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The Speech Lab Recordings

Edited by Chris Mustazza

William Cabell Greet James Weldon Johnson Record Image James Weldon Johnson Record Image George Whiting Hibbitt
W. Cabell Greet (left) and George W. Hibbitt, Columbia professors and founders of the The Speech Lab Recordings and The Contemporary Poets Series, a subset of these recordings that was distributed to schools via The National Council of Teachers of English and Columbia University. The series was originally recorded on aluminum records in Greet and Hibbitt's speech lab, which was built for the study of American dialects. The series ran from 1931 (with the recording of Vachel Lindsay) until around 1942.

Greet's and Hibbitt's portraits are from the Historical Photograph Collection, Columbia University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The recordings included here mark one of the first attempts to create and disseminate an archive of poetry audio. The series, which was originally recorded on aluminum records at Columbia University, began in 1931 with the recording of Vachel Lindsay and ran through the early 1940s. Columbia Professors W. Cabell Greet and George W. Hibbitt served as the founders and editors of the Speech Lab Recordings, and went on to disseminate parts of the collection to "teachers and other lovers of literature" through records sold on a subscription basis, chiefly intended for pedagogical purposes. Heretofore, only a small fraction of these recordings have been easily accessible to the public--and almost never with proper historical context. The addition of these files to PennSound is an effort to present the collection in as close to a composed whole as possible, juxtaposing these important recordings and presenting them in their proper context. For more information see Mustazza on The Contemporary Poets Series in Jacket2.

The poets recorded as part of the series include: Vachel Lindsay, Harriet Monroe, James Weldon Johnson, Gertrude Stein, Edgar Lee Masters, William Carlos Williams, Mark Van Doren, Edna St. Vincent Millay, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, W.H. Auden, Archibald MacLeish, Alfred Kreymborg, John Gould Fletcher, Robert Tristram Coffin, Conrad Aiken, "AE" (George Russell), Carl Sandburg, and John Hall Wheelock.

PennSound wishes to thank the staff at Columbia's Rare Book & Manuscript Library, especially Thai Jones, Jennifer Lee, Jane Siegel, and Karla Nielsen, for helping us to make these recordings available.

Editor's note: The recordings here were originally made on aluminum platters. They were subsequently dubbed to reel-to-reel tapes by the Library of Congress in the 1970s. These digitizations are made from the reels, which are stored at Columbia University. I made the decision to present the recordings in the order in which Columbia numbered the aluminum platters, which may or may not be the same sequence used by Johnson and Hibbitt, except for where I reordered them to keep parts of the same poem together. Sequence numbers, as well as record numbers, are available in the file names. --Chris Mustazza, University of Pennsylvania


Vachel Lindsay
Harriet Monroe
Robert Frost
Edgar Lee Masters
Gertrude Stein
Carl Sandburg
James Weldon Johnson
Mark Van Doren
William Carlos Williams


Vachel Lindsay, recorded in Janurary of 1931

  1. The Silver Ships (2:20) [note 1]
  2. The Jazz of This Hotel (1:06)
  3. How Dulcinea Del Toboso is Like the Left Wing of a Bird (2:00)
  4. A Dirge for a Righteous Kitten (0:59)

  5. The Sea Serpent Chantey
    1. poem (2:59)
    2. fragment (3:24)

  6. Daniel [note 2]
    1. part 1 (3:40)
    2. part 2 (1:05)
    3. part 1 (alternate reading) (2:29)
    4. part 2 (alternate reading) (2:44)

  7. The Virginians Are Coming Again
    1. part 1 (2:43)
    2. part 2 (3:10)
    3. part 2, alternate take (2:41)

  8. The Chinese Nightingale
    1. part 1 (2:16)
    2. part 2 (2:41)
    3. part 3 missing [note 3]
    4. part 4 (2:29)
    5. part 5 (2:44)
    6. part 5, alternate take (2:51)
    7. comments on performance (0:39)

  9. The Congo - fragments
    1. Sections I and part of II (3:08)
    2. Sections II and part of III (3:21)
    3. Sections I and part of II (5:35)
    4. Section III (3:00)
    5. fragment of Section III (4:01)
    6. Section II (2:52)
    7. Section III (in media res) (2:50)

