Geoffrey Hill is most commonly recognised as one of the most difficult, and important, poets of our day. Born in Bromsgrove, England, in 1932, Hill has written several volumes of excellent poetry. However, he is also a first-class literary historian and critic, as is evident from this collection of seven previously published articles, which date from 1989 to 1999. Five of them stem from the Times Literary Supplement, such as the first two, which are review articles on the publication of the Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, in 1989, and on a 'modernized spelling' version of Tyndale's bible, and the Revised English Bible, a new translation. With a skill few others could hope to match, Hill weighs the value and inadequacies of the works. Other articles include a rumination on Henry Vaughan's "The Night" and other forays into 16th and 17th century literature, his area of expertise.
While I would heartily recommend Hill's first two volumes of criticism, "The Lords of Limit", and "The Enemy's Country", to anyone interested in poetry, 16th/17th century literature, or Geoffrey Hill himself, it is harder to unreservedly praise this latest offering. This is not because it offers "nothing new" -- that is not my chief reservation. It is rather that the selection seems at times to lack coherence. One would have liked to have had perhaps another article, written especially for this volume, or at least an introduction of sorts that placed the individual essays in relation to one another and to the poet-critic's work as a whole.
Despite this minor criticism, this work offers a serious perspective unavailable elsewhere, and contains enough gems to warrant a good deal of study.