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TED HUGHES: ALTERNATIVE HORIZONS
CONTEXT AND GENRE IN ENGLISH LITERATURE
Series Editors: Peter J.Kitson, Department of English, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK William Baker, Department of English, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, USA
Ted Hughes: Alternative Horizons EDITED BY JOANNY MOULIN LONDON AND NEW YORK .
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Self-Concealment & the Making of the Ted Hughes Archive Stephen Enniss Drives & their Vicissitudes in the Poetry of Ted Hughes Axel Nesme Hughes & the Female Addressee Neil J. Dead Leaves:” Culture as Nature in Remains of Elmet & Elmet Terry Gifford Ted Hughes’s Crying Horizons: “Wind” & the Poetics of Sublimity Christian La Cassagnère Poetry & Magic Ann Skea Self-Revelation.Contents Series Preface Foreword Joanny Moulin The Deterministic Ghost in the Machine of Birthday Letters Leonard M.Roberts Ted Hughes’s Anti-Mythic Method Joanny Moulin In Search of the Autobiography of Ted Hughes Diane Wood Middlebrook vii viii 1 1 14 23 32 40 50 60 79 86 93 .Scigaj Words to “Patch the Havoc:” The Imagination of Ted Hughes in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath Gayle Wurst Complicated with Old Ghosts: The Assia Poems Carol Bere “Dead Farms.
“Earth-Moon:” Ted Hughes’s Books for Children (& Adults) Claas Kazzer Ted Hughes & the Folk Tale Paul Volsik List of Contributors Works Cited Abbreviations Index of Names and Titles
125 128 135 138
Context and Genre in English Literature The aim of the Context and Genre in English Literature series is to place bodies of prose, poetry, and drama in their historical, literary, intellectual or generic contexts. It seeks to present new work and scholarship in a way that is informed by contemporary debates in literary criticism and current methodological practices. The various contextual approaches reflect the great diversity of the books in the series. Three leading categories of approaches can be discerned. The first category, consisting of historical and philological approaches, covers subjects that range from marginal glosses in medieval manuscripts to the interaction between folklore and literature. The second category, of cultural and theoretical approaches, covers subjects as diverse as changing perceptions of childhood as a background to children’s literature on the one hand and queer theory and translation studies on the other. Finally, the third category consists of single author studies informed by contextual approaches from either one of the first two categories. Context and Genre in English Literature covers a diverse body of writing, ranging over a substantial historical span and featuring widely divergent approaches from current and innovative scholars; it features criticism of writing in English from different cultures; and it covers both canonical literature and emerging and new literatures. Thus the series aims to make a distinctive and substantial impact on the field of literary studies
The authors of this collection of essays have been chosen so as to span a large spectrum of approaches to the poetry of Ted Hughes, instead of favouring one line of criticism as opposed to others. The initial purpose of the project was to bring together writers whose divergent opinions and theories promised mindopening contrasts. Although these authors are from five different countries, they belong basically to three critical traditions. Some markedly post-structuralist continental European papers turn resolutely to a close re-reading of the poetic texts themselves, and in so doing, serve, in part, as neutral ground for an encounter between milder representatives of the recent, and often opposed, tendencies in British and American critical readings. While most English experts often have a propensity for hagiography, the American reception of Hughes’s poetry has remained engrossed in, and conditioned by, a debate about his responsibility in the suicide of Sylvia Plath, sometimes at the excessive cost of no longer reading the poetry, except from this biographical vantage. But even here, new assessment is needed after Hughes’s own copious, albeit partial treatment in Birthday Letters of the issues involved in his life with Plath. However, the main argument of this book lies elsewhere, and is a theoretical one. Unsurprisingly for one who trained in social anthropology as well as in English literature in the Cambridge of the 1950s, Ted Hughes was a cryptostructuralist of sorts, at least until the late 1970s, but with a marked preference for Jungian theory, which implicitly dominates most of his ethics and Weltanschauung. This helps to explain why, except in a few recent instances, the main body of existing criticism concerning Hughes’s poetry draws predominantly on Jungian psychology. This poses a problem of method, since, with varying degrees of intensity, criticism tends to relay the poet’s own critical discourse, not only without acknowledging the fact, but perhaps without even being aware of it. This is all the more striking considering that, as his career gathered momentum and he became an established figure, Hughes’s discourse became more and more overtly ideological. For all that, the essays collected in this book are not concerned with erecting a barrage of counter-discourse, but rather to avoid yet another critical pitfall, that lies in Hughes’s mostly involuntary tendency to push his readers to take sides and to enlist either as fans or as detractors. Over and against partisanship, the plurality of approach to be found in
It is meant as a continuation of Hughes studies and a tentative broadening of their perspectives. by helping to ensure that one of the most powerful poetic achievements of the twentieth-century is no longer stranded in biographical or psychological sands. Joanny Moulin . to be sure.ix this collection should be seen as a search for different ways to steer Hughes criticism gently but firmly out of the ruts of certain well-travelled avenues. This collection of essays is the first to be produced since the poet’s death and presents a good sample of directions in academic research devoted to the poetry of Ted Hughes at the turn of the century. Impartial assessment is. the best service that can be rendered to Hughes’s poetry.
For Hughes these “fixed stars” are the poet’s story. 188) that led to Plath’s suicide. . 152. a gypsy’s curse. ponderous astrology. in her poem “Event” (195).1 The Deterministic Ghost in the Machine of Birthday Letters Leonard M. Hughes repeats the phrase in Birthday Letters (133). a fox cub. But in Birthday Letters (1998) all the omens save Assia’s pike dream are bad omens. Otto Emil Plath. Hughes argued that the primary revelation Plath experienced in writing her first novel was her fixation on her father’s death and his abandonment of her. At this juncture Hughes’s interpretation of Plath’s life and career becomes obsessive. but the dismembering persona is not Assia and the time Hughes refers to is not the spring of 1962. and the word “Fate.Scigaj “I looked for omens. an unarticulated subtext in that 1995 essay. a snake. deterministic. In his 1995 essay “Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems and The Bell Jar” (WP 466–81). This resulted not only in repressed anger at other males who might abandon her. her desire to “annihilate herself” in a communion with her dead father. on the “lower level” she succumbed to the “explosive experience” of her earlier attempted suicide. For Hughes the dismembering persona is Plath’s father. written just after David and Assia Guttman Wevill ended their fatal weekend stay Court Green (21 May 1962). A pillowstain of blood. an earthenware head.” capitalized many times—all testify to a fatalistic inevitability. a ouija board. These are the “fixed stars” (118. a desire falsely and inadequately subverted in The Bell Jar by scapegoating it into Joan Gilling’s hanging. for Hughes asserted that in writing The Bell Jar Plath also uncovered the source of her emptiness. a possibly rabid bat. as he and Sylvia Plath enter their first rented flat in BirthdayLetters (49).” Ted Hughes writes. becomes Hughes’s primary theme in Birthday Letters. Though on the “upper level” of her mythology. The genetic determinism behind this interpretation of Plath’s demise. the year of his death. alluding to Assia. a tendency toward violence buried deep in her German genetic roots. the one deep story at the heart of a lifetime that the poet expresses with a “thirst of the whole being. and the time is 1940. Plath was certainly engaged in tearing free of those genetic roots with her death and rebirth poems in Ariel. “But are Hughes’s “fixed stars” the same as the “fixed stars” Plath stated “Govern a life” in her late poem “Words” (CPP 270)? “Who has dismembered us” asked Plath. asserted Hughes.
half-beast Minotaur.” the “gas-chamber and the oven” (141–42). Her dreams in Birthday Letters are infected not only with corpses. Though he once quipped that the machinery of religion was the traditional way to control violence (Faas 201). obsessed with the covetous rational. in order that the king sacrifice the bull to him. Otto himself is infected with fascistic faith in an all-powerful Ruler. creating chronic and self-destructive needs to overindulge in satisfying one’s passions. and in so doing bestializes his or her instinctual life. Minos directed his architect Daedalus to build a labyrinth to house the Minotaur. he shared the . his offspring.” a painting of carnage and slaughter that Plath meditated upon in her early poem “Two Views of a Cadaver Room” (CPP 114). Instead Minos keeps it for himself. and this has destructive consequences. the “Death-camp atrocities. no one could escape the labyrinth’s maze.SCIGAJ The central structural design of Birthday Letters concerns an obsessive equation of Otto and Sylvia Plath with King Minos and the Minotaur of Cretan mythology. In this contemporary recension. king of Crete. Otto’s brow is “Modified in Peenemümde/Via Brueghel” (179). but with “fatherworship” and its particular Germanic legacy of Nazi horrors. Both World Wars deeply affected Hughes’s personality development. Parachuted pilots already crisped by explosions and fires in their planes were not uncommon. and Poseidon in turn punishes Minos by having his wife. In Apollodaurus. exhibits in her destructive behavior that same genetic tendency. selfabsorbed person becomes inattentive to the spiritual. Once inside. and the daily news accounts of the fighting. Hughes casts Otto Plath as the self-absorbed Minos (133). but also bombing many cities in the shires. But Hughes does not stop here. In her self-destructive indulgence in anger and emotional tirades. Poseidon gives a bull to Minos. fall in love with it. Plath apes her father as she becomes the Minotaur (120). looking mostly for aircraft hangars and Rolls Royce engine factories.M. and the Brueghel alluded to is no doubt Peter Brueghel the Elder’s “The Triumph of Death. Hughes evidently sees in this myth a parable of how a self-centered. der Herr des Hauses (LH 13). as in Hughes’s early poem “The Casualty” in The Hawk in the Rain. producing the ravenous half-man. for his father was one of only seventeen survivors of an entire regiment that went through its numbers three times at Gallipoli. Peenemünde is the village in the north of Germany where the Nazis researched and tested their V-1 and V-2 rockets. the stresses of the Blitz. Hughes was nine when World War II began. In his poetry Hughes performed an important civilizing function by locating ways to control aggression. As a child Hughes heard endless stories of the dead and the survivors of World War I at family gatherings and at Sunday night dinners. He adds a second level of genetic and cultural determinism. and Minos used the structure to sacrifice captured enemies until the Athenian hero Theseus slays the Minotaur and finds his way out with the help of Ariadne’s thread. German fighters flew sorties regularly over much of England. summarized by Edith Hamilton (151–2). So Plath. given his autocratic pater familias behavior acquired from his Germanic roots. and his adolescence was molded in the food rationing.2 L. Pasiphae.
however. He romanced Plath into his vision of bucolic rural life as the ideal environment for raising a family and ensuring greater poetic productivity. as the dead Otto rose in poetic form from the well at the center of the Devon house (137. Often in these works—and especially in the Lupercal poem “Childbirth. as I have argued in my 1986 and 1991 works. 150. Genetic determinism is how Hughes understands his former wife’s bouts of sullenness. Using her published poetry as evidence against her. Hughes convicts himself of complicity in the poem entitled “Error” (122–3). convinced her that she had “instant access” to her creative energies (69). so the adult’s “flames fed on rage” (149). and arrived “soul-naked and stricken/Into this cobbled. Hughes’s use of the Minotaur myth in Birthday Letters. What Plath’s parents wanted from their daughter. Otto’s hands are the hands of Fate manipulating Plath’s actions (184– 5).” “Gallant and desperate and hopeful. but what coalesced from “the core of [her] Inferno” (69) was “Germany’s eagle/Bleeding up through [her] American eagle/In a cloud of Dettol” (78). not liberating. and the psychology of alchemical transmutation to achieve the Jungian Self in Cave Birds. her “Cupid’s bow” nailing her father to the town square “Stark naked full of those arrows/In the bronze of immortal poesy” (179).” Plath followed. listening to her own gods. Plath’s analyst. is deterministic. Just as Sylvia “danced for (her) father/In the home of anger” (26) as a child. pictureless corridor/Aimed at a graveyard” (122). a cultural Ragnarok. Hughes controlled aggression through meaning-bearing modernist structures developed from his storehouse of myth and cultural anthropology: the Lupercalia ritual and the poem as wolf mask in Lupercal. of an aggressive taint in the blood. 43. insists Hughes. that can instigate violent actions (See Scigaj. 1991. Ruth Beuscher. the Zen Enlightenment of Part III of Wodwo and in the irony of Crow. Hence. “Listening/To the . Every arrow becomes a poetic “star” in her “constellation. Hughes argues that ultimately Plath really “wanted/To be with [her] father” (153) in a “wedding” foreshadowed by her summer 1962 interest in becoming a beekeeper (150). Hughes convinced Plath to sleepwalk into his “land of totems. ultimately to unite with him (153) after convicting him of autocratic control in “Daddy. her hostility. was “Thor’s voice” in the act of “Doing a hammerdance on Daddy’s body/Avenging the twenty-year forsaken/Sobs of Germania” (169). and her final act of selfviolence. So Plath in the winter of 1961–62 sat in a freezing house.” and the Wodwo poems “Thistles” and “The Warriors of the North” —Hughes meditated on Freud’s theory of phylogenetic inheritance. transmitted to each succeeding generation by one’s forebears. and those hands function as a perfect incarnation of a German death-wish. 152). 95.” though “it was/[Her] blood that dried on him” (180). anger. 52–5). without central heating. 1986. the narrative of the adventure of the hero in Wodwo. in World War II. Instead of going to sunny Italy on that Guggenheim grant.THE DETERMINISTIC GHOST IN THE MACHINE 3 modernist view that myth in twentieth century literature performs that religious function for a populace less and less influenced by traditional beliefs.” Hughes views “Daddy” as both Plath’s love letter and her death-wish.
and mechanists like Descartes were really reformulating the religious bogey of Predestination in the new scientific language of Galileo (23). and there is “plenty of room for purpose” (81). Because “the physical world is a deterministic system. capacities. deposited in the poem “Suttee. the mind. Knowing “how” is a disposition that cannot be absorbed into knowing “that. as well as for “learning .” to signify a Viking genetic inheritance of aggressive behavior in the North Country Englishmen that flowed into the Predestination of Calvin. He affirms that dozens of mental conduct words used to signify intelligence (“clever. Humans “are not machines. that the mind operates as a shadowy. choice and responsibility.SCIGAJ leaking thatch drip” and “staring at that sunken church” just beyond the graveyard (122–3). Ryle’s argument is worthwhile today for its energetic indictment of reductionism. not even ghostridden machines. wavering only between the agnostic and atheistic versions.” affirmed Ryle. Though a half-century old. Creating a bedroom in red (197–8) and planing an elm plank for her writing table (138) were other errors committed by Hughes during the move to Devon that only gave Plath easier access to her anger and her past. for discrete and differing responses to varying occasions. deterministic thinking is absolutely inimical to existential freedom. so the mental world must be a deterministic system” (20).4 L.” is “gruelling prolongueur. Descartes placated his religious scruples by using mental conduct words in ways that suggested that the mind is a quasideterministic causal agent of human action. Thus the bodily machine was governed by its deterministically-inclined ghost.” “sensible” “stupid. To what extent can we accept this deterministic ghost in the structural machine of Birthday Letters? From her student days at Smith College until her death. Ryle argues against this determinism throughout The Concept of Mind.” into knowing with causal certainty (45–6). Plath was an existentialist. and this is not the same as attributing a fixed or deterministic cause of all behavior.M. In The Concept of Mind (1949). originating with Descartes and seventeenth-century mechanistic thinking.) actually signify many different categories of dispositions. and qualities of character that may express themselves in observable behaviors under certain conditions or on certain occasions. Hughes had used “gruelling prolongueur” in the Wodwo poem “The Warriors of the North. Using logic and linguistic categories.” which Hughes uses to describe Plath’s resurrection from her first suicide attempt into the “labour-pangs” of a “child-bride” on the “pyre” of a new myth—a myth of suicidal devotion to Daddy (147–9). Gilbert Ryle invented the term “The Ghost in the Machine” (15–6) to characterize the mistaken view. As Sartre persistently argued. unwitnessable realm that nevertheless partakes of the mechanistic logic that drives the body.” etc. We must reason back from observed behavior and recognize the element of freedom of purpose in assessing whether any dispositions or qualities of character have been employed. and thus a quickly opened door into Otto’s grave (138). But what of the genetic determinism that Hughes advances in his reading of Plath’s poetry and in the structure of Birthday Letters? A key term. abilities.
Hughes alludes to her “juggernaut” of ambition that was meant to defeat “The grinding indifferent millstone of circumstance” (132). Hughes informs his readers that he has been rereading Plath’s Journals. how Plath perceived their first meeting at the infamous St. But by reasoning with Ryle. None of these five allusions captures what Ryle would recognize as the main purpose of Plath’s Journals. a labyrinth meant to reduce his former wife’s behavior to one deterministic cause. “There are very few machines in nature. In Birthday Letters Ted Hughes has created a machine of words. however. from writings that were supposedly either lost or burned. This purpose could one day flower in Plath’s ideal of two equilibrated stars. The last allusion to Plath’s Journals reveals that Hughes has reread a portion from 1961– 62. or her anticipation of his panther-like male prowess (131–4). Botolph’s Review party (112–3). and remembered “what furies” she “bled into” that rag rug she labored over in the Devon home. or how she was really on her way to find Richard Sassoon when she fell into Hughes’s arms and first made love with him (134–44). 18–9. On five occasions in Birthday Letters (8. one could scrutinize Plath’s Journals.” The Bell Jar. In the first three occasions. Through the obsessive emphasis upon the genetic determinism of Otto Plath’s anger and control. the poems of Ariel. and locate responses to needs and desires other than a suicidal merging with her father. and in composing the poems of Ariel Plath expressed that one inevitable wish—to merge with her father in a suicidal pyre. What Plath learned in writing The Bell Jar was her fixed link to her father. 136). “The Magic Mirror. Hughes eliminates all other possible causes of Sylvia Plath’s actions in the last years of her life. polarized” (42–3). I must have a legitimate field of my own. and instances of behavior in Plath’s last years. Hughes is primarily interested in how Plath referenced early encounters with him —when he and Lucas Myers lobbed clods of mud at the wrong dormitory window (J 133). 25. and nourished vicariously by tales of his actual exploits. which he must respect” (35). however imperfectly realized in her actions and in the many hours of literary collaborations they no doubt shared at least during the early years of the marriage? . 20–2. according to Hughes. Why couldn’t Hughes balance his portrait of Plath with celebrations of that enviable ideal. as in the “Excurse” chapter of Lawrence’s Women in Love. as well as recognize gains in her craft that reflect improvements in her abilities to comprehend social forces from a woman’s point of view. the continuing reaffirmation of her existential (nondeterministic) “self-integral freedom” (31) and her desire to have her writing recognized as a career equal to that of any male: “I will not submit to having my life fingered by my husband.THE DETERMINISTIC GHOST IN THE MACHINE 5 how or improving in ability” (59). and in so doing deflect attention from his actions as well as reaffirm for one last time in print his male control of her actions. The only machines that we find are the machines that human beings make” (82). enclosed in the larger circle of his activity. On the fourth occasion. a link that electroconvulsive shock only temporarily numbed with its emptiness. her “two stars. apart from him.
The fact that she can mourn his death at the conclusion of this short scene means that she is ready to move . but which were typical of 1950s American culture.” her undergraduate Honors thesis on the Double in Dostoevsky’s The Double and The Brothers Karamazov. But like Brecht’s alienation effect. This is apparent even in “The Magic Mirror. It dramatizes the decisive event of her adult life which was her attempted suicide and accidental survival. As in Freud. Esther is surprised at how ordinary her father’s grave is. In her Journals Plath also records her jagged progress from late adolescence through early adulthood as a struggle with her own doubts and inner demons. Plath’s central assertion here is that Golyadkin in the former novel commits suicide because he never recognizes that his double is his own creation. with its characters so satirically exaggerated that they suggest mean motives and limited creative abilities in its author. and reveals how this attempt to annihilate herself had grown from the decisive event in her childhood. a crystalization of his own suppressed ambition. 57–60).6 L. The Bell Jar is sometimes denigrated as a roman à clef. which was the death of her father when she was eight” (WP 468). events that Plath not only did live through. these one-dimensional satiric characters forestall empathy and keep the reader’s critical intellect alive. in other words. acknowledging the repressed and the traumatic can lead to liberation through self-knowledge. but it does so by denying that the novel catalogued what must have been for Plath the tremendously liberating experience of bringing to the surface a past traumatic event in a way that revealed the social causes of her earlier demise—an American 1950s society organized and administered by males. and that she must forego adolescent idols and make her own decisions. Its net effect is to make Esther realize that she can expect no help from parents. Here she receives a healthy dose of adult realism as she revises her childhood perception of him from a godlike muse to an ordinary human. In the latter novel.SCIGAJ In “Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems and The Bell Jar” Hughes wrote that “The Bell Jar is the story. especially male parents. Ivan has the chance for recovering his “health and integrity” because he is “an artist in his own right” who self-analytically recognizes both his responsibility for his bastard brother’s parricide and the Devil as his own projection of his worst ideas (“Magic Mirror” 43. the visit occupies only three pages of chapter thirteen (BJ 134–7). from behind the Electroconvulsive Therapy. Of much greater importance are the events of the novel.M. This may suit Hughes’s deterministic purpose in Birthday Letters. Though Esther Greenwood’s visit to her father’s grave does appear just before the attempted suicide. where roles for women are secondary and where gender equality in the exercise of social and political power is impossible. The events raise the reader’s awareness as they expose social forces within a society of male privilege where women are restricted and disempowered. both self-knowledge and knowledge of society—what Ryle would see as non-deterministic improvement by developing one’s abilities (Ryle 59) —is the most pervasive theme in Plath’s work. The goal of liberation through knowledge. a struggle which is also potentially liberating.
Plath would certainly have developed it into a major structural motif. not her father. she “hated the . She doesn’t want “infinite security” and the secondary role of being “the place the arrow shoots off from.” a remark she entered in her Journals in 1958 (J 222). and this is NOT the central subject of The Bell Jar. Similarly. The main character’s (and the reader’s) liberating growth in understanding the limitations placed upon women in a society of male privilege is the central focus of every Bell Jar chapter.” She wants “change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself” (BJ 58. and lack of opportunity for equality in a 1950s American society of male privilege.” How to rectify the situation? Again notice the emphasis upon awareness promoting selfdevelopment: “Talking and becoming aware of what is what and studying it is a help” (J 279).” as Hughes insists. 278. she does not develop Esther’s relationship with her father in the chapters before or after the graveyard visit in The Bell Jar. conveyed in Esther Greenwood’s dry Salingeresque wit. She wrote that Freud’s account is “An almost exact description of my feelings and reasons for suicide: a transferred murderous impulse from my mother onto myself: the “vampire” metaphor Freud uses.” and for a similar liberating purpose. a work she completed three years later. but were in large part the result of the stresses. Esther doesn’t want to become another self-abasing housefrau. The real consciousness-raising purpose in writing The Bell Jar is Plath’s dawning awareness. Twice in chapter thirteen of The Bell Jar.THE DETERMINISTIC GHOST IN THE MACHINE 7 onward toward adulthood and accept responsibility for her own actions. By 1958 Plath had found in Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia” a perfectly acceptable reason for her first suicide attempt. thwarted desires. she emphasized that this is both a source of depression and “a changeable liability. Though Plath consciously presented her father in many early poems as “the buried male muse and god-creator risen to be my mate in Ted. Plath presents Esther Greenwood reading books on abnormal psychology shortly before her unsuccessful suicide event. but she was aware of this tendency in herself by 1959 (J 267. 68). “draining the ego”: that is exactly the feeling I have getting in the way of my writing: Mother’s clutch. No one will gainsay that Otto’s early death was “the decisive event of her childhood. In real life her father’s early death did leave her with feelings of abandonment that led to overdependence upon male figures and at times a treatment of males as surrogate father figures.” As Plath recorded this in her Journals (279). but if The Bell Jar were primarily devoted to exploring her relationship with her father. like her mother or Mrs. that the causes for her first suicide attempt did not issue from an irreparable psychic wound. in the Ariel poem “Daddy. she doesn’t want to learn shorthand to support herself after college. in the weeks before her unsuccessful suicide attempt (LH 130). Plath had read Eric Fromm’s Escape From Freedom (J 83–6) and consulted psychiatrists in the summer of 1953. 284). I mask my self-abasement (a transferred hate of her) and weave it with my own real dissatisfactions in myself. Plath was to reuse that Freudian vampire metaphor later. Willard. and it concerned her mother.
who throws Esther into the mud after tearing off the front of her dress (BJ 86– 9). 137). who fills out schedule cards (25) after spending years learning languages (27).SCIGAJ idea of serving men in any way. as did hundreds of American coeds in the fifties. 108. But in The Bell Jar Esther must struggle for years with the gospel of chastity advocated by her mother (65–6). Sexual experience has been throughout Western literature a vehicle for growth and self-realization. One is either pure or dirty. that to be in the literary game is to exhaust oneself in dull days of routine editorial work. see ch. driven Jay Cee. the year Plath composed The Bell Jar. she tosses all of her new fashion clothing out the window during her last night in the city. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters” (BJ 100. Esther has already learned from Jay Cee.8 L. and interrupted by inane meetings where one must stroke successful authors. 104. what are the possibilities for acquiring that “self-integral freedom” and equal opportunity for career advancement (J 31. When Esther. despondent at the hollowness of her Mademoiselle experience. Esther’s tears signify her recognition of the hopelessness of trying to fulfill her career ideals as a poet in this society. Before long she bursts into tears while being photographed as a guest editor. was learning this in 1961. Here the only fact that Plath did not add was that most of the powerful senior editors above the Jay Cees in these slick magazines were males. 35) in The Bell Jar? Esther goes to New York having won a prestigious guest editorship at Mademoiselle. Being in the literary game means desexing oneself to the point of being an unlovely. 2. rejects the New York literary scene that has ended her career dream. with “pug-ugly looks” (5). Esther wears the same outfit for the next three weeks.. 62). only to be escorted by mysogynists like Marco.M. sees Dr. Instead of the very minor graveyard scene. Continuing this defiant attitude after she returns home. not feelings of abandonment from a father who died more than a decade ago. Like Plath. Esther Greenwood is an aspiring poet. . The Feminine Mystique (1963. almost all of whom are males. Gordon in that outfit a few days before he begins administering the electroconvulsive shock treatments. punctuated by vapid social events such as fashion shows and advertising or women’s products luncheons. veteran slicks writer and 1942 Smith graduate. 54–5). When not on the slow track to dull middle management jobs. Well. pp. as Friedan researched and composed the first text of the feminist movement. her supervisor. the Peruvian United Nations delegate. But for a woman to achieve domestic and career equality in 1950s America was next to impossible. simply because she is asked what career she desires. the guest editors at Mademoiselle are encouraged to waste their time accumulating free gifts and dressing up as dolls. and wears precisely this outfit on the day of the attempted suicide (BJ 91–2. This clothing motif suggests that balked career advancement in a society of male privilege causes the attempted suicide. Hughes should have focused on Esther’s green dirndl skirt and white peasant blouse. and borrows from her friend Betsy a green dirndl skirt and white peasant blouse. and she answers “a poet” (BJ 83).
the one non-threatening male she meets. In The Bell Jar. evidently the cost for a member of a subordinate gender to become “part of a great tradition” (184–91). J. Dr. Males remain in complete control throughout The Bell Jar. When Buddy takes Esther to watch him carve up cadavers. a psychiatrist recommended by the Plath family physician. Esther rejects an obvious potential husband in Buddy Willard. 56–9). his disdain of a poem as “a piece of dust. The only tenderness Esther receives in The Bell Jar comes from her psychiatrist.” the woman is given drugs to alleviate pain and put her to sleep. Gordon in the fictionalized Bell Jar account. misdiagnoses Esther— exactly what happened to Plath in real life—and prescribes outpatient electroconvulsive shock treatments. the most powerful figure in The Bell Jar. In real life a Dr.” and most of all. he twice remembers—his sole pathetic attempt to relate to Plath’s personal situation (107. Even the joys of childbirth are not joys in this male-oriented society. prescribed these outpatient shock treatments before the suicide attempt. she falls asleep. “They had a WAC station” at her college. for his male double standard regarding sex (45. Plath conveys the utter impersonality of this decisive episode of her life through a light touch—Dr. When Esther finally allows the ugly. Marriage could only be Mrs. reasons Esther. Dr. After the first few sessions. to seduce her. Nolan —a woman (179).THE DETERMINISTIC GHOST IN THE MACHINE 9 like Doreen (19). The immediate results were that Plath ceased communication almost entirely. Paul Alexander. supposedly standard practice. . Immobilized on “an awful torture table with these metal stirrups. she views a live birth in ways that anticipate Adrienne Rich’s exposure of male hospital practices in Of Woman Born. who takes pride in always seeming “to get on with the ladies. helped to precipitate the first suicide attempt. and her sleeplessness converted to acute insomnia. For Esther this is “just like the sort of drug a man would invent” (BJ 53). as is the case with Esther Greenwood and Dr. because cook and clean and wash was just what Buddy Willard’s mother did from morning till night. the Plath biographer who has researched this area of Plath’s life most thoroughly. Esther would like the same sexual freedom (63). Constantin wouldn’t work as a husband anyway. Gordon. so she never experiences the joy of childbirth. not Plath’s childhood memories of abandonment by her father. noted that Sylvia was not given a muscle relaxant or anesthesia. and she was the wife of a university professor and had been a private school teacher herself” (68–69). Constantin would no doubt want her to spend her day washing dishes and making up beds (68). and was therefore nearly electrocuted. but when she decides to allow Constantin. unguent Irwin. Gordon’s inability to converse with Esther as a person. Willard’s dreary routine: “I knew that’s what marriage was like.Peter Thornton. for his air of scientific superiority. 118).” to seduce her. for even such a nice person would expect her to live under the bell jar of gender inequality. Thornton went on vacation and left his assistant in charge (Alexander 119–20). Dr. the event causes an excruciatingly painful hemorrhage. This overwhelming display of male power.
with a “yew hedge of orders. Plath by the time of the Ariel poems has grown to an adult knowledge of the gender inequalities within American society and now views her father as symbolic of yet another control-minded male who restricts the development of women.” but one that becomes an occasion for personality growth. Hughes is correct: this is a “demythologized assessment. this is scary enough to induce guilt. “An Appearance” concerns Plath’s self-revelation of the super-efficient housewife role—so like her mother and the married women in The Bell Jar—that she could sink into as easily as a stuffed chair. Hughes observed in his essay “Sylvia Plath and Her Journals” that in “Little Fugue” the ghost of her father suddenly reappears. Note that Hughes’s 1982 observation identifies Plath’s central problem as a tug-of-war with her maternal role.10 L. This is far from the obsessive determinism of Otto Plath and German genetics that Hughes develops in Birthday Letters. In this essay. one sees the consequences of that growth. One can readily see why Plath’s portraits of her father in the Ariel poems “Little Fugue” and “Daddy” differ so markedly from her early deifications of Otto. demythologized assessment” (WP 187). calm reply. is that of an adult woman in control of her own life: “I am guilty of nothing. Even in memories that are two decades old. as in the memory of him lopping sausages “Red. The persona’s direct. for “a daunting.” written six months later (12 October 1962). composed thirteen years before the “Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems and The Bell Jar” essay. Hughes sees this as the beginning of Plath’s final tailspin toward identifying with the “deathly woman” at the heart of “Elm. point-blank.” which he argues develops into a deterministic resignation to the inevitability of suicide. the father in “Little Fugue” appears as a gruff. but now rebellious 1950s woman persona of “Daddy. once subordinated.” was “the most precise description she ever gave of The Other—the deathly woman at the heart of everything she now closed in on” (WP 187).M.” and the power to judge and decapitate. Plath’s first poetry volume. like cut necks” (CPP 188).” The distance of time in the cold white clouds that spread their “vacuous sheets” and in the lameness of the persona’s memory becomes a saving buffer that ensures survival at the end of the poem. the poem Plath composed two days after “Little Fugue. In “Daddy. The dominant imagery of the poem deliberately returns us to Plath’s 1958 Journals comment concerning Freud’s “Mourning and .” composed on 2 April 1962. with her mother as model. and as a prelude to the exorcism of the patriarchal imago inside the dutifully trained. as the consequence of the more realistic view of the father in The Bell Jar. Having taken a more measured view of Otto as an ordinary person in the Bell Jar graveyard scene. grotesque autocrat. One can view “Little Fugue. especially Lynda Bundtzen. however. after a two-and-a-halfyear absence.SCIGAJ Many scholars. In 1982. mottled./Gothic and barbarous. have observed that composing The Bell Jar was a liberating experience for Plath. Hughes wrote that “An Appearance” (CPP 189).” Contrary to the god-like figure in the poems of The Colossus (1960). an instructive exercise in how social forces affect individual behavior and judgment.
Van Dyne observed. Plath will erase from her psyche the negative influence of both the father and the adulterous husband. As a single parent now. and that the stings Hughes received the day he didn’t wear the proper hat were the result of Otto Plath’s “Prussian” plans. because Plath recognized that the major thrust of those beekeeping poems was to reassert her own self-confident authenticity as an artist in control of her emotions and life. as Plath revised. Plath is trying to understand her past in order to liberate herself from its grip. a queen” (CPP 215). This is especially the case in “Life After Death” where. Here Hughes likens himself to “The Hanged Man” in Plath’s poem about her electroconvulsive shock therapy (CPP 141). she downplayed her anger at Hughes by condensing the stinging incident and moderating her descriptive language. The central moment of the entire.” where Plath asserts “I/Have a self to recover. “The vampire who said he was you/And drank my blood” for over six years of marriage. so she can set new selfdevelopment goals. though the real vampire is the male imago introjected into the female superego as a controlling patriarchal force. So in “Daddy” Plath adapts her Freudian vampire metaphor (J 279) into a liberating exorcism. and the years of agony he underwent after her suicide. five-poem sequence occurs in “Stings. hate transferred to the self produces guilt that can “drain the ego” and at the very least leave one in a limbo that forestalls personality growth. Hughes further complicates our understanding of the beekeeping poems in his Birthday Letters poem “The Bee God” (150–2). He writes that the original beekeeping activities he and Plath engaged in during the summer of 1962 were actually a marriage of Plath with her father. and once again Hughes ignores this theme as he revisits the events. In an important 1982 essay. Susan Van Dyne examined the drafts of the five beekeeping poems and concluded that. Once again Plath’s theme concerns the realization of that “self-integral freedom” and career equality that she desires in her Journals (J 31. 35). Like Esther Greenwood with her abnormal psychology textbooks.THE DETERMINISTIC GHOST IN THE MACHINE 11 Melancholia. No longer the victim of the male imago that leads to subordination. after the day’s labor of feeding and dressing the motherless children. She did this. As Freud argued. Here Hughes ignores the import of Plath’s beekeeping poems.” where a person’s destructive impulse toward a parent may induce sufficient guilt that the impulse recoils upon the self. In Birthday Letters we often see the pain that Hughes experienced in coming to grips with Plath’s feisty personality. She is still struggling toward that “self-integral freedom” (31) that has been the driving force of all her adult work. whereas the bees who lose their stingers in venting their anger will soon die. Posterity should be aware of the pain he experienced in the . The final stake in the heart continues the vampire imagery and the exorcism. the pain becomes acute. That Hughes moved Plath’s five beekeeping poems from their original position at the conclusion of Ariel to a less important position near the midpoint of the volume has been a sore spot for decades among Plath scholars. as he lay awake at night feeling as if his neck nerves were uprooted and his aching shoulder tendons “cramped into knots” (182). Plath desires the freedom to erase the hold that the past has on her psyche.
