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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Donald Davie

Donald Davie
(Living Wittily)
no copyright infringement intended

A poet and literary critic belonging to the Movement. Well, you'll ask now what the Movement is (better said, what it was). The term was coined in 1954 to name a group of English poets (strictly English, not British at large), preoccupied to understand and emphasize the so-called Englishness in their literature. Not rejecting modernism de plano, while looking for that ineffable Englishness, where else? in all that had preceded modernism.

And their approach was risky, with such an ambition one cannot avoid the danger of falling in ridicule, in artificiality, in BS, to use a nowadays term. For an Irishman like Denis Donoghue, the poetry of Donald Davie was an enforced choice between masturbation and happily wedded love. Harsh words, and maybe unjust.

I'd say that each author has his readers, and to get the beauty of  Donald Davie's pages, you should look for them in their natural habitat. What about a second hand bookshop with old books chaotically thrown everywhere: a universe where you will not find the same book the second time, because you'll see thousand others. And so the first book will slip away as a dream, or an illusion. Borges described a book of sand, there are also whole universes of sand, but these universes are inhabited by books only, humans can at most pay a visit now and then. One such place exists, it is in Glasgow near the University, and there you will find for instance the New Oxford Book of Christian Poetry, and also A Gathered Church. The Literature of the English Dissenting Interest, 1700-1930, both edited by Davie. I didn't have the privilege to visit that bookshop, I would love to be there sometime, what I did was to read some lines written by an admirer of Davie, who found those books in that bookshop: (Davie) opened his eyes to the lucidity and leanness of Augustan English, and also, (Davie) made one of the best apologia's in print for the hymn as poem, and an enthusiastic rebuttal of all those literary snobs who look down their noses at hymns, especially evangelical hymns (Living Wittily).

And this is Englishness, my friends!

(A Life in Books)



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