Edited By Piers Pennington and Matthew Sperling
Hugh Haughton - ‘Music’s Invocation’: Music and History in Geoffrey Hill 187
hugh haughton ‘Music’s Invocation’: Music and History in Geof frey Hill 1 Geof frey Hill’s work gives evidence of a passionate investment in music. As a poet, he is the composer of a requiem (‘Requiem for the Plantagenet Kings’), a book of songs (‘The Songbook of Sebastian Arruruz’), two ‘Chorale-Preludes’, and a sequence entitled ‘Funeral Music’. He has writ- ten several poems with the titles of musical pieces, including, in Tenebrae, ‘The Herefordshire Carol’ and ‘Lachrimae: or Seven tears figured in seven passionate Pavans’ (after John Dowland). More recently he has published Scenes from Comus, which takes its title from Hugh Wood’s 1965 composi- tion, and, in A Treatise of Civil Power, ‘G. F. Handel, Opus 6’ and ‘Johannes Brahms, Opus 2’. Such titles echo and mirror those of musical composi- tions, insisting on poems as responses to and analogues of music. His later poems and essays are also shot through with musical terms. Words shared between musicology and poetics foreground the relationship of poetry to musical form, and play a significant part both in poems and the intricate commentaries on poetry in his essays, many of which turn on questions of ‘voice’, ‘pitch’, and ‘cadence’. Cumulatively, such words confirm an allusive undertow to the fraught structural analogy between poems and musical compositions. Like poetry, music turns on performance, and Hill’s poems are replete with references to musical as well as oratorical performance. Many poems invoke specific instruments such as viols and violins, trum- pets and drums, while others name...
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