Until Birthday Letters. 182. Otto’s mother had been hospitalized at least once. But it is a pity that Hughes could not occasionally celebrate Plath’s desire for a liberating equality of career and personal life in the poems of Birthday Letters. features that are so like Otto’s that his portrait could be Nick’s (130. Yet the “fixed stars” that Plath referred to in the late poem “Words. Doubtless the few misguided feminists who repeatedly defaced the gravestone where Hughes kept renewing the lettering of his name. because he “did not want her children to have to read it” (J xv). Her tactic with Sylvia was not to discuss her breakdown or anything relating to it. so like her mother’s “long. but even in the final glimpses the determinism grinds on. But he could have made a mental note of one important paragraph in chapter seven: During 1954. did she ever tell her daughter’s psychiatrist. Dr. wore Hughes down. Plath’s physician at the time of her suicide. and the dozens and dozens of biographers and academic researchers who wanted interviews and copyright permissions during his thirty-five years of silence. who must continue to live amid the tangled and hopelessly sensationalized Plath biographies. 193). stated that she was seriously . Aurelia heard from Otto’s sister that the women in the Plath family had histories of depression.SCIGAJ years after Plath’s suicide. because he strongly disagreed with the manuscript version. But he will let his children read Birthday Letters. He says as much in one of the final Birthday Letters poems. with poems that note the Plath family features genetically inherited in his children—in Frieda’s nimble fingers (194). Hughes wrote that he destroyed Plath’s last journal.” may not be the fixed stars of genetic determinism. so far as is known. factors that have become available in the research data that has accumulated over this thirty-five year span. Hughes could have connected this with the doctors report in Anne Stevenson’s 1989 Plath biography. He could have offered a more balanced view of his former wife thirtyfive years after her death—both for posterity and for the solace of his children. balletic” fingers (15). John Horder.12 L. the authorized biography of the Plath Estate. he could have balanced his portrait with other factors that surely must have influenced Plath’s final suicide decision. the poems of which contain not a single sympathetic portrait of Plath that might console her children. We know that Hughes read Linda Wagner-Martin’s 1987 Plath biography. But Mrs. Hughes follows a straightforward historical sequence in Birthday Letters from his first notice of Fulbright scholars at Cambridge to beyond Plath’s suicide. Hughes shared with Plath that quest theme of a liberating growth through self-knowledge and knowledge of society.M. his other sister and a niece also struggled with the problem. but of a woman’s steadfast determination to find equality and “self-integral freedom” until the very end. Plath never told Sylvia this—nor. (Wagner-Martin 110). In his “Foreword” to Plath’s Journals. and in Nick’s eyes and facial features. disdainfully entitled “The Dogs Are Eating Your Mother” (195–6). But since he was rereading Plath materials during the composition of Birthday Letters.
conducted over ten years by Canadian psychiatric researchers and published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics. unluckily during the tense time when Sylvia first learned of Hughes’s infidelity. blindfolded. and a few of these might commit suicide. and about one-tenth of one per cent (20. in a very telling Freudian literary slip. stating that her daughter had crowded her day with too many duties. Hillel Italie ran a syndicated column for the Associated Press (12 April 1999) in which he quoted from a letter that Hughes sent to Aurelia. In America last year. But sophisticated medical and marital counseling were unknown in the early 1960s in both America and England. amid the media blitz surrounding the Emory University acquisition of Hughes literary materials. about Plath having been “emotionally exhausted and devastated by those last tranquilizers. This is just one of many possible accounts of Plath’s suicide that does not entail an obsessive fixation upon merging with one’s dead father in a saga of genetic determinism. One recent medical study. and that this wasn’t the first time Sylvia had overworked herself with a difficult daily schedule (a reference to her first suicide attempt?) Many women and men. desperate action” (Stevenson 297). This does not augur genetic determinism.” Tranquilizers! Was Hughes unaware of his children’s mother’s medical condition in the weeks before the suicide? Depression is one of the most frequently used words in all of the Plath biographies to describe her occasional episodes of aberrant behavior. Ryle would find one of Aurelia Plath’s letters to her son Warren extremely interesting. Hughes critiqued Plath’s “Caryatids” poem. Indiana University). years after the suicide. From there she sent a letter to Warren. concludes that humans who have more than the usual 2A serotonin receptors in their brains are more likely to become depressed. especially the highly intelligent. During her last visit to Devon. but Hughes pays it no heed. dated 17 July 1962 (available in the Plath Collection of the Lilly Research Library. In the second and third poems.THE DETERMINISTIC GHOST IN THE MACHINE 13 ill. Hughes’s blindness to Plath’s struggle for equality appears at the very beginning of Birthday Letters. Individuals with such character traits can help themselves by avoiding situations and behavior that cause these tailspins. Hughes found “no stirring/Of omen” in the “white. needed hospital care. Winifred Davies. Ryle would agree that under some conditions. Aurelia sought refuge at the home of Plath’s midwife. individuals with certain character traits and dispositions may succumb to depression. This genetic trait simply increases the possibility of depression and suicide.” His .000) commit suicide each year (Du). About twenty million Americans suffer from depression. specifically a “mono-oxidase inhibitor” which could restore enough energy for the patient to carry out a “determined. rigid faces/Of those women. one of two poems that comprised her first British publication (1956). and had been taking an antidepressant for several days before the suicide. become afflicted with episodes of depression when their life becomes too crowded with cares and duties. but occasional tailspins—tailspins that are very treatable with today’s more sophisticated drugs and therapy. the research does not suggest determinism.
SCIGAJ friend Dan Huws concocted a broadsheet satirizing the convoluted style and cool. Appearing early in Birthday Letters.” And Plath’s perspectives were already split into a surface glitter of Impressionism and Modern Art from her American education that covered “the underground. Near the end of Birthday Letters the war imagery concludes in “A Picture of Otto. and sailed with her to America. who had the drive and the ambition.” where Owen meets the man he killed yesterday in battle in the “profound dull tunnel” of Hell (Owen 148–9). ravenous for more victims.” Thanatos-Otto. the persona observes that these virginal pillars of aristocratic “classic sister” have the strength to perform the public task of holding up a portico. Since he engages the issue of the move to Devon in “Error. supporting columns molded in the forms of draped female figures. I applaud Hughes for letting Plath. but the point never registers in Hughes’s perceptions. 31). in her “Introduction” to Letters Home. in the “dark adit. Caryatids are pillars. From then on most of the poems follow an unvarying structural formula: discrete instances of Plath’s behavior followed by the same deterministic judgment.” one wonders whether the “dark adit” could have been otherwise had Hughes remained with Plath in London.” who would “never bear arms” or “take another’s life” (LH 9. Hughes .” where Hughes expects to meet the “Lutheran/Minister manqué” in the underworld beyond the grave. twelve-line poem with a long title (“Three Caryatids Without a Portico. enflamed in uncontrollable passions.” a “chamber where (she) still hung waiting/For (her) torturer. with Hughes’s formed in the crucible of World War II. But the Gods do not grant the caryatids “such a trial” of strength. In the labyrinth of words that Hughes concocts in Birthday Letters.M. the same foreshadowed glimpse into the crypt: “You had to lift/The coffin lid an inch” (118). that Otto Plath. “To remember his amusement” (36–7). Plath must always appear as the destructive Minotaur (130). a well-liked university professor of entomology and Middle High German at Boston University. Here. Hughes took a one-year job teaching secondary school students while Plath completed her MA at Cambridge.” as in Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting. the poem “Your Paris” suggests an irreparable opposition of culturally inherited perceptions. In Plath’s short. as Hughes suggests./Alias Otto” (133). But Hughes is blind to the point of Plath’s poem. Owen sleeps “with his German as if alone” (193). by Hugo Robus. again letting her take the lead to explore college teaching at Smith and possibly a PhD Program. make the major moves early in their marriage. was “a confirmed pacifist. Hughes’s perceptions do not vary.14 L. Meanwhile. Once again Plath appeals for equal career opportunity for women. Hughes never considers Aurelia’s unequivocal statement. A Study in Sculptural Dimensions”). Only childbirth gives her momentary respite. Here Hughes coaxes the reader into accepting the major premise of Birthday Letters—that Hughes was a “post-war utility survivor” whose “perspectives were veiled by what rose/Like methane from the reopened/Mass grave of Verdun. offspring of “King Minos. lofty aesthetic diction of these two Plath poems (see Stevenson 69).
even had the marriage not survived. in which she proudly describes the house and grounds as the realization of Ted’s dream. where one could raise a family amid bucolic surroundings. Hughes followed a regimen that was the most sacrosanct in the household: he watched little Frieda in their cramped. He apparently never saw the Theseus sword in Plath’s work—that drive toward “self-integral freedom” through career equality. But Hughes demurred. his career and the family finances assured. Did she write from conviction. Six months after the move back to England. But during the next year. m. there is at least a chance that their marriage could have survived. and a stronger chance that Plath may not have attempted suicide again. and was often too demanding of herself (LH 123).THE DETERMINISTIC GHOST IN THE MACHINE 15 scrambled into a one-semester teaching appointment at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. and accomplish more creative work without the interruptions of the London literary game—announced and unannounced guests dropping in every week followed by that wearing round of stroking at weekend cocktail parties. Throughout this period. And Plath at this point should have put her foot down and demanded to stay in London. effortlessly and perfectly. and at times overreached. Like the girl beneath the fig tree in The Bell Jar (45. until noon. Plath fed Frieda lunch and Hughes composed in the afternoon. three-room apartment from 8 a. And when Plath realized that college teaching exhausted her creative energies. Hughes’s Minotaur myth is deterministic in part because it is incomplete. to free Plath for her creative writing. probably rightly so. Harvard. Plath noticed a roomy corner town house or row house for sale nearby. Hughes definitely followed Plath’s ideal of career equality. At the Houghton Research Library. Had they remained in London. he should have demurred over his bucolic dream. After their return to England in December of 1959. at 41 Fitzroy Road. felt that she could handle it all. Living at 41 Fitzroy Road would have allowed Plath to have two things she desperately needed to maintain her career equality: London’s assurance of cultured intellectual women to converse with. 62). where she eventually would end her life twoand-a-half years later (LH 387). But if Hughes had understood the implications of Plath’s struggle for career equality beneath the satire in The Bell Jar. just a few doors from 23 Fitzroy Road. a week before the move to Devon. resides a letter Plath wrote to their friends Jack and Maire Sweeney. who convinced them that they could possibly avoid the college teaching track forever by working for the BBC in London (Stevenson 322–4). and throughout the first year-and-a-half of their daughter Frieda’s life (born 1 April 1960). Hughes was thoroughly “taken up” by the BBC. or was she beginning to backslide into the role of the dutiful housewife? . The evidence suggests that both Hughes and Plath were tempted by Hughes’s vision of rural life. completed before they moved to Devon. Plath wanted it all. just ten miles away. they spent a year in Boston with their salary savings and met William and Dido Merwin. and reliable child care to ensure that sacrosanct creative writing time. for their finances were nowhere near the purchase price. She had big eyes.
for he was aglow with the shine of his own soaring career. But all Hughes could see was Otto and World War II behind Plath’s anger. Because neither spouse. gave Plath further access to Thanatos-Otto. so far as we know. But in the “dark adit” he still feels its point.16 L. often watching her husband catch a train for BBC work in London (which meant no child care help for that entire day). Plath was fast becoming a character in her worst nightmare—an overworked. he never recognized the sword of this female Theseus. But her sense of being trapped in a dead-end existence derives not simply from the view. alone in the machine of his words. His bucolic rural vision crowded it out. and as a result her own career was being placed on hold. . In Devon he seldom saw its point. From this view Plath certainly “cannot see where there is to get to. Sylvia indeed had taken on too much.” as she observes in “The Moon and the Yew Tree” (CPP 173). playing hostess for a week or for weekend-long guests. As Aurelia observed in her letter to Warren. Certainly much of the hostility Hughes absorbed from Plath in Devon derived from the Theseus sword of a hemmed-in heroine’s last struggle. And in Birthday Letters his ghost grinds on in his labyrinth. Without the company of intellectual women and reliable day care.SCIGAJ In Birthday Letters Hughes attempts to convince the reader that Court Green. and its view of a graveyard followed by a dour Anglican Church. and in the process squeezing hardly any time to write from her exhausting schedule. a kitchen mat awaiting the return of the workaholic male (BJ 69). self-sacrificing Mrs. taking on too much with two children in diapers—cooking. gardening. with its clammy cold and leaky thatch. dealing with post-partum depression after the birth of her second child. home refurbishing. gave sufficient thought to the effects of rural life on Plath’s drive for career equality. Willard from The Bell Jar.M. Plath crawled cabin fever walls that were turning into a prison of overscheduling.
. hulking. “because from later this year came the earliest poems of her first collection. ex-Cambridge. “He has a health and hugeness. interpretation. with a voice like the thunder of God—a singer. The meaning of this poetic regard for Plath herself is inseparable from her joyous “big Hero Worship” of Hughes. the entry in her Journal written the morning after “that fatal party where [she] met Ted” announces him with gusto as “the only one there huge enough for me. Writing to her mother.” Plath wrote. half Irish. and publication of her largely posthumous work. Much of Plath’s mythologizing is clearly motivated by the belief that union with such a paragon. everything. and still feel him ahead” (J 295). Her rapturous praise of Hughes’s physique and poetic prowess thus went hand-in-hand with her own hopes for herself as a writer. lion and world-wanderer. “presents itself as a watershed. “Early 1956. for he was the only man with whom she would “never have to restrain” her own “little gift. huge with hulk and dynamic chunks of words” (J 211–2). The eye of Ted Hughes is indeed ever present in Plath’s early poetry. “For the first time in my life I can use all my knowing and laughing and force and writing to the hilt all the time. I am writing poems. storyteller. Plath was more ecstatic yet: “I met the strongest man in the world. The one man in the room who was as big as his poems. a large. and they are better and stronger than anything I have ever done” (LH 234. Auden and Yeats (LH 108). healthy Adam. just as his vision of her development was later determinant in the over-all organization. the year of his marriage to Plath. Hughes’s hugeness made it possible for her to “marry him. a vagabond who will never stop” (LH 233). whom she famously portrays as destined for the pantheon she self-consciously worshipped as “gods” in the likes of Eliot. The Colossus.” she exclaimed.” He is “that big. but could push it and strain it to the utmost. hunky boy.” Hughes tells us. Even before Plath identifies Hughes by name. Plath’s emphasis).2 Words to “Patch the Havoc:” The Imagination of Ted Hughes in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath Gayle Wurst As editor of Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems. Ted Hughes chose 1956. And from this time I worked closely with her and watched her poems being written” (Introduction.” augured well for her own poetry (LH 264).” when Plath had just turned twenty-four. using it as a line of demarcation to separate her juvenilia from the beginning of her mature work. dark. brilliant poet whose work I loved before I met him. J 16). half French. as the first “logical division” in her poetry. whom she repeatedly describes as “the male counterpart of [her]self.
implicitly draws on the famous passage from Wordsworth’s “There Was a Boy. begins to inhabit her poetry.” . Botolph’s” (BL 15). a piece about sexual attraction and flight. Plath the female ephebe recounts how she vicariously “saw hoof harden from foot. chronologically speaking. heaving poems born out of the way words should be said” (244).” Plath. the erotic poetic regard in Plath’s work becomes an increasingly problematic presence. what cool can lap me in/ When burns and brands that yellow gaze? ” From this point on. “better and stronger” work (LH 234). transformed in the magic “arena of yellow eyes” himself changes shape: via the owls’ yellow gaze. goes Wordsworth one better in Hughes. Marked how god rose/And galloped woodward in that guise. written on February 27.” he would “work with [her] to make [her] a woman poet like the world will gape at” (LH 248): “Ted says he never read poems by a woman like mine working. “What lull. Plath celebrates and completes this gaze with a portrait of the lover/muse as a mythologized and fructifying force of nature.2 G. is “Pursuit” (CPP 22. saw sprout /Goat-horns. In its initial stage. while Plath was very proud of having been “clairvoyant” enough to foresee Hughes’s rise to fame as one of Britain’s most promising young poets (329). a composite male figure. The first of these poems. “It is not bad. This poem. creating an image of poetic prowess so irresistible that “all owls in the twigged forest/Flapped back to look and brood/ On the call this man made. poet/lover/muse. “Faun” (originally called “Metamorphosis”) is an excellent example of this tendency. he himself was the pursued in an incident “that was to brand [his] face” with a “swelling ring-moat of tooth-marks. As Hughes recalls it in “St. in 1958 she accurately predicted his future as Poet Laureate in a parenthetical afterthought to a sudden surge of assurance about herself: “Arrogant. I think I have written lines which qualify me to be the Poetess of America (just as Ted will be the Poet of England and her Dominions)” (J 360). 1956. deep banging” poems. and the birth-throes of her own “heaving” work vividly illustrate. it is not surprising that immediately after Plath met Hughes in February 1956. “Wrote a full-page poem about the dark forces of lust: “Pursuit”. hypnotic gaze of the poet/lover: “There is a panther stalks me down:/ One day I’ll have my death of him. which Plath includes in a letter dated 19 April 1956 to exemplify her new. It is dedicated to Ted Hughes’s (J 214). only two days after the poets” tempestuous first encounter. sweating. however.” where the budding poet figure blows “mimic hootings to the silent owls” and is answered with “quivering peals” across “the watery vale. And. As Plath’s descriptions of Hughes’s “virile. her fantasies of mutual poetic potency and creation are keyed to a sexual metaphor based on the erotic attraction of male poet and female muse.” Plath’s poem. 23). Given the strength of this metaphor in her letters and journals. the poet/lover.” she begins.WURST Just as Ted was writing “virile.” In the end. however. deep banging poems. Plath recorded in her Journal. foregoes the depiction of physical contact to prominently feature the dangerous.
her lifelong dread of her own poetic sterility.” (J 271). conflating the image of the poet-as-Adam with that of a pagan nature deity. indeed? Much of Plath’s poetry from 1956 through 1958 and. who both scouted out possible venues for his work and saw to the typing of his manuscript: “All my pat theories against marrying a writer dissolve with Ted. she proudly took up the mantle of muse and ceaselessly worked as his amanuensis. Hughes became the model for a “male force which engendered (Plath’s) creativity even as he annulled it” (30). and turn this image into a self-fulfilling prophecy. and the sole poem Plath ever wrote to bear her husband’s name. But I honestly believe we are. Plath’s deification of her husband played into. but relentlessly. It sounds so paragon. Plath purposely fashions Hughes into the primal namer of all things. “I am so glad Ted is first. This is the view which Hughes. has followed in Birthday Letters. typing his poetry and submitting his manuscripts for contests and publications.” she reflected in her Journal: “his rejections more than double my sorrow and his acceptances rejoice me more than mine—it is as if he is the perfect male counterpart to my own self: each of us giving the other an extension of the life we believe in living. portraying himself as both “puppet” and unwitting “male lead in [her] drama” (BL 7). which gradually.WORDS TO PATCH THE HAVOC 3 This poetic jeu de regard reaches its climax in “Ode for Ted” (CPP 29–30). Plath’s poems tell a very different picture than the rosy idealization she painted in her letters home.” Likewise. and even obsessional in her poetry long before she . conflated his image with Daddy. and quickly exacerbated. will attempt to work out the answer to this question. yet self-reflexive question: “how but most glad/could be this adam’s woman. the male poet’s very look makes the universe bear fruit. once he began “work[ing] closely with her” and “watch[ing] the poems being written. it could be argued. her fantasy of fruitful poetic union ironically backfired. “Ode for Ted” takes the trope of the fruitful male gaze to its furthest extent only to end in a curiously distant. the better to nourish her imagination of Hughes as a powerful creator. In the poem’s most interesting turn.” As Steven Gould Axelrod has succinctly worded the problem. Rather than providing an enabling myth which permitted her to see herself as poet-god and co-creator.” Plath asks. “when all earth his words do summon/leaps to laud such man’s blood!” How but most glad. Yet if we go back to Plath’s juvenilia. leaping to “laud such man’s blood” the better to imagine herself as “adam’s woman. another of the earliest pieces from 1956. Here.” Hughes entered this competition at the insistence of Plath. we see that her union to Hughes—and especially her imagination of his imagination—served largely to intensify a tightly-knit complex of negative themes and images of female creativity which were already well developed. Yet when “this adam’s woman” turned to writing poetry herself. for the rest of her career. too. the victim of a “Greek necessity” (CPP 272) stronger and bigger than them both. apparently rhetorical.” she declared when Hawk in the Rain “won the Harper’s first publication contest. and even in her journal.
looking down on her with dark eyes. is glimpsed between a column to the left.” and “rends” the structures of an elaborately composed. Significantly. turning it into an “appalling ruin. and two half open doors which swing inward toward the female figure from a broken wall to the right. while the man stands to her left. see his “The Painterly Plath That Nobody Knows. Plath’s use of intertextuality in this poem deftly calls on Blake’s “London.” Eliot’s “Wasteland” and even Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra to make her scornful point. too. The landscape around them. Above his head. A fuller analysis of this poem focusing on Plath’s use of intertextuality is found in my Voice and Vision: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath. it is perhaps to Hughes’s credit that as editor of the Collected Poems he foregoes chronology to introduce the body of Plath’s “mature” work with “Conversation Among the Ruins” (CPP 21). In the painting. One of the most striking things about the poem is its portrait of the male figure as an intruder responsible for a wasted landscape. perhaps tragically. the woman is at a table. wearing a white tunic. named after a painting by Georgio De Chirico. still 1. He “stalks.1 Given Plath’s early tendency to extol the vitality of the male gaze at the expense of the woman writer. as if the term were an oxymoron.” is both active principle and agent of destruction. only to prove that her frivolous musings are not worth the paper they are written on—and to distance Plath herself from scribblers of this genre.” where “fractured pillars frame prospects of rock.” A modern figure. classical landscape. the female figure. feminine” poetess as the very image of de-natured sterility: “nurs[ing]/ Chocolate fancies in rose-papered rooms.WURST ever encountered him. and a seated woman.4 G.2 “Conversation Among the Ruins” differs from many other poems Plath wrote in 1956 in that she here already is takes stock of her own mythologizing. pinkbreasted. her back turned to the viewer. This sonnet. described as “heroic” in spite of his “wild furies.” By contrast. Plath most acutely expresses her self-doubt in the juvenilia in the single poem that dares to confront her interiorization of the “spinster” woman writer. The encounter with this stereotype occurs in an undated poem she ironically entitles “Female Author” (CPP 301). The male poet-figure.” he stands in domination over the “bankrupt estate. All come barreling down on her unfortunate female author.” she “lies on cushions curled.” “lost in subtle metaphor” in isolated “retreat” from all that is vital in the world.” “disturbs. I thank Leonard Scigaj for furnishing me with the reproduction of De Chirico’s painting on which this description is based. is the bust of a Greek statue. Poem and painting both feature two figures: a standing man dressed in modern clothing. and especially of its effect on herself as a poet-god. For an excellent discussion of Plath’s wider use of modern painting. dressed “in coat and tie. Furthermore. perhaps Apollo.” . actually postdates “Pursuit” and other pieces from 1956 in which the role of the male poet/lover is less ambiguously praised. barren of life. and turned in the same direction. Plath portrays her “prim. 2.
“To Eva Descending the Stair” (CPP 303). is manifestly reflexive in nature. “The Queen’s Complaint” (CPP 28–29). devoted to the same subject./Rooted to your black look. the play turned tragic./It seemed thin and brittle. It is as if Hughes wished to revise himself. The authority of this critical regard once Plath began submitting her poems for Hughes’s critique.WORDS TO PATCH THE HAVOC 5 tied to the past and robed in classical tradition. remains subordinate and unmoving: “I sit /Composed in Grecian tunic and psyche-knot. facing “Ode for Ted” in the Collected Poems./The planets plot with old elliptical cunning. Plath’s blighted landscape. is another case in point: here. a “giant” with “looks black and . the lines cold” (BL 4. stillness is a lie.” this sonnet also ends with a crucial question that will reverberate throughout Plath’s entire work: “What ceremony of words can patch the havoc?” This question is all the more important in that “Conversation Among the Ruins.” now “blighted. and she constructed her world all the more tightly to keep her doubts about herself as creator at bay: “The asteroids turn traitor in the air. once decorous and “elegant. noting how he and his friends “concocted/An attack. or needed a double-take. yet heretofore vaguely identified. writing that he sought to “reach” more than “reproach” or “correct” Plath with his mockery. he writes. Yet ironically. he seems to repent.” she warned herself in the early villanelle. a dismemberment. Hughes represents his initial response to this poetry. and her need for his respect and approval are inseparable from the repeated rise to hyperbole in her early praise of the mythic poet/lover. at least in retrospect. “It was the only poem you ever wrote/That I disliked through the eyes of a stranger.” when Plath “published [a] poem/About Caryatids” in Cambridge. and carefully structured villanelles and sonnets. internal evidence from her Journals and the poems she wrote during their early marriage shows that she also began to focus the persistent. archetypal figures.” not only foreshadows future developments in her poetry. Destruction.” he continued to dislike much of the work Plath was producing. constantly menaced Plath’s “elaborately structured and staidly traditional” poems of this period (Broe 6). he thus set about criticizing her poems and assigning her subjects for new ones. In “Caryatids (2)” (BL 5–6). my dear. Once Hughes’s eyes were no longer those “of a stranger.” Like “Ode for Ted. it turns back to allegorically evoke the highly artiflcial world of her juvenilia—a world of balanced symmetries. In Birthday Letters.” which serves as a portal to the Collected Poems. for the problem forms the only instance in Birthday Letters where two poems. clocks cry.” Hughes’s dislike and criticism of Plath’s writing must have deeply preoccupied him. usually imminent rather than actualized. his empowerment most often takes place to the detriment of the female figures in her poetry. bear the same title. 5). While Plath learned much under his tutelage. From mid-1956 on. laughing. menace that had always threatened to blow her “rich order of walls” apart. In yet another poem about the incident. Plath gave danger a habitation and a name in the “bleak light of his stormy eye.
” and what it was like to be the focal point of her efforts to write herself out of it. Doing so.6 G. the speaker. he pays considerable. “Full Fathom Five. Typically. The male figure’s mythified “black look. defining the distance of stones and stones humped out of the sea” (J 473). the “fear” that “hid in [her] Schaeffer pen. only left to myself. her poem.” Writing to herself about this poem in her Journal. singlesentence poem which barrels down syntactically to focus on the poet/lover in his “dead/Black coat. air. rising as the waves/Crest and trough./ A dragnet. so small. and painful homage to the power of Plath’s own poetic regard.” yet haunting guise of the drowned father: “foam-/ Capped: white hair. confined to the margins of the poem and her role as witness to male power. This reversal is exemplified in Hughes’s “Black Coat” (BL 102–03). In “Apprehensions” (BL 140).” written in The Colossus period.” “composed” but no composer.” It is crucial to note that the gaze of the male poet is never lovingly directed at the muse in Plath’s poetry. Hughes has written very affectingly both about Plath’s terror of sterility. Notably for the development of her later voice. seven-stanza. she “walked over rocks along the oceanside” where she observed “Ted out at the end of the bar. Turning to his eyes in the hope of finding herself reflected as poet.” a “fixed vortex on the far/Tip” of a menacing seascape. after visiting her father’s grave. Plath also begins to distance herself from this dilemma in “Conversation Among the Ruins. “Man in Black” is an ominous. the image of the bountiful young poet/ god gives way to a more ominous male figure—a Titian who “surface[s]” suddenly as an “old man” in the “unimaginable. “riveting stones.” however.” Remembering “going out there” in his . together.” and even more directly to Plath’s “Man in Black” (CPP 119– 20). overturning the convention that so plagued Plath herself. walks “dry” on the border of a troubling “kingdom/exiled to no good” (CPP 92). Plath wrote this piece in March 1959 on a what she blithely calls “one of my fruitful visits to Winthrop” (J 477). white beard. “O./All of it. alas. what a poet I will flay myself into!” (381). Plath exclaims. in black coat. Here.” ironizing the “black look” and devastating commentary of the poet/lover in her description of the birds emblematic of Hughes: “rooks croak above the appalling ruin (my emphasis). Plath’s speakers and narrators are removed from the arena of action: their role is to witness from the margins while the poet figure at the center of the poem causes the universe to blossom or blow apart wherever he directs his gaze. far—flung. tells another story. Plath instead discovers a muse in her “psyche-knot. Although Plath’s Journals joyously claimed her “buried male muse and godcreator” had “risen to be (her) mate in Ted” (J 381).WURST fierce as rooks” “hulk[s]” across the Queen’s “dainty acres.” causing her to “sing us thus: “How sad. still remains the center of concern in the poem and her work as a whole. it is/To see my people shrunk so small. a poem that responds to “Full Fathom Five. Meanwhile. Although Plath described it as “the only “love” poem” in the book manuscript she was preparing (J 477). nor is there ever a mutually gratifying exchange of regards between a male and female figure.
Pratt points out that “Daphne means laurel and laurel leaves were chewed by pre-Achaean priestesses to induce oracular powers:” the myth thus recounts how “Apollo conquers a territory by raping its goddess. Poems like “Strumpet Song. To return to Pratt once more: “Daphne wishes to protect her body and her sacred places from forced entry and thus turns herself into a tree. the story of Apollo and Daphne originates as the “account” of a cultural “invasion.” “Ouija. how he attempts to conquer the goddess. assimilating her magic. and articulating her reactions to the portrayal of female figures in western art.” “On the Plethora of Dryads.” “Virgin in a Tree. Apollo.” “Black Rook in Rainy Weather. she remains forever unravished. these poems show Plath coming to consciousness of her specificity as a woman poet by reflecting on the conditions of representation.” the “story of the rape of (a) local female divinity by a “patriarchally structured culture. Plath’s use of the myth of Daphne and Apollo. crowned with leaves of laurel. numerous poems Plath wrote between February 1956 and March 1958 shed much light on this change in her work. succinctly illustrates the shift in her paradigm. “The tension between what Apollo intends and Daphne is willing to accept.” Or rather. and form an intermediate stage in her effort to shed “dead hands. Apollo forever in the process of ravishing” (4). For Pratt. common to several of these poems. CPP 120).” “The Lady and the Earthenware Head.” Pratt writes (6).” “Perseus. Because of her natural magic. but it also signals her position of exile in relation to Hughes’s enviable (and increasingly ominous) centrality. Pratt’s analysis only pertains to fiction: but if we extend her argument to poetry. During the later phase of Plath’s poetry. this myth forms one of the major archetypal patterns in fiction authored by women. seen from “so far off/half a mile. dead stringencies. between forces demanding our submissions and our rebellious assertions of personhood.” as she put it in 1962 (LH 479)—a shadow largely formed and formed in large by her former projections of his prowess.WORDS TO PATCH THE HAVOC 7 “black overcoat” many years later.” “On the Decline of Oracles. maybe. the male figure in the black coat.” as she so famously put it in “Ariel” (CPP 239–40). For Plath. this centrality is not only unwanted.3 Taken together. for Hughes. and setting himself up in her place. Hughes recalled the incident quite differently.” whom Apollo represents. all the while foregrounding the absence of inspiration. According to Annis Pratt’s groundbreaking study. Although critics have tended to neglect or misinterpret them. The speaker of “Man in Black” is literally out of the picture. Apollo is unable to conquer Daphne the nature nymph. characterize far too much of our fiction to be incidental. she famously rid herself of Ted’s “shadow.” “rivets” the universe together as the first clear precursor to “Daddy” (BL 103. this distance permits her to make a stake on safer ground.” and “The Disquieting Muses” shift the male poet from center stage to concentrate on the figure of the female muse.” “On the Difficulty of Conjuring up a Dryad. For Hughes and Plath both. clearly emerges the symbolic . the Achaeans. it transforms him into a prey in a telescopic rifle lens. For unlike his usurpation of the oracular powers of Gaea at Delphi.
” In an embedded reference.5 The final stanza compares her feminine “fancy” to the powerful fecundity of the masculine imagination. wet humor. the perpetually pursued object of his attentions.” she says. as she tried to tap the tradition for a conscious female subject. Elements of this myth were particularly well suited to Plath’s imagination of Hughes. no luminous shape/Steps out radiant in limb. lip. only to discover that traditional poetic conventions proved an obstacle to her course.6 Notably. Unable to conjure up a dryad. whom she associates with Hughes in her Journals. she can envision all too well. she takes a phrase from Yeats’ “A Prayer for my Daughter. “On the Difficulty of Conjuring Up a Dryad” (CPP 65–6) ironically foregrounds “the vaunting mind” of a female poet which “wrestles to impose/its own order” on recalcitrant nature and myth.8 G. and Plath herself plays the thief in this poem. she ends with a sad self-diagnosis: her “Beggared brain/Hatches no fortune.” but her envious description of the male poet’s fertility makes her statement seem like sour grapes.” which 3. 80). My own discussion relies on dates given in Plath’s Journals and Letters Home. cultural guardian and producer of language in the perpetual act of desire. “Why do I freeze in fear my mind & writing: say. More problematical. the speaker “spurns such fictions as nymphs. what can you expect of a girl with no head? “she queried herself in her Journals (437). from grass.” Plath declares.4 “However I wrench obstinate bark and trunk/To my sweet will. Left with a strong sense of inadequacy. ironically. then uses her art to study the way her relationship to “her poetic fathers undermines her sense of competence” (Axelrod 35). look. acknowledging her jealousy of male poets: her vision is “cold. addressing a “doctor “and adopting the medieval medical vocabulary that equated the lack of female imaginative powers to a cold. The Journey Toward Ariel: Sylvia Plath’s Poems 0f 1956–1959. This transformation is all the more striking in that Plath grafts into the poem a key citation from Yeats.WURST victor in spite of Daphne’s successful escape. foregrounding the “difficulty” the title of her poem announces. the ironic nature of Daphne’s victory presented Plath with the conundrum of her own role as muse. while Daphne. the language throughout is a “strange concoction of Hughes and Wallace Stevens. His is the image of the conquering poet./But from leaf. the speaker comes to the root of the problem. the “star-lucky slight of hand man” can even be seen as “Hughes described in Stevens’ words” (78. and follows corrections supplied in Nancy D. no head. In stanza five. As Margaret (Dickie) Uroff has noted. is reabsorbed into nature. One of the earliest of Plath’s Daphne poems. Yet Hughes is far more than the envied referent: Plath makes Hughes’s success as a poet represent the dynamics of an entire poetic tradition./ Thieves what it has. which. .Hargrove’s indispensable study. whose head she so willingly envisioned crowned with laurels. eye. The dating for some of these poems in the Collected Poems is unfortunately erroneous.” The diminished female author steals what little she can. a state tantamount to silence and unconsciousness.
