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This review is taken from PN Review 72, Volume 16 Number 4, March - April 1990.

MASTERFUL MANIPULATIONS Ted Hughes, Wolfwatching (Faber & Faber) £8.99 (cased), £3.99 pb
Ted Hughes, Moortown Diary (Faber & Faber) £8.99 hb, £3.99 pb
Peter Redgrove, The First Earthquake (Secker & Warburg) £7.50
Charles Tomlinson, Annunciations (Oxford University Press) £5.95

In 'Goethe as the Sage' (like 'Milton II', a piece that gave the appearance of being a retraction without actually undoing much of the damage previously done), T.S. Eliot remarked that 'it came to me that "Nature" to Wordsworth and Goethe meant much the same thing, that it meant something which they had experienced - and which I had not experienced - and that they were both trying to express something that, even for men so exceptionally endowed with the gift of speech, was ultimately ineffable.' As Michael Hamburger says, in an excellent essay on Eliot in Testimonies (Carcanet), 'with that parenthetical "which I had not", Eliot put his finger on a distrust, if not hatred, of nature that, more than anything else, makes him an oddity among poets, not excluding poets as explicitly Christian as he was, from the Middle Ages to our time...' One suspects that the general lack of critical respect accorded to what is abusively called 'nature poetry', and the philistine and vulgar-Marxist assaults that are constantly made on a 'pastoral' straw man, are due in large part to Eliot's continuing influence; and one wonders also whether this influence - now so diffused through our literary culture may not account for certain characteristics of the writing of Ted Hughes, Peter Redgrove and Charles Tomlinson, all of whom might be described as 'nature poets' of a sort.

One shared characteristic of their writing is that it consists largely in ingenious and often strenuous description ...


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