UQP, $29.95 hb, 96 pp, 9780702236310
A review is more like a conversation than an overview from an Academy, and conversations often start with a salient point leading on to judgement. I suggest readers of David Malouf’s new collection should turn straight to page twenty-five and encounter a spray of short poems, titled ‘Seven Last Words of the Emperor Hadrian’. This is prefaced by the Silver Age Emperor’s own verse, the legendary address to his soul, which begins with the playfully sonorous words ‘animula vagula blandula’ and, in a most un-Latinate way, adds a half-refrain, ‘pallidula rigida nudula’. If all of us, including Byron, who have attempted to put Hadrian’s words into our own languages were to be brought together, we’d stretch out to Macbeth’s crack of doom. No one has done it, to my knowledge, as brilliantly as Malouf does in his not-over-extended fantasy.