” she does not entirely succeed in her aims.” As a result. 4.” her persona states. lip. Hargrove dates “On the Plethora of Dryads” October 26.” is distracted by nymphs “who surfeit the senses” (114. eye. take into themselves and embody some of patriarchy’s most sexual images and tropes” or. the interest and value of her dryad poems surely lie in the way she is consciously struggling to conceptualize the problem of representation from a woman’s point of view. for example. from “internalizing” to “exposing. these poems are very private.” Plath here is either “symptomatic of the way women internalize patriarchy. conversely. conversely. Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetics. 6. no luminous shape/Steps out radiant in limb. to make “the opulent air go studded with seed.” Yeats writes.” The rare feminist critics who have addressed these early poems seem to find their avowal of failure an embarrassment.WORDS TO PATCH THE HAVOC 9 also draws on the Daphne myth to express the wish that his daughter Anne “become like a flourishing hidden tree:” “Oh may she live like some green laurel/Rooted in one dear place. she “expos[es] or foreground[s] the denigrated femininity on which the more inspired vision of women (and poetry) so often relies” (115). full of blood & discipline like Yeats” (J 270). Yet Plath’s early work represents the erotic attraction between male poet and female muse as always fully consummated. see: Christine Battersby. failed. 1956 (48). for example. In a sense. The male poet is such a stud he has only to look. the female poet cannot “concoct a Daphne. 115). his daughter’s soul is cognizant that “its own sweet will is heaven’s will:” for Plath. hesitates between two opposing scenarios in the attempt to explain their “very awkwardness. . For an excellent examination of the medical. See. “However I wrench obstinate bark and trunk/To my sweet will. Jacqueline Rose. They show Plath in the process of articulating the problem and formulating it for herself: and although she attempts to move from the first to the second position Rose delineates. Seen within the evolution of the poetic regard in Plath’s work. was also composed in the fall of that year. philosophical. such company only assures her of the insufficiencies of her own “sweet will” as poet. For Yeats. Pages 31–33 and 83–87 are particularly to the point for Plath’s poem. 1957 (written on the first anniversary of her meeting with Hughes): “Ted is an excellent poet. and my analysis supports her conjecture that “On the Difficulty of Conjuring Up a Dryad. using specifically gendered terms for what well may be the first time in contemporary poetry.” which is obviously a companion poem. psychoanalytical and literary discourse on the female imagination in the theory of humors.” She says: “My tree stays tree. 7 “That damn scrupulous tree won’t practice wiles/To beguile sight. 5. or deceived” or. mockingly reporting her symptoms of sterility to the “doctor” she consults. however.” Only from the female point of view does the erotic spark refuse to ignite. however. as in “On the Plethora of Dryads. and the model fail for lack of inspiration. Rose asserts that Plath “writes herself into the place of the man” who is “lured. Plath’s entry for February 25.
Paradoxically. “These are easily the best poems I have written and open up new material and a new voice” (336). For further analysis of Plath’s use of Yeats. his gaze has nothing to do with the “lemon-tasting droop” of the dryad’s “lips. Booze and Betty S. in a rococo crystal cage. the male figure modeled on Hughes drops out. once she begins to analyze her own response to the representation of the feminine. 233–55.WURST In 1958. These are the poems that caused Plath to exclaim she had written lines which “qualify [her] to be the Poetess of America. “poems breaking open my real experience of life in the last five years: life which has been shut-up. Plath attacked the model of Daphne with redoubled vigor in “Virgin in a Tree” (CPP 81–2). A Daughter’s Anger: W. She also foregrounds her own poetic regard. see: Elizabeth Butler Cullingford. the figure looks the viewer straight in the eye. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. untouchable. Propped on one elbow. or “virgin in a tree” all too well.” enlisting irony and bawdy puns throughout her poem in an effort to diminish the virgin’s “untongued” torture. Lynda E.” This depicts a naked.” Daughters and Fathers.Yeats and Sylvia Plath. . 7. I feel these are the best poems I’ve ever done” (J 356). “Virgin in a Tree.” As a result.” but the regard of the virile male poet is absent from the list of the guilty. and bang! After the first one.” after an early etching by Paul Klee.” as cited above (360). a poem modeled on an etching by Paul Klee entitled “Jung Frau in Baum. “A Father’s Prayer. Yeats” (LH 280).” “Barren sirs” and “ugly spinsters” feed their imagination on the dryad’s “ache and wake. engraving Klee’s etching on her mind as a warning: “As you etch on the inner window of your eye/This virgin on her rack. Plath dismantles this “tart fable. Her Journal entry of March 28 seconds this excitement. and Mrs. still fertile in Plath’s imagination.” Plath records.B. Plath now can see the dryad. I ripped into another.” “Virgin in a Tree” was the first in a series of poems Plath wrote in a week which left her “stunned” by her own capabilities: “I had about seven or eight paintings and etchings I wanted to write on as poem-subjects. equating the week to the first breakthough in her writing since her suicide attempt in the Spring of 1953: “I wrote eight poems in the last eight days. she can’t see how to get her out. Yet the fact that his Plath goes so far as to envision her marriage to Hughes as “a team better than Mr.Flowers. sour-looking. and even sets it off in a frame.” she writes excitedly in Letters Home. Part of Plath’s elation derives from her new concentration on her dilemma from the specific point of view of a woman poet: as “Virgin in a Tree” illustrates. knarled female figure horizontally reclining in an awkward posture that conforms to the boughs of a dwarfed and blighted tree. Plaths poem ends in a characteristic avowal of failure: “Tree twist will ape this gross anatomy/ Till irony’s bough break. eds. 1989).10 G. the trouble is. not to be touched.
and the three gorgons. without immediately asserting a parallel glory for Hughes. “Some paralysis of the head has got me frozen.” “Its snaky . the Furies who pursue. All combine with the wicked witch of fairy tale to inhabit the abstracted female body of modern art from which they take their name. who paralyses with her gaze. eyeless. As if I can escape by going numb and daring to begin nothing. “Voice frozen” (J 312). written several days after “Virgin in a Tree.” she wrote in January 1958. she appears superimposed with the moon at the end of the poem as a “face. “suggest a twentieth-century version of other sinister trios of women—the Three Fates. 1957. and further concentrated in the eyes of the Medusa who constantly seeks to fix the female poet at the center of her petrifying gaze. most notably the Medusa. This “poetic kingdom” is the result of a tradition of representation stretching from classical to modern times. The confrontation first fully takes place in “The Disquieting Muses” (CPP 74– 6).” In the poems that ensue. de Quincey’s sisters of madness” (CPP 276. or new sense of mastery as a poet. Plath comes face to face with the “basilisk—look of love. in an increasingly female world. often accompanied by a head/division: “I am stymied. De Chirico’s The Disquieting Muses. murderous in its strangle of branches. and always uninvited in Plath’s later work. she says.” she wrote on March 4. what inner murder or prison break must I commit if I want to speak from my true deep voice in writing. then. that she cannot be fully comfortable expressing her own self-assurance. In Plath’s later poetry. at a stasis.WORDS TO PATCH THE HAVOC 11 regard is still deeply rooted as implied comparison and internalized standard leaves Plath all the more alone to struggle with her vision. the three fates who kill. note 60). Everything seems held up. In the Journals. stasis and paralysis. we find the muses who inspire. the Medusan presence consistently translates Plath’s fear of writing block into images of freezing.” as she puts it in “The Lady and the Earthenware Head” (CPP 69–70). This look is central to the paradoxical encounter with the female muse that increasingly dominates her poetic struggle. “Something deep. only to blow the female figure literally apart with the sound of a terrible “cry. plunging. It is no wonder. the Medusa’s sudden intrusion begins at least as early as “Elm” (CPP 192–3). Contrary to the “difficulty” of the dryad who refuses to appear. and not feel this jam up of feeling behind a glass-dam fancy-façade of numb dumb wordage (J 469). By February 1959. Reasserting herself as muse. anchored. The “dummies” of De Chirico’s painting. this poem gives voice to the virgin in a tree. is held back. the Medusan imagery had turned violent: “What inner decision. bald head. the Medusa figure surges up unexpectedly. Plath’s poems from 1962 also make clear that the “black look” she first attributes to the male poet is later transferred. as Plath’s comments for the BBC make clear.” “Mouthless. what is it? “(J 272–3). or lack of it. whom she immediately imagines as “the Poet of England. Written in April 1962. the witches in Macbeth.” these “dismalheaded Godmothers” are actually anti-muses: in them.” This violent fragmentation cannot diminish the power of the Medusa. stuck. with stitched.
female interior. such disorganization!” the persona of the poem exclaims. that kill.” as “blue sparks spill/Splitting like quartz into a million bits. the former position of Plath’s persona in “Full Fathom Five. Written on October 16.WURST acids kiss. always remained firmly “rooted. indeed. ejects him from the poetic universe./is this the elect one. No longer a virile poet.” The centrality of the Medusa in Plath’s later work. Leaving no respite. what a laugh!” In “An Appearance.” “exiled to no good” on the edge of a menacing shore. or been relegated to./ABC./Her blacks cackle and drag” (CPP 272–3). the muse suddenly erupts on a scene of domestic activity.” Finally. and the attempt of the poetI to counter her muse’s petrifying gaze. “My god. “perfected” woman. and her image of herself as poet.” the poem begins.” Nowhere do the disquieting muses feature more prominently or savagely in Plath’s late work as in “Lesbos” (CPP 227–30).” In an extraordinary move. he is now transformed to an “impotent husband” who “slumps out for a coffee:” “He lumps it down the plastic cobbled hill/ Flogged trolley./It petrifies the will. her eyelids say. she took this look instead and made it the subject of her own poetic regard. “Is this the one I am to appear for. “These are the isolate.” “The moon has nothing to be sad about” Plath says.” he has taken up. to center her “venomous” regard squarely on the female poet. and eventually overwhelms the “black” regard of the male poet/lover. He has not only been decentered from the focus of “Man in Black. “The stars are flashing like terrible numerals. The gorgon’s gaze also reflects the final image of what well may be Plath’s final poem. the encounter engenders an on-going and never-ending struggle for self-appropriation as Plath paradoxically fights to keep the muse at bay in an escalating display of violence.12 G. Plath’s “ceremony of words” never patched the havoc of the “black look” to which her writing. The male poetfigure is last glimpsed in “Lesbos” onanistically “hugging his ball and chain” at the margins of the poem.” who “rivets” Plath’s universe together. “Viciousness in the Kitchen!/ The potatoes hiss. as the poet-I sits at her sewing machine. our hair. that kill. two venomous opposites/Our bones. slow faults/ That kill.” The male figure is exiled from “Lesbos” with an electric look which figures as a shower of sparks. Doing so. as the muse looks down at the body of a dead. the smog of hell/Floats our heads. “down by the gate/That opens to the sea/where it drives in. but the “basilisk look of love” of the female muse. it is not the poet of “Man in Black. grows out of. “red material/Issuing from the steel needle that flies so blindingly:” “O heart. this highly ironic return to the source of the lyric figures the speaker locked eye to eye with her deadly other in a surreal female landscape: “The fog of cooking.” Plath writes. she recouped ground lost to the lyric . who rejects the male poet. “She is used to this sort of thing. staring from her “hood of bone” in “Edge. white and black” (CPP 229).” too. This process equally takes place in natural settings like “Elm” and those that portray a domestic. This exile results from the hard look of the Medusa. 1962.//Is this the one for the annunciation? “the muse scornfully thinks as she gazes on the female poet working in the kitchen in “A Birthday Present” (CPP 206–8).
WORDS TO PATCH THE HAVOC 13
by inscribing a self-consciously female subjectivity in the process of defining itself. Just as crucially, she also laid the groundwork for subsequent poets, male and female both, by articulating the cost of poetic conventions that define the feminine as an object of contemplation rather than a speaking subject. That Hughes is both Plath’s target and the inheritor of her achievement, Birthday Letters painfully attests. “Meet[ing]” Plath’s voice “on a page of [her] journal, as never before,” he encounters “the shock of [her] joy” and her “panic/ That prayers might not create the miracle.” (BL 8) Birthday Letters, too, is a “conversation among the ruins,” the address of a poet readying to die to one who has long been dead. Yet the interconnectedness of Hughes’s last volume with Plath’s life and work creates a living dialogue between poetic equals who honed their art against and for each other throughout their entire lives. In the end, it is not Hughes’s interpretation of the facts, but his acknowledgement of Plath’s poetic regard that counts; not his particular “take” on his role in her art or myth, but his tribute, despite the cost to himself, to the focus and power of her “brown iris.”
3 Complicated with Old Ghosts: The Assia Poems
Assia Gutmann Wevill, the “other woman” in the Sylvia Plath/Ted Hughes story, has either been ignored, or treated disparagingly by Plath biographers. The criticism, in fact, tends to minimize the impact that Wevill had on Hughes’s life. What is well documented is that Assia’s suicide in 1969, along with the death of their small daughter, Shura, brought the Crow poems to a halt. The Crow sequence, published in 1970, was dedicated to the memory of Assia and Shura. And then relative silence, or so it seemed, until the publication of New Selected Poems 1957–1994 (1995), which included eight poems about Assia in the Uncollected section of the volume. What is generally not well known, however, is that an earlier location of the Assia poems is Capriccio, a twenty-poem sequence, published in a limited edition of 50 copies in the spring of 1990. Any detailed analysis of Ted Hughes’s poetic canon should certainly include the Assia poems. Capriccio, in particular, is a significant, well realized narrative sequence in its own right. Capriccio also provides additional perspective on “Dreamers” in Birthday Letters, which refers explicitly to Assia, and indirectly on the overall tenor of the sequence. In this article, I will attempt to map the field of the published poems addressed to or about Assia, and provide some commentary on the sequence. First, a caveat: my analysis, to some extent, is preliminary. I have not seen the Hughes archive at Emory University, and therefore do not know whether there are other “Assia” poems among the manuscripts. What I will be talking about here are only those poems that Hughes actually chose to publish about Assia. Second, there are definite links between Capriccio, Birthday Letters, and Howls & Whispers, a limited edition of “Plath” poems, published around the same time as Birthday Letters, which are suggested briefly at the conclusion of this essay. Some brief biographical facts about Assia are necessary for understanding of the poems. She was born in Berlin in 1927. Her father, Dr. Lonya Gutmann, was a Russian Jew, and her mother was a German Protestant. Much of her childhood in Berlin was lived under Nazi threat, and the family fled to Tel Aviv in the 1930s. Hughes speaks of Assia’s long-standing fears of Nazi persecution in poems such as “The Locket,” also in New Selected Poems, and in “Smell of Burning,” and “The Roof.” She later moved to British Columbia with her first husband, although when Assia met the Hughes, she was married to a Canadian
COMPLICATED WITH OLD GHOSTS 15
poet, David Wevill, working at an advertising agency in London, and writing poetry. All reports note that Assia was quite beautiful, with substantial amounts of black hair, and this is supported by a few of the Assia poems, and by Baskin’s illustrations. In May 1962, the Wevills visited the Hughes in Devon, and sometime after this, Assia’s relationship with Hughes is generally thought to have begun. Hughes and Plath separated in the fall of 1962, and Plath committed suicide in February 1963. Hughes continued to see Assia and their daughter, called Shura, was born in March 1965.1 Assia moved to Devon with Hughes some time in 1966. Yet the relationship was not without problems, and in late 1967, Assia moved back to London, although she continued to see Hughes (Myers, 131–33). The title of this article, “Complicated with Old Ghosts,” is actually a quote from a letter Hughes wrote to Celia Chaikin, Assia’s sister who lives in Canada, reported by Israeli writer, Eilat Negev, who interviewed Hughes in 1996. Negev quotes Hughes as saying “we tried to escape the shadow, live as if we started anew,” but the “shadow” of Plath hung over their relationship—not only Plath’s suicide, but what also, to a large extent, Hughes believed to be Assia’s envy and/or obsession with Plath’s talent and life. Beyond this, I discuss only the relationship (or a relationship) as set out in the published poems. I know little or nothing about Ted Hughes’s relationship with Assia, and conjecture would be unfair. While it is tempting to consider the sequence as biography or even autobiography, I am reading Capriccio as a blend or mosaic of ancient myths, historical and contemporary events, some actual facts of the relationship—and, more to the point, as a fully realized poetic sequence. As mentioned, the earliest published location of the Assia poems—at least as far as I am aware—was the Capriccio sequence. The volume comprises twenty poems by Hughes, and twenty-five etchings, woodcuts, and wood engravings in various colors by Leonard Baskin, Hughes’s long-time collaborator. A separate broadside for Capriccio announces publication of twenty new poems by Ted Hughes. Whether “new” means “unpublished” is somewhat ambiguous since the individual poems are undated, and could have been written sometime earlier than 1990. The broadside also assures readers (or, more likely, potential collectors) that “The poems will not be reprinted in the poet’s lifetime.” Whether this was a comment inserted by the publisher, or whether Hughes changed his mind quickly is also an open question. In any case, individual poems from the sequence were published in various periods from 1992–1995, and Hughes read a few of these poems in a radio broadcast.2 The eight poems that Hughes placed immediately
1. I am grateful to Ann Skea for verifying the correct date of Shura’s birth. Skea reports that the birth certificate in the Family Records Office in London states that Alexandra Tatiana Eloise (later called Shura) was born on March 3, 1965 at Charing Cross Hospital. Shura’s mother was listed as Assia Wevill (formerly Gutmann) of Camden, and father, Edward James Hughes, of Court Green, Devon. Shura’s birth was registered April 6, 1965, Westminster Registration District.
” “The Locket. Overall.” “Snow.” was published in the Poetry Book Anthology in the fall of 1990. as well as horror. the contingency of events. Ted Hughes: A Bibliography. Without even reading the sequence. meaning horror or shudder. Hughes made minimal changes to the poems published initially in Capriccio. but the overall mood of the sequence is finality. lively.” and “The Error.16 C. Capriccio. and the accompanying broadside illustrations is raccappriccio. The individual poems have an almost lapidarian effect. since the outcome is 2. the capricious acts of the gods—hence. The opening poem. “Capriccios. the eight poems in New Selected Poems were the same poems that had been published either individually or in various combinations during the 1992–1995 period. which is derived from the Latin caper. and published later in other venues. a whim. the capriccio of the title suggests unmotivated acts.” another Capriccio poem also published outside of its original location. from Italian. Hughes read four of the poems that appeared in New Selected Poems— “Descent. see Sagar and Tabor. misshapen. On the surface the title of the sequence. free-form instrumental work. This suggests that Hughes believed that these poems were either representative of.” (“The Other” in New Selected Poems). denoting an improvisational. with hands that appear to be claws poised over the frame of the picture at shoulder level represents the general thematic environment of the full sequence. Other accompanying illustrations. a human head (perhaps female) with hair standing on end. and a face of a woman (or possibly an animal) encased in a shroud suggest that the archaic Italian definition of capriccio. The illustration on the title page. or goat (one of the illustrations). a figure with sprouting hair.” “Shibboleth. several skull-like animal heads. Here. . At the same time.BERE following the Plath poems (later published in Birthday Letters) in the Uncollected section of New Selected Poems. and announces the “chronicle of a death foretold.” suggests that life is subject to chance.” “Folktale. and some autobiographical elements. and included “The Other. Capriccio is structured on a relatively loose narrative framework. “Capriccios.” establishes the narrative line. “Folktale. was the largest grouping of Capriccio poems published collectively outside of the original publication. twisted figures of birds. on April 9.” “Opus 131. history. perhaps even closer derivation that supports both the narrative story line. or conveyed the “Assia” story most effectively. however. joyful.” denoting horror. A related. Baskin’s haunting illustrations would suggest otherwise. is closer to the story set out in the narrative sequence. The most obvious reference is to a musical term. or “head with hair standing on end. the opening poem. and these interpretations are borne out in the structure of the sequence. biography.” “Laws of the Game. is somewhat misleading. the derivation is capra.” “Descent. an interplay of myth. rather threatening.” or deaths. blackbeaked animals. which include dark. “Flame. 1992.” With the exception of “Flame.” and “Opus 131” on the Poet of the Month broadcast on Radio 3. without purpose in any religious or mythical sense. At least four of the poems that appeared in New Selected Poems were also published individually during 1992–1995. sheer dumb luck.
Biblical as well as Christian symbolism. More important. “The Mythographers. but in “Capriccios. March 26. and with little control over death. and at the same time. however.3 Without exploring Hughes’s later sense that he was caught between Plath and her father. Briefly. addresses Assia directly.” a direct reference to the death and burial of Balder. a friend of Hughes and Plath. In an earlier Germanic myth. the protector of married love.” and destined to fail. 1956: “Arrived in Paris early Saturday evening exhausted from sleepless holocaust night with Ted in London. unmotivated events of life. Over this fractious universe. and nail in the opening few stanzas. according to the myth. She neglects the mistletoe. Understanding of the individual poems—or the sequence as a whole—flows directly from “Capriccios. sponge. she has given her name to Friday. establishes her individual mythology. Lucas Myers. the son of Frigga and Odin. Frigga extracted a pledge from all living things.” Thus.” it is also the instrument of death. and commonly held superstitions or beliefs. often associated with fertility or childbearing. Friday the thirteenth.” sets up the players in the tableau. Nowhere is this more clear than in Hughes’s mention of “Loki’s gift. I would only suggest here that the connections are implicit in “Capriccios. and metals. and their lovemaking before she left for Paris on Friday the thirteenth. Frigga’s nature is somewhat ambivalent: she gives fruitfulness. Mistletoe is generally considered to be a life-giving or divine essence. and related mythological and biographical facts.COMPLICATED WITH OLD GHOSTS 17 never in doubt. Balder has premonitions that his life might be in jeopardy.” The world of “Capriccios” is one in which human beings are relatively helpless. and referred to in the poem. In excerpts from the unabridged journals published in The New Yorker. 2000. . and to protect him.” and “The Mythographers. chaotic world of the gods and the universe.” (Collected Poems 783–6) “Capriccios” appears initially to be a pastiche of Norse myths. the organizing myth of Capriccio.” and “ship of tinder. References to the personal level are also implied but unstated: In “18 Rugby Street. water. in the guise of trickster. Plath writes on Monday. the wife of Odin. the drunken gods. and took her to see Hughes at 18 Rugby Street. With the references to Adam. the 3. directs the blind god Hother to throw at Balder. also rules over the province of the dead. Good Friday. killing him instantly. Loki has created death. a London pub on March 23. Hughes recalls Plath’s visit.” “spermy mistletoe. presides Frigga. Hughes creates a cosmic portrait of the disordered. “the god with the smoking gun. fire. “The Locket. the date of her visit would have been March 23. her father’s birthday. for example. in other words. while the third poem. which Loki.” the second poem in the sequence. (109). subject to the seemingly erratic. and the bloodied halo. brought about by Loki. corroborates this date in his recent memoir (see Myers 43) Myers notes that he met Plath at The Lamb.” in Birthday Letters. March 27. Myers also notes that Plath returned from Europe on April 13. Friday is Frigga’s day. I appreciate Keith Sagar’s comment that Hughes was mistaken about the date of Plath’s visit (April 13 in “18 Rugby Street”) before she left for Paris during spring vacation from Cambridge. brother of Odin.
” Lilith is a major figure in Jewish demonology. chance. The poem then shifts to the early stages of the transformative process. a poem in which Hughes essentially attempts to explain to Plath. Beginning in the sixth stanza. and commentary on the Pentateuch. she . Lilith (and by extension Nehama) has two primary roles: in the first. The name Lilith has been associated with lilah. to the spirit or symptom of rebirth. Briefly. while in other sources.” “Remembering it: will make your palms sweat/The skin lift blistering. which had unsettled us/With your Slavic Asiatic/epicanthic fold/but would become/So perfectly your eyes” (182) And the final lines of “Capriccios. 296–7).” probably birth and death. and the narrative assumes immediacy as it shifts to the personal: “Imagine the bride’s mirror/In the form of a cauldron/Of the soul’s rebirth. Na’ama operates in company with Lilith. to help us bridge or reconcile our inner and outer worlds—ideally. as well as inspiration and magic. the cauldron is a vessel of life. and in some legends. “A German/Russian Israeli with the gaze of a demon. “Capriccios” establishes the cosmic terrain while “The Mythographers” sets out the mythological architecture that governs the sequence. and is occasionally defined as the mother of demons. and wings (which supports some of Baskin’s illustrations for Capriccio). although earlier roots of the legend can be traced to Babylonian and Sumerian demonology. In the Zohar. Hughes’s imagination was intensely mythic. with the face of a woman. the teachings of Jewish mysticism—which Hughes had studied—and in the Zohar. myth and actual events merge as Hughes refers to “Frigga’s two-faced gift. that he was helpless.” Associated with the female mana figure. The overarching myth of Capriccio. to recover some sense of the numinous. Yet caprice. who “sank without a cry. here defined in specific references: to Sylvia Plath “who forgot death. and he believed that myths had the power to us move us into greater areas of perception.” which is essentially a fold of skin in the upper eyelid that tends to cover the inner corner of the eye. the Jewish word for night.” and to Shura.18 C.” The mention of the “epicanthic fold lifted in the bride’s mirror. the transformative nature of the cauldron moves through various stages: through dissolution and death. she appears as a female demon flying around the worlds at night. connects directly to “Life After Death” in Birthday Letters. is that of Lilith and Na’ama. where Hughes describes: “Your son’s eyes. often interpreted as fate (Neumann. long hair. and rebirth. which leads to vision and word. As noted in The Great Mother. lack of motivation are the cause of fragmented myth.” to Assia. “who forgot life.BERE dominant theme of the sequence. perhaps unwittingly seduced by Assia. similar to the way in which the deaths of Assia and Shura cut short the projected transforming myth of Crow. In the Zohar. death. both your lifeline’s bleed” reinforce the sense of horror that is at the heart of the sequence. as well as in other sources. the holiest book of the Kabbalah. She is also an influential figure in the Kabbalah. she is occasionally replaced by Na’ama (Nehama in “The Mythographers”). This myth is key to understanding the events—or at least the interpretation of the relationship and actual events set forth in the sequence—and explains the placement and thematic link to “The Dreamers” in Birthday Letters.
captured here in a somewhat hallucinatory image. the “screech owl. she turns on her own. no suggestion of return.” mentioned in Isaiah 34. the only time that her name appears in the Bible. Russia. and in the second. Clearly. their relationship and her death. “Out Lilith. in others. Israel. when she finds no children. Said the Mythographers:/Let there be Lilith. With the exception of “Flame. claiming that her mission was to steal the souls of infants. ultimately her child: “As your own hand.” The poem shifts from the personal to the mythic level with the reference to Inanna. there is no resolution. (here I refer to the first few lines of “The Mythographers. the speaker addresses Assia.14.” the fourth poem in the sequence. Lilith flew out of the Garden of Eden. chronology is kept to a minimum4 Although the poems. the “you” of the poems. where Hughes and Assia talked of moving—and may have visited some time before her death. Inanna has access to the mysteries of death and rebirth.”) “When God had created Man and Woman/He gave them to the Mythographers for testing. this has not occurred in “The Mythographers. and Holocaust-related—and. British Columbia. in “Descent. She refused to be dominated in any aspect. tribal. God created Lilith as a companion for Adam. in general. for the most part. who “has to lie naked” in the underworld. except as a book. The myths of Capriccio. is essentially a passive respondent. directly./ Took your daughter from/you. which speaks of actual places in the north of England.COMPLICATED WITH OLD GHOSTS 19 is the incarnation of lust.” The phrase “owlish from her hole in the window. “between strata/That can never be opened. she must first understand and accept her neglected dark side before she can reemerge as the goddess who rules over sky. the reference is to SS symbols]. describes the death of Nehama and the child. at a more measured distance.” as the narrator. are those of woman as seducer and destroyer—perhaps the dark side of the Great Mother archetype. or teller of the tale. Occasionally. According to the legend. and the words.” The story of Inanna follows the pattern of the archetypal moon goddess. At this stage of the sequence. unflinching terms. and in raw. Lilith and Adam fought endlessly. Agency is female-centered. no completed shamanic flight and return. but according to some versions of the myth. and the underground. stronger than your choked outcry.” that she will refrain from harming infants. and the speaker or narrator—in some poems an indeterminate voice. refused the three angels that Adam sent to bring her back. her Jewish ancestry— actual. the process of shedding the self begins with direct references to Assia stripping off Germany (with “the crisp shirt of crossed lightnings” [here. the first-person speaker. particularly in her lovemaking. conflates and extends the myth in the concluding section of the poem. There is no hero descending into the underworld to rescue the woman. It is only when confronted with an amulet containing the names of three angels. talking of her individual history.” perhaps. are not grouped in an explicit . the seducer of men. With her descent into the underworld. In the earliest version of the legend. earth. she attempts to strangle newborn babies.” refers to Lilith. the Sumerian queen of heaven and earth. From this point on in the sequence. Rather.
whereas the disintegration of the relationship in “Folktale” suggests fragmented. “Folktale” is the horrific dark side of the optimistic vision of joyous union described by Hughes in “Bride and groom lie hidden for three days” in Cave Birds. tone. to varying degrees. concrete place names in the north. but with infinite care/They bring each other to perfection” (CB 56). to some sense of wholeness. is profiled (in somewhat contemporary reworkings of the Lilith myth) in “The Pit and the Stones” and “The Coat” where the narrator claims: “Nobody/Can deter what saunters/ Up the ferny path between/The cool. culminating in vision of ideal love: “So gasping with joy.” and “Familiar. it is still possible to assume that within the context of the poem. well-ironed sheets. is suggested in the brief concluding poem. “Who gives most. Allusions to the Duke’s powerful set speech in Measure for Measure (Act III. even if the chronology is not exact. him or her?” (Faas 144). and the more specific mention of lines such as “You did not know how history had already/Cast you to repeat yourself. Before abandoning the Crow project. There is also a degree of ambiguity regarding the narrative voice in “Flame. or at least protection. Both “Folktale” and “Bride and Groom” are structured on notions of reciprocity. questionable motives. the achievement of union. through the transformative power of mutual giving.” one of the more graphic representations of the potentially harsh.5 In some aspects. shadows.” And in “Folktale. .” and it may be that the addressee is not Assia. has been short-circuited. destructive capabilities of human beings. Without knowing the concrete facts.” which probably refer to the death of Plath and now Assia. but while the couple in “Folktale” are propelled by sheer self interest (“He wanted…. and perhaps unresolved feelings of guilt about the death of Sylvia Plath.” address what appeared to be Assia’s obsession. but the path to reintegration. poems such as “The Locket. Scene I). rather. Hughes intended that “Bride and groom. “Bride and groom” builds on notions of cooperation and generosity.” and “The Roof. The magnetic force of desire.BERE pattern. Some measure of hope. the somewhat indeterminate “you” may actually be Hughes referring to himself.” and. or what spoor/Smudges the signature of the contract. and absence of generosity.” “Smell of Burning.” would be the concluding poem of the ultimately triumphant story of Crow. and perspective. Capriccio is shot in dark colors. the “you” of “Flame” is nevertheless Hughes. suggest that the speaker is Hughes. sheer envy.” speak of Assia’s entrenched. with cries of wonderment/ Like two gods of mud/Sprawling in the dirt. As noted. “Bride and groom” describes the dissolution of the self. a response to the question of the Ogress. ceaseless fears of Nazi persecution of the Jews. “Snow. “Chlorophyl.” with its interweaving of 4. Hughes and Assia had spoken of moving to the north of England. with its implicit potential for self-destruction. major related motifs are developed through shifts in language. the relationship founders on misunderstanding.20 C. “Rules of the Game” (“The Other” in New Selected Poems) and “The Error. incomplete myth. As mentioned previously.”/ (“She wanted…”).” “Shibboleth. images of death. The mythical framework is in place.