  10. The Congo - complete reading
    1. part I (2:44)
    2. part II (3:00)
    3. part III (3:02)
    4. Comments on the phonotext (0:32) [note 4]

  11. The Congo - complete, alternate version [note 5]
    1. The Congo, Sections I and II (5:42)
    2. The Congo, Section III (2:58)

  12. Kansas
    1. version 1 (2:27) [note 6]
    2. version 2 (2:35) [note 7]
    3. version 3 (2:37) [note 8]

  13. General William Booth Enters Into Heaven
    1. full poem (3:35)
    2. fragment (1:21)
    3. comments (0:24)

  14. The Moon's the North Wind's Cooky (0:42) [note 9]
  15. Yet Gentle Will the Griffin Be (0:45) [note 9]

  16. John L. Sullivan, The Strong Boy of Boston
    1. part I (3:31)
    2. part II (2:17)
    3. comments (0:30)
    4. John L. Sullivan, The Strong Boy of Boston, complete reading (5:50)
    5. John L. Sullivan, The Strong Boy of Boston, complete reading (5:50) [note 10]

  17. The Ezekiel Chant (3:45) [note 11]

  18. King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (Part III of the Booker Washington Trilogy from The Chinese Nightingale and Other Poems)
    1. Comments on the poem (0:21)
    2. part 1 (2:51)
    3. part 2 (3:23) [note 12]
    4. part 3 (2:57)
    5. part 4 (2:38) [note 13]
    6. part 5 (3:27) [note 14]
    7. part 5 (alternate take) (3:14) [note 15]

  19. How Samson Bore Away the Gates of Gaza
    1. part 1 (3:05) [note 16]
    2. part 2 (2:45)
    3. part 1 (alternate reading) (2:49)
    4. part 2 (alternate reading), fragment (3:41) [note 17]

  20. Simon Legree (Part I of the Booker Washington Trilogy from The Chinese Nightingale and Other Poems)
    1. part 1 (3:34)
    2. part 2 (2:10)

  21. The Mysterious Cat (1:15) [note 18]

  22. John Brown (Part II of the Booker Washington Trilogy from The Chinese Nightingale and Other Poems)
    1. part 1 (2:59)
    2. part 2 (2:29)
    3. fragment (3:35)
    4. fragment (3:44) [note 19]

  23. Euclid (0:51) (from a collection of poems titled Moon Poems for the Children/Fairy-tales for the Children, published in The Congo and Other Poems) [note 20]

  24. In Praise of Johnny Appleseed
    1. part 1 (3:21)
    2. part 2 (3:26)
    3. part 3 (3:28)
    4. part 4, fragment (4:12) [note 21]

  25. The Santa Fe Trail
    1. part 1 (3:21) [note 22]
    2. part 2 (3:11) [note 23]
    3. part 3 (3:27) [note 24]

  26. Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan
    1. part 1 (3:27)
    2. part 2 (3:37)
    3. part 3 (3:19)
    4. part 4 (3:05)
    5. part 5 (2:55)
    6. comments on the poem (0:29)

  27. Hamlet
    1. part 1 (3:05)
    2. part 2 (1:28)

  28. The Traveller-Heart (2:01) [note 25]

  29. I Know All This When Gipsy Fiddles Cry
    1. part 1 (3:36)
    2. part 2 (2:47)
    3. part 3 (3:36)
    4. part 4 (1:01)

