The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Sunday, January 16, 2005


Geoffrey Híll, who rívals John Ashbery ín hís obscuríty and for my affectíon, has a posítíon on the euro:
And where Hill assaults modernity and its technological vocabulary he can lose that perfect control which marks his use of older and more obscure words: "World-webbed collusions, clouded diplomacies, | are lightning when they strike and strike us down" is a bit of mildly paranoid techno-speak which doesn't really come off. These moments are often marked by exaggerated uses of Hill's idiosyncratic punctuation. He likes to mark accents in his verse in order to register a surprising position of stress within a line, and often these marked stresses seem anxious, as though Hill just can't trust his readers to follow his sense without them. When he writes "Things won't change though there ís the Euro", the "is" really doesn't need to have an ictus marked over it for the sarcasm to be self-evident. Every so often, as Hill himself says, he can make "the lines of age too evident".
But these moments are infrequent in a collection which is full of passages that are sure products of a master, not just good, but great, who is creating in his late years a music of twilight. There are lines that float ("slow airs fluted on the inlaid grass"), and others that convey a beauty which is glimpsed out of the corner of the eye ("There goes a fox | like a swift perfect image of itself"). Scenes from Comus offers, in Hill's own phrase, "a grand and crabby music".
What ís an íctus? That depends on what your defínítíon of ís is.