The narrative voice in Birthday Letters. the seductive attractiveness. were published as early as 1980. I am grateful for Leonard Scigac’s comments that the leopard can be associated with Dionysus (cf. along with unsuspected. in some cultures. even added—on prayer for resurrection and immortality. where Dionysius. Capriccio. also seems to refer to Assia. to start life anew with Hughes. the leopard is viewed as a lunar creature. There are 5. “…an enemy without a gun”. indicating a more effeminate aspect. “two sycamores of turquoise” stand at the gate of heaven. the speaker tends to be a passive respondent.7 Of greater concern. in Howls & Whispers is more conversational. the tree situated at the center of events in paradise represents knowledge of life and death. both direct and implied. more accurately. and are associated with Nut. is often depicted riding a leopard. Nevertheless. as noted. but rather the appearance and placement of separate poems in the sequences. At the outset. or. narrative voice suggest some differences among the three sequences. rather than an achieved reality.” may also refer to the Lilith myth that underpins Capriccio. the goddess of heaven. sacred to Dionysus. to some extent.”) or in Macedonian art. and. In “The Pan. the recurrent or structuring image of “Chlorophyl. and could have several connotations. which were later included in Birthday Letters. and coffin goddess who shelters or encloses the dead. and Howls & Whispers can also be viewed as fragments of one long sequence. some preliminary comments are useful at this stage. where. the Egyptian tree of life.” which could indicate her desire to erase the past. narrative progression. A detailed reading across the three sequences would suggest many relationships. There are several references to Assia. although interrelated. Robert Graves’s The White Goddess. is not the date of composition of the individual poems. some clear differences. hidden danger of the woman with “leopard-claw ear-rings. and “…the hillstream’s tabula rasa. and. Yet within the full context of Capriccio. The “leopard Ein Gedi” (between Jerusalem and Masada on the shores of the Dead Sea). Several of the poems. sequences that speak to each other across separate frames. Composition dates for many of the poems are unknown. . are generally inconclusive. more important. more intimate than the voice of Capriccio. of the god. In The Book of the Dead. emotional perspective.” (Birthday Letters). and provide more extensive analysis than can be encompassed in the scope of this article. which could relate to the myth established in Capriccio. as separate. the shifts in tone.6 and Hughes mentioned writing many of what we assume to be Birthday Letters poems (and possibly poems included in Howls & Whispers) around 1995. Some of the more obvious guides to interpretation such as publication dates of the sequences while suggestive. While the leopard is often associated with hunting and ruthless force. in “Folktale” such as “She wanted…escape without a passport”.COMPLICATED WITH OLD GHOSTS 21 imagery of the descent of the departed mother and daughter with the sycamore. half-lion.” “the keys/Of a sycamore” —possibly the fruits or seeds of regeneration—and the accompanying illustration of the phoenix appear to be more of an implied. where the panther is referred to as “a mythical beast half-leopard. Birthday Letters. And in the cabala. however.
htm> In a conversation with Skea in 1995. As I have suggested elsewhere. again suggesting the unpredictable. although implicit role.8 Similarly. and “The Offers” in The Sunday Times. Book section. and publish a couple of the poems separately in 1997 and 1998. October 26. and the same poem. but rather of understanding the complex. 1980. “You Hated Spain” was first published in Ploughshares 6:82–87. while the mythical framework of Capriccio helps to explain the relationship. the use of myth also tends to distance or inhibit emotional response. and. Hughes has deliberately created a circular pattern among the sequences. the impossibility of fulfillment of transforming or completed myth. . The poems immediately follow the seven Plath poems (published later in Birthday Letters). as the closing poem of Howls & Whispers (here. and the interplay between myth and actual events provides much of the narrative integrity of the sequence. With the placement of “Capriccios.org. more important. and the placement of individual poems in a sequence also requires aesthetic decisions. The most obvious question is why the poems of Howls & Whispers were considered “strays.zeta. with a few variances. Moulin 2000 240). Finally. in the placement and ordering of the eight Assia poems from Capriccio in New Selected Poems 1957–1994. Ted Hughes: A Bibliography. October 18. however.” why Hughes chose to publish these eleven poems in a limited edition. and “The Earthenware Head” was published in The London Review of Books. Should have written then. unmotivated nature of events.22 C. and reveal more of Hughes’s painful. 6.” as the opening poem of Capriccio. the decision to publish specific poems is always a carefully considered decision. 2:4 (February 21. see Sagar and Tabor. but couldn’t.BERE also subtle shifts in the narrative voice in a few of the poems of Howls & Whispers such as “The City” and “The Offers. interconnectedness of the various sequences. “The City. Ted Hughes: Timeline.au/~annskea/ timeline. unresolved feelings about Plath’s death than many of poems in Birthday Letters. Myth is relegated to a secondary. 1998.” the poem to Plath’s children. compiled by Ann Skea. while the placement of “The Other” and “The Error” as the bracketing poems in this group reinforces the notion that the inescapable influence or “shadow” of Plath was a major force in Assia’s death. the creative act of writing continues into the design of the sequence. <http://www. Hughes mentioned that he was writing “about 100 poems about things I should have resolved thirty years ago.” which cut closer to the vein. The contiguous placement of the poems does suggest the importance of the interrelationships between the two women (with Hughes as the implied center). because they are grouped together within the Uncollected frame (Bere. and “The Dogs are Eating Your Mother. Reading the poetry of Ted Hughes is not simply a question of reading isolated poems. Int’l edition. 7. 1980). called “Superstitions”).” 8. both the Plath and Assia poems lose their individual franchise. not to include any in Birthday Letters.” was published in The Sunday Times. 1997. and perhaps a way for Hughes to come to terms with the relationship. Essentially.
four centuries later in the Idylls of Theocritus to be associated with shepherds and their pipes. to unpack the metaphor. or any awareness of their responsibility for it. however. are now playing “the reeds of desolation” rather than idealisation. are revealed by Fay Godwin’s photograph to be trees. They are not “listening deeply to the source. and people lived Peacefully off the land. seems unlikely.” from Remains of Elmet. Dying as though subdued by sleep. or rather. king of heaven. fencing. man kept faith with the source. Here is merely emptiness. the idealised literary mode that came. That the sheep’s heads might hold any awareness of the nature of that desolation. 700 BC] Torrance 287) Hesiod’s description of the Golden Age is regarded as the earliest antecedent of pastoral. for fertile fields.4 “Dead Farms. Remote from toil and trouble. actually deforested in the uplands by a Bronze Age culture based upon wood: houses. .” The poem “Open to Huge Light. Brought forth abundant crops. Works and Days [c. and the end of the pastoral as a mode of celebration. with never-failing limbs They danced and feasted.” Startled by something—that flash of emptiness —they turn back to the business of eating. the immortals dwelling on Olympos Fashioned a golden race of human beings Under the reign of Kronos. This poem both celebrates the celestial light to which these two trees are witness before this wind-blown Yorkshire moor. evokes the opposite of Arcadia. business as eating. who. to be located in the literary construct Virgil overlaid on the Peloponnese region of Arcadia. Ovid retold a version of the Greek myth of the Golden Age and Ted Hughes’s version of this pastoral is expressed with ironic contemporary relevance: “Listening deeply. The humans are sheep and the (wind-)shepherds. far from every evil. ignorant Of vile old age. (Hesiod. and four centuries later again. with hearts immune from care. in a twist of the pastoral iconography. All blessings Were theirs. uncultivated. Dead Leaves:” Culture as Nature in Remains of Elmet & Elmet Terry Gifford First. They lived like gods.
/Or of the shipyards. ships (Rackham 35). these features are not unproblematic absolutes. whilst being as natural as eating. they are more importantly ontological (concerned with how to be).24 T. with the notion of référance. than culture is capable of being perceived as nature. It is crucial that the words “conifers. So here are a second (physical) and third (literary) sense in which human culture contributes to the desolation of this actual place. as many of the earlier first-line-titled poems are. 1994 129ff). Hughes’s translation of Ovid’s version of the Golden Age makes the point by continuing: “Then the great conifers/Ruffled at home on the high hills. the poem previously titled by its first line. dangerously) culture. partly as a joke—it was the age of post-structuralism. concerned with how we know). to reveal its location: “Two Trees at Top Withens. whilst avoiding pastoral Golden Age idealisation. to the referential origin of all language” (Sustainable Poetry 38). “Post-pastoral” is a term I coined at the Ted Hughes conference ten years ago (Sagar.GIFFORD heating. “listening deeply kept faith with the source” in a mode which.” (TO 9) In Elmet. Whilst they appear to be epistemological (that is. (III) that human nature is a continuum of outer nature. and BSE reminds us (in England) that we culturally construct nature in material terms as well. (II) that the “source” is a creative-destructive universe. Of course. was not limited by the simple opposition of anti-pastoral.” “axe” and “shipyards” do refer to real things because we have to take responsibility for our past relationships with them in the undeferrable decisions we are actually making all the time in the present. Post-structuralism has left a legacy of an easy capacity to conceive of nature as culturally constructed by language. listed as a recognition (I) that a “listening” awe should lead to humility. Leonard M.” And the second edition’s better print (now duotone) of the photograph reveals the desolation of the broken stone walls at Top Withens. So perhaps nature is more obviously (and. (V) that consciousness produces conscience and a responsibility to define what “keeping faith with the source” should mean. postcolonialism. (VI) that the exploitation of natural resources is not separate from the exploitation of social groups. “Open To Huge Light” is now titled./They had no premonition of the axe/Hurtling towards them on its parabola. postmodernism and post-feminism. Scigaj’s opposition to Derridian différance and the deferral of meaning. is also as self-absorbed and as head-down to its effects. . each requires definition in relation to texts. (IV) that nature is culture and culture is nature. One of the concepts which I have found to be most problematic is the notion of culture as nature. crudely. published after fifteen years as a completely reconstituted second edition of Remains of Elmet. indeed. Indeed. a ruin which is the location of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. I have since refined the concept in the final chapter of my book Pastoral to include six features which can be briefly. But I found that I had to take my own joke seriously because I needed the term to characterise literature that. “Two Trees at Top Withens” is a post-pastoral poem and one which hints that human culture. is a timely intervention to refer “one’s perceptions beyond the printed page to nature.
in the very voice of nature. the opposite of “natural” to a writer like D.Lawrence. Nowhere is this more evident than in Remains of Elmet. in Hughes’s translation.H. (Of course. . Titus Lucretius (99–55 BC). characterised by Hughes’s imagery as part of the creative-destructive cycles of nature. indoor keyboard consumers over sensory interactors with land in David Abram’s terms (268). Peter Coates’ recent survey of Western conceptions of nature traces the separation of culture and nature to the great poet of the generation before Ovid. flourished in eighteenth century Romanticism. DEAD LEAVES 25 But throughout the work of Ted Hughes that which is human culture is characterised in terms that imply that it is. civilisation over nature. the organic to the genetically modified. with an interesting added emphasis in the additions to that project in Elmet. This is both a radical conflation of long-standing separation of first. “still/ Mankind listened deeply/To the harmony of the whole creation. fundamentally. virtual over material.DEAD FARMS. but the industrial revolution. Even when the earlier Age of Brass had “brought a brazen people” in Hughes’s words.” What Lucretius was breaking was a harmony of culture and nature at the heart of Greek poetry. Here the value system is reversed. The subversive form of this dualistic thinking took its starting point in classical pastoral. nature./And aligned/ Every action to the greater order” (TO 10). in the Age of Iron. the instinctive over the rational. imagination over empiricism. Thus began a Manichaean dualism that in its often dominant forms privileged mind over body. with an anti-pastoral emphasis). between the body which is to be celebrated as naturally mortal. Not only are “Dead Farms. rather than nuclear power. Hughes’s Moortown sequence of poems is a contemporary georgic in the tradition of Hesiod. whose poem On The Nature Of Things distinguishes. foregrounding or favouring body over mind. In its dominant forms and its subversive reversals the separation of culture from nature has increased the distance over which our species must “listen deeply/To the harmony of the whole creation. “Earth’s natural plenty no longer sufficed… Precious ores the Creator had concealed/As close to hell as possible/Were dug up —a new drug/ For the criminal (TO 12). And Hesiod’s Work and Days goes beyond the pastoral to offer advice. Ovid echoes Hesiod in describing the decline of human life from the Golden Age through the ages of silver and bronze to the assumed present Age of Iron where. sky burial to the crematorium in poet Graham Mort’s terms (57). in its death throes. “the power of sun and moon” used by Lucretius. on wholesome husbandry that anticipates a strand of “aligned” rural work literature that takes its name from Virgil’s The Georgics. modern goddesses over postmodern cyborgs in Donna Harraway’s terms (181). civilisation and nature. But it need not have been like this—the exploitation of the earth as of people in “criminal” behaviour. and a return to the earliest European sense of the grounding of human culture within nature. and the mind that can be “liberated” to “contemplate the nature of all things” (Torrance 407). nature over the works of man. then industrialism and nature in English culture. is. science over arts. Dead Leaves” in that poem’s title. and then in modern resistances to industrialism and later technology. art and nature.
” The cover photograph shows in its far left corner a hill-top cenotaph.” The difference between the two books and the tone of their introductions. perhaps surprisingly.” is the difference in emphasis between “empty sockets” and “survivors. beginning with the “corpse” of the glacier that shaped the Calder Valley in the title poem which. cenotaphs were necessary. which so often ends with an image of culture as nature. Hughes lists glacier. Before I return to this difference between the two editions.” This might also be seen as the difference between the destructive and creative tensions in nature.” the model example. although they were a part of it. “the railway station/That bled this valley to death” for the First World War. and perhaps the reason for dropping the title and poem “Remains of Elmet. or between. Mills. But the poem ends: “And now—two minutes silence/In the childhood of earth. farms. “Lumb Chimneys. into earth”).” Hughes’s perspective is therefore a long one and his theme is decay. “Lumb Chimneys” reverses metaphors so that we understand nature by human comparison (“And the nettle venoms into place/Like a cynical old woman in the food-queue”) and decaying culture by comparison with natural processes (“Before these chimneys can flower again/They must fall into the only future./Admits tourists/To pick among crumbling. was omitted from the second edition. if only as “everything fell wetly to bits. as the later introduction puts it. mill-towns and their population as responsible for his conclusion: “Now. as “if Nature suddenly should find a voice” (Torrance 406). as nature.” The “cataclysms” that hung over Hughes’s childhood (one of which is still remembered by two minutes silence each November 11th) were merely a brief time in the earth’s evolution. but with a holistic view of “the whole creation. In his introduction to Elmet he adds the First World War and Methodism to the “cataclysms” that contributed to his sense that. the various forms of the human enterprise in this place./A wind-parched ache. In Remains of Elmet Hughes looks around at the remains of the human project in the upper Calder Valley. is again in evidence in the retained and revised poem “First.” After building mills.” .GIFFORD Torrance reminds us that “There could be no “nature poetry” in classical Greece. This technique for the conflation of culture and nature. “gradually it dawned on you that you were living among the survivors. for the natural world could never be conceived apart from the human” (275).26 T. I want to demonstrate the poetic devices by which Hughes characterises culture. growing up in this place. Nature is “requisitioned” (changed from the less specifically military “commandeered”) by culture: “Then the hills were requisitioned/For gravemounds. famished and staring. loose molars/And empty sockets” (RE 53). as Lucretius momentarily did. “pressurised stagnation” and “fermenting independence” in the region’s history. has been dropped from the second edition and its telling photograph has been placed beside the important poem “Chinese History of Colden Water” (a symptomatic revision of the first edition’s poem “The Trance of Light”)./An absence. writing. after crown greens for the ancient art of bowls. coil behind coil.
DEAD FARMS, DEAD LEAVES 27
This was, of course, only the stage of the process whereby dead farms, like dead leaves, “cling to the long/Branch of the world” as “the hills went on gently/ Shaking their sieve.” This evolutionary phrase from “When Men Got To The Summit” foregrounds the hills and the process of “sieving” against the failed human habitation of these hills, as even the puritanical force of “the hard, foursquare scriptures fractured.” This sieving metaphor raises two questions which ought to be addressed in considering the notion of culture as nature. First, if it’s easy to observe what falls through the sieve, what remains? What are the positive remains of Elmet? Second, is all that falls through, like all that remains in the hills’ sieve, of equal value? Is there no distinction between dead farms and dead mills in terms of human suffering, for example? Is the television that remains in the homes of Hebden Bridge of equal value to, say, the survivor’s spirit of “outcast and outlaw,” the inheritors of Billy Holt (E 51) who remain in Hebden Bridge? “Nevertheless, for some giddy moments/A television/Blinked from the wolf’s lookout” (RE 56). I will answer the second question first. Clearly some aspects of human culture, although “nature” in the broadest sense of being products of what Gary Snyder calls “the wild mind” (Snyder 168), are more self-destructive, or alienating from external nature, than others. Human culture exterminated the wolf and now humans look at nature programmes about wolves on television in houses sited where the Elmet wolf might have looked out. (The photograph of the television aerial standing alone above a ravine has been omitted from the second edition). But the humans’ and the wolf’s are not the same kinds of looking. Of course, Hughes hints, human culture might so alienate itself from “listening deeply” to the whole creation that it follows the fate of the wolf in Elmet, after “some giddy moments” in the timescale of the creation. (That is, the wolf, and the foxes of Elmet, might have the last laugh). And certainly Remains of Elmet regularly recognises the exploitation of mill-workers, as of nature, in the Calder Valley. “Slavery” is a word used about both stone and people in the poem “Hill-Stone Was Content.” This recognition is also present in the second edition. The Chinese immortal who falls asleep beside Colden Water wakes in terror at the sounds of hammer, looms, clog-irons, biblical texts and gutter water that has resulted from the exploitation of this brook and its valley that seemed to be an idyllic “leafy conch of whispers.” But the answer to the first question—what remains in the sieve—lies in the difference between the two editions. In the first, culture is in natural decay: industrialism, farming, religion, even childhood memories. The new tourism is an empty kind of casual, so far “unheritaged,” accident—“pick[ing] among crumbling, loose molars.” But that image is absent from the second edition, the poem “Remains of Elmet” excised and a new title chosen implying the continuity of place—simply Elmet. Twenty poems of the sixty-two poems were dropped from the first edition and twenty new to the book were inserted into the second edition. (Of the twenty dropped, eighteen had already been dropped for Three Books published a year earlier and six poems dropped for Three Books were
reinstated, or revised, in Elmet, indicating some considered rethinking of the project over a period of time). Of the twenty poems new to the both editions, four came from the Hawk in the Rain, two from Lupercal, and one each from Recklings and Wodwo. (Sagar and Tabor, in their invaluable Bibliography 1946– 1995, miss two poems from those indicated as first published in the second edition: “Familiar” —a different text from that of the same title in the 1990 limited edition Capriccio—and “Slump Sundays”) (105). This endorses Hughes’s view of this project as reported by Fay Godwin, that “this was his definitive collection of Calder Valley poems” (Gammage 107). The revised poem now titled “Chinese History of Colden Water” ends by replacing the earlier version’s sense of a land emptied of any signs of human culture—a land “Heavy with the dream of a people” —with the line “all but the laughter of foxes.” The lightness of this is symptomatic of the difference in tone between the two editions, although the additions to the second edition celebrate more than foxes. All of the previously uncollected poems in Elmet, with the exception of “Telegraph Wires” are family reminiscences. Keith Sagar reports Hughes telling him that the sequencing of poems in the two books was not a matter of significance (The Laughter of Foxes 28). My recent interview with Fay Godwin indicates that her suggestions led their joint process of sequencing the contents (see Appendix below). But the placing of the new family poems towards the end of Elmet cannot be ignored. Their focus is not so much on a lost childhood, as they might have been in the earlier book, but on the celebration of what might be called “the spirit of Billy Holt” (see Sutcliffe, Cockroft and Pease). The last two poems in Elmet are about survival under the shadow of the aftermath of the First World War, whilst “Walt” counterbalances the fact that he survived to make his fortune (1893–1976), with the “skyline tree-fringe” of “all that was left”.1 “Sacrifice” extends the admiration for a family member who survived being the “sacrificed” youngest brother, “born bottom of the heap” (presumably Albert, 1902–1947, the brother of Walt, 1893–1976, and Hughes’s father William Henry, 1894–1981). “His laugh thumped my body,” Hughes writes, celebrating the spirit that also survived the motorcycle accident which he laughs to recall. Together with his father in “Familiar” and his brother in “What’s The First Thing You Think Of?” the fact that these are warmly remembered family members adds a living vitality to Elmet that could not be encompassed by the verdict of the introduction to the first book, “Within the last fifteen years the end has come.” The evidence of the decay of the mills and chapels is still there, but the last sentence of the introduction to the second edition emphasises what is left in the sieve, above the remains that have fallen through: “Gradually, it dawned on you that you were living among the survivors, in the remains.” “The remains” are not now so much what is dead, but what has survived. Of Fay Godwin’s new photographs in the second edition eight contain the presence of people, those survivors, including three photographs of children replacing the one in the first edition. (Fay Godwin suggests that this was not a conscious strategy on her part in the interview below.)
DEAD FARMS, DEAD LEAVES 29
I want to highlight two dimensions to the spirit of survivors behind Elmet, the second edition, that are the subject of recent theoretical elaboration in English cultural geography and social anthropology associated with Lancaster and Manchester universities respectively. In both disciplines there is a recognition of a modern collapse of the categories of culture and nature that might be seen to have both negative and positive consequences. First, a contemporary cultural geography of Elmet would observe that these two books have themselves contributed to, not just the cultural representation, but the cultural reconstruction of nature and the natural in the upper Calder Valley. They must now be seen as, in a small way, contributory to the region’s cultural regeneration and continuing survival. In a radio reading from Remains of Elmet in 1980 Hughes followed his reading of “For Billy Holt” with an introduction to “When Men Got To The Summit,” in which he said: “It has even been rediscovered as a hideout from society. In the mid-sixties Hebden Bridge was declared the hippy capital of the United Kingdom” (BBC Radio 3, 3.10 1980). The inheritors of the “outcast[s] and outlaw[s]” described in the poem “For Billy Holt,” including the hippies of the sixties, have flourished in Hebden Bridge which is now a centre for a thriving alternative culture in which nature has a strong presence in those industrial remains. Significantly Hughes wrote in the introduction to Elmet that the old Methodism had been superseded by “the new age.” “New Age” bookshops leak whale-song into the streets of Hebden Bridge. The Walkley Clog factory, the last in the UK, is also jangling with jewelry and craft shops inside its austere mill building. A recent Channel Four documentary revealed that Todmorden has more psychotherapists in the population than anywhere else in the UK (“Darkest England,” 24.1.2000). Lumb Bank, the creative writing centre established by Hughes a quarter of a century ago, can now be seen as an established part of the Calder Valley tourist industry. The plaque on N° 1 Aspinal St. is not the blue one of English Heritage such as Plath was delighted to find on her final house in London (LH 477), but one erected by the Mytholmroyd Residents’ Association. A writer seeking to be a self-imposed “outcast” from London can find no better alternative than Mytholmroyd, as the Guardian reported recently in the case of novelist Sarah Champion: “No sooner had Champion begun to unpack her lava lamp and flying ducks than she discovered that her new house was the birthplace of Ted Hughes’s (23.10.1999). The Hebden Bridge Times reported on April 2nd 1999 plans to establish a Ted Hughes Heritage Centre in the derelict Mytholmroyd railway station. The canal behind N° 1 Aspinal St, featured in Elmet, has been renovated and reconnected to Lancashire, a symbol of Yorkshire confidence in the regeneration of heritage, as
1. In fact, it was a visit from “Uncle Walt” to Devon that resurrected the Remains of Elmet project in Hughes’s mind as a kind of “episodic biography,” as Hughes outlined to Fay Godwin in a letter of 4th July 1976. This was before the photographs and the place itself took over the project of the first book.
Walt’s binoculars of time and space are shown us through the poem’s binoculars of time and space. mothers. Culture is nature’s way of helping us decipher our relationship with nature.GIFFORD cultural industry replaces the woollen industry and clogs-irons ring for style rather than work. Macnaghten and Urry argue that such distinctions are now harder to make: The innovations of twentieth-century science have rendered the distinction between natural and social time as invalid and lead us yet again to conclude that there is no simple and sustainable distinction between nature and society.” we now value the overlapping of what had been regarded as separate and distinctive. full for Hughes. a nature elaborately entangled and fundamentally bound up with social practices and their characteristic modes of cultural representation” (30). uncles in Elmet are celebrated for their idiosyncrasies). are these merely “some giddy moments” of cultural flourish.” may be empty for Walt. kinship. in a space we might call a valley.” Nature. There are therefore many different times (as indeed there are different spaces) and it is not possible to identify an unambiguous social time separate from natural time. The social anthropologist Marilyn Strathern would find Hughes’s increased emphasis on “natural” family ties in this landscape interesting less as an example of culture as nature than as a case of what she calls “postplurality.30 T. (Macnaghten & Urry 29) So there is both our sense of glacial time and personal memory and “heritage regeneration” in the present. as for the reader. In a sense. The final chapter of her book is titled “Nostalgia from a postplural world. she . So. or a culture surviving by “listening” better? In Contested Natures. Close to the Moors. any study of the Elmet project has to. In “Walt” memory is overlaid on memory in a multilayered construction of nature (“the skyline treefringe”) that is itself a celebration of “kinship. like The Boarding House (“Overlooking the Crags. a crucible of water power. brothers.” the name we give to one experience of culture as nature (“as through binoculars”). They are ineluctably intertwined. a retreat. For Walt. Memory. a corridor and a tourist centre. and “the person was seen as “part” of nature. That “all. namely. But the Hebden Bridge Literary and Philosophical Society at which I heard Hughes read in the early 1970s. in Macnaghten and Urry’s terms. time and place give definition to “the skyline tree-fringe” in the poem and contribute to our understanding of the ways it can be “all that was left” in the poem’s final line.” Her book is called After Nature: English Kinship in the Late Twentieth Century and argues that although comparatively recently diversity of individualism and social groups was to be valued (fathers. as for Hughes. “decipher the implications of what has always been the case. “Natures are in time as they are in place” (167). and both for the reader. Parties Catered for”) were featured in the tourist guide of 1927 (Wilcock 23). in the timescale Hughes deploys in these two books.
. “it is a world. “Kinship was regarded as an area of primordial identity and inevitable relations. Dead fathers. not of intersubjectivity but of interagentivity” (249). Coates concludes that “the greatest threat to nature today” is not pollution in its now highly technical forms from gene manipulation to the computer virus as new life-form. “our listening deeply” to our poet’s evocation of both “the laughter of foxes” (E 42) and the knowing laughter of the human survivors (124). if you will. which had provided a model or analogy for human kinship. while their bodies continue to be firmly anchored in the material relations of the object world—relations that may furnish metaphorical resources for social cognition but that are. Culture is then what we call our evolving “relationships within the continuum of organic life” (250). Strathern would argue. DEAD LEAVES 31 says. language and nature—a world in which human intersubjectivity takes place in a different realm from our sensuous relationship with the non-human. as social beings…are destined to remain permanently suspended in such semantic webs.” This brings us back to the Lucretian separation of mind and body.” But. dead farms. culture could no longer be nature. and indeed will always go on. In his brilliant essay “Life beyond the Edge of Nature?” Ingold argues that if nature is regarded as subject rather than object. is human beings who. and a world that is interactively transforming itself rather than working out some kind of DNA pre-programming. anthropologist Tim Ingold observes. It was at once part of the natural world that regenerated social life and provided a representation of this relationship with them” (198). beyond the edge of nature. When postmodernism showed that nature was culture. “the grounding function” of nature disappeared (195). according to this scenario. dead leaves could all be seen both metaphorically and literally to “cling to the long/Branch of the world. culturally dead farms on the cyborg branch of the world in which there can be no verb “to cling. by the same token. This would debate virtually dead leaves. The result. is no longer a stable contextualising category. but “the postmodernist challenge” —the circular discourse about the instability of the category of “pollution” (184). once that branch was only perceived as metaphor. partitioned off from it… Social life goes on.DEAD FARMS. society floats like a mirage above the road we tread in our material life (238).
55). A poem. where the wind blows without obstruction across the tops of the moors. Is the poetic venture. however commonplace its occasion may be: “A strong wind certainly stirs your mind up. On and off I live in a house on top of a hill in the Pennines. the fundamental adventure of Hughes’s creation. namely. as if it actually could enter your head. a further evidence that the real is. as Lacan observes (55) and as Hughes forcefully suggests when speaking. and here is a poem I once wrote about one of them. and as an “otherness” (still to quote “Egg Head”). the problem explored by “Wind.5 Ted Hughes’s Crying Horizons: “Wind” & the Poetics of Sublimity Christian La Cassagnère Originally published in Ted Hughes’s first book of poems. as Lacan argues. or more generally the symbolic order. as Joanny Moulin has emphasized in his recent book. in the nutshell of its single page. in such conditions. and sometimes on such occasions you get the feeling of having lost your bearings. and that something terrible is about to happen. in “Egg Head” (10)1. that real—whatever we mean by it: this will be my concern in this essay—being at any rate experienced as traumatic. of the “manslaughtering shocks” from the world as it impinges on consciousness. “what the subject is doomed to miss” (39)? Is the poem bound to be the place of a “rencontre manquée” (54) of a missed meeting? Such is precisely. meeting the real: the Tyche theorized by Aristotle in his Physics and reinterpreted by Lacan as “la rencontre du réel” (Lacan 1973. at bottom. and he seemed to regard it as representative of his poetic impulse. has no grasp because it cannot do anything but substitute its autonomous system of signifying forms. But if the poem commends itself as an object of close reading. in 1957.” (33) The composition of “Wind” was thus to Hughes a memorable moment of writing. The poem was thus republished. originating and existing in the order of language—attempts to meet the real in a field that excludes it by nature.” whose true object is not so much a cosmic . almost as if it were the beginning of an earthquake. then. e. cannot but be a self-defeating space in which a subject of language—i. I have experienced some gales in that house. The Hawk in the Rain. in the chapter entitled “Wind and Weather.” to illustrate the idea that creative writing originates within the creator’s self in the intensity of a genuine experience. “Wind” was ten years later one of the few compositions of his that the poet singled out to exemplify his discussion of the creative experience in Poetry in the Making. it is chiefly because it brings into play. as an alterity on which language.
within this construction. I would thus like to suggest in a reading of “Wind” how the poem reexplores in its own way the problematics of sublimity.” to borrow Dylan Thomas’ phrase. 1957–1994 (NSP). “This house has been far out at sea all night. I would suggest. after Yeats and in the very field of modernity. in other words a sheer “energy” in the Blakian sense. that reactivates somehow a question that was at the heart of the concept of sublimity as it was understood in (pre)romantic art and theories of art. Except when otherwise stated. 2nd. straight away established in the opening line. whose boundaries are marked out by the terminal rhymes. the self-portrait of Yeats in the writing act: 1. however insistently it maintains itself (almost) until the last. the presence of rupture. of Milton’s negative description of Death in Paradise Lost as a paradigmatic instance of the sublime. each stanza being moreover selfbounded by a network of phonic repetitions—consonances and assonances— occurring at the end of all lines (with the only exception of lines 2 and 3) and thus shaping the stanza into a quatrain with enveloping rhymes (in the 1st. in literature. repeat basically the same five stressed pattern. references to Ted Hughes’s poetry are to the New Selected Poems. two features that seem conflicting and which I would like to use as keys to two alternative readings: the poem’s strongly formalized construction. that has as its object a shapeless force—“woods crashing… Winds stampeding… Floundering” —has no doubt its deeper logic. . The first feature may seem paradoxical in that while having “wind” as its referent. as a poetics of the unutterable: let us remember Burke’s praise. and yet. namely as an aesthetics of the impossible and. That seeming paradox of the “watertight compartment of words. And within the stanza the lines. 4th and 5th stanzas) or alternating rhymes (in the 3rd and 6th).TED HUGHES’S CRYING HORIZONS 33 phenomenon as the status of language: the highly problematic capacity of the poetic signifier to register the “manslaughtering shocks” of the real without abolishing itself as language. and so how. so a set verse design. Ted Hughes does appear to us.” a decasyllable in which the ear definitely identifies an iambic pentameter loaded with spondaic modulations. An issue. in this particular light. the poem presents itself—visually in its layout as well as auditively—as a firm metrical construct. Beyond the horizon of language My reading will be grounded on the observation of two structural features of the text. refusing all form that would “contain” it. a logic whose best formulation might be found in the poem of another poet. as one of the last romantics. how it struggles to articulate it anew. in his Enquiry (55). with its clear division into six four-line groups that repeat the same stanza design. of discontinuity which tends to deconstruct the pattern.
