Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 132, Volume 26 Number 4, March - April 2000.

Shelf Lives: 10: Michael Riviere Peter Scupham

The Greek Chapel
Christianity is a folly that is superior to wisdom - Erasmus

    Can this, then, be the gate?
Through this small barn or stable,
This flaked iconostasis,
    Does 'eternity' wait, -
With these wicks in the tray
To light one on one's way?

    Hard, finally, to choose:
Life, or oblivion;
To get up, or sleep on.
    Only a fool would lose
His last Good-night, and stand
Here with a light in his hand.

How hard to achieve, such lyrics: the plain style, the melody, the ache suffusing all. Michael has been dead two years, and it is some seventeen years since John Mole and I published under the Mandeville imprint his autumnal sequence of nine poems, Late in the Day, and followed this in 1984 with a Selected Poems. Ah, the dubieties, the corrections, the hesitancies which surrounded that publication, for Michael held in equipoise a courteous reticence and an implacable determination not to relinquish his poems to printer and publisher until they had long suffered, without the hope of satisfying, a most exacting scrutiny. It seemed hair-raisingly appropriate to be setting them letter by letter, testing and proofing with the giant shades of Caxton, Baskerville or Morris leaning over our shoulders. I was not surprised when John told me how, when Michael read 'The Greek Chapel' for the BBC's Poetry Now, his copy had been marked up and ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image