Geoffrey Hill

G
Geoffrey Hill
The Peacock at Alderton
Nothing to tell why I cannot write
in re Nobody; nobody to narrate this
latter acknowledgement: the self that counts
words to a line, accountable survivor
pain-wedged, pinioned in the cleft trunk,
less petty than a sprite, poisonous as Ariel
to Prospero's own knowledge. In my room
a vase of peacock feathers. I will attempt
to describe them, as if for evidence
on which a life depends. Except for the eyes
they are threadbare, the threads hanging
as from a luminate tough weed in February.
But those eyes—like a Greek letter,
omega, fossiled in an Indian shawl;
like a shaved cross section of living tissue,
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From “Odi Barbare”
xxiv
What is far hence led to the den of making:
Moves unlike wildfire | not so simple-happy
Ploughman hammers ploughshare his durum dentem
Digging the Georgics

Vision loads landscape | lauds Idoto Mater
Bearing up sacrally so graced with bodies
Voids the challenge how far from Igboland great-
Stallioned Argos

Vehemencies minus the ripe arraignment
Clapper this art taken to heart the fiction
What are those harsh cryings astrew the marshes
Weep not to hear them
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An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England
the spiritual, Platonic old England …
S. T. COLERIDGE, Anima Poetae

‘Your situation’, said Coningsby, looking up the green and silent valley, ‘is absolutely poetic.’
‘I try sometimes to fancy’, said Mr Millbank, with a rather fierce smile, ‘that I am in the New World.’
BENJAMIN DISRAELI, Coningsby
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Funeral Music
William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk: beheaded 1450
John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester: beheaded 1470
Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers: beheaded 1483 1

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In Memory of Jane Fraser
When snow like sheep lay in the fold
And winds went begging at each door,
And the far hills were blue with cold,
And a cold shroud lay on the moor,

She kept the siege. And every day
We watched her brooding over death
Like a strong bird above its prey.
The room filled with the kettle’s breath.
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In Piam Memoriam
1

Created purely from glass the saint stands,
Exposing his gifted quite empty hands
Like a conjurer about to begin,
A righteous man begging of righteous men.


2

In the sun lily-and-gold-coloured,
Filtering the cruder light, he has endured,
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from 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.’


IV

I was invested in mother-earth, the crypt of roots and endings. Child’s-play. I abode there, bided my time: where the mole

shouldered the clogged wheel, his gold solidus; where dry-dust badgers thronged the Roman flues, the long-unlooked-for mansions of our tribe.


V

So much for the elves’ wergild, the true governance of England, the gaunt warrior-gospel armoured in engraved stone. I wormed my way heavenward for ages amid barbaric ivy, scrollwork of fern.
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Ovid in the Third Reich
non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare,
solaque famosam culpa professa facit.

Amores, III, xiv I love my work and my children. God
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Picture of a Nativity
Sea-preserved, heaped with sea-spoils,
Ribs, keels, coral sores,
Detached faces, ephemeral oils,
Discharged on the world’s outer shores,

A dumb child-king
Arrives at his right place; rests,
Undisturbed, among slack serpents; beasts
With claws flesh-buttered. In the gathering
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Requiem for the Plantagenet Kings
For whom the possessed sea littered, on both shores,
Ruinous arms; being fired, and for good,
To sound the constitution of just wars,
Men, in their eloquent fashion, understood.

Relieved of soul, the dropping-back of dust,
Their usage, pride, admitted within doors;
At home, under caved chantries, set in trust,
With well-dressed alabaster and proved spurs
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Respublica
The strident high
civic trumpeting
of misrule. It is
what we stand for.

Wild insolence,
aggregates without
distinction. Courage
of common men:
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September Song
born 19.6.32—deported 24.9.42
Undesirable you may have been, untouchable
you were not. Not forgotten
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Tenebrae
He was so tired that he was scarcely able to hear a note of the songs: he felt imprisoned in a cold region where his brain was numb and his spirit was isolated. 1

Requite this angel whose
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from The Triumph of Love
I

Sun-blazed, over Romsley, a livid rain-scarp.


XIII

Whose lives are hidden in God? Whose?
Who can now tell what was taken, or where,
or how, or whether it was received:
how ditched, divested, clamped, sifted, over-
laid, raked over, grassed over, spread around,
rotted down with leafmould, accepted
as civic concrete, reinforceable
base cinderblocks:
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On Seeing the Wind at Hope Mansell
Whether or not shadows are of the substance
such is the expectation I can
wait to surprise my vision as a wind
enters the valley: sudden and silent
in its arrival, drawing to full cry
the whorled invisibilities, glassen towers
freighted with sky-chaff; that, as barnstorming
powers, rammack the small
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