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This report is taken from PN Review 118, Volume 24 Number 2, November - December 1997.

On Michael Rivière 1919-1997 William Rivière

Soldier, scholar, horseman, certainly; also company chairman and sailor, poet and translator; then, one of the founder members of the Council of the University of East Anglia, chairman of the Centre for East Anglian Studies, editor of Norfolk Archaeology, (great delighter in his native region); sojourner in France, Italy, Greece; collector of Italian engravings and etchings... But when I had to choose which of my father's poems to read at his funeral - he who all his life kept haunting back to his the unluxurious end, and to the great poets he admired as the Life-creating Dead - when I rediscovered that I could find no poem of his not instinct with mortality, and few that lack a shade of its however tenuous transcendence: it was the image of him as an escaping prisoner of war which most shadowed me now that the escaper had, in a phrase he'd use to me, got clear away at last.

So I started with his two war sonnets - fairly well-anthologised by now (in The Terrible Rain, 1966; A Map of Modern English Verse, 1969; Poems of the Second World War, 1985; The Voice of War, 1995).

Eichstätt
Well, Rivière's dead. Muffle a smallish drum,
Beat it in a small way, let us be apt and just.
Small stir kept pace with him and can see him home
Very well. The firing party? Simplest
To brief some children for a pop-gun squad. ...


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