Season 1, Ep. 7

In this episode Raymond Tallis, philosopher, poet and one time professor of geriatric medicine is in conversation with Stephen Brown. Their chat moves from the metaphysics of quantum mechanics to the definition of art and the language of music. Goethe's view of poetry and Scruton's thoughts on music get a mention before moving to the art of medicine, the difference between philosophical enquiry and artistic creativity and the philosophy of free will.

Their conversation concludes with Ray admitting to being a philosopher of optimism before reading his poem 'Meta-sonnet for the Dark Lady' followed by Steve Brown's setting.

Meta-sonnet for the Dark Lady

Or shall I live your epitaph to make,

 Or you survive when I in earth am rotten.

 There's nothing of you lives in these his lines

 - they did not lift you clear of death in pain.

 Long since, beneath the air that heard his rhymes,

 you flowed away, dissolved like him in rain.

 Your ghost shook off the flesh, its thrilling dark,

 those evening tones his fluent verse acclaimed.

 What's saved of you?

 The tetchy question mark of rival experts

 squabbling when you're named.

 Your smooth white neck was lost to red-lipped lust

 when Night reclaimed the sable from your hair.

 Dark Lady, arid footnotes, learned dust,

 your absence, wide and sexless as the air,

 behind the word-webbed nothing of your face,

 makes these his sonnets crypts for empty space.


Stephen Brown, composer,

Raymond Tallis, philosopher and poet,

Music: All the music was written by Stephen Brown.

“Meta-sonnet to the dark lady” was sung by Maria Heseltine (mezzo-soprano) accompanied by the Corineus String Quartet. There is a very brief orchestral extract from a piece by Stephen called “Fear no more” performed by the Orchestra of St Mary’s, Penzance.

Other musical extracts are from a forthcoming suite that will combine two Shakespeare sonnets with the meta-sonnet.

Portrait of Raymond Tallis by Ken Barrett.


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