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This review is taken from PN Review 31, Volume 9 Number 5, May - June 1983.

MUSCULAR CHRISTIANITY AND VERSE Donald Davie, Dissentient Voice (University of Notre Dame Press) £11.85

In the Preface to Dissentient Voice, Donald Davie says of the four lectures 'Enlightenment and Christian Dissent': 'I have sought to take my examples . . . from poetry', and he defends his book against a charge levelled at A Gathered Church (of which Dissentient Voice is in some sense a sequel) that it was 'a polemic in the service of some prejudice political or religious' by claiming that 'the polemic serves no other purpose than to impel us to use certain terms, certain English words, strictly and with scruple . . .', adding that it is in poetry we may find words used with most scruple and power. The technical problem confronting Davie throughout is how to discuss the accurate uses of words within large historical sweeps, and, at almost the same time, relate those definitions to the 'crisp, supple, and responsible' uses of words in poems.

He manages more than one exemplary success; best of all, perhaps, is the discussion of Kipling's 'Lollius' where exegesis of the Latinism 'unmitigated' (used in a rare sense of mitigate- 'to render milder') is seen to satirise the subject's ennoblement, and where an echo of Pope's 'Ode on Solitude' combines on different levels poetic and historical context. Davie notes that, 'To get so much said, simply by making one cadence echo another over two centuries, seems not too much short of miraculous', and quite as much could be said of his pointing it out.

In Lecture Three: ...


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