Head to Toe
Readers Harriet Walter and Tim McInnerny make a journey over and through the human body in the company of writers from Sappho to Larkin, with music from Beethoven to Chas and Dave.
Join readers Harriet Walter and Tim McInnerny in a journey over and through the length of the human body in the company of writers spanning 25 centuries, with music from Beethoven to Chas and Dave.
To begin, neurosurgeon Henry Marsh marvels at the grey jelly that is the source of human consciousness. Walter de la Mare strains his ears in a spooky old house and Milton's blindness helps him imagine Samson's blinded eyes. Cyrano de Bergerac's comically huge nose is followed by two 400-year-old self-help books about the tongue, and Fryderyk Chopin's advice on piano fingering includes the hand's relationship with the wrist, forearm and arm.
At the centre of the journey is the heart. It thumps with John Clare's first love and glows with consummated love in Tennyson's 'Now sleeps the crimson petal'. 'Never give all the heart', warns WB Yeats – too late for broken-hearted Sappho, Emily Dickinson and John Donne.
The ‘huge stuffed cloak-bag of guts' is the belly of Shakespeare's Falstaff, a cue for Guilia Enders to remind us that the gut is an integral part of human feeling and being.
At the gut's end, a 14th-century fart in Chaucer's ‘The Miller’s Tale’ still has the power of a thunder clap and, round the other side, Montaigne bemoans the 'indocile libertie' of the male member which rises to the occasion only at its choosing.
Nearly at journey's end, here are legs and feet. In Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' the aristocratic Natasha delights everyone with her innate ability to dance like a true Russian peasant, something Edward Lear's Pobble would have found difficult.
With Philip Larkin's 'An Arundel Tomb' and the end of life, the human body is represented in stone effigy. Now, 'Only an attitude remains' - and a final, hedged Larkinesque flourish 'to prove/Our almost-instinct almost true:/What will survive of us is love.'
David Papp (producer)
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
I Sing the Body Electric, read by Harriet Walter
Do No Harm, read by Tim McInnerny
Walter de la Mare
Seaton's Aunt, read by Harriet Walter
Samson Agonistes, read by Harriet Walter
Edmond Rostand (trans. Charles Renauld)
Cyrano de Bergerac, read by Tim McInnerny
The Gentlewomans Companion, read by Harriet Walter
The Management of the Tongue, read by Tim McInnerny
Fryderyk Chopin (trans. Roy Howat)
Projet de méthode, read by Tim McInnerny
Aristotle (trans. GRT Ross)
On Youth and Old Age, On Life and Death, On Breathing, read by Harriet Walter
First Love, read by Tim McInnerny
Never give all the heart, read by Tim McInnerny
Sappho (trans. Michael R. Burch)
Fragment 42, read by Harriet Walter
The Broken Heart, read by Harriet Walter
Heart, we will forget him, read by Harriet Walter
Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae, read by Tim McInnerny
Henry IV, Part 1, Act 1, read by Tim McInnerny
Gut, read by Harriet Walter
Geoffrey Chaucer (Edited for Popular Perusal by D Laing Purves)
The Miller’s Tale, read by Harriet Walter
Michel de Montaigne (trans. John Florio)
Of the force of Imagination (from Essays), read by Tim McInnerny
War and Peace, read by Harriet Walter
The Pobble Who Has No Toes, read by Harriet Walter and Tim McInnerny
An Arundel Tomb, read by Harriet Walter