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This article is taken from PN Review 88, Volume 19 Number 2, November - December 1992.

These the Companions C.H. Sisson

DONALD DAVIE makes so bold as to assert, in his 'Foreword' to These the Companions, that he is 'not the principal character' in it. It is hardly for me, as the author of a book called On the Look-out, to denounce as a ruse this show of diffidence at the outset of what is, unquestionably, a species of autobiography, but one cannot but be impressed by the breath-taking politeness of Donald's final injunction: 'You must bear with the first person singular only so as to have me introduce to you persons and places and ambiences that have a singularity and a value such as I won't claim for myself.' I feel it my duty to announce to any readers who come fresh to the book that, interesting as the persons and places and ambiences he will encounter here are, they will find still more interesting the figure of the poet who emerges from among them.

A further preliminary remark of Davie's may be noted, as a warning not against what he has written, but against the perspectives of someone like myself, to whom a seventieth birthday is a distant memory rather than a summit reached after a long climb. Davie says that sometimes he thinks he has lived for ever, 'or nearly', when he hears people talking of 'the Fifties as if they were as distant in history as the 1850s or the 1650s.' I know exactly what he means. The Fifties are not historical time for ...


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