Poem: Epiphany at Hurcott
Poet: Geoffrey Hill
Like Offertorium: December 2002, Epiphany at Hurcott is a poem of place and mood. But while the title promises us an epiphany, we are nowhere told the content of this supposed mental revolution. Offertorium offers us some glimpse of the spiritual in its talk of distortion, departure, and restitution, but Epiphany at Hurcott gives us only the setting.
We start in “profoundly silent January,” immediately creating an expectation of a drab white or grey scene. It is surprising, then, to find out that it “shows up / clamant with colour.” Here it should be noted that ‘clamant’ opens the second line with a trochaic substitution that is in its own way a little surprise. The rest of the poem presents to us this clamant green and black and orange, the “luminous malachite of twig-thicket and bole,” the “red earth, / dampened to umber,” the cliffs that “glitter like cut anthracite,” the reflection in a lake of the “tawny sky.”
What is the epiphany? We are not told. Perhaps the hope is that by describing the scene with sufficient vividness, we can be brought to share it. Perhaps the poet simply recognizes that what is internal resists expression, can only be brought out by indirections such as describing the location in which it was felt. Or perhaps the epiphany is merely this: the realization that this place could be described in this way.