Archaeology of Words – Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns
‘I ran slowly; the landscape flowed back to / its source’ (VI)
In Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns the concepts of time and space are vague, defined by their interaction with words and movement. History and memory are mixed in moving pictures, tugging always at the connections between the different planes of reality contained within the sequence. These are namely the life and doings of King Offa who ruled Mercia from 757 to 796 AD; Hill’s own childhood and his experience of the Second World War; Hill’s present life (at the time of writing, 1968-71). These temporal realities are connected, and given sharper definition by the different poetic forms Hill manifests within the sequence.
Mercian Hymns is a sequence of thirty prose-poems, each of these ‘hymns’ subdivided into what Hill terms ‘versets’ – ‘short sentences, usually taken from the Psalms and of a precatory nature’. Hill’s versetsdo bear resemblance to the versets in the Psalms; they are of similar length, rhythm and grammatical structure. The other forms which shape Mercian Hymns are those employed by the Anglo-Saxons – the elegy, riddle and panegyric, used to tell both fictional and historical heroic stories.
The first hymn is a panegyric – ‘The Naming of Offa’ – and eches the way such poems open in the Anglo-Saxon tradition: ‘Æthelstan cyning, eorla dryhten, / beorna beag-giefa’ [King Æthelstan, lord of earls, / ring-giver to men’]. Our introduction to Offa in the first hymn rings similarly with accolades: ‘King’, ‘overlord’, ‘architect’, ‘money-changer’, ‘martyrologist’. The colons which divide the accolades make them seem equal and coexisting. As David Lloyd argues, ‘Hill uses colons so that one accolade generates the next’:
King of the perennial holly-groves, the riven sand-
aaastone: overlord of the M5: architect of the his-
aaatoric rampart and ditch, the citadel at Tamsworth,
aaathe summer hermitage in Holy Cross: guardian of
aaathe Welsh Bridge and the Iron Bridge: contractor
aaato the desirable new estates: saltmaster: money-
aaachanger: commissioner for oaths: martyrologist:
aaathe friend of Charlemagne.
‘I liked that,’ said Offa, ‘sing it again.’
That he is ‘King’ of the ‘perennial holly-groves’ suggests continuity of rule, a presence which, remaining in the region of Mercia, extends in time to the present day Worcester, constantly living and green like the ‘holly-groves’ which are still at large in Hill’s homeland (‘a / bonfire of beer-crates and holly-boughs whistled / above the tar’, III). Offa’s power is reinstated as the ‘overlord of the M5’, extolling him as the supreme ruler presiding over a strategically vital road into his kingdom, which links him with the present time.
Offa was a famous ‘money-changer’ in the sense that he introduced ‘a new type of coin which became ‘the model for all subsequent coinage in the Old English period, and even beyond it’. A ‘martyrologist’ – though ostensibly one who keeps ‘a list or account of martyrs’ – is also one who keeps ‘a register of deaths kept by a religious house’, attributing Offa with a sense of personal and local history. The title of ‘architect of the historic rampart and ditch’ refers to ‘Offa’s Dyke’, ‘the most impressive monument of Anglo-Saxon antiquity’ and despite the fact that there is no ‘direct evidence that it was built by Offa, both English and Welsh knew it by his name (Old English Offan dic, Welsh Clawadd Offa)’. This nomenclature of King Offa, the notoriety he experienced in life and death, shape his identity within Mercian Hymns; in the second hymn Hill makes a riddle of his name.
Riddles in the Anglo-Saxon period relied heavily upon the manipulation of idiom and phonetic word play to convey their subject; the riddle in the second hymn is comprised of clues that do precisely this. A ‘curt graffito’ could be ‘fuck/piss off’, ‘A laugh’ is a ‘scoff’, ‘a cough’, ‘A syndicate’ could be an ‘office’, ‘A specious gift’ could be a ‘special offer’. ‘The starting cry of a race’ could be ‘and they’re off!’ The ‘Scoffed-at, horned phonograph’ is a more complex construction. In the phonetic shorthand created by Sir Isaac Pitman the ‘o’ of ‘Offa’ would be represented by the phonograph ‘?’, and the consonant ‘f’ by ‘?’’, so that it would indeed appear as a horned phonograph. The word ‘phonograph’ is also the name Thomas Edison gave to the first instrument for recording sound; and the manually operated Edison Cylinder Phonograph of 1899, with a large protruding horn, was initially scoffed at.
