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Turf

C.H. Sisson

10 May 1990
... What fever is Burning under the shrunk turf of our days? The sky is dark with winter, but what rises Smokily from the heap distinctly says: Here is fire: and yet a thousand ways Promises chill. A vast uneasiness shifts in the air. No one can name it, and whatever ill It brings forebodingly cannot declare Itself. Is then nothing but nothing there? Nothing perhaps Is what it is. Evil walks up and down ...
22 October 1992
... Another candidate for recollection Is Charles Worlock, surely from my mother’s family, For they farmed in Gloucestershire since who knows when – Perhaps since Saxon times there on the marches – And he embarked under the shining arches Of North Star and Plough, 22, fair, 5 ft 10, No further away than Bristol, to where he would see The blaze instead of southern constellations. He did not sail there ...

1662

D.A.N. Jones

5 April 1984
Old Catholics and Anglicans: 1931-1981 
edited by Gordon Huelin.
Oxford, 177 pp., £12.50, April 1983, 0 19 920129 3
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Anglican Essays 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 141 pp., £6.95, April 1983, 0 85635 456 2
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The Song of Roland 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 135 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 9780856354212
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TheRegrets 
by Joachim du Bellay, translated by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 147 pp., £4.50, January 1984, 0 85635 471 6
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... years, and Gordon Huelin’s collection of essays, Old Catholics and Anglicans 1931-1981, celebrates the success of this broad-church enterprise in a pleasant manner which would delight Baxter. C.H.Sisson writes about Baxter in Anglican Essays, with respect but little enthusiasm. He is reviewing a recent book about him by N.H. Keeble (who was responsible for the excellent Everyman edition of Baxter ...

Men at forty

Derek Mahon

21 August 1980
Selected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 137 pp., £3.50, May 1980, 0 85646 058 3
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Exactions 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £2.95, April 1980, 0 85635 332 9
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... in no doubt that here is a very fine poet indeed, and one who, on this side of the Atlantic at least, has yet to receive the attention he deserves. Large claims are made by some for the work of C.H.Sisson, who has become something of a cult figure and is clearly a force to be reckoned with. (Aside from a great deal of original poetry, he has published a book on The Spirit of British Administration and ...

In a Dry Place

Nicolas Tredell

11 October 1990
On the Look-Out: A Partial Autobiography 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 85635 758 8
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In Two Minds: Guesses at Other Writers 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 296 pp., £18.95, September 1990, 0 85635 877 0
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... exposé that ‘tells all’. But all can never be told: one can never escape one’s life, one’s language, one’s cultural situation to give a full report. As the poem at the end of C.H.Sisson’s ‘partial autobiography’ says: To be on the outside and yet to speak Is not a thing the mind of man can compass. All autobiographies are partial, both because they cannot utter everything ...

Dear Lad

Penelope Fitzgerald

19 March 1981
The Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Lund Humphries, 204 pp., £7.95, January 1981, 0 85331 435 7
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Philip Mairet: Autobiographical and Other Papers 
edited by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 266 pp., £7.95, February 1981, 0 85635 326 4
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... in 1975, in the middle of writing one of his innumerable letters. Mairet’s papers have been collected by his friends, and they are introduced, with a char acteristic touch of dry affection, by C.H.Sisson. More might have been said, I think, about Mairet’s draughtsmanship, which can be judged by his fine illustrations to Ashbee’s Modern English Silverwork. But Sisson presents him as a rare, even ...

Convictions

C.H. Sisson

9 November 1989
Edgell Rickword: A Poet at War 
by Charles Hobday.
Carcanet, 337 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 85635 883 5
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... The greatest men grow so long as they live.’ There is a touch of bravado about this assertion. Rickword was in his middle twenties when he made it, and he may have thought differently before his death at the age of 84. Be that as it may, he would almost certainly have stood by the reflection with which he concluded his sentence: ‘no one,’ he said, ‘has ever changed the fibres of his character ...

