Title: Improvisation on ‘O Welt ich muss dich lassen’
Poet: Geoffrey Hill
When Geoffrey Hill says, in the middle of Improvisation on ‘O Welt ich muss dich lassen’, “I had a dream in which this all is real,” what he means is not what the clause first suggests. What is real is not what has just been described – the cheap comedians, a goose rehearsing its honk, a longing Bacchantic immortality. This show, and the longing that it should never end, or at least that it should have an after-party, rather, is precisely what is unreal.
What is real, rather, is the end of the show, “where we rip off our masks” and accept that we must leave the world. What is real is a world where “Dead friends are no remoter than in life,” where “I can tell / limbo-dancers from wizards.” Here, where one can distinguish the genuine from the performative, is reality.
But just as our poet can insist upon this, “It’s curtains”—not merely a return to the show but a return to it just at its end. The dream ends: he awakens to the end of this unreal dream.