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.

Two

These two, if two, can only half-exist,

their being so lost, so inwardly inclined

that were somehow the universal mind

to make its inventory, they would be missed,

their bodies having slipped between the hours

and dropped down to this silent underland,

the white torque of their sheet still in her hand

like the means of their escape. From the light purse

of their mouths, they pass their only coin

endlessly, so none may buy or sell.

Each has drawn so long and drank so deep

from the other’s throat or root, they cannot tell

tongue from tail or end from origin.

Sleep will halve them so they will not sleep.

 

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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