Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Hill's Carol

Here's something seasonal - the last sonnet of Geoffrey Hill's sequence An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture, an oblique exploration of the nature of 'the spiritual, Platonic old England' (Coleridge's phrase) through English landscape wild and tamed, aspects of colonial history, country life (as it was) and the history of our native church. (The Laurel Axe, which I've posted before, is another of the sequence.) Here, Hill's 'carol' blurs its sonnet form with half-rhymes (or less than half) and enjambment. It begins in celebration and ends in glory, and in between - a succession of those arrestingly vivid images that are Hill's speciality: 'the apple-branches musty with green fur', the yews' 'viridian darkness', 'the squire's effigy bewigged with frost', 'hobnails cracking puddles before dawn'...

THE HEREFORDSHIRE CAROL

So to celebrate that kingdom: it grows   
greener in winter, essence of the year;
the apple-branches musty with green fur.   
In the viridian darkness of its yews

it is an enclave of perpetual vows
broken in time. Its truth shows disrepair,   
disfigured shrines, their stones of gossamer,   
Old Moore’s astrology, all hallows,

the squire’s effigy bewigged with frost,
and hobnails cracking puddles before dawn.
In grange and cottage girls rise from their beds

by candlelight and mend their ruined braids.   
Touched by the cry of the iconoclast,
how the rose-window blossoms with the sun!

  

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