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.

Drowned Man

See how they sleep first he turns

away and then she turns

after him or now she turns

her back and he follows


rolled by an imperative

deeper than sleep

he rolls over like a wave

that turns itself over

sleepily with the sea’s deep

breathing with its rhythm

pulsing far out from land pulsing far

down in the dark


where creatures not yet formed are forming

where like half made beasts

his dreams swim among hers where

she hears his breathing far


above her nearer to the light

nearer to the white-topped

waves the white-peaked sheets his arm

thrown across her now


as she floats upward drawing him

out of deep tides crossing

their legs once more and morning lies

motionless to the horizon.

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

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