The last clue, ‘A name to conjure with’, does many things. Whilst expressing the respect worthy of the Offa depicted in the first hymn, it also describes what the riddle has been doing – playing magically with ‘Offa’, conjuring words from the sound of it. Then, once the idiomatic sense of the phrase wears off, the word ‘conjure’ throws the balance of the whole hymn. The primary meaning of the word ‘conjure’ in the Oxford English Dictionary, is to ‘swear together; to conspire’, rendering Offa a close friend or even an accomplice to the riddler. The word also has a precatory undertone – ‘To entreat (a person) by something for which he has a strong regard; to appeal solemnly or earnestly to; to beseech, implore.’ Hymn I ends ‘‘I liked that,’ said Offa, ‘sing it again’’; Hymn II responds in jest, toying with Offa’s name, by making him the comic subject of a riddle. Yetin the word ‘conjure’, Hill very deliberately summons all of Offa’s power as a King back to him. Hill has said that in ‘handling the English language the poet makes an act of recognition that etymology is history. The history of the creation and the debasement of words’. He wants us to be aware of the overpowering abundance of meaning in the words he has chosen and leaves us free to decode them.
I was invested in mother-earth, the crypt of roots
aaaand endings. Child’s-play. I abode there, bided my
[...] I wormed my way heavenward for
ages amid barbaric ivy, scrollwork of fern.
Exile or pilgrim set me once more upon that ground:
aaamy rich and desolate childhood. (V)
There is an unmistakeable echo here, of ‘The Wife’s Lament’:
Heht mec mon wunian on wuda bearwe,
under actreo þam eorðscræfe.
Eald is þes eorðsele, eal ic eom oflongad.
Sindon dena dimme, duna uphea,
bitre burgtunas brerum beweaxne,
wic wynna leas. (27-32)
[Someone commanded me to dwell in a forest’s grove, under an oak tree, in an earth-hall. Old is this earth-hall, I am all seized with longing; The valleys are dark, high are the hills, (these) bitter enclosures, overgrown with briars, a joyless place.]
The abstract nature of the landscape is a common characteristic Anglo-Saxon elegiac poetry, where the narrator (often an exile) seems enclosed by the very land itself. In saying ‘I was invested’ Hill suggests a kind of unwilling envelopment – one meaning of the verb ‘invest’ is ‘To clothe, robe, or envelop (a person) (…) with a garment’, and by extension ‘To cover, envelop, or coat, as a garment does.’ It may also mean ‘To enclose’ ‘with a hostile force, so as to cut off approach or escape’ ‘to besiege, beleaguer; to attack.’ The ‘barbaric ivy’ in Hymn V heightens the sense of a threatened isolation, like the ‘bitter enclosures overgrown with briars’ in ‘The Wife’s Lament’.
A ‘crypt of roots / and endings’ connotes the ‘earth-cave’ ‘under an oak tree’. The many-faceted word ‘crypt’ – from the Latin crypta, a covered galley – creates different resonances within the line. A ‘cavern’ or an ‘underground cell’ sounds like the wife’s ‘earth-hall’. However it may be a ‘recess’ or a ‘secret hiding-place’, which gives rise to the word ‘encrypt’ – ‘to conceal’ by converting ‘into cipher or code’ ‘in order to prevent unauthorized access’. In this context ‘a crypt of roots / and endings’ is a linguistic code, where the ‘roots’ and ‘endings’ of the words change depending on their inflections and tenses. The word is also imbued with mortality; a crypt as a chamber particularly suggests ‘one beneath the main floor of a church, used as a burial-place’. In this sense a ‘crypt of roots / and endings’ may be a picture of King Offa’s death, or of the deaths of Hill’s own ancestors, or of the cumulative death of the war he lived through during his ‘rich and desolate childhood’.
