Picture of a Nativity

By Geoffrey Hill b. 1932 Geoffrey Hill
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

Of bestial and common hardship   
Artistic men appear to worship
And fall down; to recognize
Familiar tokens; believe their own eyes.

Above the marvel, each rigid head,   
Angels, their unnatural wings displayed,   
Freeze into an attitude
Recalling the dead.

Geoffrey Hill, “Picture of a Nativity” from New and Collected Poems, 1952-1992. Copyright © 1994 by Geoffrey Hill. Used with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: New and Collected Poems 1952-1992 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1994)

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Poet Geoffrey Hill b. 1932


Subjects Birth & Birthdays, Painting & Sculpture, Living, Religion, Arts & Sciences, Christianity

Holidays Christmas

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Ekphrasis

 Geoffrey  Hill


Geoffrey Hill was born in Worcestershire, England in 1932. From a working-class family, Hill attended Oxford where his work was first published by the poet Donald Hall. These poems later collected in For the Unfallen: Poems 1952-1958 (1959) marked an astonishing debut. In dense poems of gnarled syntax and astonishing rhetorical power, Hill planted the seeds of style and concern that he has continued to cultivate over his long . . .

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SUBJECT Birth & Birthdays, Painting & Sculpture, Living, Religion, Arts & Sciences, Christianity


Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Ekphrasis

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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