From “Odi Barbare”

By Geoffrey Hill b. 1932 Geoffrey Hill
                               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

Accolades Muses’ dithyrambics far-fraught
Borrowed labour ashen with sullen harrow
Cruel past that | Sidney and vesperal Tom
             Campion courted

Put to claim not otherwise vowed the era
What else here goes | I am no Igbo wit well
Versed in Virgil Pindar Euripides child-
             Hallowed Idoto

Revelation blessed in its unforthcoming
Closed with tempus aedificandi tempus
Destruendi bringing discharge of measure
             Blasting the home-straight

                               xxv
Lovelace there come difficult times between us
Though in your place I cannot well imagine
Why I should not follow her chequered steps in-
             Out of the sunlight

Candlelight here given the invocation
Starlit even | whatever else is silence
Gratiana somewhere still | she is dancing
             Dancingand singing

Singing not her heart out beyond the fable
Grand carotid arteries self-fulfilling
How the blood’s tempered in its modulation
             Balanced impulsive

So are our storms trackered from solemn orbit
Turbulence granted our sequestered sphere now
Buffetted now spun on an awl now baffled
             Wreathed in cloud-garlands

Masques do so challenge and compose to labour
Hers the masque-like venture the scenes mechanic
Stars have held being since creation’s fourth day
             Turned to their music

Noble her frame troubling the fame we yield her
All rites well done short of a consummation
Treading down nothingness to ever-dealing
             Maker unmonstrant

                               xxvi
Łodz I’ve been there done that the vanished children
Klezmer makes glad music at Lazarus gate
If as straggling voices the dead return now
             They have our number

Breathing hard we wrestled asbestos brake-pads
Luminously radioactive watches
Fizzled green plaque riding elastic wrist-bands
             Glue smelt of peardrops

Someone those taut days was predicting biros
Not my blubbered Jewish pal bright a bully
That we knew klezmer I much doubt the Wedding
             Dance for the Old Men

Time released me from him as I could not have
Many then had foresight but I was not one
Vital spinners counting there’s no subtraction
             Ever can oust them

Odds are for pittance where redemption strands us
Debts of those long-dead sparks of phantom brain cells:
Who’s to dance broyges tants the dance of anger’s
             Conciliation?

There is no known voice but a clarinet sounds
Almost human touting a melt to die for
Hurl of things fastbound the last-known survivors’
             Wailed diminution

                               xxvii
Breathe on my nesh eyes as upon a glass | this
Something so exquisite I scarce can bear it
I do not think I ever could have borne it
             If not for real

Make estrangement all our desires that age so
Perfect empowerment the imperfection
How indemnify a degraded legend
             Lost to computing

Contumacious that I am and that now like
Poggio I | too much enjoy invective—
This for our good—so what you saw me turned on
             Mind if I stress this

Breathe on my nesh eyes I am tired of sleeping
Largo ma non troppo affettuoso
Well becomes fierce Didone trionfante
             Lyric oblation

As fantastic here as in those odd films we
Watched albeit singly The Tales of Hoffmann
What we must be not to be worked with mirrors
             Hives of perspective

Could I have found you in a film by Ophüls
Silent resonances of glass configured
Had I but struck us off The Masque of Blackness
             As it was playing

Source: Poetry (September 2010).

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This poem originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2010
 Geoffrey  Hill

Biography

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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

POET’S REGION England

Poetic Terms Ode, Series/Sequence

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