Shakespeare's Library / Ancient Egypt's Temple Libraries / Seamus Heaney Goes to School

Human Voices Wake Us

Aug 11 2023 • 48 mins

An episode from 8/11/23: Tonight, we look into libraries and learning:

  • In the first part, I read from Jonathan Bate’s biography of Shakespeare, Soul of the Age. Based on Shakespeare’s education and the evidence of the plays, Bate gives a thorough guess as to the essential twenty or thirty books that the Bard might have had on his shelf.
  • In the second part, I read from Serge Sauneron’s Priests of Ancient Egypt. Here, Sauneron talks about the libraries—called “Houses of Life”—attached to Egyptian temples, as well as the scribal and priestly culture that produced Egypt’s various religious texts.
  • Finally, I read the poem “Alphabets,” by Seamus Heaney, from his 1987 book, The Haw Lantern. I also read my favorite poem of Heaney’s, Squarings #2, from 1991’s Seeing Things. Both poems combined Heaney’s earliest memories of education with those of manual labor, measuring, and building.

Don’t forget to support Human Voices Wake Us on Substack, where you can also get our newsletter and other extras. You can also support the podcast by ordering any of my books: Notes from the Grid, To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, and Bone Antler Stone.

Any comments, or suggestions for readings I should make in later episodes, can be emailed to

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