A Poetic Mystery Record
The Knott’s record collection is mainly music, but music wasn’t the only thing being recorded in the early twentieth century. There were also sermons, humorous yarns, and poetry. An unassuming entry in the record collection’s database reads: “Invictus” and “The Blind Ploughman”.
The poems “Invictus” and “The Blind Ploughman” were a natural pairing. Considering just 78 RPM recordings, Columbia recorded both pieces as performed by Norman Allin back-to-back twice, first in 1916 for gramophone and again electronically in 1926. That same year, Columbia also released a disc with the two pieces performed by Fraser Gange. RCA Victor recorded them together by singer Robert Merrill in 1949 at 78 RPM and re-released the recording later as a 45 RPM record. There are probably other examples.
So far, the record in the Knott’s collection has resisted research. Online searches have found almost no clues. The record itself identifies the maker as “Reco-Art Sound Recording Company” a small Philadelphia label from the forties and fifties. The name hand typed on the record’s label is Charles Bazemore; there the trail goes cold. The record cannot be played so we don’t even know if the poems were read or sung.
“Invictus” and “The Blind Ploughman” are straight out of the Victorian stiff upper lip tradition. “Invictus” is more familiar today but “The Blind Ploughman” may better represent Luella Knott’s view of strength through faith. Since the recording in the Knott’s collection is unavailable, here is “The Blind Ploughman” performed by Paul Robeson in 1939:
“Invictus” and “The Blind Ploughman”