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This article is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

Sisson’s Troy Alex Wylie
In the 1970s, C.H. Sisson published a number of poems occasioned by the mythology of Troy. As well as many others which draw on Virgilian sources, two collections in particular include Trojan poems, collections whose titles are themselves occasioned by this mythology: In the Trojan Ditch of 1974 and Anchises of 1976. Though in more literal, or literary, terms this came out of his work on various sections of the Aeneid, resulting in such poems as ‘The Descent’ and ‘Palinurus’, there is a political dimension, too, to Sisson’s interest. In fact, one might say that the political dimension to Sisson’s Troy was all too obvious, given his history of political writings since his early twenties, and the frequent subject of nationalism therein. Robert Wells addressed this in his 1978 review of Anchises in PN Review. Of ‘Est in Conspectu Tenedos’, a poem soliloquised by an unknown Trojan just after the fall of Troy, Wells writes, ‘[t]he warrior depended for his existence upon the existence of Troy […] Sisson implies that the obliteration of England is depriving us in the same way, and creating a nation of ghosts’.1 Sisson rejects such readings in a letter to Michael Schmidt, the journal’s editor:

It is curious how imperceptibly ‘Troy’ has come to collect significance as the poems emerged. The only thing I should heartily like to see expunged is the equation ‘Troy = Tory’. This is so pat that it might get a sort of circulation to the exclusion of more indefinite (and more real) significances. I think I can put ...

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