  30. A Swan Is Like a Moon to Me [note 26]
    1. poem (1:44)
    2. comments on the poem (0:26)

  31. The Golden Whales of California
    1. part 1 (3:15)
    2. part 2 (3:27)
    3. part 3 (3:18)

  32. Every Soul Is A Circus (fragment) [note 27]
    1. part 1 (3:08)
    2. part 2 (3:19)
    3. part 3 (3:28)

  33. The Blacksmith's Serenade
    1. part 1 (3:34)
    2. part 2 (2:32)
    3. comments on the poem (0:37)

  34. The Ghosts of the Buffaloes
    1. part 1 (3:32)
    2. part 2 (2:19)
    3. comments on the poem (0:35)

  35. A Doll's "Arabian Nights"
    1. part 1 (3:30)
    2. part 2 (3:38)

  36. Ballad On How To Write A Poem
    1. part 1 (3:29)
    2. part 2 (1:18)

  37. The Locomotive Dragon-Hippogriff [note 28]
    1. poem (2:02)
    2. comments on the poem (0:18)

  38. "Mister Chipmunk" and "Two Old Crows" [note 29]
    1. Mister Chipmunk (2:01)
    2. Two Old Crows (1:12)
    3. comments on the poems (0:27)
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Harriet Monroe, recorded on January 29, 1932

  1. Their God (2:49) (text)
  2. Mother Earth (3:29) (text)
  3. The Wonder of It (0:57) (text)
  4. Love Song (0:59) (text)
  5. A Farewell (0:36) (text)
  6. At the Edge (0:56) (text)
  7. Poems of Western Travel [note 1]
    1. At O'Neill's Point (1:40) (text)
    2. The Pine at Timber-Line (1:13) (text)
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Robert Frost, recorded on May 5, 1933 and October 24, 1934

Recordings made on May 5, 1933
  1. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (0:54)
  2. Dust of Snow (0:21)
  3. Once by the Pacific (0:48)
  4. Mowing (0:58)
  5. Spring Pools (0:49)
  6. The Code (Part 1 of 2, Take 1 of 2) (4:10)
  7. The Code (Part 2 of 2, Take 1 of 2) (2:18)
  8. The Code (Part 1 of 2, Take 2 of 2) (3:45)
  9. The Code (Part 2 of 2, Take 2 of 2) (2:47)
  10. Mending Wall (2:40)
  11. Birches (fragment) (2:17)
  12. Birches (3:07)

Recordings made on October 24, 1934
  1. The Grindstone (4:34)
  2. The Runaway (1:09)
  3. An Old Man's Winter Night (1:43)
  4. The Road Not Taken (1:07)
  5. Mending Wall (2:30)
  6. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (0:57)
  7. Dust of Snow (0:21)
  8. Birches (3:15)
  9. Mowing (1:01)

Speech at 1937 Pulitzer Prize Dinner - recorded from the radio by W. Cabell Greet
On the Heart's Beginning to Cloud the Mind (4:13)

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Edgar Lee Masters, recorded on January 16, 1934 and March 10, 1934

  1. In the Garden at the Dawn Hour (2:56)
  2. Andrew Jackson (2:55)
  3. The Night Watch (2:39)
  4. Don't Give Up the Ship (4:17)
  5. Johnny Appleseed (3:39)
  6. Marching Into the Morning (4:38)
  7. Mournin' for Religion (2:33)
  8. Comments on Marching Into the Morning and Mournin' for Religion (0:24)

  9. From Songs and Satires:
  10. Marcia (1:01)
  11. Silence (3:09)
  12. The Idiot (1:33)
  13. The Sign (1:33)

  14. From The Great Valley:
  15. Achilles Deatheridge (1:23)
  16. Slip Shoe Lovey (1:46)
  17. Comments on Achilles Deatheridge and Slip Shoe Lovey (0:23)
  18. Susie (1:40)

  19. From Godbey: A Dramatic Poem:
  20. The Lost Orchard (fragment 1 of 2) (3:38)
  21. The Lost Orchard (fragment 2 of 2) (1:50)
  22. Godbey: A Dramatic Poem (excerpt 1 of 2) (1:27)
  23. Godbey: A Dramatic Poem (excerpt 2 of 2) (0:54)

  24. From Gettysburg, Manila, Acoma:
  25. Dewey's Sailors (1:48)
  26. The Crews of the German Cruisers Irene and Kormoran (0:59)
  27. The Ladrones At a Distance (2:22)
  28. Comments on The Ladrones at a Distance (0:16)
  29. Final Chorus from Manila (part 1 of 2) (3:14)
  30. Final Chorus from Manila (part 2 of 2) (2:33)