LA CASSAGNERE …the elemental creatures go About my table to and fro That hurry from unmeasured mind To rant and rage in flood and wind. the poem projects a topography in the Freudian sense. so the ritual journey in which the shaman (to quote Hughes in his 1970 interview about Crow) “goes to the spirit-world…to get something badly needed” (Faas. in terms of artistic creation.” In its basic opposition between two places. self-protected ego that “entertain[s] book. like the narrative of a mythical journey. in his major essay on Coleridge. In other words in “Wind. is the necessity of controlling form to cope with the real.” a locus immediately connected in the opening phrase with the subject of enunciation through the deictic “this. the course of the poet set upon “opening negociations with whatever happen[s] to be out there” (201). the meditating. The journey thus appears as a decentering movement of the subject from an ego. it is . an initiatory journey which is doubly inscribed: first in the opening line which establishes the isotopy of the night sea-voyage. e.” will not venture into the text until line 9.9) and finally to the “Now” of line 18 which introduces an epiphanic present.” the poem next to “Wind” in the New selected Poems (13). 57) What Yeats is stressing. initially experienced as central.34 C. The poem thus sounds. a major and wellknown reference of Hughes in his analytical writings. on the whole. Yet he who treads in measured ways May surely barter gaze for gaze (Yeats. thought” and social conversation (l. between “house” and “horizon” —the two alliterating words at the two ends of the signifying chain—.” appears as a metonymic image of the “I. then throughout the poem in its narrative dimension which is underpinned by a sequence of temporal terms. to another “far out” locus. As such.1) to “Till day” (1. “far out at sea. self-transparent. “I. here within and far out. stages the irruption of the goat’s “devil head” in the close-knit safety net of the terza rima. as “the wall of intellectual ego” (WP 420).5) to “At noon” (1. in this metapoetic passage which is fully relevant. so that the poem’s trajectory defines itself as a search for that “ex-centricity” Lacan speaks about in his comment on Freud’s basic discovery. so as the stanza design has been twice established—from being engulfed by whatever “raging” forces he is confronted with: much in the same way as in “Meeting. from “all night” (1.20– 21). The limits which the poetic signifier keeps on inscribing within itself in “Wind” are the securities that protect the subject—whose representative. in other words a psychical space where “house. namely that “the subject does not coincide with its intellect. “Wind” inevitably tends to read like a variation on the “shamanic flight” pattern. that aspect of the psyche which Hughes designates.” i. 206) or. I think.” the poem’s coded and regulated dis-course is Hughes’s speaker’s way of “treading in measured ways” as he ventures into the fleld of an impossible real. to Hughes’s poem.
the signifiers of the ego appear in a different place in the line space: successively in the positions of syllable 2. which makes it metrically “unsayable” —to use a term Hughes took up from a review qualifying another final line of his. 3. it may be. a tone. In the poem’s space.20–21). into psychosomatic participation in the uncanniness. the “I” (or its equivalent) is never given any stable stance from which to speak. and then you hear the whole desolate. coming “from the awkward gullets of beasts/That will not chill into syntax “(G.” “we” (its extension in the order of speech) and “house” (its metonymic stand-in).” “thought” and discourse (1. that however incommunicable the otherness may be. an ellipsis of the grammatical subject: “We watch the fire blazing.TED HUGHES’S CRYING HORIZONS 35 not on the same axis. 176)—an animal language manifesting. we hear it… Some animals and birds express this being pure and without effort. that of an unthinkable sound: the stones’ cry whose utter strangeness is registered in the uncanny rhythm of the final line behind which now we can no longer recognize any ghost of a known metre. a truth under all truths. And we may think. I is an Other.” The elliptic process should be read literally. therefore. It hardly survives. of Hughes’s own observation. which allows the emergence of the Other. 6. That is the meaning of Je est un autre (Lacan 1978 17). as it were in a filmic effect. 9 and 5./Seeing the window tremble to come in. a ritual where the ego (as alienating centre) has to be displaced in all the forms that represent it in the signifying field. e. for whenever they occur. an unsayableness moreover that captures us. i. 10. above all. 119) and irrupting at the poem’s end in the “cry:” so a sheer vocal occurrence arising straight from the body. At the end of the shamanic journey there is thus no vision but a hearing./Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons. the fixed limits of metre are made to serve the decentering process. in its immediacy. namely as a fading of the subject as ego—as existing in “book. i. There we really do recognize a spirit. “here and there. a “sea of ink. in his later comment on the Orghast experiment. of the subject as a subject of desire. the “I” discovers itself as Other: such seems to be the ritual at work in the poem. And here.” if it may borrow George Herbert’s metaphor—until it completely submerges in the final stanza through the syntactic ritual that superposes four parallel clauses whose sequence performs. free of the mediation and the interdicts of the linguistic law—like those “cries” Hughes will evoke in Gaudete. e. existing “a long way from the world of words” (PM. but sit on. that of “The Horses” (WP 320)—. We may think at this point of Lacan’s observation that “the ears are in the field of the unconscious the only opening that cannot be stopped” (Lacan 1973 178)./ And feel the roots of the house move. Far beyond human words. the naked truth of desire. as an aphanisis in the Lacanian sense (Lacan 1973 197–210). adrift like a wreckage tossed in a verbal sea—the poem itself being that sea. And the startling . in other words in the symbolic order—. it is ex-centric… Let us stick to this topographic metaphor: the subject is decentered from the individual. ironically. final actuality of existence in a voice. in the reading performance it imposes on us. “I.
the skyline a grimace. where the poem breaks open into the cry that rises from beyond the frontier of the symbolic order. six out of the remaining sentences (from “then under an orange sky” in line 5) begin within a stanza and most often even within a line. Within the poem’s horizon And yet such reading would leave out. so that the major syntactic pauses which precede them make rifts in the metrical texture. or in “The Horses” (8) as well—at the poem’s end and which are always described as places of vision and chiefly of hearing. as well as being the utterly beautiful thing” (WP 124–5). for reading the text. where “I” dies into “cry”.” those “skylines” which often appear—especially in The Hawk in the Rain. and to begin. . if it happens. and into the silence that rushes in through the cry. is the horizon of Hughes’s poetic myth: those “horizons.” or again in “The Jaguar” (5)./The fields quivering./At any second to bang and vanish with a flap” (ll.” (l. a silence where the meeting may take place at long last. and this. while stressing as well (in “far beyond human words”) the transgression inherent in the access to sublimity. thus happens on the extreme edge of enunciation. at an unpredictable place. since it involves breaking through the boundaries of the Law to which the speaking subject is normally submitted. as here in “Wind. its specific intricacy of terror and pleasure (the Burkean oxymoron of the “delightful horror” (Burke 67) being rearticulated in Hughes’s “terrible beautiful”). It is for some reason harrowing. we are made to put silences within its body. Now deep. owing to the second formal feature I mentioned at the beginning and I would now like to discuss: the ruptures. images at the poem’s centre which are not so much descriptions of a landscape as self-metaphors of the poem in its sublimity. which makes an utterance speakable: a transgression which the poem inscribes within itself in the violent images of dangerous overstrain ready to blow up limits: “The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope. a mise en abyme of the exploding poem. as if the poem’s ultimate object was to draw us into listening to something which is not in the poem. a vital aspect of our experience of the poem. the erratic syntactic breaks that interrupt the flow of the metrical sequences (stanza or line) and thus impose a silence where a signifier was expected. Leaving aside the starting point of the initial utterance in the opening line (where syntax and metre necessarily coincide). the ethical as well as the linguistic Law. I think.36 C. emphasizing as he does the violence and brevity characteristic of the “sublime” experience (“here and there. That frontier where the poetic voice ventures at the risk of its death. into hearing the silence beyond the text. for instance: “That any second would shatter it.LA CASSAGNERE quality of this “truth” is that it is terrible. This observation might be read as a gloss to the unthinkable final line of the poem. 12–14). it may be”). The sublime moment. And it should be realized at the same time that between the two texts—the observation and the poem—Hughes is actually offering his reinterpretation of sublimity (although he does not introduce the term).
between the utterances. in other words. I am now referring to the startling metrical and typographical break that occurs at the end of line 15. in the insistent . no doubt. beyond the semantic function of the linguistic signs of which they are parts. a pause. for instance “woods crashing through darkness…/ Winds stampeding the fields under the window/Floundering black astride” (l. their “daemonic character” (107). or more exactly outside in. are thus spots of muteness and thereby potential cry-like sounds that haunt the muteness and introduce somehow in the linguistic construction what Hughes has called in Poetry in the Making “something of the inaudible music that moves us along in our bodies” (124). “Winds stampeding the fields under the window” which is framed in between two occurrences of the same signifier (“wind. 2– 4). Woven into the poetic utterance. may be no longer than the pulse of an artery.” i. 15–16): phonemes that. as Freud has observed. letters. the silent life of drives: as in the third line of the poem. Could we go any further in the analysis of the reality of desire and of the traces it imprints in the poem? A clue may be found. The “horizon. a rest. We watch the fire blazing” (l. between the signs. irreducible to the verbal construction and occurring in the initial stanza like an early emergence of the crying “stones” in the final utterance (l. which is after all the reality of drive life and of unconscious desire.TED HUGHES’S CRYING HORIZONS 37 17) “Or each other.” leaving “prints.” at least in a really poetic or “musical” reading. delimits the poem as a self-bounded space. The real therefore. “The Wind flung a magpie away and a black-/Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly”: between “black” and “Back.21). pointing no longer to the frontier of the linguistic code leaving out an impossible real. and even once at the heart of the sign. The semantics of the “horizon. like the snow-covered clearing of “The Thought Fox” (3). especially the obsessive /d/ and /b/ alliterations and consonances.” in other words. we may now say.” in this second reading. but prolonged in an extra syllable by the /ou/ of “window.” as well. is no longer (or at least not only) beyond the signs: it works in the signs and in sublime gaps between the signs. and “a black-/Back gull bent like an iron bar” (l. which are traces of an unspeakable real. make up as letters in their materiality something of a pulsation and manifest in their recurrence that “compulsion to repeat” which is characteristic of the world of drives and which gives them. There are thus in the signifying chain interstices where a palpable silence makes itself heard. e. it is present and active in enunciation. but in which the syntagm cleaves itself into a chasm of silence. And something from “beyond human words. 24) where the erratic /ou/ has now crept into the stressed monosyllable at the core of the line. steals in in the insistence of certain phonemes throughout the poem.” a cry-like diphtong in excess (of the line frame) and foreign as well to the rhyme scheme which controls the poem at large (it is the only exception I pointed out before): a sheer sound. but rather to the boundary of the text within which something of the real can speak.” 1st and 10th syllables of the decasyllable: still the insistence on the signifying limits). “this blank page where my fingers move. therefore. is thus turned inside out.
the wind “that dented the balls of my eyes” (l. in the poem’s verbal world. more particularly in the analysis “Of the gaze as object a” (Lacan 1973 65–109) where the scopophilic drive is shown to generate fantasies characterized by such reversibility.” and “window. the trangressive inscription. the fantasy that writes itself out in the poem.” the hole made in the wall for the wind to look in: the eye of the other which takes me as its object. the desire to be the object of the other’s desire.” whose elided grammatical subject is “I” or “we. 10) and the “mad eye” (l. It takes place in the poem. of an unspeakable enjoyment (“jouissance”).” Being under the desiring gaze of the Thing. The sublime. e. Is the journey’s end. within the horizon of its verbal space. calling her for instance the “Mother of animals and food” (WP 414). and which is in itself anyway a reference to a place of origin. 4). but adopting as well the object’s position and thus becoming the object of the other’s desire: “Seeing the [wind’s eye] tremble [out of desire] to come in.LA CASSAGNERE theme of the gaze. roots” of the embryonic Wodwo (88) still below the condition of language. a vacillation repeated within the space of the penultimate line between “Seeing. And the image of the “roots” in the final stanza (l. Ted Hughes’s poetry revives a question that was central to the romantic poetics. in the intensity with which it is invested—which gives it the character of the Freudian Schaulust (scopophilia) —and chiefly in the reversibility it goes through in the poem’s unfolding and which makes it vacillate between subject and object. What is remarkable. between an “I gaze at the Thing” and “the Thing gazes at me”: a vacillation between “Once I looked up” (l. the subject actively gazing at the object of desire. in other words the mother still unconnected with the name-of-the-father. in its intense nonsense. the locus where the “I” can hear the voice of the other’s desire. which may prefigure the “roots. is that by offering those two alternatives to read its concept of sublimity. the “Blade-light “wielded by the wind (l. This scheme of oscillating positions between looking and being looked at might be read in the light of the Lacanian studies of the gaze. or again (borrowing the phrase from Coleridge) the “nameless female. imaginarily “devouring” and incorporating it. 8) that (implicitly) looks at me.” which is etymologically—as Keith Sagar has pointed out (28) —the “wind’s eye. 6–7). points symptomatically to the originary. is no other than the in-scription. and thus whose perilous approach.” i. between the . such is. 22). therefore—the final line with the crying stones—. then. literally the female as unnamed and desirable as such. what is certain is the inscription. is marked out by the castration anxiety signals that flicker in an insistent blinding fantasy that features an Œdipus behind the shaman: the “blinding wet” (l. rather than in the silence beyond. roots. the “terrible beautiful. or the polarity.” a-stoneishing cry of Medusa. on the whole.38 C. the nameless animal mother claiming back her child to be whole? Or is it the cry of the “I”’s own desire? Whichever way we read this fascinating “unsayable” line. to the motherly nature of the Thing: to that mother figure Ted Hughes often conjures up in his mythological constructions. namely the debate. 11). whose destiny is to become unthinkable as an object of desire in the world of words. I think.
65). 6–7) and engraving the letters that speak of desire. It does seem that we find in “Wind. and on the other hand the romantic attempt to integrate that unspeakable within the poetic utterance.” beyond the field of the Logos-God’s alienating speech. so in the speechless space of the Beast of “Gog.” as Hughes asserts in his comment on Orghast (WP 124–5). But we may.” as Hughes says in the same comment. creating forms in “sublime labours” (Jerusalem.” that “the deep truth is imageless” (Prometheus Unbound. 4. in the world of “great bones (. to capture fragments of the wanting voice in the interstices of discourse.TED HUGHES’S CRYING HORIZONS 39 view of the sublime as the unutterable. 10. that) pound on the earth” (71)? Or may it be that sublimity lies “here and there. if we understand “here and there in the space of the poem. of Ted Hughes a vacillation that reenacts the debate that was—should we say that is—at the heart of romanticism. or like Blake’s demon writing with “corroding fires” on a plate of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (pl.” 46–47). Does sublimity point to a real that is “far beyond human words. II. as reading—and inevitably desiring—subjects. as Coleridge does in his “conversation poems” by listening to what can be heard “in the interspersed vacancies/And momentary pauses of the thought” (“Frost at Midnight. that in which the subject that speaks and treads in measured ways in Ted Hughes’s poetic metres is. theorized by Burke and often reechoed afterwards. prefer the second alternative.” in those effects of the letter where we can hear it? This remains of course an open question. like the Curlew of The Remains of Elmet (163) “A web-footed god of the horizons.” . 115–116). the maker. or again like Los. pl. for instance by Shelley’s Demogorgon’s pronouncement that ultimately “a voice is wanting.” and more generally in the poetry and the critical writings. as well.
threw any light on Birthday Letters until I read about the way in which poets like Sidney. his knowledge of the work of Renaissance figures like Bruno. Love. but it is a cryptic text full of magical symbolism.6 Poetry & Magic Ann Skea “Is there any significance. adopted Cabbalistic number theory in the structure and content of their poems. Marlow. however. The work by Alastair Fowler . Fulke Greville. “in the fact that there are eighty-eight poems in Birthday Letters?” “None of which I am aware. later. Milton. Marsilio Ficino. And his preface to 100 Poems to Learn by Heart sets out exactly the sort of mnemonic techniques for training the imagination that they had learned from the work of Renaissance Hermeticists like Marsilio Ficino. whose English love poetry is.” a correspondent asked me. ordering and.” I replied. and his acknowledged use of meditation and astrology. since Ted does structure his poetic sequences very carefully. Remains of Elmet and River. None of this. even Dryden. careful and detailed use of the techniques. ultimately. “But. similar in some ways to Ted’s and has itself been attributed (although contentiously) to the inspiration of divine furor. because I was preoccupied with the idea that the Birthday Letters were Ted’s Eroici Furori—a sequence of passionate love poems such as were considered to be the crowning achievement of a Renaissance magus like Giordano Bruno. for Renaissance Hermeticists and for Platonic Neoplatonists like Bruno. which the magician intercepts and which leads him from the lower things to the supercelestial realm by divine furor” (Yates 272). It was dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney. Donne and. with whose work Ted was very familiar. influencing things in our world. I would not rule it out. processes and beliefs of alchemy in Cave Birds. Bruno published De gli Eroici Furori in England in 1586. His belief in poetry as “magical” and as “one way of making things happen the way you want them to happen”1. and very different to Birthday Letters. Ted’s belief in the primacy of the imagination as an instrument for reaching the truth was exactly that of Sidney and the other members of the so-called “Areopogus” who befriended Bruno on his visit to England. all point to his lifelong interest in using magic in his work. It was a means of understanding. Pico della Mirandola (as evidenced in Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being. was “the living virtue in all things.” I thought no more about this. his sustained. however.
archetypes and (in Jungian terms) the psyche. the earthy. If all this seems to be a long way from poetry. the cards of the Tarot pack (especially the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana) have been used as a mnemonic for the pathways of this Cabbalistic quest. William Blake’s four worlds of Eden. Ted Hughes & R. These letters are arranged on interconnecting pathways on a Sephirothic Tree (a tree of life) on which there are ten Sephira—ten points at which the divine energies enter our world. It is also a mystical and magical discipline by means of which the Cabbalist may understand our world and use its energies to reintegrate its disparate elements—to create harmony and heal its ills. Cabbala. and the individual seeking to undertake this work must begin with the self. the collective subconscious. One might also apply to Ted some of his own observations about Shakespeare: “The idea of a syncretic mythology… The idea of these images as internally structured. in Ted’s own words: “Everything in the universe.” (SGCB 32–3) All 1. This is the Great Work. in its ancient and traditional form. Yetzirah. Briah. and he constantly sought ways to use the imagination to reintegrate our inner and outer worlds.Thomas read and discuss selections of their own poems. 1978. multiple meanings… The idea of meditation as a conjuring by ritual magic of hallucinatory figures—with whom conversations can be held. Cabbala is based on the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. and it is an art in which Ted was very interested. and Assiah. through four overlapping worlds: Atziluth (the World of emanation. the possibility of creation. formation. material world of consciousness. then I can only say that magic is an art. the world of making. follow The Path of Wisdom (also known as “The Path of the Serpent”) along the Tree’s twenty-two interconnected pathways. the World of the intellect. Beulah.S. and it was whilst reading his work on Spencer that I suddenly realised the possible relationship between Cabbala and the eighty-eight poems in Birthday Letters. Those who seek to order the psyche and climb the stairway to God in this way. attached to its symbol. . can be given its proper place on the Tree…” So the Tree becomes a means of ordering the psyche by internalizing the knowable universe as a stairway to God” (SGCB 20–1).POETRY & MAGIC 41 in revealing this kind of structuring has been of major importance. from the time of the Renaissance. And. transmitted as a lightning flash from the Divine Source (Illustration 1). He often described poetry as a magical shamanic journey undertaken to obtain some healing energies needed in our world. And. Norwich Tapes Ltd. precisely folded. is the knowledge of occult number theory in the Bible. London: The Critical Forum. the individual subconscious. the World of synthesis. Generation and Ulro “derive from the same tradition” (Raine 6). The twenty-two letters of the Cabbalistic alphabet in these four worlds make eighty-eight pathways along which the Cabbalist makes the questing journey.
literally and metaphorically. (Illustration 2) . in which every potential exists. stepping off blindly on his journey towards knowledge and enlightenment with the baggage of his past life on his back and the dog of materialism and worldly convention snapping at his heels. about to embark on the search for knowledge in a strange land. Force and Form. the number 1. film. This is also the Garden of Eden. it is the image of The Fool in the Tarot pack. everything is still possible. as in the first manifestation of matter. I now have no doubt that such a structure exists. knowledge and direction. Here are “Scholars.” BL 3). who believed in the magical power of poetry and the summoning power of symbols. the point. For Ted. The accumulated Alphas of their past lives have earned them a place on this path. illuminated and recreated in a poem. For the neophyte Cabbalist or magician. My story” —in Birthday Letters is a stage on the path at which something—some pattern from the past—is (often quite literally) captured in a photograph. at the apex of the Tree is Kether. knowing the richness and range of Ted’s imagination and very aware that I might easily impose the structure for which I was searching. too. the planted seed from which all else grows.SKEA of these ideas are very relevant to Birthday Letters. and they are “Fullbright” like the zero of the sun. for many reasons. whether this offers us a different perspective on the work. for me. I began my investigation of these questions sceptically. and just as Adam’s bite of the apple from the Tree of Knowledge brought him knowledge of his nakedness. was whether Ted did use Cabbala. Cabbala. picture or mental image and brought into the present to be meditated on. In the photograph. and in particular the imagery of the Tarot. The Cabbalistic journey begins with the first manifestation of form. questioned. In Cabbalistic terms. But. Here is the “imbecile innocent” of Cave Birds. as well as being psychologically harrowing. are the fundamental aspects of the divine as manifest in all creation and from them comes all change in the natural world and in the inner world of the Cabbalist. Consciousness. if so. It is everything and nothing. the aleph of the Hebrew alphabet. the Crown. zero.42 A. not least the closeness and consistency with which the poems match the cards and embody the Sephirothic emanations. the closed and endless circle. so Ted’s first taste of a fresh peach brings self-consciousness. Ted. provided him with a protective structure within which to negotiate with the energies and to conjure into being the people and events of his past. The question then. if nothing else. to structure the sequence of poems in Birthday Letters and. “dumbfounded” by his “ignorance of the simplest things” and confessing (like the neophyte magician making the ritual negative confession at the start of the journey) that he lacks memory. They have their luggage with them. The very title of the first poem in Birthday Letters embodies all these things (“Fullbright Scholars. (Table 1) Each episode of the story—“Your story. is an innocent. the first three Sephiroth on the Tree. the Monad.” Sylvia amongst them. this was a dangerous process.
is “a virgin vase”). such as those of the Order of the Golden Dawn (of which Yeats was once a prominent member). Atziluthic. on opposing pages. the Neophyte is brought to the “Pillars of Soloman/Hermes/Seth” beyond which lies the gate to “The Hall of Truth. Sephira number 3. Raw Energy: Binah. a deadfall. focussed only on the present. embodies raw male energies.” “careless. which it did.” yet is able to spark connections “through bustling atmospherics. form the base of this triangle of supernal energies.” carousing and destructive. it is interesting to note that the title of both the second and third poems in Birthday Letters (4–6) is “Caryatids” (the name of carved female figures which form pillars supporting the portico of a Greek temple) and that in both the hardback and the paperback editions of the book these poems. perhaps fortuitously. and Binah. to which Ted refers. He. whose Tarot card is associated with the duad Binah. the huntress. Chokmah. too. This is appropriate.” “like the theorum of a trap. It is also appropriate. the All Mother. is also known as Abba. because in all the rituals associated with Cabbalistic journeys.” but also that they are bearers of the omen which he failed to see.” “What were those caryatids bearing?. who represents Artemis.” The irony of this was that the trap caught both Ted and Sylvia. on the right-hand pillar of Mercy. In these first three poems. on the left-hand pillar of Justice. Ted deals directly with the Sephiroth rather than with the paths between them.” In the Tarot. the All Father. pillar-like. magus or trickster.” “tests every role for laughs.POETRY & MAGIC 43 Chokmah. Chokmah and Binah each occupy the summit of one of the two pillars of Justice and Mercy on and between which all ten Sephiroth of the Tree are positioned. the “real World and self.” Just such energies belong to The Magician. the poem on the left embodies female energies: the caryatids are “friable” and “frail-looking” (“each body” in Sylvia’s poem. wears “playclothes. Sephira number 2. “frivolous as faithless. as nowhere else in Birthday Letters. He can be dexterous and cunning. because at this level—that of the first three divine emanations in the highest. But they thought it exemplified form without energy (just as Chokmah does) and disliked it. creative and destructive. The Juggler. Which suggests not only a literal answer to Ted’s opening question in “Caryatids (1). Also. Hermes/Mercury. Given this graphic arrangement. stand side-by-side. In Ted’s view it was “thin and brittle. Diana and other moon-goddesses of potential fertility. the related card is that of The High Priestess. Ted has brought himself and Sylvia to this . “Caryatids (2). Capacity to take form. yet they are strong enough to bear a “falling heaven of granite.” “cold. (caryatids are named after the women of Caryae who worshipped Artemis) and also Isis.” “stupid with confidence.” the poem on the right. world—the energies are nearest to the Source and are of equal importance.” At this stage in Birthday Letters. is known as Aima. like the protagonist of Ted’s poem.” Sylvia’s caryatid poem was meant to catch the attention of Ted and his poet friends.
Ted was “playing at friendship.” “free. the Dying God on the Tree of Life. top room. What I will do. The Hanged Man.” “gutted. their paths run parallel and are joined only at times. Only a short time earlier.” Significantly. and even the second./That I have never used. some choice or sacrifice made. So.SKEA gateway. Ted makes a choice. Images of “knighthood.” “holy law. as I have already mentioned. world of archetypes and first emanations is “Fidelity” (28). which is symbolised by water and is represented in the Tarot by card 12. too.” Here is Ted. instead. in a bare room” and his notebook. is look at four poems which represent the same path in each of the four overlapping Worlds. every night in this bare. until their marriage.” like a “sinless child. Now. an overturning of the world.” plump and pretty girl does not break his chivalrous resolve to “keep the meaning of my words/Solid with the world we were making. a time for radical change on the path. he encounters “a lovely girl” and. “wilder.” under the threshold of Ted’s and Sylvia’s future. death and rebirth. each girl—one naked and sisterly. which is. The old life had to end. The Birthday Letters poem related to the path of Mem and The Hanged Man in the first. Already Ted has left behind the baggage of his first twenty-five years. it was the breaking of faith which was the issue here not sexual gratification. in particular) was tested in his encounters with the amorous lady in the mysterious castle. It is a symbol of sacrifice. Mem.” “shameless gap-tooth. Ted’s and Sylvia’s paths are combined. For the sake of simplicity. The second poem on the path of Mem and The Hanged Man is “Astringency” (80). the other naked in her desire to get him “inside her” —is sacrificed. as such.” At this stage of the Cabbalistic journey.” is also a path of transition. on bare boards. so Ted’s “fidelity” to Sylvia is tested. All he has is “a bare mattress. so still possess. for in Cabbala sex is not a sin. “afloat on the morning tide. The image on the card of The Hanged Man was identified in Frazer’s Golden Bough as Attis.” “frivolous as faithless. “laid. Like the Grail-quest Knight. and almost its first words are—“I was just hanging around. and.” suspended: “…I think of it/As a kind of time that cannot pass. a mnemonic device for remembering the complex theory of Cabbala.44 A. Now. just as Dionysus had to perish to be reborn as laccus. some trial must be passed. They are no longer in the . it is not possible for me to trace the Cabbalistic pattern of this journey poem by poem through Birthday Letters in this short paper. Together they will begin the journey but. Mem. Clearly. worldly things have been left behind and the aspirant is in a state of suspension and must prove him or herself worthy of continuing along the path. as fate decrees. it relies on vivid images and rich mythological associations. described by Cabbalists as “between the Waters above and the Waters beneath.” “a priestess. just as the Grail-quest Knight (Gawain. I will concentrate on the Tarot.” “nakedness” and chaste “sisterly comforting” all reinforce this parallel. Atziluthic. The path I have chosen is that of the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
But. is the World of Yetzirah. Ted strolls “slackly. poisoned waters are threatening their own mother. rather than immersed in it’s culture. but the choice Ted and Sylvia make (as the very next poem in Birthday Letters shows) is to follow instinct. They had left behind the rational.” “the night hands. In “Astringency. consolidating our splayed selves” [Sept. healthy energy (like the goldfish) and the “toxic” world of “Agrochemicals. the natural energies are still strong and “frisky” and choice still exists. rationality is “the censor. watery. In their lives at this time. this “Brainstorm of the odds” shows that the situation is not hopeless. art. literature. insincere. 1959] (J 410) was ever present. especially in the snake energies which coil and sway and pour through the poem. catchword but it also means “the drawing together of organic tissues” (OED).” the natural energies. 1959] (423): discovering identity and voice. music.” The word “astringency” was for years. (which is the poem on the Hanged Man path in this Yetziratic World) does not.” Sylvia wrote in her journal on August 2nd. which is full of images of sickness and distress. thinking of nothing. rational and instinctive. as Ted tells us. they were on the edge.” as if these murky. of hysteria. In the true spirit of Briah they were “writing. paralysis…” [July 27. like the goldfish. 1959. a cant. No sacrifices are mentioned in the poem.” “the snare” which silences her instinctive energies and traps “all that teeming population” of imaginative metaphors. silent. and “Lit. Amongst the other organic energies brought together in the poem. 27. seem frozen and everything is suspended.” a serpent which seems “to pull something out of (her) like some tapeworm of the psyche” and is dragged. and to keep faith with the trust each has placed in poetry and its paramount importance in their shared future. if not in Ted. mutable World of Briah. creative process. choice or sacrifice. like the River Charles. standing “on” America. “The Rag Rug” (135). But it is full of Cabbalistic symbolism. rather than logic. Ted draws together fragments of free. a process by which healing is promoted. tortured.POETRY & MAGIC 45 Atziluthic world of archetypes but in the lower. but connected to it. Below the World of Briah. are the human energies. Crit” —all the result of intellectual intervention in a natural. Sylvia’s “motley viper. He and Sylvia are “Right there on the edge” of this world.” and he and Sylvia are “Together.” air polluted by iron-smelting. watching the “lariat” noose of “each small. tired wave” wash over “a nipple of rock. as the other poems were. In the poem. in her poems (another image of suspension). In Sylvia. the world of intellect and abstract creation. like her own “entrails. on first reading seem to be about suspension. to hang them. “A life of doing nothing is death. and she swung between elation and depression: “the strangling noose of worry. law and all other real but intangible patterns exist and are shaped by the individual subconscious. Only once does Ted hear an instinctive metaphor escape in her speech. out . predictable path of jobs and academia and they were not yet committed to the literary life of Boston. too. a world of syntheses and formation in which poetry.
Sylvia achieved “this cool. is the fragility of this world.” sunny “daffodil yellow. The poem to which Ted refers is “Elm” (LH 192). but so. about interfaces where dark.” Until then.” and Ted’s great golden snake. But at the heart of this poem. In my reading of the poem. describes how Sylvia divined new inspiration for her writing “in the elm. It is there in the doubleness which Ted himself weaves into the poem so that the rag rug becomes a symbolic interface between two worlds.” are both superb images of subconscious energies. in spite of all their differences. dividing them from each other. lulls her with his voice. And they are linked in the poem with some deep “knowledge” which will alter Sylvia’s “blood” and Ted’s “nerves and brain” and lie “coiled between” them like the rag rug.” “freed” by the physical act of creation.SKEA through (her) navel. division and change. the earth world of “venous blood. the creation of the rag rug is a metaphor for the creative gestation which was going on in Sylvia in the early months of 1962. too. Ted and Sylvia are “lifted. At this interface. May 20. In April 1962. at the time of that entry. It is not clear whether the viper. And the poem immediately after “The Rag Rug. was Ted or the story she had written. plaiting the rug and “creating the serpent” soothes Ted with her calm industry. a process in which Ted. “like a snake-charmer. The mood of suspension. and the sky world of the “serpent’s jumbled rainbow. and Ted. followed by Ted’s images of birth and separation. subconscious energies enter the world. Ted and Sylvia had worked together.” happiness and birth. very beautiful moment of mastery.” of shared beauty and happiness is strong in the poem. Hanged Man imagery is there in the poem. of “breath-held camera moments. Sylvia seems driven by this new knowledge she has “unearthed” to separate herself from Ted—to do what she had described once in her journal in a burst of fury at Ted: “I won’t bother showing him the story of Sweetie Pie I’ve done.” of “lightnings. And the poem lies at a moment of change in the Birthday Letters sequence and in the story which it tells. according to Ted in “Sylvia Plath and her Journals” (WP 187– 8). light. themselves. They are also energies which are as dangerous and mysterious as The Path of Wisdom (which is itself The Path of the Serpent) is for those who travel it.” although here it is the elm table Ted made for her2. that enabled her to take the next step…(then) she started on a poem about a giant wych elm that overshadowed the yard of her home… And at once the Ariel voice emerged in full. following the moment of suspension and beauty.” “the grave. shaken awake by an inversion of Ted’s dream world and lifting “its head from a well in the middle of the house. 1959). irreversible. Sylvia. keep the viper out of the household and send it out on its own” (J 484.” which represents the next step on the journey in Birthday Letters. . himself was “pushed out and away. out of the tree. are Sylvia’s “furies” (“bled into the rug” and “confided to whoever” in her diary). too.” malediction and death.” reading books which are. the sense of impending.46 A.”.
beautiful but flawed like everything in the World of Assiah. angry and destructive. the poem which follows “The Rag Rug” in Birthday Letters. It was 1962. 15. “The Ventriloquist” is full of doubleness. earth-bound World. sacrifice is total. Sept. It is the lowest. Assiah is the world of making. love and marriage which. which kills her. survived this ending but. Ted and Sylvia were living in Devon in the house with the well “beneath its slab in the middle” and the worn threshold. was written in April 1962. The rag rug itself. 27. self put “Mummy” on show as “The Kraken” in The Bell Jar and screamed in her poems that “Daddy was no good” and that Ted “was with a whore. the chronology of the poems does not follow that of actual events here but is consistent with the order of the pathways on the Sephirothic Tree. 1961. At At the time of the events in the poem.” and “devoured” her.” 104) but she has now grown strong and independent.” Ariel was a magnificent and terrifying creation. in Birthday Letters was also Ted’s and Sylvia’s fall into the Abyss from the top of the Sephirothic Tree at the start of their questing journey. had been made for Sylvia in September the previous year (Letters Home. in which Ted suggests the Ariel voice first appeared. it is this second self. and Ariel is her “doll. It was Ariel’s voice that Sylvia had worked so hard to find and which spoke so clearly in the poems she wrote in the last months of her life.POETRY & MAGIC 47 And there are sacrifices here. where all that has been prepared for and formed in the other Worlds becomes real and present. 429–30). her other. “The Rag Rug” ends with an image of the end of Ted’s and Sylvia’s shared Eden. strong.” Finally. Hers was the voice “which cried out in (your) sleep” in “Fairy Tale” (159) and which Sylvia did not recognise as her own. In “The Ventriloquist” (181). Ariel was the “humanoid. too. destructive. So. it encapsulates all that has happened so far in the journey and it ends with Sylvia’s most terrible choice and sacrifice—her death. Whilst Sylvia wept and clung to Ted through the “thorny wood” and the “river’s freeze” of the journey which was also their marriage. “The Ventriloquist” begins with the bodily fall into sex. from this point on. Sylvia’s poem “Elm”. But the table which Ted describes in “The Table”. 2. which Sylvia had sought out and nurtured. And Ariel was the “prisoner in the dungeon” who Sylvia fed “through the keyhole” in “The Blackbird” (162). Sylvia followed her path alone and Ted “sleepwalked” (“The Table. raggedy shadow” which appeared in the portrait painted of Sylvia at Yaddo (“Portraits. And Ariel has accompanied Ted and Sylvia on their journey through Birthday Letters.” 138) after her. . the poem on The Hanged Man path in the World of Assiah. furthest from the Source and nearest to the dark Underworld. and the inspiration and knowledge which the process of gestation and birth achieved. In my reading of this poem. and the “Guardian Angel” into whose bosom Sylvia “crept for safety” but who turned out to be her “Demon Slave. Sylvia is the ventriloquist of the poem’s title. Nicholas had been born in January and Sylvia’s mother had visited them from late June to mid August.
Afterword For Ted. which should have been tempered by those of the Pillar of Mercy. his journey towards the Source. They tell. too.” Sylvia’s children and we. His wife. he said. of the characteristics and skills Frieda and Nicholas inherited from her and of Ted’s memories of her.SKEA This was the ultimate self-sacrifice. As Portia so rightly tells Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. which is also the title of the poem following “The Ventriloquist. Ted lays to rest the ghost of Sylvia which he has conjured back into life in the poems by recombining the red and the blue colours which reflected her blood and her spirit. a huge sudden possibility of new inner experience. Ted completes the new journey which he began when he started the imaginative processes and rituals needed to conjure past events and re-create them in his work. in the end. Birthday Letters brought. in Cabbalistic terms.” For Sylvia. following Ted’s footsteps through Birthday Letters along some well-trodden Cabbalistic pathways has been an enlightening and magical experience. So. like the “flawless crystal” of her “seer’s vision-stone. the ultimate destructive revenge by the “doll” on the stars which had guided Sylvia towards her creation. wrote4 that “he was renewed after publishing them. “earthly powers do then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice. it was not “Justice” (note the capital given to this word in the poem) but the result of an unbalanced use of the severe energies of the Pillar of Justice. the readers of the poem. In Cabbalistic terms.48 A. In “The Dogs are Eating your Mother. which. he too was plunged into darkness and it was a long time before he began.” For me. Carol. works at three levels: the conscious. and the practical level of applied processes and rituals. should have followed her sacrifice was no longer possible. In the remaining Birthday Letters poems.” encompass both ecstasy and horror. this was the end of her journey. level: the metaphorical level at which images and symbols work on the subconscious and the spiritual message is understood. again. of the myths and stories which Ted created because of it.” Cabbala. But it is the nature of Cabbala that every person must make the journey for themselves. The final poems are all aspects of life after death. But Birthday Letters does not end with “The Ventriloquist. all anyone can offer . like alchemy. too. are told to imagine her journey out of the underworld and on towards the sun. In spirit.”3. and sealing this journey’s end with the symbol of kindly caresses which he has used in the poem—a blue jewel. what I learn on my journey is likely to be quite different to what you would learn on yours.” And in the final poem. Quite strange. Although we may follow the same paths. was overturned. “a sense of inner liberation.” They tell of the effects of Sylvia’s death on Ted and her children. to “think her better. story-telling. Ted’s world. and of the industry which grew up around her story and her work. The re-birth which.
Jan. Ted Hughes’s letter to Kathleen Raine read at the Whitbread Book of the Year Awards. Carol Hughes in a letter to me.POETRY & MAGIC 49 as a guide are a few unsteady footprints in the mud and the suggestion of sights you might see along the way. 3. . Dec. 4. 1999. 1999.
intimations of the deeply personal. and abroad were quick to proclaim Ted Hughes’s secrets revealed. and those who did were ill-equipped for the time-consuming spade work necessary even to begin to grasp the extent or the nature of the archive’s revelations. journalists around the U. The truth is few journalists actually visited the archive itself. Many decisions— most small but some large—give an archive its final character. Another chose to fill his newspaper’s column space with his own unsupported speculation about the contents of the sealed trunk (Bone). A number of journalists were particularly interested in that small portion of the collection that remains under restriction.2 The truth is an archive is many things. not of any of the newly acquired papers. others were approaching the archive with the opposite conclusion. 1. as it often does for us. One reporter was particularly eager to get a photograph. Such restrictions are common in archives of contemporary materials. The Ted Hughes archive is as much a product of Hughes’s inattention as it is his deliberate actions.7 Self-Revelation. but of the sealed trunk itself (a request I’m happy to say I declined). however. as is the case in the Ted Hughes papers. The daily decisions over what to save and what to throw out offer ample opportunity for a self-conscious fashioning of the self that all of us engage in. Its very existence gave the newspaper stories that followed a new degree of credibility. I would add. The neatly numbered and cataloged boxes also have the power to blow the top off our carefully constructed notions of self. simply through their invocation of the archive’s authority. protects the privacy of individuals whose letters are present among the papers but who was not a party to their disposition. Self-Concealment & the Making of the Ted Hughes Archive Stephen Enniss When Emory University acquired the Ted Hughes archive in February 1997. Nevertheless the presence of the archive evoked for them. “Hughes papers reveal agony and ecstasy of his love life” (Harlow) was one of the more sensational and.1 In particular there was great interest in a single trunk that the library was asked to keep closed for twenty-five years. one of the more misleading. The largest number of restrictions in the Hughes archive are of this kind and are on letters Hughes received from . Often the restriction. Even as some were proclaiming Hughes’s secrets revealed.S.
