Robert Nye Derek Stanford - Essay

Derek Stanford

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

One of those all round virtuosi, Robert Nye can be relied on to surprise, whether in verse or in prose. His two utterly different poems in the recently published Scottish Poetry 7 … are examples of his power to create something new. Criticism—whatever its conclusions—is not usually prodigal in unexpected opening gambits, but Mr Nye can hang a whole essay on Donne upon the inaugural statement that the poet heartily detested milk. His mask in verse The Seven Deadly Sins … is a further manifestation of Mr Nye's extraordinary prestidigitation….

Mr Nye's intention [is] to reflesh with modern speech the skeleton form of the mediaeval morality play. Indeed, it is indicative of his conjuror's imagination that he likes to think of his mask as replacing 'the earliest recorded morality play in English' which 'set forth the merits of the Lord's Prayer'. He tells us that his own work turns upon the prayer known to all Christians together with the Jesus Prayer of the Orthodox Church ('Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner').

For those who understand what Mr Nye is talking about when he refers to sin as 'so many little sips of the grave / Original and actual', here is a work to be read with profit as it is to be watched with pleasure. (p. 66)

Derek Stanford, in Books and Bookmen (© copyright Derek Stanford 1975; reprinted with permission), August, 1975.