Geoffrey Hill Cant Count

Here are two excerpts from a work on Hill I’m finishing up, both of them basically usage counts. I’m hoping readers who have spent time with Hill’s work can point out any gap in these two lists. Actually I’m hoping they can’t, but still I would be grateful if they did. First, ‘cant’:

Hill uses ‘cant’ or ‘canting’ sixteen times in the Collected Critical Writings, once in Brand (1978), twice in The Triumph of Love (1998), once in Speech! Speech! (2000), twice in Treatise (2005), … once in Oraclau|Oracles (2010), and twice in Clavics (2011).

Second, ‘atone’/’at one’ (there are several more than these – I’m interested in a particular context here):

‘How certainly words are at one with all | corruptible things.’ The proximity of the ‘at one’ locution to religious and metaphysical themes of corruption and redemption is familiar from ‘Poetry as “Menace” and “Atonement” ’, and from several poems prior and subsequent: ‘By the long barrows of Logres they are made one’ (‘Merlin’, 1953); ‘When we revel in our atonement’ (‘Funeral Music: 5’, 1967); ‘at one with that eternal loss … you are the world’s atonement on the hill.’ (‘Lachrimae Verae’, 1975); ‘the absolute yet again | atoned with the contingent’ (‘De Anima’, 1992);  ‘making our | divorced selves of love still agelessly at one’ (‘Without Title’, 2006); ‘momentous instauration | all is One’ (Oraclau|Oracles: 35, 2010); ‘Sentiment grown wholly at one with logic’ (Odi Barbare: xxxi, 2012).


  • Coming to this from the Geoffrey Hill Exchange, — some of us have known GH, some are former students, and all of us longtime readers.

    Perhaps your list should also give an account of texts in which your words do *not* appear, so those you are asking of don’t think they’re helping you by checking titles you haven’t listed. E.g. “Scenes from Comus”, in which neither “cant” nor “atonement” appears. Though there is, running a course similar to “atonement”: “… Lear’s numskull friend / with his tarred white sockets. Admit One // to the theatre…”

  • D-AW wrote:

    Good point – My list for ‘cant’ is meant to be exhaustive (i.e. the implication is that the word doesn’t appear in any unlisted text). I’ve checked every text myself, but may have overlooked an occurrence, hence the post. The second list is more thematically contextual, so it’s more a matter of the allusive spidey sense being triggered, as your quote shows nicely.

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