The British Council has supported these recordings as part of the Shakespeare Lives in 2016 programme celebrating the work of William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death.

At the Halle

He sat by her side, near the front, sideways on

to the cellos and the second violins

under the gold blazon of the brass section.

He feared she’d see if he risked a sideways glance,

hoping for some imperfection that would mean

he was not so totally outclassed:

her nose slightly too big; the small blemish

on her left cheek (the right as you looked at it)

which you could only see when you enlarged

her image on the computer screen.

Around her eyes, he knew, were thin, tired lines,

and under them were deeper lines: ‘bags’ even

– under the right eye in particular.

He knew that in due course a time would come

when he would take no such satisfaction

in looking for her blemishes and would wonder

if he might have done better for himself.

But it was very far from that time yet,

and he still faced the music, feeling small.

from On Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Poets’ Celebration edited by Hannah Crawforth & Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Bloomsbury, 2016), ©Bernard O'Donoghue 2016, used by permission of the author

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