some of the important and tender erotic verse known to us. And our society no longer demands such censorship.


I have also included several poems which deal with eroticism in mythology. The two Elizabethan poems (by Marlowe and Beaumont) are both heavily influenced by Ovid, although they also contain much from their own time, and both contain comic as well as erotic elements. I am grateful to David Timson for his suggestions, which add greatly to this collection — these he reads himself in this recording.


Notes by Anthony Anderson



About the Readers


EDWARD DE SOUZA has played leading roles in over a dozen West End plays and in several seasons at Stratford, the Old Vic and the National Theatre. His film credits include The Thirty-Nine Steps and The Spy Who Loved Me.


MATTHEW MARSH has appeared in several theater productions, including the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre, and the West End run of Copenhagen. He is an extremely versatile actor with many television credits such as, As Time Goes By, A Certain Justice, Heartbeat and A Touch Of Frost. Film credits include Miss Smilla’s Sense of Snow.


STELLA GONET’s appearances in a series of key roles have placed her in the forefront of young British actresses. These included Titania and Isabella for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Roxanne in Cyrano de Bergerac and Ophelia in Hamlet at the National Theatre.


BENJAMIN SOAMES trained at LAMDA. He has appeared in the television series Sharpe and Absolutely Fabulous as well as the films Heavy Weather and England, My England. He has also toured worldwide in the acclaimed Cheek By Jowl production of Measure For Measure.


DAVID TIMSON has performed in modern and classic plays across Great Britain and abroad, including Wild Honey for Alan Ayckbourn, Hamlet, The Man of Mode, and The Seagull. He has made over 1000 broadcasts for the BBC and World Service ranging from the classics to the Woman’s Hour serial. He has been seen on television in Nelson’s Column, Swallows and Amazons, The Bill, and Eastenders, and in the film The Russia House. Timson is also the author of Naxos AudioBooks’ The History of Theatre.


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