Paradise lost is a poem that gains greatly by being read aloud. Passages which on the printed page may seem convoluted and obscure can be made clear by a good reader, and Anton Lesser is, as always not merely a good but an outstanding reader. His voice at first may seem slight and lacking resonance but he follows the argument and pace of the narrative with great intelligence and is able to differentiate and characterise convincingly all the different voices that speak in the poem. This skill is essential, since unlike the abridged version published by Naxos some years ago, he is the sole narrator. As such he does a superb job throughout the long and varied length of this poem.
The old Argo recording of substantial portions of the epic still seems to me unmatched -with Tony Church as a superb narrator, Michael Redgrave as a splendidly theatrical Satan, Michael Hordern as a plausible God the father, Prunella scales as a movingly characterised Eve. The use of different voices is undoubtably better and more in keeping with the strong dramatic element in this epic. It is a pity that this and other Argo recordings are no longer available. But Anton Lesser as a single narrator does the job perhaps as well as it can be done (and is certainly preferable to the pedestrian version by Frederic Davidson). If you know Paradise Lost, you will find Anton Lessor's reading always clear and often illuminating.If you are approaching this marvellous poem for the first time, this reading is an ideal way to gain an overview of the whole epic.
Narrative poems are not a popular genre today and some listeners may not be familiar with these works. But both readers give accompished and committed readings of these poems which make these audiobooks an ideal introduction to the pleasures of narrative verse.It is perhaps no surprise that such actors give fine accounts of The Ancient Mariner and The Pied Piper but such poems as Sohrab and Rustum - which had always seemed to me too calculated and deliberate in its effects-and The Prisoner of Chillon here also comes across as a passionate and gripping narrative.
I have listened to the four volumes of Narrative Verse and recommend them all strongly.There are many other narrative poems worth exploring. More such poetry audiobooks please.