. his reference to them establishes an early preoccupation with capturing—not simply animals—but his own experience in some more permanent form. The one figure we most want to find in the archive is. along with the sketches he began making at the time. All archives. As Ted Hughes recalled in his 1961 BBC radio program “Capturing Animals. These early diaries. are a record of absences. were saved by the Mexborough Grammar School classmate to whom he gave them in 1947 or 1948. the figure that we are sure not to find. I wish to examine the making of the Ted Hughes archive for what it may tell us about Ted Hughes’s own stance towards personal history and artistic creativity. 2. on the back of letters. It is not” (Davids). There is no evidence to support James Bone’s speculation that the sealed trunk contains Sylvia Plath’s lost journal. Examining these drafts now what one immediately notices is Hughes’s habit of composing poems on any scrap paper at hand. In each case. diaries where he recorded “nothing but my catches” (3). The same contrary impulses of self-revelation and self-concealment that we see dramatized in his own actions towards the material archive reflect on a life-long pattern of self-presentation that informs his mature poetry as well. point to a precocious self-expression on the blank page and hint at what would become for Hughes a life-long preoccupation.SELF-REVELATION. Among the earliest surviving manuscripts from the Hughes archive itself are drafts of poems that were collected in the early collection Wodwo. While these childhood diaries have apparently not survived.” some of his earliest and fondest childhood memories were of fishing and hunting in Yorkshire. The earliest surviving manuscripts in the Emory collection were not preserved by Hughes himself but. As the agent in the sale of the Ted Hughes archive made clear in a reply to Bone’s article published in The Times: “I can satisfy the curiosity of scholars and others about the possibility of Sylvia Plath’s missing journal being incarcerated in it. he mentions the diaries that he kept at the time. in the end. rather. the poem casts the poet himself in a different kind of drama of conquest. In recalling the importance of those early experiences in his own development. Poems appear on envelopes. one for the affections of a childhood classmate (Plate 2). Like Alexander whose conquests it relates. and. The one reprinted here seems less an expression of a distinctive personality than an expression of sheer will. on coarse brown wrapping paper. the restriction on these letters can be lifted with the permission of the copyright holder. These two poems (one of which is reprinted here for the first time) are heavily derivative and offer little glimpse of the self that composed them. on the back of his friends and colleagues. I want to examine some of the decisions that have gone into the making of the Hughes archive but not in order to implicate one person or another for this or that lost artifact. after all. most strikingly. SELF-CONCEALMENT 51 What I wish to examine in the following essay are some of the ways these contrary impulses of self-revelation and self-concealment are expressed in the Ted Hughes archive now housed at Emory. Instead.
a means to another end. Hughes recalls the amount paid as $450 dollars (Ted Hughes to Aurellia Plath). in effect. 4. While Emory purchased the bulk of his archive in 1997. Emory began buying Ted Hughes manuscripts in 1985 and had assembled a substantial Ted Hughes collection before the 1997 purchase of his own archive. An early manuscript draft of “Public Bar TV” appears on the opposite side of a letter from his Faber & Faber editor Charles Monteith. The absence of any significant number of drafts from The Hawk in the Rain and Lupercal can be explained by Hughes’s own early awareness of the commercial value of his manuscripts. among them a fragment of a short story titled “Runaway. a number of previously lost works by Plath have surfaced in the Ted Hughes archive. as for later. Bertram Rota. and Ben Sonnenberg. a more active disdain—for the manuscript itself. In a 1962 letter to Myers he holds out the prospect of a direct sale to the University of Texas bypassing the London dealers altogether. and an extensive correspondence (1950–1998) with his own brother. Thus began a lifelong practice of cannibalizing his own manuscripts in order to supplement his irregular income. Gerald.4 as early as 1960 he sold the manuscripts from his first two collections to a rare book and manuscript dealer for a mere £160 (LH 388). correspondence from Hughes to Lucas Myers. Ted’s Guggenheim had come to an end immediately before the 1960 sale. “he’ll have other manuscripts then” Sylvia noted in a letter to her mother (387). Clean desk paper is not required. the practice seems to reflect a disinterest—if not. One can instead scribble on anything at hand. Since that time. The sale of his manuscripts provided some modest help in facing these hardships. in fact. Emory has continued to make additions to the papers including a large number of early manuscript drafts from the collection of Joseph Gold.ENNISS own and Sylvia Plath’s own discarded manuscripts. they seem to have a power more charged with the current of Hughes’s own daily life than do any clean.52 S. Kyrle Fletcher. even as they document each poet’s own creative work.3 On the one hand. carefully scripted drafts. since the manuscript is temporary. and. This was a period when Ted and Sylvia were struggling to meet their financial obligations. In a 1975 letter to Aurelia Plath. The dual-sided drafts evoke something of Hughes and Plath’s shared life. and an unpublished verse play (Bardo Thodol) is written on discarded pages of Sylvia Plath’s lost novel Falcon Yard (Plate 3).” based on the same incident as Hughes’s Birthday Letters poem “Sam” and notes for her previously lost novel Falcon Yard. working them against one another. Yet these drafts have survived in the hundreds.5 Two years later he was actively promoting his manuscripts to the London dealers Winifred Myers. We catch some glimpse of Hughes’s own attitude towards this enforced stringency when he confides in a later letter that he has parted with the 3. and the following year they had purchased a home in Devon and were trying to live off of their writing. Handling them now. . 5. As a result of this practice. drafts of “Gog” were written on a discarded typescript of his 1960 radio play The House of Aries.
Similarly when a friend once asked him for money.6 Indeed.SELF-REVELATION.7 A number of manuscripts in the Hughes archive bear evidence of one or the other of these fires. In an exchange of letters with this collector. manuscripts and so on. he showed no awareness of the greater value that a larger archive might contain. soon after learning of his affair with Assia Wevill. This element of regret for this early sale is captured as well in a 1975 letter to Mrs. SELF-CONCEALMENT 53 manuscript of “Pike” reluctantly. Prouty Smith. He apparently made little effort to secure an institutional buyer (the earlier mention of the University of Texas came to nothing). just the opposite. While Hughes took steps to safeguard his manuscripts. 12 May 1975). and so would you. In the mid-1970s he was still selling manuscript material with his sole interest apparently being the price realized. Hughes’s papers were again targeted. but was content instead to let his early manuscripts be scattered among many different individual collectors. The specific loss Hughes refers to is likely Sylvia’s burning of an unknown quantity of his papers in July 1962 (recounted in her poem “Burning the Letters”). Hughes acknowledges. this one in 1971. In the early 1960s he writes to one of his London dealers: “I am gradually being forced to realize that in time to come my manuscripts are going to be worth quite a lot… I would be foolish. “This last year I’ve lost a lot of stuff.” (Letter to Myers) One element of this letter is of particular interest. He writes. if we were to go on almost giving these things away. 7 Aug l964). Hughes eliminated the step of converting his manuscripts into cash and instead used drafts of Wodwo as a kind of currency in a direct payment for a chest from a Devon antique dealer. immediately after selling that particular manuscript. indeed. only because he was “exceedingly pressed for cash” (Hughes to Gold. 19 Mar 1964). “I sold my own early papers years ago for a couple of hundred pounds—parts of them I know have since changed hands for vastly greater sums. that is the implication that the manuscript—the material artifact itself— 6. I’ve started locking [them] in a chest—ridiculous business” (Hughes to Gold.8 “Market price of holograph of published poem—1 page—written out by author—£20… Market price for manuscript pages of achieved poems—£35” (“Possible Buyers”). Hughes regretted the decision and took steps to recover it from the American collector who had subsequently purchased it. In a second fire. . he sent instead fair copies of several poems which he copied for the purpose. but they can’t help me any more… They were probably my freshest best work” (Letter to Prouty Smith. In each case the manuscript stands in as a surrogate for the self that is the real target of anger. this time by someone who broke into his Yorkshire home and set them ablaze. Letters that survive in the archive reflect Hughes’s growing understanding of the value of such material and his active negotiation over prices. On at least one occasion in the mid-1970s. A handwritten note from that period lists potential buyers for his manuscripts along with the prices he expected to get. including a 1969 letter from Leonard Baskin which was badly singed in the second fire.
Even as the page slowly smoulders. what he calls it elsewhere. the “cold clockwork of the stars” (HR 53). continues: “Paper yellows.” Unpublished drafts from the time express a similarly bleak view of a broken and mutable world. Unlike the published poem. clearly had a monetary value for Hughes. This latter poem. the London-based firm of Bernard Quaritch. but perhaps nowhere as familiarly as in his self-mythologizing account of writing a poem that we find in “The Thought Fox” (HR 15). Among the possible buyers were the well-known bookseller Bernard Stone. the manuscript draft retained some vestige of that creative power that first animated the poem. The early poems—those written at the time when he was beginning to sell his own manuscripts—return often to images of decay. “Paper yellows. and an expression of hope for that otherwise fleeting creative force. “for less than I was paid merely for the publication of the poems” (emphasis added). Early in his career the 7. . Hughes describes this fire in the Note to the Vintage Edition of Janet Malcolm’s The Silent Woman (210). however. In these lines Hughes establishes a link between the carbon that is the result of time’s slow fire and the carbon of the poet’s own pencil. often a suggestion of some opposite movement. and the American dealer Marjorie Cohen of the House of Books. The poem is an affirmation of some counter movement against. Against the broken fragments of these early poems there is. the other previously unpublished and unknown. indeed.” he writes. “fragments” (“The Horses”). or the broken jawbone and carapaces washed ashore in “Relic. In this well-known poem poetic inspiration is described as a midnight visit from a fox which slowly advances across a forest clearing. however. even without flame. the poet’s own creative fire inscribes words on the page that have already become diamond. While the manuscript. even without flame” (“Concurrence”). I’d like to consider briefly just two.” is how he puts it in one unpublished fragment (“Dust”). I’ve sold manuscripts for next to nothing. Such images dominate Hughes’s poetry and suggest a familiar and characteristic stance towards human history and man’s tenuous hold on it. as we have seen.54 S. 8. we need to consider not the accuracy of its account so much as the importance of this myth of creativity to Hughes (2000 89). For some insight into the nature of that power. Keith Sagar takes exception to “the myth of unpremeditated art” that the poem seems to posit.ENNISS has a greater inherent value than the published poem. “muck” (“Fallgrief’s Girlfriends”). while in another he acknowledges time’s steady assault in the line. it also had a value unrelated to the marketplace and./But in words carbon has already become diamond” (“Concurrence”). one well-known. unrelated to mere publication. We see such an affirmation of the creative moment many places in Hughes’s poetry. we need to look at the poems themselves. titled “Concurrence” in the surviving manuscript. In his recent study. whether that decay takes the form of “dust” (“Song”). “In the past. “Dust has no memory whatsoever.
The practice. The draft is always closer to that original inspiration than the final published poem. What Hughes is describing is the original moment of creative inspiration. The manuscript edition quite literally contains the artifact of that otherwise .” he writes. In Hughes’s mind that moment is the final measure of value and is the end that the poet serves. reenacts that moment and gives us as readers access to the original experience that the poet serves. not even the most thorough artistic conscience. The reader’s experience is not a new one but is. education.9 This chain of association which stretches back to the poet’s original inspiration explains in large part the great value that Hughes came to place in the manuscript draft itself. most recently in Howls and Whispers the fine press companion volume to Birthday Letters published shortly before his death. he did not qualify or otherwise retreat from the fictional elements of the analogy. a financial one. We should not. He could not only charge considerably more for these special editions.” More to the point. “No craft. “I would have thrown it into the wastepaper basket as I have thrown so many other hunts that did not get what I was after.SELF-REVELATION. The poem. the draft is for Hughes a reminder of the fox’s first stirring and his slow movement towards us. SELF-CONCEALMENT 55 poem became a kind of signature piece for him. in large part. instead. a distant echo of that original inspiration. in the case of Cave Birds and the broadside of “Sky Furnace. most fully in the same “Listening and Writing” radio broadcast where he described his childhood hunts. professional dedication and experimental ingenuity. but instead expanded them even further: “If I had not caught the real fox there in the words. or. he could also issue them between the appearance of his major collections.10 Like his early sale of manuscript drafts. begun in 1967 was one he returned to repeatedly over his lifetime. “as long as a copy of the poem exists. This was followed by numerous other manuscript editions which incorporated either fair copies of his poems in his hand. he then adds. every time anyone reads it the fox will get up somewhere out in the darkness and come walking towards them” (“Capturing Animals”). More than the achieved poem. cannibalized working drafts. The first of these was the 1967 publication of Animal Poems in only one hundred copies. let the economics of these publications obscure what they also convey about the special status he accorded the manuscript itself. however. if successful. In his remarks. The poetic manuscript held a particular power for Hughes as evidenced as well by his early and frequent publication in special manuscript editions of his work. thirty-six of which include one or more of the poems in Hughes’s own hand. As Ekbert Faas summarizes his position. his decision to issue these manuscript editions was surely. I never would have saved the poem. and he commented on the circumstances of composition on more than one occasion. will produce great poetry in default of this inspiration” (39). He gave it pride-of-place in his New Selected. These editions served a personal need as well and are consistent with Hughes’s early critical statements privileging the original creative inspiration over any subsequent working out of a poem’s final form.” facsimiles of the original manuscripts prepared for the purpose.
Howls and Whispers was published in an edition of only 110 copies.” While he recognizes their clear market value—and its fluctuations—he also attaches a value to manuscripts that is outside the marketplace altogether.” He then adds. Hughes comments on the wide fluctuations in prices paid for archives and on the impossibility of capturing their real value.ENNISS elusive inspiration. went for a few pounds—even as late as the fifties. however. the manuscript that he charges with such importance is the poem draft: “the first drafts in hand” and the “miraculous early notebooks. It is important to note. in large part. “are astonishing documents of inspiration” (Letter to Prouty Smith). Hughes forces a split between the lived life and the creative imagination itself. in part. which Ekbert Faas calls an “obsessive concern” of Hughes’s early poetry (38). What has escaped notice is that Hughes maintained the same distinction with regard to his own journals from the period.” (188) 10. from which he drew all his major poems. . In his “Notes on the Chronological Order of Sylvia Plath’s Poems. strange handwriting. “The first drafts. in what is clearly the most commented on manuscript action of Hughes’s life.56 S. Hughes’s 1981 sale of the Sylvia Plath archive to Smith College offers further evidence of Hughes’s own attitude toward the manuscript record. he mentions “my journal of that time” and later adds that the harsh view of his marriage to Plath “will only be corrected. we see him drawing a clear distinction between Plath’s creative work (which he saw into print in five major collections) and a journal record of her personal life. his very different stances towards the poem draft and towards personal documents such as letters or journals. his destruction of Sylvia Plath’s last journal. in hand. in her large. when somebody produces her journals of the time and mine” (Letter to Aurelia Plath). probably. as if she were working out a mathematical problem. In a letter that anticipates this upcoming sale. Aurelia. Thesaurus open on her knee.” he writes. like a mosaic.11 Hughes’s early insistence that the sources of his own inspiration lay outside the self explains. a hieroglyph to itself… Every poem grew complete from its own root. In drawing a distinction between the public value of poetic manuscripts and the private nature of the journal.” he describes her method of composition this way: “She wrote her early poems very slowly.” Indeed. In a 1975 letter to Plath’s mother. in that laborious inching way. They are simply priceless. Hughes’s insistence on a spontaneous and uncontrollable inspiration may have been. ten of which included a single manuscript of one of the poems. a response to Sylvia Plath’s far different manner of laboring over her poems with thesaurus in hand. “these things have no absolute value. putting a thick ring of ink around each word that stirred for her on the page of the Thesaurus. chewing her lips. Neither a few pounds nor a quarter million dollars can adequately measure the value of such materials. Implicit in such a position is the notion that creative 9. While in 1963 Roethke’s papers went for [a] quarter of a million [dollars]. “I know that Dylan Thomas’ miraculous early notebooks. where every letter stands separate within the work.
the head of manuscripts at Sotheby’s and a personal friend of Hughes’s. The self-effacement implicit in such a split would later be construed by many readers as a defensive act of self-protection. about the impersonality of the poet. it may well be rhetorically powerful and carry striking phrases. to the unique psychic materials that were pushing for expression?” I am less interested in the application of this scheme to Plath’s own poem than I am in the implications for Hughes’s own poetics. and takes the poet completely by surprise. the initial inspiration offers the poet no more than an odd phrase or line. But we have to ask: what relation does it bear to the first inspiration (emphasis added). trying to anticipate it and take its slightest suggestions from the bits that have appeared. giving agency to some force other than the self. the poem springs complete from its initial inspiration. he writes of “the inner law of the poem. the roots of this split lie in his early conception of the creative process itself.SELF-REVELATION.” In a series of highly illuminating statements. The second type of process is one where “the poem can half rise” and the poet “struggles to help it. Hughes presents a view of the creative process remarkably consistent with his early views first articulated twenty-five years before. “The final work can often carry a strong poetic charge.” and its “inevitable conclusion. offering it words. In 1988 Roy Davids. asked Hughes if he could provide some notes on the surviving drafts of Plath’s poem “Sheep in Fog” for a lecture that Davids was to give later that year.” In the third. Hughes seems on the brink of an Eliot-like argument. felicities. Elsewhere in the original notes for the essay. and at the very least can be an admirable piece of craftmanship [sic]. The Ted Hughes papers at Emory include several journal-like entries on widely scattered notebook pages but contain no sustained journal. Hughes describes three types of poetic composition. anything from his bag of tricks. yet what he privileges in these statements is not so much a larger poetic tradition beyond the self as it is a kind of possession of the self. In such statements. Repeatedly Hughes refers to “the amazing inspiration” (emphasis added) that produced Plath’s major poems.12 In the first. and the poet “goes after it” with deliberate skill.” the poem that has been “persistently trying to emerge. What began as only a series of notes quickly grew into a well-developed essay that now offers one of the most full statements by Hughes on the manuscript and poetic creativity itself. as if he had no idea where it came from. indeed. These statements seem aimed at establishing the primacy of poetic inspiration. Thus. three degrees really of poetic inspiration. Once here. images. it cannot be altered” (TH to Davids). lines. . SELF-CONCEALMENT 57 inspiration can be separated from the day-to-day details of the lived life. Hughes suggests that the process of writing the Ariel poems was “a triumphant surmounting of all her personal difficulties” (Letter to Davids). The drafts before him are 11. that its source lies somewhere outside the self altogether. in effect. In fact. As Hughes puts it “the poem seems to write itself.
in the published essay. I do not consider it here. but for where they have come. he chose to emphasize not the artist’s control over his materials but his role as a channel for that original inspiration. In the “Sheep in Fog” essay. more than any other. or in various other editorial notes and introductions. What is most remarkable about the late collection Birthday Letters is the way the poems reunite that previously bifurcated self. No longer was he writing in a disinterested voice of a third party. In the end. Hughes describes three forms of poetic inspiration. In the original letter to Roy Davids. fragmentary. as the New York Times did. When Hughes published the collection near the end of his life.” his introduction to the Collected Poems. instead. In Birthday Letters he once again placed himself in relation to the events the poems. Birthday Letters sprang quite directly from the stuff of his own lived life. reunited the two halves of the self that he had kept apart in his earlier critical statements regarding the sources of poetic inspiration. In order to make such a claim Hughes had to ignore the considerable manuscript evidence of his own creative work. “Hughes Breaks His Silence on Sylvia Plath. the split that Hughes tried to claim between his personal experience and the sources of his own art was not one he was able to maintain with any consistency. to some fundamentally unknowable inspiration.58 S. While it validates the initial impulse that animates the manuscript draft. middle and end of a phenomenon to which no poem’s final printed version can give any clue” (WP 207). presented Hughes’s own self as a register of events. Here was a series of poems that sprang not from any impersonal and unknowable inspiration but quite directly from the journals. Implicit in this position is a certain denial of self that on some level Hughes found appealing. however. he also insisted that other 12. therefore. a past that is by its very nature broken. While he valued the poem draft for its creative and talismanic properties.” “Ariel by Sylvia Plath.” “Sylvia Plath’s Crossing the Water. That act. for the first time. He also did so in verse. as he had done in “The Chronological Order of Sylvia Plath’s Poems. he identifies four.ENNISS important not for where they eventually lead. the Birthday Letters poems. and had edited a considerable body of her work for publication. is a variation on the third. The tensions between these two selves are most apparent in the contradictory actions towards his own material archive. it also diminishes the poet’s own contribution to that creative process. They are “a complementary revelation…the log-book of its real meanings. His own papers typically reveal extensive revision of draft upon draft.” This view of artistic creativity has wide implications. These poems are an effort towards the coherent reassembly of that personal past.” Though he had written extensively about Plath. however. They trace “the beginning. Hughes attributes creativity not to any deliberate skill of the poet but. poems. The fourth. and always receding into dim and irrecoverable memory. . letters. reviewers were quick to proclaim. and photographs that are such a frequent point of reference of the poems.
The late synthesis of these opposing tendencies.SELF-REVELATION. . most apparent in Birthday Letters. SELF-CONCEALMENT 59 elements of his archive were his alone and not for any public scrutiny. These contradictory impulses of self-revelation and self-concealment allow us a glimpse of Hughes’s own conception of his art. allows us a glimpse of a self restored by art.
I will therefore go back on this term. he called it enantiodromia. Jung does not view it as a necessary condition: “The only person who escapes the grim law of enantiodromia is the man who knows how to separate himself from the unconscious. but by putting it clearly before him as that which he is not. not by repressing it. Enantiodromia could thus be viewed roughly as a return of the repressed in the form of a dream or a symptom.” In his own use of the concept Jung acknowledges his debt towards Heraclitus: Old Heraclitus…discovered the most marvellous of all psychological laws: the regulative function of opposites. for it is just as blind in its disorganization as it was in its organization. It may also take on the shape of a reversal affecting the history of a subject or an entire culture. Hughes defines the term with the formula: “Jung’s term for the reversal of one dominant psychological attitude into its opposite.” (1966 72) . In Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (40). In any case. homeostatic regulation. However. or even the life-drive/death-drive dialectic. the difference may seem minimal. to use a more Freudian terminology. while in Freud’s theory this dynamic is as unavoidable as the very existence of the drive itself.8 Drives & their Vicissitudes in the Poetry of Ted Hughes Axel Nesme When I indicated to Joanny Moulin that I was considering working on “drives and their vicissitudes” in Ted Hughes’s poetry. which I hope will permit me to situate differentially the more specifically Freudian concept of drive. In Psychology and Alchemy Jung also writes: “an enantiodromia has obviously taken place: after being rejected the unconscious asserts itself even more strongly” (1970 112). a running contrariwise. namely the irrational devastation of culture… The enantiodromia that always threatens when a movement attains to undisputed power offers no solution of the problem. he wrote back suggesting that I do some checking on the concept of enantiodromia as introduced by Jung in his writings and further explored by Hughes in Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being. by which he meant that sooner or later everything runs into its opposite… Thus the rational attitude of culture necessarily runs into its opposite. between enantiodromia and entropy or.
its shamanistic claim is also to offer its reader a way out of what Jung calls “the grim law of enantiodromia. be they thrushes. Whether in its in its vocal or phonemic manifestations on which I will primarily focus in this paper. 1. there is only a succession of metonymic substitutes which temporarily fill the gap of the lost primal object1 and which constantly reactivate the dynamics of the drive. instead the drive can be seen as both constantly re-circulating and circum-venting what Lacanian theory designates as Objet Petit a. whose aim is “but the return. For as Alain Juranville points out. which is in fact simply the presence of a hollow. “at large in the nothing” (179). which allows us to understand how a drive can be satisfied without reaching its goal. can put an end to it. cet objet que Lacan désignera comme objet an objet du désir et objet cause du désir tout a la fois. ne peut pas être l’objet du besoin. “the one note of silence/To which the whole earth dances gravely” in the poem “Fern” (W 28). or “an almighty gnat. by any object. the petit a” (1964 180). e. larks.” It is.” Thus while insisting in “Skylarks” that “The sky lies blank open” (W 168) and depicting in the poem “Pibroch” (177) the universe as the cradle of a persisting nothingness where his gnats will later be seen to fly. the object of the drive defines itself partly by the space it delineates. Hughes does not only create a vacuum in the sky the better to lodge there his new gods of survival. a void.” he also pins down the nothingness to which the object of the drive can be assimilated in the final analysis. being perfectly adequate to it as would be the object of the need. in Lacan’s own terms. “L’objet d’une pulsion. It is nothing (Il est le rieri). inscrira la presence d’un creux que n” importe quel objet pourra venir occuper (Dorr 185).” for insofar as the drive is that which defines man as a linguistic being subjected to the Other’s desire. The void central to the mechanism of the drive is apt to become resonant and turn into the oxymoronic “ringing nothing” which is heard at the end of “The Contender” (C 41)./The curlew’s tear turned its edge on the silence. . or conceivably the uncanny hieroglyphic silence of the bodies of the mute children described in “Deaf School” (M 105). the vacuum whose edges it maps out as does the curlew’s flight in “The Horses” (HR 16): “I listened in emptiness on the moor-ridge. as in a closed circuit. the poet’s writing is not only enantiodromic in relation to the culture whose repressed side it unveils. Le seul objet a même de répondre a cette propriété ne peut être que l’objet du désir.” On the contrary it seems to me there is no possible integration of the objects of the drive in Hughes’s poetry. “the object that we confuse all too often with that upon which the drive closes—this object. which can be occupied. “the object of the drive lends itself to infinite substitutions. The voice as object of what Lacanian theory calls “pulsion invocante” i. and whose agency we know only in the form of the lost object. Freud tells us. there is no object which.” (Dorr 185) Following Hughes’s own logic. to its own source.DRIVES & THEIR VICISSITUDES 61 I would not therefore go as far as to assimilate enantiodromia to a “reversal of a drive into its opposite. A ce titre. objet perdu. l’objet a en tant qu” il est éternellement manquant.
The scream thus carves a hole within the body while at the same time resonating in the space where das Ding is lacking. The “gap the scream delineates” is internal. For lack of ever becoming one with the real of das Ding. being in its background: quite the opposite. an apt analogon of Hughes’s writing insofar at least as it is the other of the metaphysical sophistries his poetry is fond of denouncing. It is there that the lack of the Object is experienced as the lack of all objects. In Poetry in the Making Hughes explains that a good poem may acquire the same solidity and unavoidable factuality as what he calls “some lovely solid thing” (WP 19).62 A. for the gap which its absence inscribes in each speaking subject: The scream is not primarily a call. e. but also more importantly the other of meaning itself. since the subject then becomes that nothing which is the Thing in its emptiness. the same scream Hughes presents as the origin of all things in “Lineage” and whose toned-down version we might trace for example to the rat’s screeching in “Song of a Rat” (W 162). (Juranville 231–2) The pure voice of the other thing where speech falters thus resonates in the scream with which the pure signifier Gulkana is equated in Hughes’s poem by the same title “The Gulkana” (R 78): “Gulkana—/Biblical. or rather. i. Not because silence sustains it. The death drive has no object. the Freudian Thing defined in Lacanian theory as “plenitude insofar as it is there located by the (verbal) signifier” (Juranville 253). or. In that case./A stone voice that dragged at us. He then mentions the knot that silence ties between something which exists just before it vanishes and the Other thing where speech may falter: it is this knot that becomes resonant when the scream carves a space inside it. and can trigger no desire. It is a thing among others.NESME “invoking drive. its mode of presence in the world is not similar but identical to that of an animal: “I think of poems as a sort of animal… Maybe my concern has been to capture not animals particularly and not poems. According to Lacan the scream creates a gulf into which silence rushes.” The utter nonsense of this river name isolates the voice as object. “ce qui.” partakes of a similar paradox. Its truest expression might be the silent scream at the center of Munch’s famous painting which carries the same title. however. the poem does not exist as a linguistic artefact implicitly signalling to the subject’s divorce from the Real. but simply things which have a vivid life of their own. then returns to its surface. hence also consubstantial to das Ding. a poem may at least convoke it by means of the scream which brings into play the vocal object as that which stands for das Ding. du réel primordial…pâtit du signifiant” (1986 142). It is at this level that the Nebenmensch (the Freudian Thing) appears as an unbridgeable gap delineated within ourselves and which we can barely approach. following one of Lacan’s many untranslatable formulas. In other words. a petrified voice (“a . The death drive penetrates this inner gap. a deranging cry/From the wilderness—burst past us. outside mine” (10). but it is also that of the Thing. it brings silence into being. that part of the primal real of which the signifier necessarily falls short and whose quest leads the subject beyond the pleasure principle.
as A. In this poem. where the speaker subjected to the mother’s desire for fusion (be it presented as a mere con-fusion between the two brothers: “able for all that distance to think me him”) becomes a tuning instrument. turns it into the imaginary locus where the lack of das Ding designates itself: “Her voice comes.K. having merged with the cosmos./Down a deep gorge of woodland echoes” (292). and more specifically that which occurs in “Anniversary.H. thus possibly manifesting the poet’s difficulty in coming to terms with loss otherwise than via a return of the ghost of the object.Juranville points out. as does from the outset the fate inflicted on the page from the diary which mentions the death of the poet’s mother. “A bodiless twin. hence the denial attempt (“something I kept trying to deny”) of the speaker. an evanescent and seductive object which. led by his transgressive desire to set foot on the locus of origins where the resurrection of the fish translates a primal scene fantasy in almost explicit terms.” reflected in the frame of fantasy. according to Juranville “lets the ear appear as a void” (186) where the drive involutes. it is no accident if many poems in which Ted Hughes apostrophizes the departed. “She is using me to tune finer/Her weeping love for my brother” (CPH 855). in other words. by drawing the outline of a void. This experience necessarily triggers a sense of anxiety. that which all invocations aims at. the poem subtracts the vision of the mother from this order to maintain her in a perpetual present. in a fashion similar to the tearing off of the page mentioning her death from the diary. shudders and .. here designated as “the windows of the express torrent. This is at least the suggestion one may read in the lines. piping. since. this erection of the voice as object is also the privileged medium of a questioning of the law of finitude. The text thus offers the maternal voice as object of the invoking drive a space where it can be heard from the grave and become the voice that is invoked. it “ultimately refers to the voice of the threatening mother. unliving.” Bearing witness to a dysfunctioning of the paternal metaphor which introduces the subject to the symbolic order. an ear for the voice of the mother who. as in a sonnet by Seamus Heaney called “In Memoriam M.DRIVES & THEIR VICISSITUDES 63 stone voice that dragged at us”) whose fate the gaze will later share (“Bliss had fixed their eyes”). the voice of perversion perhaps also.” The voice which thus makes itself heard is a voice from before the law. the law of symbolic castration partly challenged by the poetic subject in “Anniversary” (CPH 854).” For here the voice which is invoked is precisely the object which. Indeed. such as “For the Duration” (Ww 22) or “Old oats” (CPH 852) or “You Hated Spain” (BL 39) foreground the dimension of invocation.” the use of grammatical tenses signals the incompletion of the mourning process. of the seducing mother” (187) whose deadly power and force of attraction is expressed in the verb “dragged./Creation and destruction of matter/And of anti-matter/Pulses and flares. some doppelganger/Disinherited other. a voice which therefore carries no meaningful speech and reduces the speaker’s ear to a pure void. While the indication “Ma died today” inscribes this death in the linear temporality of the diary. as the speaker finds in the resurrected fish his own image. is animated by the pure binary movement of the drive: “The work of the cosmos.