Time and space are drawn together in the word ‘abode’. It has come to mean a ‘Habitual residence, dwelling’, but its original meaning is the verb ‘To presage, prognosticate, be ominous’, which, given the syntax of the clause – ‘I abode there’ – would seem to be Hill’s intention. The word ‘bide’ literally means to wait, though it can also mean ‘to face’, to ‘await submissively’, to ‘endure, suffer’. Both words stem from the Anglo-Saxon verb bidan (‘to wait’) which comes up in ‘The Wanderer’ (‘Beorn sceal gebiden’ [A warrior must wait] (l.71)); ‘The Seafarer’ (‘gebiden in burgum (…) in brimlade bidan’) [wait in the city (…) in the sea-path wait] ( l. 28-30)); and is the last word of ‘The Wife’s Lament’: ‘Wa bið þam þe sceal / of langoþe leofes abidan’ [Woe is he who must, out of longing, the loved one await’] (l. 53)). Having used ‘abode’ and ‘bide’ in such close proximity, Hill seems to emphasise the words’ etymology and therefore their significance in Anglo-Saxon elegy. This gives ‘roots / and endings’ yet another dimension: the origin of a word, and its present location, after its journey through time and different usages.
There is a gravity about the first verset of Hymn IV which makes the passing of time – the waiting – seem sad and menacing. Different stretches of time are united in this place – the abstract ‘earth-hall’ – and the notion that ‘I wormed my way heavenward for / ages amid barbaric ivy’, means something to each. Literally, there is a sense of remission and escape, though moving ‘heavenward’ also suggests death in the ascension of the soul. The idea that the speaker has been moving for ‘ages’ is initially a colloquial hyperbole; however taken literally – a slow progression through epochs – has the effect, again, of linking these times. Again, movement is the connecting force between time and place.
The first verset of Hymn VII seems to place us in Hill’s time: ‘Gasholders, russet among fields.’ Gasholders – large cylindrical metal structures containing natural gas – are often, due to oxidation, russet coloured. The word ‘russet’ is not only an adjective denoting colour; it is also a ‘variety of eating apple,’ a ‘variety of pear’ and a ‘species of noctuid moth’. If we accept this sentence as hypotactic, Hill has used a word ascribed to organic things to depict a man-made landmark that is young by the standards of the Mercian Hymns timescale; the time of writing, alluding to the ‘fields’, must also necessarily allude to the fields of eighth century Mercia. The primary meaning of ‘russet’, however, is ‘A coarse homespun woollen cloth (…) formerly used for the dress of peasants and country-folk’; we remember this in Hymn XXIII when we read of the ‘Opus Anglicanum’, ‘In tapestries, in dreams’, and imagine the women of Offa’s reign making tapestries. The russet fields of Hymn VII are broken down during the first verset, into smaller details: ‘Milldams’ and ‘marlpools’; ‘a ditchful’ of ‘Coagulations of frogs’. There is a great sense here, of the deathly calm after a violent act; milldams, eel-swarms and marlpools all ‘lay unstirring’;
Coagulations of frogs: once, with branches and half-bricks, he battered a ditchful; then sidled away from the stillness and silence.
The first clause with the colon describe the aftermath, a forensic photograph at the scene of the crime whose action is then described. Simply, the process of coagulation is the ‘clotting, curdling’ or ‘setting’, usually of milk, albumen and blood, lending the description a distinct sense of physiological texture: of raw flesh and of protein-rich bodily-generated fluids. More specifically, coagulation necrosis is ‘a type of necrosis in which dead tissue becomes swollen and firmer’; we feel the dead frogs and the reformed, glutinous presence of their flesh (in the first clause) before the story of their death has even been told (after the colon).
The strange calm of this description is echoed in the third verset, where again, after an instance of violence, ‘he’ ‘leaves’ Ceolred ‘calm and alone’. The action of second and third versets of Hymn VII use ‘Ceolred’ (adviser to King Offa) as the offending school friend in what must be a childhood memory – by the 1940s ‘biplanes’ were indeed, as the verset, suggests, ‘already obsolete’, ‘already’ implying this as a recent change. We may therefore assume that the event did not happen later than 1942, when Hill would have been ten years old. The loss of the model plane moves Hill/Offa to ‘lure’ Ceolred ‘down to the old quarries’ and ‘flay’ him, before leaving him ‘calm and alone’, reminding us of the still, coagulated ditchful of frogs in the first verset. We should note the use of ‘coagulation’ and ‘ditchful’ (from dic) and Hill’s particular choice of the Latinate and Old English words.
