Friday, 25 September 2009

Hill's Handsome Coins

One can’t help thinking of Geoffrey Hill, our greatest living poet, in relation to the Staffordshire Hoard (despite him being a man of Worcestershire). Here’s a particularly resonant passage from his masterly Mercian Hymns:
'Coins handsome as Nero’s; of good substance and weight.
Offa Rex resonant in silver, and the names of his moneyers.
They struck with accountable tact. They could alter the king’s face.

Exactness of design was to deter imitation; mutilation if that failed.
Exemplary metal, ripe for commerce.
Value from a sparse people, scrapers of salt-pans and byres.

Swathed bodies in the long ditch; one eye upstaring.
It is safe to presume, here, the king’s anger.
He reigned 40 years. Seasons touched and retouched the soil.'

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