Mercian Hymns

Mercian HymnsMercian Hymns by Geoffrey Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rather interesting. It starts out as a panegyric to Offa, King of Mercia in the 8th century, but within a few lines we have encompassed all of English history. The juxtaposition of past and present continues through all 30 poems, along with a blurring between Offa and Hill, himself, perhaps. A bit bewildering at first, the final impression is of Englishness, landscape, history, depression/decline, abuse of power, and the things that last for hundreds of years – (Offa’s dyke, his coinage, the language.) Written in imitation of Anglo-Saxon poetry, with hints of Beowulf, Milton, Boethius, and probably T.S. Eliot.

(This was my start at reading the Whitbread awards – a project I have since abandonned in favor of the Walter Scott historical fiction shortlist.)