The Triumph of Love

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE is Geoffrey Hill’s eighth book of poetry. Like much of his earlier work, TRIUMPH takes great stylistic and intellectual risks, but is likely also to be criticized for its inaccessibility.

By all appearances, TRIUMPH, composed of 150 numbered stanzas, is modeled upon the 150 Psalms of David. Like the Psalms it is a deeply penitential work in the laus et vituperatio (praise and blame) tradition and must be read on two levels: as a prayerful, penitential, and sometimes accusatory meditation on the disaster of World War II and its aftermath; and as a parallel meditation upon the difficulty of finding a poetic voice somehow commensurate with the horrors of the age.

In the first third of TRIUMPH, Hill sifts restlessly through images of the moral decay and ethical rascality that led to the war. He makes no attempt to fall back on the familiar and comforting notion that World War II was the “good war.” Hill spreads the blame around evenly enough, and is especially concerned with the part that Great Britain played in preparing the ground for the unmitigated catastrophe which followed Chamberlain’s disgraceful bargaining with the Nazis. Images of the Shoah, of cities decimated by indiscriminate bombing by both sides are juxtaposed beside images of the period of reconstruction and its equally culpable delusions of a brave new rational order free of the taint of original sin. Above all, the poet speaks prophetically of our will...

(The entire section is 426 words.)