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This article is taken from PN Review 46, Volume 12 Number 2, November - December 1985.

Charles Tomlinson: An Agnostics Grace Michael Kirkham

The poems in Seeing is Believing, written in the 1950s, have the same manner of terse authority as their title: the tone is positive, the disciplined eye and mind take command; they are distinguished by their sensory and mental clarity, strictness of moral discrimination, and generally by the strenuous clearing of a ground of certainty in a world of lax behaviour, disordered emotion and confused understanding. A good deal of this remains in Tomlinson's later work, but it has been modified to make a place for uncertainties and confusions. In the Arden of in-between in which we live - the seasons of time and nature housing memories of hopes of a timeless Eden - 'the contraries/Of this place are contrarily unclear:/A haze beats back the summer sheen/ Into a chiaroscuro of the heat'. For it is where the real and the possible interpenetrate and distinctions blur; 'the depths of Arden's springs', supplied by underground streams from their source in Eden, 'convey echoic waters - voices/Of the place that rises through this place'. 'In Arden' (The Shaft) finds in this rich confusion of what is there with what is not there, the real with the imagined, a reason for celebration. 'A Self-Portrait: David' (The Shaft), concerned to express the same sense of double reality (to the extent of using the same form of words), is on the other hand cautionary: 'This is the face behind my face,' expressing a truth that 'puts by/The mind's imperious geometry':


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