Chapter

‘Our love is what we love to have’: <i>Tenebrae</i> (1978)

Jeffrey Wainwright

in Acceptable Words

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780719067549
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781703359 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719067549.003.0004
‘Our love is what we love to have’: Tenebrae (1978)

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Geoffrey Hill's poems have often presented a series of scenes, livid tableaux, ‘spectacles’: the Jews in Europe, the Battle of Towton, the endurances of some poets, Boethius in his cell, the nailer's darg, real and fancied martyrdoms like those of his Sebastians. Hill feels that we are bound by that perpetual paradox of love renewing ‘the battle it was born to lose’. But it is a battle that must be waged for the alternative is death. This is what Harold Bloom calls Hill's ‘desperate humanism’. In Tenebrae, it appears with least equivocation in the poem ‘Christmas Trees’ in praise of the German pastor and opponent of Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeff.

Keywords: Geoffrey Hill; love; Dietrich Bonhoeff; Christmas Trees; desperate humanism

Chapter.  3145 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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