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This review is taken from PN Review 28, Volume 9 Number 2, November - December 1982.

OBY BENE, IBI PATRIA George MacBeth, Poems from Oby (Seeker) £4.00
Alastair Fowler, From the Domain of Arnheim (Seeker) £4.95
Vernon Scannell, Winterlude (Robson) £6.95 (£3.95-pb)

Oby, it turns out, is a parish in the Norfolk Broads, where George MacBeth has bought a 'rectory together with two and a half acres of weed and woodland' and where he has found a new contentment. The place I have to take on trust: neighbouring Clippesby and Thurne, referred to in 'Yuletide in Norfolk', are recorded on the map in my AA Book of the Road, but of Oby there is no mention, I'm afraid. No doubt this is as it should be; for, real as MacBeth's parish undoubtedly is, in Poems from Oby its primary function is symbolic, as emblem of that new sense of rest and peace the poet has won his way through to. And that this sense is real there can be no doubt. The words 'house', 'home', 'land' and 'place' form the axis on which the volume turns; an added harmony is provided by MacBeth's knowing that with the place he also now has the woman he wants, and in the background a too smooth counterpoint of guilt not come to terms with and satisfied needs enacts a reflex of proper doubt.

That a man has found what he wants and can honestly say he's happy is cause for happiness in the rest of us. Nevertheless, at the same time as I feel pleased for MacBeth the man, I feel regret for MacBeth the poet, for his new contentment has both weakened and sentimentalized his work. To say this is not ...


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