Animated by the pure alternating motion of the drive in their constant shifts from activity to passivity—“Ridden to death by your own bodies/ Riding your bodies to death” (180)—the dancing gnats also follow the circular pattern of the drive circumscribing the central void which stands for the absence of das Ding. In his article entitled “The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious” after listing the various objects of standard analytical theory Lacan .” These lines from “Skylarks” (W 168) are exemplary of the two contradictory forces at work in Hughes’s poetry: on the one hand the fascination with the Other of articulate language as embodied by the larks’ gibberish. by virtue of which. one revolves around the object. it calls for the production of another letter. but as meaningless in and of itself. then returns to where one started. which I would now like to approach from a more metapoetic angle.64 A./ Like sacrifices set floating/The cruel earth’s offerings/ The mad earth’s missionaries.NESME fades/ Like the Northern Lights in their feathers” (292). on the other. is a pure act in which the signifier is produced. is the writing that Hughes’s gnats are seen to successively jot down and erase in mid air. i. The motion which inscribes a letter is the motion of the drive. “Writing on the air. the discursiveness which here substitutes a meaningful comparison for the nonsense of which the reader previously caught a glimpse. without the second one being anymore than the first. This appears quite clearly in the way one draws a letter on the page. And this motion is bound to repetition in writing: once the letter has been produced. within the specific temporality of poetic speech. As soon as a structure emerges. As meaningless as the scream in which the invoking drive opens onto the death drive which is the primum mobile of all partial drives in the essential vanity of their motion. (Juranville 284) Yet all this only applies to the initial logical moment of writing. sublimation occurs. however. at times when selves are “no longer woven into a voice” as Hughes wrote once again in “Deaf School” (M 105) or when animals set in resonance the void in which their voices are heard: “the voices and frenzies of the larks. always also the void of das Ding. with the same presence of meaninglessness (non-sens). preceding sublimation: The act of writing. which appears in lieu of the object. in the same way as in the partial drive./Squealing and gibbering and cursing. in Lacanian theory. hence their being defined as “immense magnets fighting around a center. rubbing out everything they write” (179). This scenario we can see at work in the poem from River “Milesian Encounter on the Sligachan” (44) with which I would like to conclude this paper. Central to the emergence of the voice as object is its withdrawal as the vehicle of meaningful speech.” Hughes’s insects thus offer an apt analogy for the initial moment of the writing process. my focus will continue to bear primarily on the first term of this dichotomy. the object is elevated to the dignity of das Ding. Given the line of questioning I have chosen. e.
not only “deictics and nouns act as shifters between language and its other.6). “peering into that superabundance of s pirit” (l.23) “precious like a preservative” (l. thereby creating the possibility of a withdrawal. reinforced by the six prose paragraphs inserted after the third line.” “petrified scapulae.” (Jenny 19).” language is made subservient to the speaker’s attempt at restoring a primal unity of sorts. this encoding of the real in the substance of the text to which alliteration contributes.” “clatterbrook.12–13).DRIVES & THEIR VICISSITUDES 65 adds: “An unthinkable list./The sheer cavern of current” (l.29). the gaze. alliteration thus opens up a discursive space “made up of the substance of the world and unfolding together with it.15) “Those shuttles of love-shadow” (l. the transgressive dimension of Hughes’s poetic undertaking in its problematic relationship to the law that posits the real as language’s impossibility. the phoneme. This omnipresence of alliteration draws the reader’s attention to what Laurent Jenny calls “plastic nuances” which “bring the weight of reality to bear on utterance. besides the falling rhythms introduced by several dactyls and trochees— “tumblequag. quaking cadaver and me lurching over it in elation like a daddy-long-legs” (l. this poem presents a number of formal features which suggest from the start that the encounter in question will extend beyond the level of the plot and involve the dimension of the signifier. Indeed. Indeed. if one adds. as I do. according to Jenny.” it fashions the poem as the locus where “this world divides within itself. perhaps as an echo of the primitivist longing for Beowulf days already expressed in “Thistles” (W 17). one formal characteristic that stands out are the numerous alliterations which seem to take this poem back to the origins of English verse. “giddy/Ghostly” (ll. This plasticity of poetic speech. In its primitivism. I believe. may thus be seen as the exact counterpart of the symptom as the encoding of jouissance in the real of the body. “crooked little clatterbrook” (l. “The shock.7).8–9). Here are a few examples: “something sinister” (l. vertebrae. The sensitive materiality of discourse also functions “deictically” in that it is oriented towards the world” (18). if in “Milesian Encounter on the Sligachan.” “something sinister about bogland rivers” —as a prelude to the fading “from the light of reality” undergone by the speaker at the end of the poem.” they belong to what the critic calls “that sensitive border which unfolds at the same time as utterance itself” and which can be seen as “a kind of “interface” between discourse and the world” (17). but not of an absolute separation.” “underbank opposite. notably by way of hyphenated words and compounds that stich various nouns together2.5). the most spectacular example being the bog which serves not only as .” “hairiness. the voice —the nothing” (1966 315).2) “crusty. it is precisely through the agency of the phoneme that the object is elevated to the dignity of the Thing. Following Lacan’s suggestion I would like to show how in this poem. “clear/ Cleansing” (ll. This last quote encapsulates. Despite the predominance of its narrative aspect. No wonder therefore. tears itself away from itself while preserving its plasticity.
if not the Freudian Thing. “the tip of my heart-nerve” (l. “up to my hip in a suck-hole…teetering over the broken-necked heath-bobs a good half-hour” (ll. “her timewarped judas-hole” (l. seem linguistically destined to meet. The frame of fantasy does not however provide the only connection between the two agencies involved. e.14–5). the linguistic climax of the poem only occurs in lines 50–2. so drowned-hair silent” (l.12). a Medusa” (l. “So lonely-drowning deep. 2.” (ll.47).16). This apex is itself followed by the purely verbal anticlimax of “salmo salar” (71) where Latin taxonomy takes over from the more native capitalized nouns of lines 50–2.” (ll.59). “the loveliest ogress…watched me.65).NESME the setting for poetic revelation. 19–20). an attempt which partially culminates in the climactic crash of line 47. at least that which stands for it.66 A.4–5) “daddy-long-legs” (l. “bog-cotton” (l. but also as an omnific signifier that lends itself to various transformations: “bogland” (line 2). “the eyepupil darkness? The loveliest.61). “With an ushering-in of chills” (l.17–8)—the better to tone down the threat perceived in the landscape as locus of epiphany. which define the text’s second. I would argue. “the Cuillins…that were blue-silvered” (ll. . “the long pool-tail” (l. two encounters in this poem: first. encounter. call it the phallic mother or simply the legendary Gorgon whose presence in this text is made quite explicit by the mythological reference: “With a ram’s skull there—magnified.11). blood-smeared grass. Indeed the subject and the Other. “underbog” (l.54) from the merger of “whisky” (l.” i. By stressing the infinite malleability of words as he also does in suggesting the genesis of the word “whisker” (l. 7).” “Ice-Age hairiness” (ll.30) bearing witness to the “Milesian” or picaresque aesthetic adopted by Hughes. the flood-sucked swabs of bog-cotton.7). 51) and “whisper” (l. 59–61)—with the “fellow aliens” (l. “Tumblequag.. “boggart” (l.43). left-behind. 14). most-longed-for ogress” (l. which transfers the stage of the encounter from the river’s imaginary setting to the poem’s linguistic make-up. Hughes thus reenacts in the materiality of the letter the imaginary scenario of the origins one of whose main protagonists is. whose oxymoron encapsulates the poem’s strategy aiming to reduce alterity to similarity—“Those peculiar eyes/So like mine. the [ou] assonance and [l] consonance thus metonymically connect verbs predicated of the speaker with the Other of the encounter: “I stroked its throat… I licked the moulded hollows/Of its collarbones. There are thus. In the same way as the various hyphens create a continuity between signifiers. both designated by hyphenated names.28).7). a razor-edged. being respectively compared to a “Daddy-long-legs” and to a “mostlonged-for-ogress. but also conveniently assimilating the river to the Gorgon from whose veins legend has it that both a deadly poison and medicine to bring the dead back to life could be drawn. the dusty calico rip-up of snipe -” (l.” But while a sexual meaning is deliberately suggested in lines 34–47 where the speaker portrays himself as successfully attempting to arouse the pool.14).52). “clatterbrook” (l. and more specifically poetic. the imaginary confrontation—mediated by a scopic fantasy in which gazes are exchanged: “I… peering into…” (l.
i. one of Hughes’s many explorations of the death and resurrection pattern.DRIVES & THEIR VICISSITUDES 67 The poem thus stages a love encounter with the signifiers of the mother tongue.” (l. This poem thus enacts a transition of sorts from linguistic innocence to experience as well as the speaker’s exile from original light. the origin of the encounter is located in directions provided by a third party —““up in the pools. [kræ]/[græ]).1)—a symbolic Other ensuring mediation between subject and object of the encounter. the speaker finally suggests that such metonymic ruins of the (m)other are the only object of jouissance allotted to him as subjected to the signifier. it also throws into relief a phoneme that takes us back to the Germanic roots of English.” Simultaneously . scientific language takes over and the lack is revealed behind the linguistic veil that covered it. the poem. by also letting through phonemic glimmers of what Hughes terms “the light of reality. While “Thistles” (W 17). the frame of scopic fantasy necessarily perceived as a betrayal of the total truth that hides behind. but also for certain gutturals. be it at the cost of what Craig Robinson calls “deliberate exaggeration” (203–4). eager. but perhaps incomplete. the word “boggart. In “Milesian Encounter” the poet is not only fishing “the long pool-tail” for the tale of an encounter in a pool.” which is West Yorkshire dialect for “specter. stages by way of a simile the resurrection of “the gutturals of dialects. previously repressed from the signifier which designates the setting of the poem. before staging their demise when denotative. by interposing the imaginary order between himself and the Other’s jouissance? This reading would be legitimate. e. grief. Hughes does most spectacularly in the apocopated internal rhyme of line 50 (“a Gruagach of the Sligachan).” they’d said.” elevates those to the dignity of the Thing Does the poet emulate Perseus who defeated Medusa by trapping her image in the reflection of his shield. where he extols those remnants of his language’s Celtic prehistory as the privileged vehicles of the metaphor which veils the woman as imaginary bearer of the phallus. e. grind. the reader has had ample enough opportunity to relish the raucous charms of the voiceless velar fricative. This.” “A Milesian Encounter” thus achieves a similar effect to that described by Hughes in the often-quoted passage from his “Notes on Shakespeare” (WP 105) where the poet explains how Shakespeare’s use of the Latin word “aggravate” reactivates “the concrete Anglo-Saxon “gr” core of growl.” and also with a specific phoneme. plosives (“grabbed…crashed”/“crack…anite” [græ]/ [kræ]. This fact. i. grate etc. As he implicitly did lines 35–6 in constructing a phonological chain that connected him with the Thing. While confming the other within the “judas-hole” of line 61. namely the Cuillins whose Promethean connotations (“asylum of eagles”) were the only reminder of the hero Cuchullain after whom those mountains are also named. I would argue is to be related to the poem itself being addressed to “Hilary and Simon. It is worth remembering here that at the beginning of the poem.” Hughes’s own brand of linguistic archaelogy not only unearthes the same sound combination set off by the chiasmatic ordering of the voiced and voiceless. Yet through the mediation of Hughes’s poetic narrative.
. The phoneme as letter thus borders a gap in knowledge. or in other words. In a recent book psychoanalyst Henri Rey-Flaud propounds a vision of modernity as the moment when the ultimate Cause of all things. the universe was thought as reasonable on the basis of the belief that the final reason of all things would be given one day and provide the meaning of meaning” (58).40). initially located in a prehistoric other whose connection with the subject. was of a primarily specular nature (“Those peculiar eyes/So like mine”) is later on integrated in terms of an “altering” predicated of the speaker’s body at the same time as the text undergoes the rather theatrical linguistic alteration I have been studying. As for Ted Hughes’s poetic project. for it marks the birth of scientific thought which. denounces metaphysical illusion the better to promote nature as a universal cause of creation and destruction. and are convoked in lieu of the primal signifier (designated in Lacanian theory as S2. the world “was only thinkable as obeying a principle of causality whose founding signifier was located in the Other. lays down the foundation of reality as such.NESME to this inscription opposing the gift of the poem as symbolic artefact to the gift of the salmon’s eye as imaginary object also thematized in the poem. that for lack of an ultimate Cause. Hence his mimologism. knowledge of jouissance is located in the Other: “you know when it’s coming” (l. a signifier which incidentally shares the same root as Chose. once and for all dismissed as pertaining to the impossibility of the real.68 A. which can be read as a refusal to accept the signifier’s essential inadequacy to its meaning. designated by the expression “Heaven. i. Rey-Flaud argues that the moment when “the chain of causes was broken and the founding signifier was lost is a decisive one in our culture.” (58–9). is elided. alterity. an Other which defines the subject of speech as the product of his splitting between his discourse and his speech as well as between his imaginary reflection and the real of his body. Perhaps therefore Ted Hughes falls short of what Rey-Flaud thus defines as “pure belief. he adds. it manifests a resurgence of a prescientific imaginary order which. e. the knowledge of jouissance as located in the unconscious. Previously.” In other words. although acknowledged. Which may explain why in the poem under scrutiny. by “eluding” and “eliding” the question of the ultimate cause. or the phallic symbol Ф) to function as substitutes of the Thing whose absence it proclaims.” I have tried to show how in his poetry meaningless objects occupy the space which this belief leaves vacant. the French word for thing. . the only possible belief rests on the absence of the ultimate Cause and on the assumption of the arbitrariness of the sign. in its iconoclastic guise.
The poets are (left to right): Stephen Spender.H.DRIVES & THEIR VICISSITUDES 69 At a cocktail party honouring W. . Photograph by Mark Gerson. W.Eliot.Auden. 1960.Auden at the offices of Faber & Faber on June 23rd. Ted Hughes. T. and Louis MacNeice.H.S.
2 and 3 on the Tree. not .70 A. Court Green. (Carol Hughes) World these three poems are ordered according to Sephiroth 1. 1996.NESME Plate 1: Ted Hughes preparing his papers for sale.
(Estate of Ted Hughes) . 1947. Among the earliest surviving manuscripts by Ted Hughes in the Hughes collection is this poem inscribed “for Jean.DRIVES & THEIR VICISSITUDES 71 Plate 2: “You were not born when mighty Alexander died.” early poem in Ted Hughes’s hand. ca.” a childhood classmate at Mexborough Grammar School.
on the verso. (Estate of Ted Hughes) . notes in Sylvia Plath’s hand for a planned novel.NESME Plate 3a and 3b: Working draft of Ted Hughes’s unpublished oratorio “Bardo Thodol” with. 1960.72 A. Falcon Yard.
DRIVES & THEIR VICISSITUDES 73 .
NESME Plate 4: “The Thought-Fox.” signed fair copy prepared for sale.74 A. (Estate of Ted Hughes) .
and a single leaf of Ted Hughes’s manuscript.” (Estate of Ted Hughes) . One of ten deluxe copies (out of a total edition of 110) featuring three watercolor drawings by Leonard Baskin. The Gehenna Press. one copperplate. Shown here is copy number 7 with a single manuscript draft of “Minotaur 2. a second suite of etchings.DRIVES & THEIR VICISSITUDES 75 Plate 5: Howls & Whispers. This series of eleven poems is described in the prospectus for the volume as “strays from the series” Birthday Letters. 1998.
NESME The Sephirothic System of the Ten Divine Names .76 A.
” “Child’s Park” “9 Willow Street” “The Literary Life” “The Bird” “Astringe ncy” “The Badlands” “Fishing Bridge” “Error” “The Lodger” “Daffodil s” “The Afterbirth ” “Setebos” 9 The Hermit 10 The Wheel of Fortune 11 Strength 12 The Hanged Man 13 Death Yod Hand Kaph Palm/Fist “Brasilia” Lamed Ox Goad “A Short Film” “The Rag Rug” “The Table” “Apprehe nsions” “The Coat” “The Ventriloq uist” “Life After Death” “The Hands” Mem Water Nun Fish “Fate Playing” “The Owl” 14 Temperan ce Samekh Prop .DRIVES & THEIR VICISSITUDES 77 Correspondences between Birthday Letters poems. Cabbala and Tarot. Botolphs” “The Shot” “Trophies ” “18 Rugby Street” “The Machine” “God Help the Wolf…” “Fidelity” Zain Cheth Sword Fence Teth Serpent “Flounder s” “The Blue Flannel… . “In the Atziluthic according to the alphabet. Tarot Card The Fool Hebrew Alphabet Aleph Cabbala Symbol Ox World of Atziluth “Fullbrigh t Scholars” “Caryatid s (1)” “Caryatid s (2)” “Visit” World of Briah “Chaucer ” “Ouija” “The Earthenw are Head” “Wutheri ng Heights” “The Chipmun k” “Horosco pe” World of Yetzirah “Isis” World of Assiah “Dreamer s” “Fairy Tale” “The Blackbird ” “Totem” 1 The Magician 2 The High Priestess 3 The Empress 4 The Emperor 5 The Hieropha nt 6 The Lovers 7 The Chariot 8 Justice Beth Gimel House Camel “Epiphan y” “The Gypsy” “A Dream” “The Minotaur ” “The Pan” Daleth Door He Window “Sam” “Robbing Myself “Blood and Innocence ” “Costly Speech” “The Inscriptio n” “NightRide on Ariel” “Telos” Vau Nail “The Tender Place” “St.
15 The Devil 16 The Tower 17 The Star 18 The Moon 19 The Sun 20 Judgemen t 21 The World
A’Ain Pé Tzaddi
Eye Mouth Fish-hook
Back o’head Head Tooth
“A Pink Wool…” “Your Paris” “You Hated Spain” “Moonwa lk” “Drawing ” “Fever”
“The 59th Bear” “Grand Canyon” “Karlsbad Caverns” “Black Coat” “Portraits ” “Stubbing Wharfe” “Remissio n”
“Dream Life” “Perfect Light” “The Rabbit Catcher” “Suttee”
“The Bee God” “Being Christlike ” “The Beach”
“The Prism” “The God” “Freedom of Speech” “A Picture of Otto” “Fingers” “The Dogs are Eating…” “Red”
9 Hughes & the Female Addressee
The first words of Hughes’s earliest collected poem are “O lady:” a formal apostrophe, as saturated as possible with the signs of poetic convention. Remember that Crow had his head cut off for singing “O leaves.” The female addressee is completely sublimated: she is the lost or unattainable lover of Elizabethan sonnets, the sinister “ladie” of traditional ballads and above all, as many critics have remarked, the White Goddess of Robert Graves. If this poem was in any way inspired by a relationship with a real woman or girl, that empirical situation has left almost no trace. As Ekbert Faas says, she is “some oceanic goddess…the White Goddess to whose youthful worshipper Graves’ book…had already turned into a kind of Bible.” Faas also reports that the poem was written “as if to dictation” and that Hughes was left, Coleridge-like, “with the frustrating recollection of a lost line he failed to jot down” (Faas 71). It is a classic example of what Graves calls a Muse poem, directly inspired by the Muse and taking her as its subject. Graves writes: “a true poem is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, the ancient power of fright and lust” (24). In The Hawk in the Rain this poem, “Song,” was placed first. In the various selected volumes it is pushed into second place by “The Thought-Fox.” This is certainly a more appropriate introduction to the poems that immediately follow it in Hughes’s oeuvre: Faas points out that such direct representation of the Goddess almost disappears from Hughes’s poetry until Gaudete. But if we focus on the second half of his career, and especially on Gaudete, the “Uncollected” section of New Selected Poems, and Birthday Letters, the female addressee is of central importance. At the same time, the mere mention of these texts signals that the female addressee has crucially different forms and meanings at different stages, or in different projects. In these different forms and meanings can be seen something of the gender struggle that Hughes’s oeuvre enacts. The peculiar characteristic of apostrophe as a poetic device is that someone who is absent is addressed as if she were present, (I am excluding here apostrophes to inanimate addressees such as the “Ode to the West Wind” which conventionalise an equally absurd form of address). The addressee is usually dead or has deserted the speaker: hence it is particularly associated with funeral elegy and love poetry. Jonathan Culler has written that in apostrophic poetry
“something once present has been lost or attenuated,” and that apostrophes “replace this irreversible structure by removing the opposition between presence and absence from empirical time and locating it in discursive time” (Culler 49– 50). This shift from the empirical to the discursive is very convenient for the kind of apostrophic poetry typified by “Song,” in which the addressee is sublimated, even apotheosised, and stripped of empirical characteristics. I want to contrast this highly specialised form of address with the normative conception of social utterance—including literary utterance—espoused by the School. In Marxism and the Philosophy of Language Voloshinov wrote that Orientation of the word toward the addressee has an extremely high significance. In point of fact, word is a two-sided act. It is determined equally by whose word it is and for whom it is meant. As word, it is precisely the product of the reciprocal relationship between the speaker and listener, addresser and addressee… I give myself verbal shape from another’s point of view (86). Bakhtin himself insisted that the speaker himself is always also a “respondent” who presupposes “the existence of preceding utterances” (1986 69), and that the word “break[s] through to its own meaning and its own expression across an environment full of alien words” (1981 277). In other words, addressivity is bound up with intertextuality. The removal of the apostrophic addressee from “empirical time” to “discursive time,” especially when accompanied by the kind of sublimation that we have seen in “Song,” drastically affects the poem’s intertextual bearings. The immediate allegiance of “Song” to The White Goddess obviously relates it to a vast network of poetic and religious imagery and ideas. It lends itself to the notion of intertextuality espoused by Barthes, for whom “the citations which go to make up a text are anonymous, untraceable, and yet already read” (160). Although Barthes derives this anonymous conception of intertextuality via Kristeva from Bakhtin, Bakhtin’s own understanding of the relations between texts was very different. For him “the meeting of two texts” was “the meeting of two subjects and two authors” (1986 107). This definition of intertextuality seems to me to apply to apostrophic poems such as Tony Harrison’s elegies for his parents, where the addressees are not sublimated, and their words (or words attributed to them) have a function that would be completely dissipated if they were “anonymous.” The crucial case in Hughes’s oeuvre is of course Birthday Letters. As I have said, the female addressee, having disappeared after “Song,” reappears abundantly in the Epilogue to Gaudete. More than half the poems use the device, which contributes powerfully to the sequence’s impression of withdrawal, loneliness and concentration. It appears again in the “Uncollected” section of New Selected Poems, where poems addressed to Sylvia and to Assia are presented in such a way that a reader without biographical information would not be able to identify the addressees. Finally, the fact that all but four of Birthday
” which Hughes’s word has to “break through. very aware of what was happening to her” (Letter to Neil Roberts and Terry Gifford.” where Plath writes “The first time.” ambushing Hughes’s poem. it does make a difference. The Gaudete epilogue poems are addressed to “a nameless female deity. “Waving goodbye from your banked hospital bed. Few cases could better .” The reason why this is the best known of them is that most readers assume it is about Sylvia Plath.” breaks down and the simple words which he cannot compel to serve his own meaning draw the poem into the gravitational field of Plath’s text. And it smashed” which seem to allude to “Lady Lazarus. always “anonymous. assuming them. and ever since I have had this information I have thought this one of Hughes’s most moving pieces of writing.” In a letter to Leonard Scigaj however Hughes denied that the poem had anything to do with Plath (Brandes 187). into that female in the other world (or hidden in this world)—and naturally I could only lend him people I have known. concerns the best known of these poems. The peculiar malignity with which the poem seems to be hijacked by one little phrase owes not a little to the many other texts.” Hughes wrote in a letter that in them “Lumb adds up several women in his life. even if he or she were very familiar with it. October 1978).HUGHES & THE FEMALE ADDRESSEE 81 Letters are addressed to Sylvia was one of the most frequently remarked features of the book when it was published. like a flower-vase.” In most contexts such a commonplace phrase would not remind a reader of the poem.” He was particularly informative about the poem “I know well. It is not a question simply of one text. as he does so. “You knocked the world off. mainly because of the lines. as Barthes claims. It is Bakhtin’s “alien word.” The situation is however more complex than this. again arising from Hughes’s comment. his assumption of the women he has known into a “nameless female deity. Another problem. The words “the third time” do not literally occur in “Lady Lazarus. which have intervened between Plath’s writing and his own. which reminds me of Bakhtin’s conflict-filled conception of the life of the word which “break[s] through to its own meaning and its own expression across an environment full of alien words” (1981 277).” Hughes’s response to an admittedly rather insensitive criticism of this poem was to ask whether it made any difference to know that “the girl in “I know well” was Susan Allison. the “assuming” as Hughes puts it of people he has known into the “female in the other world” obscures what is in the poem. This could not happen if intertextual relations were. but that the sublimation. it is almost as if Plath herself momentarily speaks. I don’t think this is because I am sentimentally importing into the poem a vicarious feeling about a real-life situation. But in the context of a Ted Hughes poem addressed to a dead female. It is not that the information adds something to the poem.” “The second time” and “This is number three. An interesting intertextual point arises here.” But it fails. mostly hostile to him. who died very slowly of Hodgkins’ disease. My answer to that question is yes. distracts the reader from the particular human reality./It was the third time. His attempted sublimation. “Lady Lazarus.
and so outflanking the feminist argument. Hughes suppressed its circumstantial basis. This introduction of an element of horror that even exceeds that of the poem could be interpreted. In “The Rabbit Catcher” Hughes writes lines that play intriguingly round those of Plath’s poem. In other words. in a more circumstantial way and from his point of view. removing some poems and adding others. In Birthday Letters poems such as “The Rabbit Catcher. value judgements and accents. and the rivets that . however. “Black Coat” narrates. Birthday Letters are the most intensely and intimately but also the most deliberately intertextual of Hughes’s poems.J. At one level this could be seen as an indirect answer to one of the most resonant polemics in the Hughes—Plath wars. to Perloff’s narrative) of himself with the rabbit catcher. in Hughes. sometimes to startling effect. air. By asserting his own perspective in this overt way Hughes answers not only Plath’s reaction to the traps but also the popular image of himself as a violent and sexual predator. as an outflanking manoeuvre. and with it the implied identification (according. Plath’s erotic language is replaced by an unsexualised and even sentimental family scene. Perloff argued that the original sequence had a “narrative structure” centring on Hughes’s affair with Assia Wevill and his “actual desertion. This manner of citation is intertwined with the often elaborately circumstantial character of the poems. Again and again he cites Plath’s poems. as it were. “riveting stones.” “The 59th Bear” and “Black Coat.” he seems to be doing the opposite: restoring the poems and prose of Plath to the most minutely circumstantial context. the image of the hands round the mug. The most direct echo.ROBERTS exemplify the Bakhtinian word that “enters a dialogically agitated and tensionfilled environment of alien words. but studiously ignores the sexual parallel. it could be interpreted as a sign of access to an authentic reality not available in Plath’s poem. the incident that inspired Plath’s poem “Man in Black.” In the Gaudete poem Hughes’s alleged intention of writing a poem that is not about Plath is subverted by the intertextual word. is perhaps even more interesting.” (1981 276) We could say the same of Birthday Letters.” But the significance of “Man in Black” is of course Plath’s later allusion to it in “Daddy. together. though the relationship of these poems to the “word” of Sylvia Plath is very different from that of “Waving Goodbye. again.” where the hero of the earlier poem. These words of Plath’s are represented as belonging to the dramatic situations evoked by Hughes’s poems. stories and journals.82 N.” His words. in rearranging Ariel. “Watching me/ Pin the sea’s edge down” echo hers. one that only he knows because only he was there. caused by “her essential and seemingly incurable schizophrenia” (Perloff 313–4).” The published volume however is arranged to suggest that Plaths suicide was inevitable. Marjorie Perloff’s comparison of the published Ariel with the collection that Plath prepared before her death. And why does Hughes change the colour of the mug from white to blue? In any other writer this could only be a mistake. The brilliant detail of “blood in the cuticles” suggests that Hughes has immersed himself in Plath’s vision to the extent of retrieving from her consciousness a graphic image that did not find its way into her poem./All of it.
The urgency of the lines is all to do with his communion with Plath. To tie it to particular circumstances as Hughes does in Birthday Letters requires a great deal of work that lyric is traditionally reluctant to do. although it was both a strong foretaste of that volume and. offered an additional frisson. followed by eight that are apparently about Assia Wevill: of each group seven are addressed to Sylvia or Assia respectively. concerns the envy of “you” for “her. He plays so blithely into the hands of his critics that he conveys his contempt for them far more effectively than in the prose polemics he occasionally yielded to.” Fixed stars/ Govern a life” are of course the last words of the poem “Words. This publication aroused nothing like the interest of Birthday Letters. the poem fits a particular set of circumstances.” who is dead. but it also reflects the strong pull of this kind of poem towards anonymity and universality. He seems indifferent to the issue.” as Jakobson called them. he imagines. But it takes a reader specially attuned to the Hughes biography to make this assumption. in the Assia poems. I had said. The first “Assia” poem.” This is more than an appropriation: it is a claim that Plath’s famous words are a quotation from himself. This can be illustrated if we think by contrast of the “Uncollected Poems” in New Selected Poems. even taking into account the interposition of “The Dogs Are Eating Your Mother.HUGHES & THE FEMALE ADDRESSEE 83 image his power to create wholeness. but fixed stars/Govern a life. leaving the tardy scholar to pick it up.” with which Hughes chose to conclude Ariel./A man in black with a Meinkampf look/And a love of the rack and the screw. when her father “crawled” from the sea and “slid into me. It is neither the concluding poem of her proposed collection. But “claim” and “confess” both miss the mark as attempts to describe Hughes’s tone here. Assia. are transformed into “a model of you. nor the last poem she wrote. the norm of “Song” and the Gaudete epilogue.” which like many of the Birthday Letters borrows its title from Plath.” The most audacious of these allusions is in “A Dream”: “Not dreams. These include eight poems later collected in Birthday Letters. but the questions of intertextuality that I have been discussing are closely bound up with those of addressivity. not at all with textual politics. or the embarrassing poem “The Dogs Are Eating Your Mother.” I may seem to have strayed from the topic of the female addressee. There is no compelling reason why most readers should understand that the “you” of this poem is not that of the preceding sequence. which she drew up before it was written. then here he is claiming—or confessing—that he literally gave himself the last word in Ariel. The second person of lyric poetry is notoriously nonspecific. This is partly a matter of marketing. If we begin with the assumption that “you” is a particular person.” addressed to Hughes’s . If Hughes really spoke these words. “The Other. These pronouns are entirely relational in their reference—“shifters.” The manoeuvre of Hughes’s poem is to suggest that this transformation was already predetermined at the moment when Plath watched him at the sea’s edge: the moment.
at the moment of reading the journal. that of her writing in the journal.” The Other” is followed by “The Locket” which refers to “Your death. His remorse for his former absence is made the more poignant by his being there in the presence of these traces now.” The illusion that the words in the journal are literally traces of her voice allows for a moment the even more tormenting illusion that the unachieved future is still just that: a future. /You are ten years dead.” (cf J 131) These words “Had come to you/When I did not. circumstantial pastness of the dead person is obscured in the ways I have been discussing.J. and the moment of reading the journal ten years later. after the notorious meeting at the St Botolph’s Review party. the exceptional sense of actuality with which the poems present the grieving writer conversing with his dead wife. the dead person as if she were alive. however. Hughes returned to Cambridge but failed to see Plath. The phonocentrism also intensifies the account of Hughes’s feeling as he reads: “I look up—as if to meet your voice/With all its urgent future/That has burst in upon me.” The references in this poem to the Song of Songs.” another poem about this incident. this paradox is weak because the empirical.” These words are not mere signifiers but the literal traces of her presence. Plath’s writing in the journal is described in a remarkably phonocentric way: “Your actual words. drinking in the pub. Among the best examples of this are the poems that dwell on an incident in March 1956 when.” In most elegiac lyrics. is . Late at night he and his friend Lucas Myers threw mud at a Newnham window thinking it was hers. This is a device which Plath herself used to profound effect.” Hughes’s account of his inactivity recalls the guilty heedlessness of the protagonist of Cave Birds in “Something Was Happening. apostrophic poetry is characterised by a peculiar and paradoxical temporality: the absent is addressed as if it were present. One of the great strengths of Birthday Letters is its management of this paradox. but they were mistaken. and waited in torment for him to visit her. The circumstantial differences between the two groups of poems are obscured. and the pull of this kind of poetry towards the anonymous and universal asserts itself. Berlin and the swastika presumably signify Assia’s Jewishness and her Eastern European antecedents. in “Daddy. as if it stands for his general failure towards Plath: it figures much more prominently in Birthday Letters than his affair with Assia. a remembered moment when his daughter asked for her mother. superimposes the moment of his failure to see her. but to a reader not aware of this they are strongly suggestive of well-known motifs in Plath’s poetry.84 N. as they floated/Out through your throat and tongue and onto your page. Then the journal shrinks back into mere signification: “printed words. It is only a story.” “Visit.” In “The Machine” the moment of his guilty absence. In “The Machine” Hughes quotes directly from the journal: “A huge dark machine” and “The grinding indifferent/Millstone of circumstance. As I have pointed out earlier. Plath knew he was in Cambridge. Hughes attaches a surprising importance to this episode.ROBERTS children. as Jacqueline Rose has argued. Later he read her account of this in her journal.
” “Remember how we picked the daffodils?” In normal circumstances devices such as this are touching. By attaching her texts to circumstances of which he is the only surviving witness he asserts his authority. is part of the rhetoric of authority that runs throughout Birthday Letters. In two cases he uses the fiction of her presence to ask her to “Remember. responsible for the deaths of at least three women. The shared memory that is now only his. Hughes’s absence from Plath at the moment they return to. when he writes. In them Hughes abandons his project of obliterating the identities of the women he has known while subsuming them into the figure of the Goddess. The fiction of the dead person’s presence does not have its usual consolatory effect.” he writes. in Hughes’s case they are also polemical. The citation of Plath’s poetry and prose is a part of this polemic. Marjorie Perloff’s “bland.HUGHES & THE FEMALE ADDRESSEE 85 imagined as the moment in which he is swallowed by Plath’s fate and passes into another time in which. indeed obsessed with. the dead possibilities of the past are still alive. he also claims ownership of the meaning of Plath’s words—even. “The trousseau of the apple/Came by violence into my possession… I forestalled God —/I assailed his daughter. again. . protesting about The Savage God. in that crude. It is not only Alvarez’s memoir that aroused this reaction.” Birthday Letters’ insistence on actual circumstances resists the pull of apostrophic poetry away from empirical time and into discursive time. In the more typical Birthday Letters poem Hughes and Plath are both present. It is a deeply moving but also a deeply obdurate work. so that he can appeal to her for confirmation.” In “The Bird. in one case literally claiming them as his own. This is a man who wrote to Alvarez. I have also suggested that it is polemical. In their treatment of the female addressee Birthday Letters are at the opposite extreme from “Song” and the Gaudete epilogue. however. unlike Lumb. which I have suggested is counter to the generic norms of lyric poetry.” and in “Daffodils. “Remember. an attempt to answer the “bland. and one can only too easily imagine his response to. unanswerable” reference to his “actual desertion. claiming back ownership of his own experience. and interpreted and published as official history” (Malcolm 125). and the circumstances are once shared memories that are now only his. the comparative absence of the specifically linguistic energy that we normally expect from Hughes. It is not a dialogue in the sense that her words answer his. also accounts for the uncharacteristic flatness of much of the language. unanswerable way. unanswerable” feminist reading of Ariel according to a narrative that “reinvents” his private experience./The defective jailbird walk we perfected. “It is infuriating for me to see my private experiences and feelings re-invented for me. bland. for example. In doing so.” which takes as its central image that of “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams. This insistence. His sense of failure is not merged with a generalised lament about man’s violation of nature./Circling Boston Common together. In an important way these poems owe their poignancy to something that is uncharacteristic of Birthday Letters: they are concerned with.” which she claimed his version of Ariel obscured. as we have seen.
