Triumph demands a procession and in Geoffrey Hill’s new collection—in reality, a single long poem in 150 sections—a throng of notables from all epochs ambles in jostling simultaneity past our gaze.[1] Not surprisingly, poets predominate, especially Petrarch who invented and perfected the genre (in his Trionfi of around 1340), but painters, composers, and historical personages also step into position in Hill’s dense stanzas. Twice in the poem Hill invokes Oskar Kokoschka’s 1936 portrait of Thomas Masaryk (now in the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh), itself emblematic of historical asynchronism: Masaryk’s outsized countenance floats, against the backdrop of the Prague Castle and Charles Bridge, alongside that of the seventeenth-century polymath Jan Amos Komensky, or Comenius, also magnified (in his 1996 collection Canaan, Hill has already celebrated “huge-fisted,...

 

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