Ted Hughes

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These are some poems by Philip Hughes and also some influences on his poetry. These make for some interesting reading.These have been compiled by Proff Mc Kenzie from the University of Johannesburg.

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Ted Hughes

  1. 1. Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
  2. 2. • He was born Edward James Hughes inMytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, the son ofWilliam Hughes, a carpenter and aveteran of World War I.• As a boy Hughes spent much of his timefishing, hunting, and studying animals,and his childhood fascination with thecruelty and power of the natural worldwould later inform some of his mostfamous and distinctive poems.
  3. 3. .
  4. 4. After two years ofnational service in theRoyal Air Force, hestudied at PembrokeCollege, CambridgeUniversity, where he readEnglish before changingto archaeology andanthropology.It was at Cambridge thathe met the Americanpoet Sylvia Plath, whomhe married in 1956.
  5. 5. Plath encouraged himto pursue his poeticvocation, and theylived together in theUnited States,teaching and writing,until 1959.Hughess firstcollection of poems,Hawk in the Rain,was published in1957, followed byLupercal (1960) andWodwo (1967).
  6. 6. Many of the finestpoems in thesevolumes describeanimals,characteristically usingbold metaphors anddramatic, physicallanguage.They often concentrateon the deadly violenceof the natural world,made manifest injaguars, pikes, hawks,and even thrushes.
  7. 7. • His later volumes include Crow (1970), Cave Birds(1978), and Birthday Letters (1998). The last collected88 poems written by Hughes over 25 years, almost alldirected to Plath or focusing on their relationship.• Ted Hughes died at his home in Devon, England, onOctober 28, 1998. He was 68 years old.• Hughes was a brilliant and prolific poet, regarded bymany as one of the best of his generation. However,this was regularly overshadowed by speculationregarding his tragic relationship with his first wife,American poet Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in1963.
  8. 8. • His experiences of the Yorkshire countryside(especially the wild moors) as a boy gavehim an interest in nature.• However, he saw nature as threatening andharsh; as amoral and often violent.• Saw nature as pitted against the civilizingnorms of society.• Hughes was interested in the darker, moreinstinctual side of nature (including humannature).• Irreligious; interested in pagan rituals andshamanism.
  9. 9. • Poetry as trance; as a trance-like state inwhich a deeper reality is accessed.• What lies below the veneer of culture /civilization in human beings?• By examining the ruthless, instinctivebehaviour of animals, Hughes revealedthe distance between human civilizationand its primitive origins.• His poetry continually seeks to reconnectlanguage to its unconscious source.• The poet as shaman?
  10. 10. WindThis house has been far out at sea all night,The woods crashing through darkness, the boominghills,Winds stampeding the fields under the windowFloundering black astride and blinding wetTill day rose; then under an orange skyThe hills had new places, and wind wieldedBlade-light, luminous black and emerald,Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.
  11. 11. At noon I scaled along the house-side as far asThe coal-house door. I dared once to look upThrough the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyesThe tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,At any second to bang and vanish with a flap:The wind flung a magpie away and a black-Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house
  12. 12. Rang like some fine green goblet in the noteThat any second would shatter it. Now deepIn chairs, in front of the great fire, we gripOur hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,Seeing the window tremble to come in,Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.
  13. 13. PikePike, three inches long, perfectPike in all parts, green tigering the gold.Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.They dance on the surface among the flies.Or move, stunned by their own grandeur,Over a bed of emerald, silhouetteOf submarine delicacy and horror.A hundred feet long in their world.
  14. 14. In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads –Gloom of their stillness:Logged on last years black leaves, watching upwards.Or hung in an amber cavern of weedsThe jaws’ hooked clamp and fangsNot to be changed at this date;A life subdued to its instrument;The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals.Three we kept behind glass,Jungled in weed: three inches, four,And four and a half: fed fry to them –Suddenly there were two. Finally one
  15. 15. With a sag belly and the grin it was born with.And indeed they spare nobody.Two, six pounds each, over two feet long,High and dry and dead in the willow-herb –One jammed past its gills down the others gullet:The outside eye stared: as a vice locks –The same iron in this eyeThough its film shrank in death.A pond I fished, fifty yards across,Whose lilies and muscular tenchHad outlasted every visible stoneOf the monastery that planted them –
  16. 16. Stilled legendary depth:It was as deep as England. It heldPike too immense to stir, so immense and oldThat past nightfall I dared not castBut silently cast and fishedWith the hair frozen on my headFor what might move, for what eye might move.The still splashes on the dark pond,Owls hushing the floating woodsFrail on my ear against the dreamDarkness beneath nights darkness had freed,That rose slowly towards me, watching.
