Over the course of six decades as a poet and critic, Geoffrey Hill has repeatedly stressed the importance of the Christian doctrine of original sin to his work. In his 1977 inaugural professorial lecture at the University of Leeds, Hill formulated his abiding concern in these terms:

Karl Barth remarked that sin is ‘the specific gravity of human nature as such’. I am suggesting that it is at the heart of this ‘heaviness’ that poetry must do its atoning work, this heaviness which is simultaneously the ‘density’ of language and the ‘specific gravity of human nature’.