Anthony Hecht's third collection of poetry confirms what we always knew; he is academic (an academic, a professor) and what he writes glorifies the term ""academic poetry."" Here is God's plenty. Hecht's style has smoothed out since his first collection was published in 1954, grown more elegant but not less sharp. Verse, at his hand, is a well-honed instrument of various uses. He can write a sestina on the unpromising topic of Rochester, New York, and make it sing. He can devise rhyme schemes that never appear in works on prosody--so lightly that one hardly notices. He can write a Cowleyan ode about a Broadway production of The Tempest (with the title ""Peripeteia"") and make it interesting enough to keep children from their games. And he can paraphrase Voltaire in couplets Alexander Pope might have envied. It is easy to like his light verse, presented mostly in the early pages of this volume, but the complacent reader will be startled by ""The Feast of Stephen,"" locker-room morality woven up with a martyrdom, and stopped in his tracks by the terrible ""Apprehensions,"" where a thunderstorm turns into the holocaust. As an earlier Hecht poem said: ""It Out-Herods Herod."" ""A Lot of Night Music"" (O punning and academic title!) turns out to be a meditation on the state of poetry, U.S.A., today: ""At once with their votive mites/ Out of the woods and woodwork poets come/ Hauling their truths and booty.