  17. 17. PikePike, three inches long, perfectPike in all parts, green tigering the gold.Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.They dance on the surface among the flies.Or move, stunned by their own grandeur,Over a bed of emerald, silhouetteOf submarine delicacy and horror.A hundred feet long in their world.
  18. 18. In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads –Gloom of their stillness:Logged on last years black leaves, watching upwards.Or hung in an amber cavern of weedsThe jaws’ hooked clamp and fangsNot to be changed at this date;A life subdued to its instrument;The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals.Three we kept behind glass,Jungled in weed: three inches, four,And four and a half: fed fry to them –Suddenly there were two. Finally one
  19. 19. With a sag belly and the grin it was born with.And indeed they spare nobody.Two, six pounds each, over two feet long,High and dry and dead in the willow-herb –One jammed past its gills down the others gullet:The outside eye stared: as a vice locks –The same iron in this eyeThough its film shrank in death.A pond I fished, fifty yards across,Whose lilies and muscular tenchHad outlasted every visible stoneOf the monastery that planted them –
  20. 20. Stilled legendary depth:It was as deep as England. It heldPike too immense to stir, so immense and oldThat past nightfall I dared not castBut silently cast and fishedWith the hair frozen on my headFor what might move, for what eye might move.The still splashes on the dark pond,Owls hushing the floating woodsFrail on my ear against the dreamDarkness beneath nights darkness had freed,That rose slowly towards me, watching.
  21. 21. PikePike, three inches long, perfectPike in all parts, green tigering the gold.Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.They dance on the surface among the flies.Or move, stunned by their own grandeur,Over a bed of emerald, silhouetteOf submarine delicacy and horror.A hundred feet long in their world.
  22. 22. In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads –Gloom of their stillness:Logged on last years black leaves, watching upwards.Or hung in an amber cavern of weedsThe jaws’ hooked clamp and fangsNot to be changed at this date;A life subdued to its instrument;The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals.Three we kept behind glass,Jungled in weed: three inches, four,And four and a half: fed fry to them –Suddenly there were two. Finally one
  23. 23. With a sag belly and the grin it was born with.And indeed they spare nobody.Two, six pounds each, over two feet long,High and dry and dead in the willow-herb –One jammed past its gills down the others gullet:The outside eye stared: as a vice locks –The same iron in this eyeThough its film shrank in death.A pond I fished, fifty yards across,Whose lilies and muscular tenchHad outlasted every visible stoneOf the monastery that planted them –
  24. 24. Stilled legendary depth:It was as deep as England. It heldPike too immense to stir, so immense and oldThat past nightfall I dared not castBut silently cast and fishedWith the hair frozen on my headFor what might move, for what eye might move.The still splashes on the dark pond,Owls hushing the floating woodsFrail on my ear against the dreamDarkness beneath nights darkness had freed,That rose slowly towards me, watching.
  25. 25. But silently cast and fishedWith the hair frozen on my headFor what might move, for what eye might move.The still splashes on the dark pond,Owls hushing the floating woodsFrail on my ear against the dreamDarkness beneath nights darkness had freed,That rose slowly towards me, watching.
  26. 26. Movement of poem:• Light darkness• Youthfulness age / antiquity• Pet monster• Outward description fear /loathing(detached) (deeply felt)• Small large• Hunter (controller) hunted• Youthful recollection foreboding of adult
  27. 27. RiverFallen from heaven, lies acrossThe lap of his mother, broken by world.But water will go onIssuing from heavenIn dumbness uttering spirit brightnessThrough its broken mouth.Scattered in a million pieces and buriedIts dry tombs will split, at a sign in the sky,
  28. 28. At a rending of veils.It will rise, in a time after times,After swallowing death and the pitIt will return stainlessFor the delivery of this world.So the river is a godKnee-deep among reeds, watching men,Or hung by the heels down the door of a damIt is a god, and inviolable.Immortal. And will wash itself of all deaths.
