Christopher Ricks is one of the best-known living critics of English, and was described by W. H. Auden as `the kind of critic every poet dreams of finding'. Though published indepenently over many years, each of the essays in this collection of his writings asks how a poets words reveal the `force of poetry', that force - in Dr Johnson's words - `which calls new power into being, which embodies sentiment, and animates matter'. The poets
covered range from John Gower, Marvell, and Milton to Wordsworth, Empson, Stevie Smith, Lowell, and Larkin, and the book contains four wider essays on clichés, lies, misquotations, and American English.
`Christopher Ricks is our most distinctive critic...the natural heir to Empson, exciting and fertile.'
Blake Morrison, Observer
`The richness and variety of these essays is truly remarkable'
John Bayley, Listener
`this book now becomes, with Seven Typesa of Ambiguity, one of the best way so flearning how to read our poetry. Christopher Ricks believes in the importance of literature, and not simply as a prop for something else or for his own expressions. He is the best English critic publishing.' David Sexton, Literary Review
`Christopher Ricks's great strength as a critic has always been his superby zestful sense of the life in poetry's words ... no one writing today has a wider rangeo f vergbal reference in English poetry, or a greater gusto in its deployment ... The richness and variety of these essays is truly remarkable ... they form a coherent as well as a combative gathering, each making a point as sharp as a needle as well as illuminating a general outlook.'
John Bayley, Listener
`The poets discussed in these eighteen essays, ranging from John Gower to Geoffrey Hill, call forth "new powers" from Ricks; his lively mind reanimates the poets he deals with. From his pen , the force of criticsim is considerable ... Ricks invariably invites us back to the poetry itself, refreshing our sense of what the words really "say" and thus refreshing our lives as well.' Jay Parini, Sewanee Review
`Christopher Ricks is our most distinctive critic ... the natural heir of Empson, exciting and fertile ... Empson brings out the best in him, and his essay on Empson's "openly secretive" poetry is a definitive piece.' Blake Morrison, Observer
`Rick's wide-ranging acuity ... Nobody else bounds about among the peaks of literature with quite such dazzling aplomb.' William Scammell, Sunday Times
`The Gower essay ... illustrates admirably what is the essential secret of Rick's quality as a critic ... a remarkable capacity for sustained attentiveness to what the poetry is say ing and doing, combined with a no less remarkable articulateness. Something of the "force" Ricks praises in his poets is found in his own crisp, sparkling, self-aware (but not overly self-conscious) critical prose. His essays are a pleasure to read whatever he is writing
on.' A. V. C. Schmidt, Review of English Studies
`W. H. Auden wrote of Christopher Rick's Tennyson: "Reading Professor Rick's comments and observations convinces me that he is exactly the kind of critic every poet dreams of finding ... what [the poet] hopes for is that critics will notive the technical means by which he secures his effects. Alas, so few critics do. Professor Ricks is a happy exception." This gathering of essays, published in various places ovea dozen uyears, felicitously
substantiates Auden's appreciation of Ricks's exceptional talents as a critic of poetry.' R. D. Bedford, Times Higher Education Supplement
`Ricks sends you back to the texts he studies refreshed in the fountain of his own impressions. Reading him is like encountering poetry for the first time.'
Roger Scruton, Sunday Telegraph