The relationship between the Anglo-Saxon and the Latin etymologies in Mercian Hymns has divided critics into two camps: there are those that see it as a partnership and those that see it as frictional cohabitation. Peter Robinson and William Wootten, of the latter camp, acknowledge Seamus Heaney’s argument that the idioms ‘go hand in glove’ in Mercian Hymns. Robinson argues that ‘rather than conspiring together, here there is an impacted conflict between etymologies’, whilst Wootten holds that ‘It is rare (…) that Latin and Anglo-Saxon English can meet in Mercian Hymns without a trace of blood’, and that Hill’s ‘diction relentlessly veers between (…) the Anglo-Saxon and the Latinate’. However both arguments rely on the observation that the two etymologies come together only at instances of violence: Robinson cites Offa’s witnessing of Boethius’ death in Hymn XVIII. Wootten refers us to Thor’s outburst in Hymn XXVII, and the synthesis of the red juice of ‘butchered’ strawberries and the ‘red in the arena’ as ‘ancient bloodshed brought forth in a clash of Latin and Anglo-Saxon dictions’. Quite apart from the fact that Thor would represent a clash of Latin and Old Norse dictions (as opposed to Old English), Wootten, like Robinson, falls down in assuming that we are to judge Hill’s intentions in Mercian Hymns only on these instances of violence. There undoubtedly is a combative element to the combination of the two etymologies – as we have seen from Hymn VII – but there are instances where they conjure, as we have seen in the use of the word ‘crypt’ to bolster the power of the Anglo-Saxon elegiac form in Hymn IV.
There are also instances where the two etymologies, adjacent to one another, create sadness; in the fourth verset of Hymn X, Offa//Hill ‘wept, attempting to master ancilla and servus.’ This image is perhaps the one in which the definition between ‘King Offa’ and ‘Geoffrey Hill the Child’ becomes most blurred: as W. S. Milne has pointed out, ‘a king as well as a child may weep in the difficulty of learning Latin’. In Hymn V, Hill speaks directly about his ‘childhood’: ‘I who was taken to be a king of / some kind, a prodigy, a maimed one’. A ‘prodigy’ could refer to King Offa and the laws and coinage he pioneered, whilst the term also specifically refers to ‘a precociously talented child’, which it seems Hill was. The son of a police constable and a long line of nail-makers, Hill’s abilities (his attendance at grammar school and Keble College, Oxford) are seemingly anomalous to those of his family. Why he was a ‘maimed’ prodigy is unclear; perhaps his so-called ‘working class’ origins hindered him in his education, making him self-conscious. Perhaps it was the burden of his very unique way of thinking, as a young poet. Either way both he and King Offa seem to have been maimed or at least troubled by their lack of Latin at some point. This notion is realised in Hymn XXIX:
‘Not strangeness, but strange likeness. Obstinate,
aaaoutclassed forefathers, I too concede, I am your
So, murmurous, he withdrew from them. Gran lit the
aaagas, his dice whirred in the ludo-cup, he entered
aaathe last dream of Offa the King.
Martin Dodsworth believes the phrase ‘staggeringly-gifted child’ is comic in its self-admission, and intended to lighten the seriousness of Hill’s confession, yet the term is more than an awkward joke stating his surprising ability. It depicts a genuine faltering movement, as only a ‘maimed’ ‘prodigy’ ‘staggers’ under the weight of his gift. It seems, however, that the sentence is about Offa as well as Hill: if we take the second sentence (of verset two) as being subordinate to the first, it is Offa who leaves them. It seems that king and child, past and present are united again by the movement (a stagger and a withdrawal), in this hymn. Something new arises from the departure from the ‘Obstinate / outclassed forefathers’.