  29. 29. NovemberThe month of the drowned dog. After long rain the landWas sodden as the bed of an ancient lake,Treed with iron and birdless. In the sunk laneThe ditch – a seep silent all summer –Made brown foam with a big voice: that, and my bootsOn the lane’s scrubbed stones, in the gulleyed leaves,Against the hill’s hanging silence;Mist silvering the droplets on the bare thorns
  30. 30. Slower than the change of daylight.In a let of the ditch a tramp was bundled asleep:Face tucked down into beard, drawn inUnder its hair like a hedgehog’s. I took him for dead,But his stillness separated from the deathOf the rotting grass and the ground. A wind chilled,And a fresh comfort tightened through him,Each hand stuffed deeper into the other sleeve.His ankles, bound with sacking and hairy band,Rubbed each other, resettling. The wind hardened;A puff shook a glittering from the thorns,And again the rains’ dragging grey columns
  31. 31. Smudged the farms. In a momentThe fields were jumping and smoking; the thornsQuivered, riddled with the glassy verticals.I stayed on under the welding coldWatching the tramp’s face glisten and the drops on his coaFlash and darken. I thought what strong trustSlept in him – as the trickling furrows slept,And the thorn-roots in their grip on darkness;And the buried stones, taking the weight of winter;The hill where the hare crouched with clenched teeth.Rain plastered the land till it was shiningLike hammered lead, and I ran, and in the rushing wood
  32. 32. Shuttered by a black oak leaned.The keeper’s gibbet had owls and hawksBy the neck, weasels, a gang of cats, crows:Some, stiff, weightless, twirled like dry bark bitsIn the drilling rain. Some still had their shape,Had their pride with it; hung, chins on chests,Patient to outwait these worst days that beatTheir crowns bare and dripped from their feet.
  33. 33. The JaguarThe apes yawn and adore their fleas in the sun.The parrots shriek as if they were on fire, or strutLike cheap tarts to attract the stroller with thenut.Fatigued with indolence, tiger and lionLie still as the sun. The boa-constrictor’s coilIs a fossil. Cage after cage seems empty, orStinks of sleepers from the breathing straw.It might be painted on a nursery wall.
  34. 34. But who runs like the rest past these arrivesAt a cage where the crowd stands, stares, mesmerized,As a child at a dream, at a jaguar hurrying enragedThrough prison darkness after the drills of his eyesOn a short fierce fuse. Not in boredom—The eye satisfied to be blind in fire,By the bang of blood in the brain deaf the ear—He spins from the bars, but there’s no cage to himMore than to the visionary his cell:His stride is wildernesses of freedom:The world rolls under the long thrust of his heel.Over the cage floor the horizons come.
  35. 35. The Bull MosesA hoist up and I could lean overThe upper edge of the high half-door,My left foot ledged on the hinge, and look in at the byre’sBlaze of darkness: a sudden shut-eyed lookBackward into the head.Blackness is depthBeyond star. But the warm weight of his breathing,The ammoniac reek of his litter, the hotly-tonguedMash of his cud, steamed against me.
  36. 36. Then, slowly, as onto the mind’s eye –The brow like masonry, the deep-keeled neck:Something come up there onto the brink of the gulf,Hadn’t heard of the world, too deep in itself to be called toStood in sleep. He would swing his muzzle at a flyBut the square of sky where I hung, shouting, waving,Was nothing to him; nothing of our lightFound any reflection in him.
  37. 37. Each dusk the farmer led himDown to the pond to drink and smell the air,And he took no pace but the farmerLed him to take it, as if he knew nothingOf the ages and continents of his fathers,Shut, while he wombed, to a dark shedAnd steps between his door and the duckpond;The weight of the sun and the moon and the worldhammeredTo a ring of brass through his nostrils.
  38. 38. He would raiseHis streaming muzzle and look out over the meadows,But the grasses whispered nothing awake, the fetchOf the distance drew nothing to momentumIn the locked black of his powers. He came strollinggently back,Paused neither toward the pigpens on his right,Nor toward the cow-byres on his left: somethingDeliberate in his leisure, some beheld futureFounding in his quiet.I kept the door wide,Closed it after him and pushed the bolt.

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