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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 ...


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