Thomas Day has made a lengthy comparison of Hill and T. S. Eliot, and Milne sees the appended notes to Mercian Hymns as the ‘furthest edge’ of Hill’s modernism. There are similarities between The Waste Land and Mercian Hymns: the quality of the sound of the poetry read aloud, the obsession with etymology and idiom, the active response to the past. Yet it is hard to see that the comparison can go further than this. Where Eliot sought to break down and smash the forms used by his literary ‘forefathers’ into ‘a heap of broken images’, Hill wishes to tease apart and realign, to make a patchwork of old tapestries. He has used Anglo-Saxon forms to a great extent, and, calling the poems ‘hymns’, he has used liturgical prose. The overall impression created by The Waste Land is one of frantic desperation and fear, whereas the power of the Mercian Hymns lies in the meticulous fascination with words, meanings and history – it feels almost like archaeology. John Needham, in his essay on Hill’s idiom in the Mercian Hymns, calls this an ‘historical imagination’: ‘the density of his language, packed at different historical levels, is the sign of very fully imagined effects’. Arguably though, this idea could be taken further; Hill’s idiom, the words he uses, are history. He creates a profound awareness of his poetic specificity, of his choice of words and their power to connect us to different eras and places.
A word, he proves, become a palimpsest of its historical usages, just as a place becomes a palimpsest of the historical events that have happened there. Hill believes that ‘The arts which use language are the most impure of arts’; when one thinks of the tangibility of experience of colours in painting, or the clarity and directness of sound in music, Hill’s point about words becomes clear. However there are, in Mercian Hymns, words of varying clarity; some words are resonant with plethora of definitions – a ‘quarry’, in Hymn VII, may be ‘Certain parts of a deer placed on the hide and given to the hounds’; ‘the reward given to a hawk which has killed a bird’; ‘A heap of deer killed at a hunting’; ‘A heap of dead men; a pile of dead bodies’; ‘The attack or swoop made by a hawk upon a bird’; as well as ‘An open-air excavation from which stone is obtained’. The word ‘quarry’ resounds with its semantic possibilities. Other words, by contrast, are quiet – a ‘predator’, in Hymn VIII, may only be defined as ‘A person who plunders or pillages’ or ‘An animal that preys on other animals’.
Sentences can be deafening with semantic echoes, which is why Hill chooses words of varying semantic resonance. The forms used in Mercian Hymns are necessarily defined and specific and, although they make for a beautiful poetic aesthetic, are a vessel for, and ultimately expedient to the power of the words. As we have seen the relationship between time and place is embodied by movements and actions, the most powerful of which, perhaps, is the final departure of King Offa from Hill’s consciousness (XXX). ‘Entering the dream of Offa may be something that happens to the child, or it may be something that happened to Offa, dreaming of the future’, but either way, it is the decisive movement of the king which tells us that he and Hill have been occupying some of the same time and space, and that he is now leaving it. The odd, mutual acknowledgement of this final exchange is reminiscent of A. E. Housman’s description of seeing and feeling the past in ‘On Wenlock Edge the Wood’s in Trouble’:
Then, ’twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.
Collected Poems, Geoffrey Hill, (Middlesex: Penguin, 1987).
Old and Middle English Poetry, ed. By Elaine M. Treharne and Duncan Wu, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2002).
Introduction to Old English, Peter S. Baker, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005).
Old and Middle English: An Anthology, edited by Elaine Treharne, (Oxford : Blackwell Publishers, 2000).
Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work, ed. Peter Robinson, (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985).
An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, Peter Hunter Blair, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
An Introduction of Geoffrey Hill, W. S. Milne, (London: Bellew Publishing Company Limited, 1998).
Modern Critical Views – Geoffrey Hill, ed. Harold Bloom, (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986).
The Lords of Limit – Essays on Literature and Ideas, Geoffrey Hill, (London: Andre Deutsch, 1984).
Style and Faith, Geoffrey Hill, (New York: Counterpoint, 2003).
The Riverside Chaucer, Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, ed. J. A. Cuddon, (London: Penguin Books, 1998).
The Bible – Authorized King James Version, ed. Robert Carroll & Stephen Prickett, (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 1998).
The Norton Anthology of Poetry (Fifth Edition), ed. Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, Jon Stallworthy, (London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005).
Selected Poems, T. S. Eliot, (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1976).
Selected Poems, Ezra Pound, (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1977).
The Consolation of Philosophy, Ancius Manlius Severinus Boethius, trans. P. G. Walsh, (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2000).
