Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
a laudatory critique of Geoffrey Hill's newest book, The Orchards of Syon.
It turned up in a Yahoo! search of "Sebastian Arrurruz," as in Geoffrey Hill's early sequence "The Songbook of Sebastian Arrurruz." Seems Arrurruz is a fictional poet, and Hill's sequence -- while pretending to be translation? -- is original.
This Songbook of Sebastian A., I have re-discovered via Geoffrey Hill's
New & Collected Poems, 1952-1992
(Houghton Mifflin, 1994; hereafter, NCP). And reading this particular sequence yesterday and today, I was knocked over. Knocked out.
'One cannot lose what one has not possessed.'
So much for that abrasive gem.
I can lose what I want. I want you.
Oh my dear one, I shall grieve for you
For the rest of my life with slightly
Varying cadence, oh my dear one.
:: :: :: :: :: :: ::
A workable fancy. Old petulant
Sorrow comes back to us, metamorphosed
And semi-precious. Fortuitous amber.
:: :: :: :: :: :: ::
The sun lays down a foliage of shade.
A drinking-fountain pulses its head
Two or three inches from the troughed stone.
An old woman sucks there, gripping the rim.
(NCP, p. 80, passim)
Most of Hill's poems are like sturdy small stone churches. As Donald Hall exclaimed in a decades-old review, with grateful surprise and flabbergasted awe, Devotional sonnets ?? Yes. Here, the octave of 'Pavana Dolorosa,' fifth in a sequence of seven 'Lachrimae' :
Loves I allow and passions I approve :
Ash-Wednesday feasts, ascetic opulence,
the wincing lute, so real in its pretence,
itself a passion amorous of love.
Self-wounding martyrdom, what joys you have,
true-torn among this fictive consonance,
music's creation of the moveless dance,
the decreation to which all must move.
(NCP, p. 137)
From the early '70s, there are Mercian Hymns, a sequence of 30 poems in a long prose-type line (each "line" a paragrpah), where Hill is archaeologist of language and image :
It is autumn. Chestnut-boughs clash their inflamed leaves. The garden festers for attention : telluric cultures, enriched with shards, corms, nodules, the sunk solids of gravity. I have raked up a golden and stinking blaze.
And in 1984, the long poem in pentametric quatrains, The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy.
Geoffrey Hill has taught (is teaching?) in the United States, at Boston University. He is a very English poet. We note affinities with Thomas Hardy, and the early Auden, a 'weight', a 'heft' to his line that suggests kinship with Dylan Thomas, and a love for the long sequence incorporating elements of early English history that might remind some of David Jones.