Decorations and Contingencies

John Bayley

  • Pea Soup by Christopher Reid
    Oxford, 65 pp, £4.50, September 1982, ISBN 0 19 211952 4

Decoration in poetry traditionally has a purpose: to embellish the story of the Faerie Queene or of Venus and Adonis, to ornament with appropriate curlicues the exposition of order and harmony in a poem like Sir John Davies’s Orchestra. In what might be called the new decorated style, or modern Elizabethan, the decoration has become an end in itself, serving only to embellish the sense of time passing, water dripping, bells ringing, clothes flying on the line.

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