Magazine article The Spectator

Surprising Literary Ventures

Magazine article The Spectator

Surprising Literary Ventures

Article excerpt

THE DEVIL'S OWN SONG AND OTHER VERSES (1968) by Quintin Hogg

Yes, that Quintin Hogg, Lord Hailsham of Woolsack fame. 'Quite suddenly, during the summer of 1940, my personal and emotional situation was such that I felt an irresistible urge to write short lyrics, ' he says in the introduction. 'I cannot explain this. I had not then, and have not now, any swollen-headed ideas about my quality as a poet . . . Somewhere about 1963, whatever little rill of inspiration I had, dried up.' To say that this was a Good Thing seems a little unfair, but the poems are by any standard naive:

The gift returns not to the giver Nor the spoken word to the tongue Nor upward flows the river Nor yet may the old be young.

The title poem is written from the point of view of the Devil, speaking to Jesus on the cross. One suspects that by giving it also as the title of the collection Hogg wished to suggest that he, Hogg, was a bit of a devil himself.

If you are afraid of loneliness, don't get married.

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) All the same, you know, parents -- especially step-parents -- are sometimes a bit of a disappointment to their children. They don't fulfil the promise of their early years.

Anthony Powell (1905-2000), A Buyer's Market I believe that more unhappiness comes from this source [the family] than from any other -- I mean from the attempt to prolong family connections unduly and to make people hang together artificially who would never naturally do so. …

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