Friday, July 01, 2016

Geoffrey Hill and Mercian Hymns

I

King of the perennial holly-groves, the riven sandstone: overlord of the M5: architect of
   the historic rampart and ditch, the citadel at Tamworth, the summer hermitage in Holy
   Cross: guardian of the Welsh Bridge and the Iron Bridge: contractor to the desirable
   new estates: saltmaster: moneychanger: commissioner for oaths: martyrologist: the
   friend of Charlemagne.

‘I liked that,’ said Offa, ‘sing it again.’



Another day, another hero gone. The poet Geoffrey Hill has died.

Mercian Hymns brought together his West Midlands boyhood, legends of King Offa and the present day in 30 short prose poems. The first of them is above.

Much of Hill's work beyond this is obscure and complex, but it repays an effort to understand it.

And I like Hill's claim, to be found in his Telegraph obituary, that he had learnt as much from Frankie Howerd as he had from John Donne or Gerard Manley Hopkins.

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