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This review is taken from PN Review 44, Volume 11 Number 6, July - August 1985.

POETRY AND THE 'AS-IF' David Daiches, God and the Poets (Clarendon Press) £17.50

The Gifford Lectures were founded to promote 'the study of Natural Theology . . . (viz.) The Knowledge of God . . . and of the Relations which men and the whole Universe bear to Him . . .'. Professor Daiches's lectures may be the first given by a scholar brought up in Orthodox Judaism, and are surely the first specifically concerned with Literature and Religion. They are published as delivered, that is, to an educated non-specialist audience, and inevitably rely on often familiar passages, and make assumptions which could not immediately be substantiated. Given these limitations, they are excellent and must have been good to listen to - fresh and arresting. His knowledge of Hebrew enables him to talk informatively about the poetry of the Old Testament (as we call it). His presentation of a (fairly) standard interpretation of Paradise Lost is persuasive: he does not go so far as Blake (Milton was of the Devil's party without knowing it), but he holds that neither Christ nor God (nor Satan) are the heroes of the epic, but Adam and Eve; and he illustrates this from the quality of the poetry. Indeed, he argues that in places we can tell from the verse that Milton is unconsciously producing 'what might almost be called a counter-poem'.

When Daiches reaches the nineteenth century, he shows how 'in an age that has lost its implicit religious faith, instead of having two poles to work between, the poet has only one, ...

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