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This review is taken from PN Review 41, Volume 11 Number 3, January - February 1985.

INTRACTABLE WORK Neil Corcoran, The Song of Deeds: a study of The Anathemata of David Jones (University of Wales Press) £9.95
Philip Pacey, David Jones and Other Wonder-Voyagers (Poetry Wales Press) £7.95


. . . You learned your lettering
from bones, the propped capitals which described
how once they were human beings . . .
. . . Europe gave you
your words, but your hand practised
an earlier language . . .


R. S. Thomas's tribute to David Jones manages to convey, in nineteen lines, more of the spirit of Jones's work and a clearer recognition of his ambiguous position in modern poetry than most of the increasing flow of monographs and essays written since the mid-1970s. Despite the gearing-up of Jones criticism since his death, he remains, as one critic put it, 'known but not assimilated'. Only Neil Corcoran's Song of Deeds offers a wholly adequate approach to Jones through a detailed account of the genesis, form, content and intellectual context of his greatest poem, The Anathemata.

Wales was to Jones something like what Provence was to Pound, Byzantium to Yeats, the undissociated sensibility of Elizabethan England to Eliot. It represented the residue of a complete and integral culture in which art was not yet discontinuous with the rest of life, something to set against the specialisations of modern technological civilisation.

But Wales was and is more than a folk-memory. Unlike Provence, Byzantium, Tudor Hampton, it is (though problematically) part of the modern world Jones sets it against. An Anglo-Welshman and an abashed non-Welsh speaker, Jones came out in support of Plaid Cymru's linguistic ...


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