During the Olympic Games, the London Guardian published “Translating the British, 2012,” by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, which will doubtless be included in any revision of Mark Ford’s generously proportioned anthology. “We speak Shakespeare here,” Ms. Duffy proclaimed, “a hundred tongues, one-voiced.” Few of us think of Shakespeare in that way, and the variety of styles and tones in London: A History in Verse suggests polyphony rather than plainsong. Alas, it is a long time since anyone could say of the city that “Earth hath not anything to show more fair.” The depredations of the Great Fire, the Blitz, and the architectural vandalism of the late twentieth century have reduced much of the center to ugly incoherence, and the long-term social and economic benefits of the Games constructions, if any, remain to be seen. Where Wordsworth could marvel at the...

 
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