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This review is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

SYNTAX AND SYMPHORINES Christopher Middleton, The Balcony Tree (Carcanet) £7.95

Christopher Middleton is one of the most extraordinary and most extraordinarily neglected English poets of the latter half of this century, as well as one of the most extraordinary essayists, and of course a brilliant translator from the German of both poetry and prose: his versions of Hölderlin and Mörike, published in a single volume from the University of Chicago Press, should be on the shelves of every lover of poetry. In this volume there is a translation of Hölderlin's 'Der Winkel von Hardt' ('Tilted Stones at Hardt') that I cannot forbear from quoting in full because it is so beautiful in itself and also because it points to something central about poetry in general and about Middleton's poetry in particular:
      
      

The forest subsides
And leaves hang inward
As buds do, a valley the flower
Thrusting up under them,
Really not inarticulate.
For it was there
Ulrich entered; over his footprint
Broods a great destiny
Often, poised
In the residue of the place.


The reference is to the popular Duke Ulrich of Wiirttemberg, who, according to Middleton's note, 'took refuge inside the structure when he was being hunted down by other Swabian nobles in 1519'. And now read this:

Isn't it strange how this castle changes as soon as one imagines that Hamlet lived here? As scientists we believe that a castle consists only of stones, and admire the ...


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