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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Music Inspired by Literature

I recently wrote about reading and music ( and then came across a BookRiot article listing songs that reference classic works of literature (

This lead to my thinking about songs that actually retell a work of literature.  One of my favourite singers/songwriters is Loreena McKennitt and she has included on her CDs a number of songs based, in whole or in part, on literary works, both prose and poetry.

An Ancient Muse:
“Penelope’s Song” gives the perspective of Penelope, Odysseus’s faithful wife.
“The English Ladye and the Knight” is a poem by Sir Walter Scott set to music.

The Visit:
“The Lady of Shalott” is the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson set to music.

Parallel Dreams:
“Annachie Gordon” is the Romeo and Juliet story told in a Scottish folk song.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley:
“Down By the Sally Gardens” is based on the W. B. Yeats poem.

The Book of Secrets:
“The Highwayman” sets Alfred Noyes’ poem to music.
“Dante’s Prayer” was inspired by The Divine Comedy.

McKennitt also sings songs from Shakespeare’s plays:
“Prospero’s Speech” on The Mask and Mirror
“Cymbeline” on The Visit

If you are interested in listening to musical versions of literature, Wikipedia has an extensive list of such songs: