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This article is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.

Michael Hamburger

Dear David:

Looking back over the years to our first meeting at Oxford in 1941 or 1942, what strikes me is how casual and sporadic our relations have been over that period. That is true of meetings as much as correspondence. If I write you an open letter now for your sixtieth birthday, rather than the poem or the essay I considered writing (though poems, as we both know, don't get written out of consideration), it is because I feel that the alternatives would be too formal, too solemn, to accord with the nature of our relations. In 1948, when we happened to be staying in the same part of Cornwall-a part that had become a sort of extension of our "second university", Soho-I did address a poem to you, To a Deaf Poet, in the rather literary and romantic manner that four years of army service hadn't succeeded in knocking out of my system. This poem can only have embarrassed you, though at least I published it without a dedication identifying you as its recipient; and in later years, too, you showed a preference for my more casual, throwaway verse. Any poem I might write for you now would be less literary, less romantic, and less solemn than the early one; but it would be even more private, essentially, than a letter in plain prose.

As for a formal essay, that would accord even less with the nature of our relations. In other people's ...


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