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This report is taken from PN Review 154, Volume 30 Number 2, November - December 2003.

A Foggy Day Neil Powell

In an early poem called 'The Poet-Scholar', Donald Davie writes: 'The poet-scholar cannot keep apart / The gift and the investment.' I've been quoting these lines all over the place for years: partly because, until the appearance of Davie's revised Collected Poems in 2002, they had been lurking in a 1955 number of Essays in Criticism for almost half a century; and partly because they are wise, memorable and - at least for a certain kind of poet-scholar - true. Davie, of course, was an outstanding example of the type: teaching in universities paid his salary but for at least three decades, from the 1950s to the 1980s, hardly a week seemed to go by without a poem or a book review (or, failing those, an impassioned letter) from him in the Guardian or the Listener or the TLS. His tone - which, like Leavis's, is often at its most conversational when most fiercely engaged in literary argument - moves easily from lecture to article to poem: reading Davie, you can almost believe that intellectual discourse is our common currency.

Davie retains his vivid, sometimes cantankerous presence in our literary consciousness; much of his work remains in print. By contrast, Graham Hough, another true poet-scholar and a Cambridge colleague of Davie's (though more than a dozen years older), has slipped almost into invisibility. Unlike Davie, Hough stayed in Cambridge to the end of his academic life: a fellow first of Christ's and subsequently of Darwin College, he ...


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