One of the chief characteristics of the poetry of Charles Causley has been the skill with which he has distanced himself from his material. The speaker in each poem, even in the early war pieces based on his own experience, was placed far off, frequently centuries ago in history. This distance, this disembodiment gave the poems, especially the ballads, their timeless quality. Everything was seen sub specie aeternitatis: what remained with the reader was a distillation of feeling, an encounter with love and death, light moving into dark, innocence into experience. And yet with such total objectification, such significant distance, one felt always the poet’s warm presence, and even in the historical ballads an unmistakable contemporaneity shining through.

In this selection of poems of the last decade, the poet is much more personal than he has ever been, at times even confessional, but his reticence is such that...


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