Lyrics and Ironies

Christopher Ricks

4 December 1986
The Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 178 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 212253 3
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Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 521 32264 2
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... all of ours at times, that they matter less in themselves than as furnishing the perfect polemical points de repère; over the years the poems of Christopher Middleton, of J.H. Prynne, and of C.H.Sisson, have all found themselves not so much constituting the grounds of Davie’s argument as figuring in it. But Milosz is too stubborn and faceted to be functionalised, even in the most high-minded way ...
5 July 1984
Random Variables 
by Lord Rothschild.
Collins, 238 pp., £12.50, May 1984, 0 00 217334 4
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... It is delightful and unexpected to open a book by a public Eminence to find the blue wings of Morpho cypris spread out before one. Then a few pages later there is the green and orange of Ornithoptera paradisea. This is, however, not a work of lepidopterology, except in the sense that it records that the author was ‘born into a family in which lepidopterology was a ruling passion’. Other illustrations ...

States’ Rights

C.H. Sisson

15 April 1982
Philosophy and Ideology in Hume’s Political Thought 
by David Miller.
Oxford, 218 pp., £15, November 1981, 0 19 824658 7
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... It would be an exaggeration to say that when David Hume, at the age of 26, came back to London after his retreat at La Flèche, he had already thought all the thoughts he was going to think. On the other hand, there is a sense in which the famous Hume, who lived among the learned and judicious in Edinburgh so comfortably and, one might say, so smugly in his 18th-century way, was a superfluity. True ...

Poor Harold

C.H. Sisson

3 December 1981
Harold Nicolson: A Biography. Vo. II: 1930-1968 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 403 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 7011 2602 7
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... In 1930, Harold Nicolson gave a series of broadcasts on ‘The New Spirit in Modern Literature’. The pamphlet which the BBC published to accompany the series gave me my first sight of the work of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and I believe James Joyce, though I learn from the volume before me that Sir John Reith, reigning at the BBC, forbade Nicolson to mention Ulysses, then banned. Little encounters ...
20 September 1984
The Force of Poetry 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 447 pp., £19.50, September 1984, 0 19 811722 1
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... This is,’ as Professor Ricks says, in his rather baroque manner, ‘a gathering of essays, not a march of chapters’; each essay ‘attends to an aspect, feature, or resource of the language manifested in poetry’. The book is true to this prospectus insofar as the subject of most of the essays is some point to which the critic wishes to ‘give salience’, rather than the poet whose name appears ...

Angry Waves

C.H. Sisson

18 December 1986
Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai 
translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell.
Viking, 173 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 670 81454 7
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Hurricane Lamp 
by Turner Cassity.
Chicago, 68 pp., £12.75, May 1986, 0 226 09614 9
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Selected Poems 
by Robert Wells.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £2.95, September 1986, 0 85635 669 7
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... The writing of verse is a disease to which too little attention has been paid by the public health authorities. The number of more or less unavoidable cases is small, but the contagion is everywhere. The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai shows clearly, even through the medium of translation, that its author is among the small number in whom the disease was, if not congenital, at any rate not to be ...

With the Woolwich

C.H. Sisson

18 July 1985
New and Collected Poems: 1934-84 
by Roy Fuller.
Secker in association with London Magazine Editions, 557 pp., £14.95, June 1985, 0 436 16790 5
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The Sea at the Door 
by Sylvia Kantaris.
Secker, 70 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 23070 4
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... Roy Fuller was born in 1912, under what conjunction of planets I do not know, but the place of his birth was somewhere between Manchester and Oldham. His next stop was Blackpool, where he attended the High School until the age of 16. He might even in those distant days have been expected to go on at the age of 17 or 18 to a university, but, whether through parental or his own native caution or some ...

Worthies

C.H. Sisson

6 February 1986
The Queen has been pleased: The British Honours System at Work 
by John Walker.
Secker, 216 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 436 56111 5
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... Whether one regards the honours system as a comedy, or a scandal, or merely as a perfectly ordinary bit of government machinery – like other bits not always as sensibly managed as it might be – is a question about which it hardly seems necessary to get excited. The system can hardly avoid being all these things, and anyone who has watched its operations, even intermittently, over a number of years ...

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