Extracts from an interview with Geoffrey Hill by John Haffenden from Viewpoints, (London: Faber, 1981), posted on http://homepages.wmich.edu/~cooneys/tchg/wby/GHill.htmlThe Public and Private Realms of Hill’s Mercian Hymns, David Lloyd, Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 34, No. 4. (Winter, 1988), pp. 407-415.The Word as Bond: Money and Performative Language in Hill’s Mercian Hymns, Michael North, ELH, Vol. 54, No. 2. (Summer, 1987), pp. 463-481.Poetic Omissions in Geoffrey Hill’s Most Recent Sequences, Merle Brown, Contemporary Literature, Vol. 20, No. 1. (Winter, 1979), pp. 76-95.Sensuous Intelligence: T. S. Eliot and Geoffrey Hill, Thomas Day, Cambridge Quarterly, 2006, vol. 35, p. 55-280.Rhetoric and Violence in Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns and the Speeches of Enoch Powell, William Wootten, Cambridge Quarterly, 2000; XXIX, p. 1-15.
 Geoffrey Hill, Mercian Hymns (1971) in Collected Poems, (Middlesex: Penguin, 1987), p. 110. *All further references will be to this edition, contained within the main body of the text.
 Peter Hunter Blair, An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 52. *All further references will be to this edition.
 Martin Dodsworth, ‘Mercian Hymns: Offa, Charlemagne and Geoffrey Hill’, from Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work, ed. Peter Robinson, (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985), p. 56. *All further references will be to this edition.
 OED online.
 Such as The Battle of Maldon and The Battle of Brunanburgh.
 Old and Middle English: An Anthology, edited by Elaine Treharne, (Oxford : Blackwell Publishers, 2000).
 David Lloyd, ‘The Public and Private Realms of Hill’s Mercian Hymns’, from Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 34, No. 4., (Winter, 1988), p. 408.
 Dodsworth, ‘Mercian Hymns: Offa, Charlemagne and Geoffrey Hill’, from Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work, p. 50.
 OED online.
 Hunter Blair, An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, p. 37.
 OED online. *All further definitions in this essay will be from this resource unless another is specified.
 Extracts from John Haffenden’s interview with Geoffrey Hill (Viewpoints, (London: Faber, 1981)), posted on http://homepages.wmich.edu/~cooneys/tchg/wby/GHill.html.
 Peter S. Baker, Introduction to Old English, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), p.211.
 Old and Middle English Poetry, ed. By Elaine M. Treharne and Duncan Wu, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2002), p. 18-25.
 ‘Work of the English’, refers to the Anglo-Saxon needlework by English women which was famous throughout Europe at the time.
 Hill, Collected Poems, p. 1.
 1. Peter Robinson, ‘Reading Geoffrey Hill’ in Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work, p. 213.
2. William Wootten, ‘Rhetoric and Violence in Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns and the Speeches of Enoch Powell’, Cambridge Quarterly, 2000; XXIX, p. 7. *All further references will be to this text.
 Robinson, Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work, p. 213.
 Wootten, ‘Rhetoric and Violence in Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns and the Speeches of Enoch Powell’, p. 8.
 Ibid, p. 2.
 Ibid, p. 8.
 W. S. Milne, An Introduction of Geoffrey Hill, (London: Bellew Publishing Company Limited, 1998), p. 52. *All further references will be to this edition.
 Dodsworth, Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work, p. 54.
 Thomas Day, ‘Sensuous Intelligence: T. S. Eliot and Geoffrey Hill’, Cambridge Quarterly, 2006, vol. 35, p. 255-280.
 Milne, An Introduction to Geoffrey Hill, p. 97-8.ß
 T. S. Eliot, Selected Poems, (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1976), ‘The Burial of the Dead’, l. 22.
 John Needham, ‘The Idiom of “Mercian Hymns”’, in Modern Critical Views – Geoffrey Hill, ed. Harold Bloom, (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986), p.77.
 Geoffrey Hill, The Lords of Limit – Essays on Literature and Ideas, (London: Andre Deutsch, 1984), p. 2.
 Milne, An Introduction to Geoffrey Hill, p. 55.
 One of Hill’s favourite poets and the first he ever read.
 The Norton Anthology of Poetry (Fifth Edition), ed. Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, Jon Stallworthy, (London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005), p. 1176.