Cover image for The orchards of Syon
The orchards of Syon
Hill, Geoffrey.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Counterpoint, [2002]

Physical Description:
72 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6015.I4735 O73 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The fourth book of poems by Geoffrey Hill to appear since 1996, this is the final installment of the remarkable series that began with Canaan and continued with The Triumph of Love and Speech! Speech! Read together, these four books -- each a distinct and complete aesthetic achievement -- form a single great poem, a kind of high-modernist Divine Comedy that is at once a prophetic judgment on man's fallen state and a sad and angry consolation. The Orchards of Syon is Hill's Paradiso, a Dantean eclogue in which the natural world, and the dream-state of our earthly existence, offer glimpses into Paradise. Having cut us to the quick in his previous books, Hill now heals us with the balm of his own language, and in doing so remakes the devotional poem for our times.

Author Notes

Geoffrey Hill was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, England on June 18 1932. He received a first in English literature at Oxford University. He wrote numerous collections of poetry including Genesis, King Log, The Triumph of Love, Mercian Hymns, A Treatise of Civil Power, Odi Barbare, and Broken Hierarchies. He received several awards including the Faber Memorial prize and the Whitbread for his poetry. He was knighted for his services to literature in 2012.

He was also an essayist. His collections of essays included The Lords of Limit, The Enemy's Country, Style and Faith, and Collected Critical Writings, which won the Truman Capote award for literary criticism in 2008. He died suddenly on June 30, 2016 at the age of 84.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Wildly allusive, painfully self-aware and on occasion radiant, this long and winding poem in 72 blank-verse sections completes a trilogy of personal long poems from the frighteningly learned English poet, long in residence in Boston. Having admired Hill's meticulous lyric for three decades, poets and critics on both sides of the Atlantic were startled by 1998's forthright The Triumph of Love, a book-length poem about history, memory, violence, Christianity, contemporary Britain and Hill's own career (he teaches at Boston University). That book and its successor, Speech! Speech! (2000), showed a poet with great gifts, but one so absorbed by his topical complaints and idiosyncratic learning that his work seemed brilliant but overambitious, and perhaps too much to navigate. Hill's new volume retains its predecessors' range of reference (Bach, Coleridge, minor prophets, Methodist hymns, Leopardi, Heine, Frank O'Hara, D.H. Lawrence, Ingmar Bergman and more). Where Speech! tended wryly toward rant, the new books shows its aging poet-hero finding, if fitfully, happiness, pastoral space and consolation, as the title, and the recurrent mention of Hopkins's "Goldengrove," imply. Some segments suggest a tour of rural and suburban England ("the breadth of this/ autumnal land"); others celebrate earlier artists' "resounding mastery of things hard laboured" or mourn "through a high formal keening." Finally, Hill contemplates his advancing years, and his poetic projects, with a remarkable music and a rueful look at his own ambitions: "I can see only so far; I can say/ only so much." (Mar.) Forecast: Hill published an average of a book a decade before Triumph, and moved from Houghton Mifflin to Counterpoint for Speech!. This better and easier fourth book in six years (counting 1997's Cannan) should provoke a few major assessments of Hill's career. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This is the fourth and final installment in a series containing, most recently, Speech! Speech!, by Oxford-educated Hill, a prolific poet and professor of religion at Boston University. It is a wordplay cycle of 72 "image-conscious" stanzas in which each 24-line stanza depicts a journey through "threads of chaos." Although some dramatic personal stanzas have high impact, underneath the dazzling surface of this ascetic, anti-narrative poetry the path to "the Orchards of Syon" leads back to the familiar ground of Christian humanism. Like musical motifs in a somber self-dialog, allusions to Dante, Hopkins, and Pguy provide high-minded trail blazes to lead fallen humanity to "that dream which is called vision." Marvelous embellished imagery acts like a badge of martyrdom for the loss of divine presence in a world of "chain-story tawdry profiles." Pursuing elusive associations of "orchard," Hill argues that we lose contact with the signals of Western thought at our own peril. Despite "a radical otherness," Hill's poetry undertakes a difficult struggle "to make the last connection" with "time's continuities tearing us apart." For larger collections, especially those holding the previous works in this series. Frank Allen, Northampton Community Coll., Tannersville, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.