Saturday, March 21, 2009


We didn't discuss Thom Gunn's "A Sketch of the Great Dejection," a pity since it's cardinal to the collection. And I wondered how others understood its beginning "Having read the promise of the hedgerow / the body set out anew on its adventures." What on earth is the promise of the hedgerow? At first I thought he might as well have been speaking of hedgehogs! The persona persists through his slough of despond having been promised love and imagination … from the hedgerow, or at least, at the hedgerow, as a starting point. I wonder if we're to recall those lines from Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey"

                                                Once again I see
These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild:

"sportive" and "running wild" certainly seem appropriate for our adorer of "the risk that made robust."


DCSteve1441 said...

Tim, I'm not very knowledgeable about the English Romantics (just never was a fan of that period) and hence not very knowledgeable about their works. But given the other Wordsworth quote in "Barren Leaves" ("Spontaneous overflows of powerful feeling"), I'd be willing to bet you're right in your hypothesis.

I must confess I didn't ponder the significance of the opening lines, but I tend to think Gunn is using the image of the hedgerows to refer to youthful idealism--and/or the aspiration to bring order and beauty to nature.

As much as I like his poetry, I'm not sure I'll take the time to mull this one over any further, but I'm glad you did!

Tim said...

I was thinking rather of the hedgerows our troops encountered in Normandy after D-Day: impenetrable, even by tanks! If hedgerows were constabulary, their motto would be "to keep out and contain." Thus my perplexity about their promise for the speaker in "Dejection."

walter said...

Here's my idea. "Having read the promise of the hedgerow / the body set out anew on its adventures." I think Gunn is referring to what Americans would call "the call of the open road" since hedgerows line the roads all over England that can lead to--who knows what adventure?--Walter