27 April 2017
The Progress of the Soul of Lizzie Calvin, BBC Radio 4
The long devotional poem, “Of the Progress of the Soul”, was written by John Donne in 1612. At first glance the poet Michael Symmons Roberts’ dramatic update (26 April) seemed to resemble one of those bygone children’s books with titles like “The Story of a Sixpence”, which follows the adventures of a coin as it rapidly transfers from one owner to the next.
Here the entity in question turned out to be a human soul, chatty, ruminative and irritable by turns, and first found clinging to the corporeal form of a political activist named Lizzie Calvin as she showed up to address a meeting. Munching on an apple offered her by admiring boyfriend Adie, Lizzie was knocked over by a venturesome dog and very nearly choked to death. By the time she had been revived, the soul had passed on into the newly expelled piece of fruit.
There followed a devious exercise in serial metempsychosis. Having wolfed the apple, the dog expired in a deserted factory.
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