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This article is taken from PN Review 2, Volume 4 Number 2, January - March 1978.

Anchises Robert Wells

FOR THOSE who were astonished by C. H. Sisson's collected poems In the Trojan Ditch, which came out in 1974, and found there with pleasure and as always unexpectedly someone who wrote what was certainly poetry, the appearance of this new book is an occasion which will have been awaited with impatience.

In an essay entitled 'Natural History', where he gives a short account of his youth and his early attempts to write poetry, or -for the process with him must be involuntary-to avoid writing it, Sisson applies to himself a remark of Montesquieu: 'On voit le style d'un homme qui a toujours commencé à écrire, et qui n'a jamais écrit.' Montesquieu is speaking of the effect upon the style of a 'man of affairs' of those affairs. The variousness and quality of Sisson's writing, produced in the intervals of a successful career as a civil servant (which it is the tic of reviewers to refer to with awe) may start the reflection that he is not just to himself. But there is some truth in the remark. The instinct for expression rooted itself down wherever it could find a space. It has persisted and survived. This has been his way of writing, and it is probable that the poems in In the Trojan Ditch are better for it; but their resolution into a single body of work remained incomplete.

Many of the poems, the early ones in particular, have the quality of brief comments ...


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