Today we learn of the passing of Geoffrey Hill, called by many during his years of writing as the greatest living English poet.
Of course, he was called that by those who were in his “camp”, as it were.
Those who found his work inaccessible accused him of not caring one whit for the reader who had to plow through his work.
And really, when it comes to things of this sort, we are difficult to please, aren’t we…?
A poet of the high style has passed… and there were precious few to begin with.
One site lists Hill as 167th, of the top 500 poets of all time.
There’s this one poet, named Kumar Vishwas, (and having produced all of seven poems so far) who comes in as the 49th greatest poet… just slightly ahead of John Donne (190), Robert Burns (510) and Edna St. Vincent Millay (169)…
I wish I could reproduce some of his undoubtedly rapturous verse for you, but it’s in Hindu.
Obviously, if he didn’t spend so much time at the White Castle, maybe he could get some writing done.
One poet named Hasmukh Amathalal is listed as having written 13,059 poems.
That is not a typo.
He’s listed as the 170th greatest poet.
I’m guessing it’s for sheer productivity, if for nothing else.
Milton is listed as the 100th greatest poet.
Dante comes in at 187.
Wordsworth comes in at a rather startling 6th.
Shakespeare is listed as number 2.
And now I see a writer, coming in at number 206, who’s written zero poems.
And still 294 poets to go.
So much for a rational, intelligent site…
Still, it is poetry.
And if you can ignore the rather obvious shortcomings and biases, a bit of searching will bring a wealth of poetry to your eyes.
Below is just such a poem, from Hill:
When snow like sheep lay in the fold
And wind went begging at each door,
And the far hills were blue with cold,
And a cloud shroud lay on the moor,
She kept the siege. And every day
We watched her brooding over death
Like a strong bird above its prey.
The room filled with the kettle’s breath.
Damp curtains glued against the pane
Sealed time away. Her body froze
As if to freeze us all, and chain
Creation to a stunned repose.
She died before the world could stir.
In March the ice unloosed the brook
And water ruffled the sun’s hair.
Dead cones upon the alder shook.
Rest in peace, Geoffrey…