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This review is taken from PN Review 82, Volume 18 Number 2, November - December 1991.

CIRCUMSTANCES Geoffrey Hill: The Enemy's Country. Words, Contexture, and other Circumstances of Language (Clarendon Press) £19.95

'Circumstance' compels me to review this book after only one reading, though I know that it calls for more than one, if not for an immersion or re-immersion in some of the texts - by such authors as Dryden, Hobbes, Locke, Wyatt, Wotton, Walton, Donne, Milton, Marvell and Ezra Pound, to pick out some of the more prominent - on which Geoffrey Hill has rung his changes for a singular performance. That the performance is singular will surprise no one who has read his poems and earlier prose, let alone those who attended one or more of the 1986 Clark Lectures on which the text of this book is based. Yet not only is listening to a lecture a different experience from reading a book - and a book with 36 pages of notes to a text of 102 pages - but, for the reader as for the author, 'circumstance' will have entered into the lapse of time between the lectures and their publication in book form. Because so much of Geoffrey Hill's singularity lies in the degree to which he weighs his words, it is hardly possible to review his book at all, if that means to give an account of it in words other than his own or those of his exemplars. One feels tempted to quote from the summary on the jacket blurb, so nearly singular, too, in being more than the expected advertisement that the author may well have had a hand in its composition. ...


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