  31. From Spoon River Anthology:
  32. Webster Ford (2:17)
  33. Fiddler Jones (1:11)
  34. Isaiah Beethoven (1:13)
  35. The Hill (1:58)
  36. Davis Matlock (0:56)
  37. Lucinda Matlock (0:57)
  38. Anne Rutledge (version 1 of 2) (0:35)
  39. Anne Rutledge (version 2 of 2)(0:38)
  40. Rebecca Wasson (1:24)
  41. John Wasson (1:04)

  42. From The New Spoon River:
  43. Frances Cordell (version 1 of 2) (1:10)
  44. Frances Cordell (version 2 of 2) (1:10)
  45. Robert Chain (0:33)
  46. Angela Sanger (1:02)
  47. Wayland Reed (0:57)
  48. Wallace Hardy (0:34)
  49. Henry Cogdal (0:49)
  50. Cleanthus Trilling (0:42)
  51. Meredith Phyfe (1:30)
  52. Clifford Ridell (0:41)
  53. Leopardi Erotas (0:51)

  54. From Lichee Nuts:
  55. Fragment from Lichee Nuts (0:25)
  56. City Hall Park (0:29)
  57. Letter from Peking (2:33)
  58. Full Moon on the Bowery (0:51)
  59. Pictures and Women (0:44)
  60. Elmer Chubb and Yang Chung (0:34)
  61. Hip Lung with Photogravure Page (0:37)
  62. Huen Sha (0:56)

  63. From Lincoln: the Man:
  64. The One Cause Which Was Lost (part 1 of 2) (4:02)
  65. The One Cause Which Was Lost (part 2 of 2) (1:35)
  66. Comments on Lincoln: the Man (0:46)
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Gertrude Stein, recorded on January 30, 1935

A Description of the Fifteenth of November. A Portrait of T.S. Eliot (3:33)
A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson (2:40)
Christian Bérard (0:50)
Comments on the Speech Lab Recordings (0:17)

From The Making of Americans:
Matisse (3:12)
If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso, Comments and Fragment (0:49)
If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso (4:24)
How She Bowed to Her Brother (2:20)
George Hugnet (1:55)

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Carl Sandburg, recorded in 1935

  1. The Czar Has Eight Million Men from The People, Yes (3:31)
  2. Cold Rainy Day as it appears in Zora Neal Hurston's Mules and Men (text) (3:12)
  3. When Cockle Shells Turn Silver Bells (4:25)

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James Weldon Johnson, recorded on December 24, 1935

  1. The Creation (4:25) (text)
  2. Go Down Death (4:50) (text)
  3. Ma Lady's Lips Am Like De Honey (text)
    1. take 1 (2:18)
    2. take 2 (1:56)
  4. Answer to Prayer (2:16) (text)
  5. Los Cigarillos (1:10) (text)
  6. Teestay (1:01) (text -- scroll down)
  7. Sunset in the Tropics (1:00) (text -- scroll down)
  8. Comments on "Los Cigarillos," "Teestay," and "Sunset in the Tropics" (0:21)
  9. O Southland (1:13) (text)
  10. We to America (0:39) (text)
  11. Mother Night (1:07) (text)
  12. My City (1:17) (text -- scroll down)
  13. Brothers (4:36) (text)
  14. Sence You Went Away (1:24) (text)
  15. Comments on "Ma Lady's Lips Am Like De Honey" and "Sence You Went Away" (0:24)
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Mark Van Doren, no date

1. Civil War (1:58) MP3
2. Man With Globe (0:44)MP3
3. Above the Battle (Fragment) (0:33)MP3
4. Above the Battle (2:08)MP3


William Carlos Williams, recorded on January 9, 1942

  1. The Red Wheelbarrow (0:11): MP3
  2. Tract (2:34): MP3
  3. The Defective Record (0:28): MP3
  4. To a Poor Old Woman (0:27): MP3
  5. A Coronal (0:40): MP3
  6. To Elsie (1:45): MP3
  7. The Wind Increases (0:27): MP3
  8. Classic Scene (0:28): MP3

  9. Complete Recording (7:04): MP3
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These sound recordings are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only. All rights to this recorded material belong to the author. © 2015 the author. Used with permission. Distributed by PennSound.