on 5 November 2015
It's noticeable that none of the reviewers here have anything to say about the poetry, which is dauntingly clever - brilliant even - but for the most part spiteful and dislikeable, even vicious (Witchcraft by a Picture is particularly nasty). Amatory pieces such as The Flea and The Sunne Rising are good fun, and some of the elegies are amusing. However, the stuff dedicated to various rich and powerful people (Sir Henry Wotton, for example) is inert now, sea wrack left high and dry by history, other than for the academic critic, and the religious work leaves me cold, being about only ten per cent as good as the sensational George Herbert (buy now poetry lovers!). Talking of academic critics, Roy Booth does the honours here, with a jaunty superiority to the people he writes about - "These men would not have cut the mustard in a New Critical class trained to analyse just the verbal artefact" - but with illuminating notes that explain many of the poet's more esoteric allusions. I admire JD for his artistic genius but I don't much like him - something of that later religious fervour permeates all his work - and at the end of the day that's what should matter to readers.