Thursday, December 18, 2008

More on Hill

As has been pointed out, 'Scenes from Comus' does indeed reference a masque (and also references Hugh Wood's music based on 'Comus') and does so in a way that could be said to be equivocal about the power relations involved in presenting a masque to a powerful patron. There's a good discussion of this in Signals magazine. As to whether a single line should be taken out of context, the answer is, probably not, so here's the whole stanza:

With splintering noises the ancient tannoy
celebrates more delay like a bequest
or benefaction long overdue.
An ordinary day, one more rehearsal.
Ducking and weaving, the last flight goes in,
the voice of reason maddens with its fear;
voices of prophesy assail the dead.

In the previous two or three stanzas, 'I' and 'me' is used, and as the above seems to be set in an airport (
or at least a metaphorical one), we can assume it's the poet-narrator persona who is speaking here, and in the context, I think we can say that the line 'the voice of reason...' does seem to be ambivalent about reason itself (or at least that's a possible interpretation). Much of this long poem is didactic in style, and the poet-narrator makes what appears to be personal statements of opinion about things, including (as in much of Hill's late poetry) old-age:

implausible, credible muse
whom I assuage by night


Where are we sans our lovers, you name the place?
The place itself if common; I have been here many times and enough.

So, in this context, the line about being a 'portal for the heirarchies' can reasonably be interpreted as being statement about what the poet-narrator would like to be. Hill is Professor Emeritus of Literature and Religion, and, of course, religion is all about hierarchies.

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