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A Treatise of Civil Powerby Geoffrey Hill
Synopses & Reviews
Geoffrey Hills latest collection takes its title from a pamphlet by Milton of 1659 that attacks the concept of a state church as well as corruption in church governance. As Milton figures prominently here, so too must the Lord Protector, Cromwell, addressed in a memorable sonnet sequence. Also considered by Hill are other poets to whom he nods in gratitude, not just Milton and my god” Ben Jonson, or Robert Herrick, or William Blake, but also Robert Lowell and, perhaps most interestingly, John Berryman, whose Dream Songs haunts this present collection.
Here we again confront the poets familiar obsessions—language, governance, war, politics, the contemporary and classical worlds, and the nature of poetry itself. John Hollander writes of Hills poems that they immerse themselves in the matters of stones and rock, of permanence and historical change, martyrdoms and mockeries, and above all history and the monuments and residua of its consequences in places, things, and persons.” A Treatise of Civil Power is the work of a major poet at the height of his powers.
"Angry and learned, Hill's seventh book of new poems in 10 years should delight his admirers; its self-contained pentameter stanzas, surprisingly friendly tone and gemlike images also make it the best way into the late work of this poet whom critics such as Harold Bloom have placed in the lineage of Milton and Blake. Hill's obsessions include the martyrs and poets of the English Renaissance, representations of classical music in poetry and his own advancing age, about which his new poems carry sad jokes. 'People keep asking why your lyric mojo/ atrophied at around ninety,' the poet (in truth, aged 75) complains, then adds, 'invention reinvents itself/ every so often in the line of death.' Elsewhere he writes about rereading famous works of literary criticism, and memorializes dead friends in fine elegies. In this book, Hill succeeds in mixing personal sentiment with grave pronouncements about morality and history. 'There's an unfinished psalm doing the rounds/ in the vicinity of my skull,' one sequence declares; in one of the book's multitudinous layers of meaning, Hill may, or may not, be speaking in the voice of the English conqueror Oliver Cromwell, whose military government had fallen apart when Milton wrote the polemic from which Hill's book takes its name." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, in 1932, Geoffrey Hill is the author of three books of criticism and twelve books of poetry, including The Triumph of Love, co-winner of the Heinemann Award. His previous collection, Without Title, is published by Yale University Press.
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