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This review is taken from PN Review 162, Volume 31 Number 4, March - April 2005.

GEOFFREY HILL: THE POET AS CRITIC GEOFFREY HILL, Style and Faith: Essays (Counterpoint) $25.00

'...was not I born to thinke? It is my study; doth not my Calling call for that?

Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
In the past, Geoffrey Hill's criticism has often gone hand in hand with his poetry, illuminating its sources and workings. One thinks of the rich analysis of Wordsworth and Hopkins in The Lords of Limit and, the public role of the poet being at issue, of the pages on Dryden in The Enemy's Country. There is criticism of this kind in Style and Faith, notably in the fine essay on Vaughan's 'The Night' and the more contentious critique of Four Quartets in 'Dividing Legacies' which contains Hill's definitive reservations about Larkin. At such moments, the poet's reading and his living are as one, an index of the way that, as The Triumph of Love has it, 'the careful fabric of our lives' is 'ripped through by the steel jaws of contingency'. Yet this new collection of Hill's essays may seem to hold back slightly from such commitment, finding its centre in religious and theological debate. He is good on the coruscations of Hobbes's prose and the equilibrium of Hooker's but are writers like Bramhall and Clarendon calculated to draw out the poet in him? Some readers will relegate his essays on them to a box marked 'The Scholar-Critic' and younger readers, no longer reared in the view that the seventeenth century is ...


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