And this is mostly because they speak on the two sides of a major transformation in the history of ideas.” or. and whether our reaction to it be comic or serious). In fact.S. Besides.S. which means to find out the patterns to organise the “inner world.S. Hughes said that a poet must “develop inwardly”. Incidentally. Still. But a pig should not be bought in a poke. T. the difference between Eliot and Hughes in this respect rests on a conceptual bind.Eliot hailed James Joyce as the inventor of “the mythic method.” This may lead to the creat tion of an “original mythology. failing that.” saying that “Mr Joyce’s parallel use of the Odyssey has a great importance.Eliot” that Hughes has published in A Dancer to God. It has the importance of a scientific discovery” (175).10 Ted Hughes’s Anti-Mythic Method Joanny Moulin In his 1923 article “Ulysses. Hughes’s own “mythology” turned out to be hardly more original.Eliot. of ordering.” For Ted Hughes’s way is rather an anti-mythic method in several respects. in words which in many ways echo his definition of the “mythic method” as “simply a way of controlling. and The Golden Bough have concurred to make possible what was impossible even a .” which Ted Hughes has insistantly declared himself not to be.Eliot.S. This jarring note might well break the nice crystal “mythos” of an unproblematical rapprochement of Ted Hughes with T.Eliot wrote that “Psychology (such as it is. in his 1970 interview with Ekbert Faas. of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history” (177). In 1923. a closer scrutiny of the issue ought to have been brought about by a 1975 article by Stuart Hirschberg. For the word myth does not mean exactly the same thing for the two of them. and his dubbing Eliot “a great literary shaman of the spiritual tradition of the West” in Shakespeare & the Goddess of Complete Being (89) are most certainly the expression of a genuine admiration.” (176) and it is easy to rush and see Hughes as one of the continuators of this mythic method.. He also said that it was “a method for which the horoscope is auspicious. ethnology. “you may uncover the Cross as Eliot did” (Faas 204).S.” T. For it is a very convenient cover-up of the fact that T. The “Tributes to T. Hughes explained that an artist may develop both outwardly and inwardly.Eliot was an active defender of “The Idea of a Christian Society.S. He picked the example of T. for it is simply the radical opposite. “Myth and Anti-Myth in Ted Hughes’s Crow. Order & Myth.
in their places or out of them” (312).TED HUGHES’S ANTI-MYTHIC METHOD 87 few years ago” (178). For. that is to say an extra-linguistic fact.” provisional scaffoldings. A “myth” or “mythos” is a fabulous story. “Mythology” or “mythologia” is either the history and the study of fabulous tales. Still. and for him mythos is truer than logos.S. they did agree at least on one word to qualify myth—it is the word dodge. Hughes operates an implicit reversal of values. to him. expressed what would then become a widespread opinion concerning Joyce’s “parallel to the Odyssey” saying that “it has been treated as an amusing dodge. A set of such given references. Eliot’s “mythic method” can be read as an extension and a variant of the “objective correlative.Eliot saw it. To translate Sagar’s assertion into Hughes’s vocabulary of Shakespeare & the Goddess of Complete Being. that is to say as a means to an end. Hughes’s definition of myth is very close to that of the referent. seeing something as “real” or “sacred” is tantamount to seeing it on what Hughes calls “the mythic plane” (219) or in “the mythic dimension” (221). which amounts to the common “picture language” of a poet and his readers. In a sense. This key tenet of Hughes’s poetry has been understood and established by Keith Sagar. Jungian psychology and Sir John Frazer would be part of the staple reading of a Cambridge student in English and social anthropology like Ted Hughes. yet it remains evasive and unclear. myth was still very much a tool to be used in a method. in the 1950s. with such assertions as.” in the sense of Pindaros of Thebes who opposed it to logos. of no interest in the completed structure” (175).” which for him are “nothing more than the picture language that we invent” to express “the deeper shared understandings which keep us intact as a group” (WP 310). Now it first seems that Ted Hughes is saying the same thing when he writes that “mythologies are dodgy things. or mytholoy. in his vocabulary. while criticizing Adlington’s criticism of Ulysses. or scaffolding erected by the author to the purpose of disposing his realistic tale. for instance: “To see something as real. But this is not what Hughes means here—he does not mean mythos as “legend. Eliot. in all its fullness of being. or such fabulous tales themselves. But he is speaking of “mythologies” and. Yet. But. and their doings.” There is only a difference of degree between “finding the formula of that particular emotion” (48) and using myth as “a way of giving a shape and a significance to” something else (177). very graphically. As T. Hughes is turning Plato’s cave inside out. saying: “one ‘mythology’ that I found ready to hand was the natural world—all the various creatures of the world. as nearly all the concepts Hughes makes use of are “dodgy. “myths” are more precisely defined as those “deeper shared understandings. a hierophany” (210).” But the words “mythology” and “mythos” have here undergone a reversal of their etymological and commonly accepted meanings. One might even go as far as to . logos is the pseudos. he goes on using the word “mythologies” between inverted commas. is to recognise it as a manifestation of the sacred. of which a given group of people may have a common experience. as early as The Art of Ted Hughes.” The difference is extremely important. is what Hughes calls “mythos. and mythos is closer to essential truth. or such a use of language.
MOULIN say that. for Hughes. according to Hughes. At face value. the connective side of logos. it is the target. to be more accurate. Even Nature. He declared that the “great works of imaginative literature” may either be good. a tissue. This biological metaphor of myth as living text pervades and sustains the whole of Hughes’s poetry. to express whatever ineffable emotions. And the sort of truth in question is given by the definition of myth as “tribal dreams of the highest order of inspiration and truth” which give “a true account of what really happens in that inner region where the two worlds collide” (151). Simply. myth itself stands for an ontological absolute. as in a creative-writing tool-box. Hughes’s philosophy can be defined as a psychology. for Hughes. incidentally. In the second of these. is always already a myth.” except. This basic tenet of Hughes’s vision of the world was expounded as early as his two “Myth and Education” papers. In his first “Myth and Education” paper. the 1976 text then partly reprinted in Ekbert Faas’ The Unaccommodated Universe and now in Winter Pollen. myth is not a method.” as Larkin would have it.” or “evil works.” and therefore a mythos. On the contrary. perhaps. that is to say a text—or. is actually anti-myth. echoing Pilate’s last question to Christ (John 18:38)—to the question of what is good. and more precisely a historicist psychology in which myth is the closest possible approximation of transcendental truth. be it as it may. even the Goddess. out of which the poet might pick and choose. And it is verified still in Birthday Letters where “a poem unfurled from you/Like a loose frond of hair from your nape/To be clipped and kept in a book. It is verified as early as The Hawk in the Rain where the Thought-Fox is a literal-cum-animal hybrid. That is because. myth is emotion. as it were. there is no real solution of continuity between words and things. Hughes propounded a surprisingly black-and-white appreciation of literature. This revised definition of myth enables a discreet progression from the question of what is [the] truth—which. Hughes agrees with Derrida that “There is nothing outside of the text” (158).88 J. these considerations lay the basis for an unobtrusive shift from an epistemological to an ethical ground. It is not at all a random element of some “myth-kitty. that if it were more clearly stated it would run the risk of meeting some serious critical contradiction. in which case “they are hospitals where we heal. a 1970 article which has never been reprinted. it reached a form of conceptual expression with the antithetic phrase of “true myth. where our imaginations are healed. but is fundamentally the product of human history. Hughes makes no difference between “the referent or the transcendental signified” and what would be a transcendental signifier. But. Mythos is for him.” in which case “they are also . There is no saying why this upside-down definition of myth as truth should remain “unspoken.” (61) or where the “sacrifice” that Sylvia’s hands make when she writes is a “story. for Hughes.” Hughes wrote that “the unspoken definition of myth is that it carries truth of that sort” (152). Myth. any more than between physics and metaphysics. In short. is also the title of one of Hughes’s books of poetry for children.
supposedly. By his dealings with the “mythic plane. Whatever the motivations for these minor textual . a “mythic poet” may heal his cultural community. 1983 edition of River. in moments of severe crisis (see. that is also to say. is that we are dealing with an anti-Christian polemist. towards the climactic proclamation of the mating salmons at the hour of their death as the “Arks of an undelivered covenant. chosen to write “covenant” instead of “promise. One of the changes consists in having. if the shaman’s myths were not true. Ted Hughes is a moralist.Eliot’s favourite values.” a shaman. To the question of how to tell whether a shaman’s influence is good or evil. in Hughes’s vocabulary.TED HUGHES’S ANTI-MYTHIC METHOD 89 battlefields where we get injured” (67). SGCB 89–90). from Genesis to the Gospel of Love (which God ridiculously fails to teach Crow) and to the cartoon resurrection of the Trickster.. e. and it is too easily forgotten that he is one with an axe to grind. g. Needless to say that this is not exactly the kind of point of view that could easily be reconciled with T.” as “the symbolic story of creating a neurosis. for example. There is no need to repeat how the poems of Crow wage systematic attacks against the Old and the New Testament. It goes without saying that The Iron Man is far from being the only one of Hughes’s texts to which this anti-Christian ethos applies. Needless to recall how Gaudete is a burlesque attempt at showing how “Christianity’s something about women.” He went on to explain that it was “exactly the story and exactly the symbolic condition” that.” such as it is printed not in the first. But it might be worthwhile to make a pause on this particular detail. I have quoted from the poem “The Gulkana. but what is not true is forgotten again” (WP 152).S. this medical metaphor of literature casts some light on how to understand Ted Hughes’s idea of the poet as a shaman. or in the 1984 American edition of River where the poet had already amended his text to the version he was to keep. so to speak.” (CPH 667) in “The dance orgy of being reborn” (254). Hughes says that “priests continually elaborate the myths.” corroborated by Hughes himself in his interviews with Ekbert Faas. but in the New Selected Poems 1957–1994 and the Collected Poems. By extension. Therefore. in his story of The Iron Man at least. and his method has quite overtly been to launch mythic antidotes to the Christian myths. There is no need to more or less admiringly reassert how River literally reeks with New-Age neo-paganism. Ted Hughes is. One of the main points of Stuart Hirschberg’s “Myth and AntiMyth in Ted Hughes’s Crow. That is why these “shamans” appear. he defined the story of Saint George. and therefore not good.” saying that it was “the key to the neuroticmaking dynamics of Christianity. which in his opinion is “the key symbolic story of Christianity. then they simply would not rouse any reader’s interest to speak of. a latterday Celsus. he was “trying to reverse” (66).” and introduced the vision of the “dance-orgy” in the textual vicinity of the notion of resurrection here revised as palingenesic rebirth. In the first “Myth and Education” paper.” (65) and a stubborn mistaking of agape for eros. or so Hughes says. or an English Nietzsche of sorts. it is to be feared that the only one to know the answer is the shaman himself.
although in an altogether linear. Within the Crow collection itself. which revises the crucifixion from a non-Christian point of view. as of the larger mythic bases.” for instance. as close as it can. with a key Christian myth and its accustomed vocabulary. of which Crow and Cave Birds are the superstructures. the better to subvert it.” The same item of poetic discourse is conveyed in a later Crow poem. and all the more potent. This is the subtextual pattern of the shamanic flight. which will then develop and grow. The unspoken. poetic discourse is that Christianity (1) has invented nothing very new and (2) has drawn the wrong conclusions from its discovery. the ready-made energy of a pre-existent myth. or rather harnessing. chronological way. where “tidings” (R 122) has been changed for “advent” in “This is the liturgy/Of Earth’s advent” (CPH 681). which is also that of the poet of “Mount Zion” (RE 62) for whom “Christ was only a naked bleeding worm/ Who had given up the ghost. which is a declared instrument of satire or of simple Jamesonian play. One prototype of an anti-myth in character form is Gog. In like manner. a solution has already been . Unlike a pastiche. The realisation that we are dealing with crucifixion poems. which I have suggested to call Hughes’s monomyth after Joseph Campbell. the “blueprints” or projects. an antimythic poem strives to mimic the myth it is targeting. in a quasi viral way.” (C 41–2) who is said to “lay crucified with all his strength/On the earth. the author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces. is likely to dawn on the chronological reader with “The Contender. One of the clearest examples of this can be found in a series of poems which tackle the Crucifixion.MOULIN amendments. This could be merely coincidental. but it is in fact an instance of textual tuning which is part of a systematised tactic. But these simple anti-Christian poems are still an early stage of the global antimyth. The same remark applies to “Salmon Eggs. an anti-myth works by stealth and chameleonic camouflage. Ted Hughes’s anti-mythic method is a strategy of brinkmanship and subliminal influence. which are in fact anti-crucifixion poems. It often seems to be tapping. stinking blind-alley. That is equally true of isolated textual instances. which generates the strong implicit impression that the Christian myth of the Resurrection is just another avatar of the same. where the sacrifice of the Son of Man on the Cross is depicted as a stupid prank of Crow’s and a gangrenous.90 J.” “The Contender” is a simple antimyth of a poem. the Old Testament fiend from Ezekiel recycled as an avatar of the Anti-Christ. saying: “Hearing the Messiah cry/My mouth widens in adoration” (W 150). who derived it from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (581) and defined it as “The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation—initiation—return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth” (Campbell 30). Now Hughes’s compulsive riding of this hobby-horse of eternal return is repeatedly done in terms that keep verging on Christian imagery. “Crow Blacker than Ever” (69). the net result is that here we have a resolutely neo-pagan poem which comes to flirt.
like an intratextual Auerbachian “Figure.Eliot merely did. with a hero of a new type. when Hughes’s Prometheus Unbound. The mythic construct is literally beginning to melt down and away. his shape/Is a cross. dragonish tragic larva has suddenly split—and this shimmering nuptial insect (the Theophany) rises out of it. the Irish myth of Cuchulain. So that. like Shakespeare’s Adonis. Hughes had made an earlier attempt at analysing his own mythopoetic method. which is probably the most accomplished. which is the human body qua structural concept./and a step./and a step—” Prometheus “treads/On the dusty peacock film where the world floats” (M 92). On the “objective correlative” plane of the imagery.” Hughes’s anti-mythic discovery can thus be traced in this movement from Crucifixion Poems to Theophany Poems. And yet another occurrence of the same. The solving of this problem is what Crow is really about. and begins its hybridisation with. which is the same as Orghast. is to be found at the end of Cave Birds. in a halo. “Take What You Want But Pay For It. And it is one of the stereotyped representations of what he would later call the “Theophany” in Shakespeare & the Goddess. By a process of iteration. tiny as a pin” —and who is beginning to take into account the non-conceptual energies that Christianity allegedly suppresses. in the sense that.” (SGCB 329) Another occurrence of the same is to be found at the end of Prometheus On His Crag. whose vision has evolved—“One of his eyes sinks into his skull. the Promethean body of the crucified. or dissolution of the Christian myth of the crucifixion is being invented. The anti-myth is here a kind of thaw. which is really an extension of stanza VIII in the final_version of “Skylarks” (CPH 173–6).S. is tearing free and liquefying. Ted Hughes’s poetic writing has thus gone at least one step beyond “uncover[ing] the Cross. in a 1977 interview with Ekbert Faas. The “bleeding worm” of the Crucified in “Mount Zion” (RE 62) has eventually achieved its metamorphosis. for the myth of the crucifixion is being yoked to.” (42–4) which is both a crucifixion poem and a pieta. for the reason that it is the locus of his work where a literal solution. And the mythic tissue starts growing perceptibly in “Crow’s Battle Fury” (67–8). Exactly as Cuchulain in “Crow’s Battle Fury” (C 68) is “a hair’s breadth out of the world” and “comes forward as step. we are presented with a positive crucifixion poem. He was then trying to use the concepts of the “masculine” and . for the first time. eaten by light. as Hughes puts it when speaking about Shakespeare: “The muddy. or. Crow remains Ted Hughes’s masterpiece collection. That revised crucifixion poem becomes a major stereotype in Hughes’s poetry./On the Creator’s face. blooms on the bosom of his motherly crag.TED HUGHES’S ANTI-MYTHIC METHOD 91 found out of the impasse of the crucifixion myth and the deadlock of radical antimythic opposition. in the hatching out of “The Risen” (60). This barely incipient anti-mythic change will have acquired a fuller and more visible momentum in a later poem of Wolfwatching. On a minor mode. on its way back to the womboneness of oceanic presence. where Hopkins’ aviary symbol of the Cross is being burnt out—“when he soars.” it recurs again and again in Hughes’s work under various guises.” as he once said T.
this recognizable progress or change at the centre of his work. This theological thesis. Foremost among those is “Life after Death” (182–3).92 J. of crucifixion poems. the Egyptian beetle. in the manner.” is expounded in the appendix to Keith Sagar’s The Laughter of Foxes. rather. It is the ultimate antimythic method of Khepry. where it is “Sylvia Plath. or “Crow project. offering herself up in sacrifice. but as the ideal sloughing off of the chrysalis of words.” The way of Hughes’s poetry is then no longer to be seen as the ever iterated construction of new myths. made most clearly in the two poems “Being Christlike” (153) and “The God” (188–91). “The Hanged Man. to “move from one pole of total disaster in the relationship between him and the female to the opposite pole of totally successful. the scarab-god and verb of metamorphic. The marriage poems of Cave Birds and the alchemical conjunctio oppositorum that they exemplify are the theoretical link between the gender issue and the metaphysical issue. It happens in Crow. where the Crucified. is what is essential to Hughes’s specific poetic genius and individual talent.” is overtly equated with the earlier “Ted Hughes” character. who is construed as being caught in a Christlike spiritual attitude. too. towards the end. or. the “Ted Hughes” character of Birthday Letters is the persona of a previous self. Hughes identifies his former self as being in a Christ-like position on the mythic plane—“I fancied the pain could be explained/If I were hanging in the spirit/From a hook under my neck-muscle.” the poetic figure. over whom the later Hughes is reflexively pondering. it is already a thematic metaphor of a more general philosophical thesis.” This poetic statement is complemented by another. Still. the gender issue is a corollary. the gist of the matter was for Crow. In short. the hero-poet. Remarkably. literally amorphous being. One of the outstanding features of Hughes’s last collection of poems is the powerful resurgence. . But it has been made more visible by the light that has been cast on it by Birthday Letters. as Keith Sagar’s development implicitly corroborates.MOULIN the “feminine. This mythic pattern.” to explain the underlying blueprint narrative which was to Crow what the Odyssey must have been to Ulysses. of the Rousseau of the Confessions. blissful union” (Faas 213). as a transparent answer to the enigma of “a Salvia/Pressed in a Lutheran Bible.
and prepared an annotated inventory to accompany it to Atlanta. surrounded by boxes. the other is lost behind the ranks of cardboard cartons that fill the foreground of the picture. even before the archive had been completely catalogued by the library staff. with the expectation of completing a manuscript by the end of the year 2000. Hughes had invited that curiosity in one of his last books: Birthday Letters. covering much of the tweedy carpet and an Oriental rug (in the archive . members of his family and many of his friends were still in mourning for him. By the time of his death. A heavy gold wedding band shines prominently on the ring finger of his left hand. turning the pages of what appears to be a business letter.B. But Ted Hughes had been producing autobiographical writings steadily. Ted Hughes would have been dead for only fourteen months and three days when the new Millennium arrived. those of us without personal relationships to negotiate were free to be curious about him. composing the very notes you are about to look at. Explicitly stated in the prospectus was my intention not to write a biography. Ted Hughes established the means of pursuing the project of piecing together the history of this persona by selling a very large collection of his papers to the Robert W. Visitors were permitted to see this interesting document. throughout his career. His mouth is closed in a firm relaxed line. On his nose are large spectacles with dark amber frames from which a cord runs under the collar of an olive shirt that has been left unbuttoned at the neck far enough to disclose the gray hair on his chest. chin and jaw blurred by a couple of days’ growth of beard. One dark brown shoe is in evidence. elbows on his knees. Georgia. The manila file folder containing the inventory was an inch and a half thick.Woodruff Library at Emory University in Atlanta. and the first sheet to meet your eyes was an 8x10 glossy photograph: Ted Hughes at home. if sotto voce. Yet because Hughes was now dead.11 In Search of the Autobiography of Ted Hughes Diane Wood Middlebrook In June 1999 I received a contract from Viking Press to write a book about Ted Hughes.1 Hughes organized the archive himself. Hughes—much like his early master W.2 Hughes is sitting forward on a wooden chair. The date is late autumn 1996. Open it. He is wearing light-colored khaki pants. a meditation on his famous marriage.Yeats—had devised a persona of himself that I believe was meant as a legacy to posterity.
means “cannot be appeased or pacified. boxing a jigsaw puzzle of 108. Ted Hughes Breaks His Silence on Sylvia Plath. The New York Times inserted an American angle: “In Poetry. On the wall behind him hang several prints. intent on the business at hand. emerging from his self-protective cocoon only occasionally. Steve Enniss dated the photograph in a conversation with DM. If the picture conveys a sense of pathos.94 D. Hughes’s agent. On the table to Hughes’s right. Hughes said through his British publisher.” The reporter Sarah Lyall gave a typical slant to the story: “It has been nearly 35 years since the poet Sylvia Plath put her head in a gas oven. Steven Enniss” estimate. mostly to correct errors or to write prefaces to Plath’s work… Mr. and in February 1997 Ennis returned to pack and ship materials to Emory. And at this particular moment he is completely unselfconscious. it is entirely in the eye of the beholder who knows the date of Ted Hughes’s exit. 14 October 1999. the need for clean 1. inquiring whether Emory would be interested in acquiring Hughes’s literary archive. Faber & Faber. One is identifiably an image by Leonard Baskin: either a cave-bird or a crow. And for all that time. we remember. Such was the theme of commentary that followed the publication of Birthday Letters. The man we are looking at will go on to publish six more books. 2. Here is a man surrounded by his life’s work. Negotiations continued over the Winter. received a phone call from Roy Davids. a chinoiserie lamp illuminates the pages in his hand. and made a series of small purchases in the late 1980s and early from a variety of different manuscripts dealers.” Implacable: odd choice. 17 February 2000.” She probably meant inexorable—“cannot be prevailed upon to yield to request” — for Hughes was a famous avoider of journalists. Two sample headlines from the front pages of prestigious newspapers suffice to convey the way journalists defined the book’s importance: “Revealed: The Most Tragic Literary Love Story of Our Time” was the headline in the London Times. which he is itemizing in preparation for sale to a library. ten months before Hughes died of cancer. In November Ennis went to England to see the materials first-hand. . though. early in 1998. and at Hughes’s back we notice a wooden door. 3 I began with this image because it is a view widely held in the world that Hughes was a man who protected his privacy. and a red magic marker lies within reach. with feathers like plates of Japanese armor. her widower. Curator of Literary Collections at Emory. Emory began acquiring Ted Hughes manuscripts in 1985. e-mail to DM. ignoring the camera. 3.WOOD MLDDLEBROOK later you will find letters negotiating the acquisition of this rug). In late 1995 or early 1996 Stephen Enniss. except when he was promoting one or another good cause: the need for poetry in the schools. says this pose. The archive was officially opened for research in April 2000. It is finished. 000 pieces. that he wanted his work to speak for itself and did not want to be interviewed. has maintained an implacable silence about their life together. killing herself at age 30 soon after her husband left her for another woman. the poet Ted Hughes.
“Desk Poet. he was willing to be usefully forthcoming. My initial survey indicates that on eight occasions between 1965–1998 Hughes made significant published contributions to an autobiographical account of his marriage to Sylvia Plath: • 1965: interview with John Horder in The Guardian. But I would say that both Hughes’s sale of his papers to Emory. Letters Home.” and Hughes was the privileged witness of that process. • 1975: publication of Letters Home. • 1982: an edition of the Journals of Sylvia Plath. which he permitted to be published in the book that emerged from her doctoral dissertation. I speculate that his refusal to be interviewed was motivated not so much by a desire for privacy as by a rejection of the rhetorical position of respondent. At one point he explained himself bluntly: “My silence seems to confirm every accusation and fantasy… I preferred it. at the time of the posthumous publication of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. Janet Malcolm. TriQuarterly. which he permitted to appear in Malcolm’s book The Silent Woman. Here is an excerpt from the interview that appeared in The Manchester Guardian. on which Hughes served as Consulting Editor. Chapters in a Mythology. in her poetry. Hughes began elaborating this story in print as early as March 1965. to allowing myself to be dragged out into the bullring and teased and pricked and goaded into vomiting up every detail of my life with Sylvia” (Lyall). Full publication details: John Horder. and Hughes’s own published contributions to our information about him speak otherwise. He is qualified for this role because he understands poetic genius. with which Hughes took an active editorial role. Chapters in a Mythology. Sylvia Plath. Plath completed her apprenticeship in the creation. He will allow no one else to establish the terms of his self-presentation. • 1981: publication of Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath. 25 March 1965. in which Ted Hughes discusses his relationship to the author of Ariel: 4.IN SEARCH OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF TED HUGHES 95 waterways. . • 1966: publication of “The chronological order of Sylvia Plath’s poems’ in a special issue of the literary journal.” Judith Kroll. which Hughes edited and introduced.4 The narrative goes this way: they shared an apprenticeship. “The chronological order of Sylvia Plath’s poems. • 1998: publication of Birthday Letters.” Ted Hughes. Anne Stevenson and Janet Malcolm. And in presenting himself in print. on the whole. • 1994: correspondence with Jacqueline Rose. • 1974: correspondence with the Yale graduate student Judith Kroll. of a “real self. The Collected Poems and The Journals of Sylvia Plath. Plath’s suicide left Hughes the steward of that self. The Silent Woman.
You begin to write out of one brain. Collected Poems. Her apprentice writings were like impurities thrown off from the various stages of the inner transformation… The negative phase of it. You see. which Hughes was currently preparing for publication in the USA (though not in the UK). is suicide. Hughes’s “Foreword” to the journals carries the story yet another step along.” and every nine months or so the body of her manuscripts would undergo a complete change. contains “not merely what verse she saved but—after 1956—all she wrote” (13). We just lived it. in my view. And this is what she finally did achieve. Though Ted Hughes’s sister Olwyn served as the business manager of the Plath estate. But the positive phase (more familiar in religious terms) is the death of the old false self in the birth of a new real one. each one using everything the other did. he offers an idealizing characterization of Plath’s development as an artist.” (J xi–xii) This narrative has many subtexts. “One can compare what was really going on in her to a process of alchemy. The most significant. It was a working partnership and it was all absorbing. “The Ariel eventually published in 1965 was a somewhat different volume from what she had planned… omitted some of the more personally aggressive poems from 1962… Several advisers had felt that the violent contradictory feelings expressed in those pieces might prove hard for the reading public to take” (CPP 15). Further developments of this narrative occurred in conjunction with economic opportunities that emerged from the successful marketing of Plath’s work. There was an unspoken unanimity in every criticism or judgment we made (Horder). in an explanatory trope.96 D. It was all we were interested in. in a set of notes by Hughes.WOOD MLDDLEBROOK There was no rivalry between us as poets or in any other way. It also contains. eight or nine books before Heinemann took “The Colossus. how “real” am I? What kind of “self” could be comparable to hers? What would it mean to be “real” —in words? . all we ever did. We were like two feet. After we’d returned to England and were living in Chalcot Square near Primrose Hill. Speaking from the vantage of the intimacy provided by marriage. It sounds trite but you completely influence one another if you live together. we would each write poetry every day. His introduction to Plath’s Collected Poems is remarkable for the attitude of entitlement with which he reveals his editorial interventions on Plath’s behalf. she needed to write—she could produce a characteristic poem at any time she liked. is the unexpressed comparison Hughes communicates: She became “real” in her work. Hughes notes. She may have been influenced by Stevens and Lowell in a couple of poems but she had found her own voice. She wrote an enormous amount. a considerable amount of quotation from Plath’s journals. Hughes remained firmly in control of editorial issues. after a long and painful labor. Sylvia was completely original though. logically.
it might be argued. . Hughes exchanged the position of critic for that of husband. T. Like several of them. In other words. banishing the claims of bodily pleasure. Thus. Translating this thesis into more contemporary language. could not be adored. offer a searingly personal register of the vicissitudes of living through the late 20th century as the partner of a culturally influential woman whose importance increased with the development of the feminist movement in the last quarter of this century. he used that position to promote her posthumous reputation. Ted Hughes had become a greatly esteemed public figure. He began to pursue what was a perhaps unconscious program of writing for the British public a unified field theory5 of British poetry.Eliot in “The Poetic Self: A Centenary Tribute to T.IN SEARCH OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF TED HUGHES 97 I believe that the last works of Ted Hughes constructed an answer.S. however. this voice had been suppressed at the time of the Puritan Revolution. Scott Fitzgerald. in Britain. During all the years since Plath’s death in 1963 Hughes had managed to make a living by shrewd management of his own publications. “the newly throned god and the deposed goddess tore each other to pieces” (WP 111) at the mythic level. Crucial to this development in Hughes’s self-presentation was his appointment in 1984 as Poet Laureate to the Queen. His letters to friends indicate.S. associated with femaleness. Hughes observes that Puritanism invested all attributes of the Creator in a Jehovah of extreme. partly because of the popularity of his writings for children. Like a couple of them. The Laureateship gave new impetus to his critical work. the husband of Katherine Mansfield. In surviving his accomplished wife. Hughes joined a small but important coterie: Robert Browning. Hughes applied this phrase to the work of T. Shakespeare’s poetry “has its taproot in a sexual dilemma of a peculiarly black and ugly sort. according to Hughes. Hughes held the position of legal executor of the woman writer’s literary estate.Eliot. it returned in demonized form. even the translations in which his own subjectivity seems absent. split off. husband of Virginia. But Hughes differs from all of them in having embraced the role of husband with his imagination. Leonard Woolf. that during the 1970s and 1980s he felt stalled and unfulfilled as a writer of poetry. divesting religion of its goddesses. husband of Zelda. a writer like himself. and partly because of his advocacy on behalf of writers. He offered the hypothesis6 that the voice of poetry is the voice of the god the Greeks called Eros.Eliot. as lust. the black and ugly conflict between the sexes is an outcome of 5. the god of sensuous love.” (WP 106) Again and again in a Shakespearean plot. husband of Vivien. in the poems of Birthday Letters and his other “last” works.” (WP 268). Hughes says that Shakespeare’s work “dramatizes the biological polarity of the life of the body and the archaic nervous system and the life of the reflexive cortex. His last works.” (WP 120). The erotic. when.S. John Middleton Murry. Even. and by investing income earned by the estate of Sylvia Plath. and claimed that. Nonetheless. militant rationality. so it was repressed.
First came Tales from Ovid (1997). On first inspection. the former themes of his writings are replaced by a focus on the partnership of a man and a woman bound by. The poems of Birthday Letters. the play from which Sylvia Plath drew an epigraph when she wrote her first poem for Ted Hughes. “The Great Theme: Notes on Shakespeare’s Verse. Yet all are focused on marriage. But under this rubric can also be included the translations Hughes produced after releasing his big Shakespeare book. Ted Hughes.98 D. Completing this exhaustive work on Shakespeare did indeed unblock Hughes’s own creativity. and that he discovered first in his history-oriented reading of Shakespeare and then by re-reading the works of Sylvia Plath. and Euripides’ Alcestis (1999). This was followed by Hughes’s adaptation of Racine’s Phèdre (1998). Hughes seems to have lavished his critical skills on the work of another writer the better to clarify something inchoate in his own imagination. which Hughes recast as a pair of plays that explores the foundation of the war between the sexes. and struggling within. In all of Hughes writings from 1994 until his death. In the last works of Hughes’s Laureateship.” reprinted in (WP 103– 121). he elaborated the argument in the massive tome Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being. these translations do not seem to be of a piece with the intimate domestic realism of Birthday Letters. And though the original dramas are tragic by genre. a Western cultural ideology so pervasive it seems natural. in which a tragic plot is reversed by the wife’s return from the dead.WOOD MLDDLEBROOK identifying mind with masculinity. Birthday Letters (1998) is the obvious. From this time forward. in an introduction to a selection of Shakespeare’s verse. and are thickly planted with analogies to Hughes’s marriage to Plath. Hughes first roughed out this thesis in 1971. “Pursuit” (a factoid that is not as trivial as it sounds). Hughes’s versions pull them into the gravitational field of his own exulting discovery of the sexual dilemma that he himself had been inhabiting unconsciously for years. selections from Metamorphoses that depict human beings who are catastrophically transformed by fateful sexual entanglements. speaking as Poet Laureate. In 1992. primary example. and setting it in dominance over the female. . draw copiously from the Plath archive of journals. has become an object among others on a wide horizon of social meanings. he reveals an obsessively personal engagement with discoveries about human being that emerge in the dynamics of a marriage. Not just Plath’s poetry—re-reading everything she wrote. a sexual love. addressed to Plath. Hughes began to explore as his own the sexual dilemma he had pinpointed first in Shakespeare’s tragedies. but cannot be understood until the marriage is over. as he says in the poem “Drawing” (BL 44). as theatre reviewers have been quick to notice. letters. drawings and photographs that “rescued” the time they had spent together. Like many poet-critics. Posthumously published were The Oresteia of Aeschylus (1999). Sometimes he appears to 6.
sometimes. different memories. he has been prompted by her words to enter his own. In “18 Rugby Street. Obviously. Hughes found himself exhibiting character traits and dispositions that seemed to originate somewhere else: in his mother. We have observed how completely he admired them for their artistic purity.” Hughes recalls the “night in London on your escape to Paris” as “April 13th. No: in the aftermath of thinking about Shakespeare he returns to his wife’s words to pay them a different kind of attention. Before. then. more subtly. Hughes turns to Plath’s voluminous records of daily life as to invaluable depositions of their life together. Under the pressure of their union. he would have double-checked such allusions for accuracy. The strongest impression given by these poems is that of contact with the terrible strangeness that intimate partners can reveal to one another in the ordinary course of sharing their lives. Then too he is reconstructing events from a different intellectual perspective than the one he brought to bear as her editor.” (BL 21) . he speaks as if these poems could have nothing to do with him. writing Birthday Letters. from the first 7.7 but the actual date was 25 March—and. animal passivity he labels “sleepwalking. Taken altogether. As Plath’s survivor Hughes winced when he encountered the Lawrencian prose in which she described him to her mother. Like most couples in the 1950s. he had been a self-appointed sponsor of her reputation.” the one they shared with characters in Shakespeare. he takes on the whole range of the subjectivity that can be discovered in Plath’s writings. Hughes required the omission of passages that he thought would not add to her luster in the world’s eyes. Yet Birthday Letters is not a work of uxorious nostalgia.IN SEARCH OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF TED HUGHES 99 misremember—as when he recalls that on the night he first kissed her he stripped a blue headband from Plath’s hair—Plath says it was red—and when he mistakes the date on which they first made love—he says it was Friday the 13th of April. when he describes her at their wedding as “a nodding spray of wet lilac” (BL 21): he had given her a pink rose that he doesn’t mention. At the same time. his substitutions can be seen evidence of interventions excited by historical insight into their “sexual dilemma. ostentatious substitutions. As her editor. at other times. painstakingly calling to public notice a select array of poems in which her distinctive gift reached full expression. These were not always disquieting revelations about Sylvia Plath. But he also remembers things differently from the way she set them down. A Friday. Birthday Letters shows how disquieting revelations began unfold between them during the first days of their honeymoon. But as the voice of Birthday Letters. What is the point of these rather insignificant departures from Plath’s texts. he occupies a time different from the time he shared with her. Your father’s birthday. and from established facts? If Hughes had been writing as a critic. Hughes and Plath did not live together before marriage.” So. in a kind of stupid. Now. And so forth. His apparent misquotations of her words are deliberate. for he is not remembering her words.
like the thief in Edgar Allan Poe’s detective story “The Purloined Letter. that his obligations lay far beyond that of serving as the manager of his dead wife’s estate and the steward of her posthumous reputation. aimed at posterity. But while he was still alive and holding off the journalists. Hughes captured this disturbance poignantly in the poem “9 Willow Street. we might say. normal estrangement—in the first person. incoherently personal. where he lived for nearly forty years far from the hub of literary life. as yet. Hughes. So far.WOOD MLDDLEBROOK days of marriage. moreover. He had to embrace their struggle with his creativity. My working hypothesis is that Hughes. His withdrawal into Devon and Yorkshire.100 D. . To elaborate this perspective is the purpose of the book I am undertaking.” has hidden something in plain sight. Gossipy memoirs that began to appear immediately after his death—such as a memoir of an affair with Hughes by the English writer Emma Tennant—have not penetrated that penumbra very far. Hughes was steadily cooperating in the coherent organization of a very large amount of information about himself. preserved his privacy within a wide penumbra.” Birthday Letters attempts to explore these experiences—of. recognized that his own historical importance resided in having been a husband. readers and commentators have been successfully put off the scent by Hughes’s foxy stratagem of claiming to be a very private man. it seems. awareness of extreme and disturbing difference flows dreadfully beneath the surface of their happiness. That’s the man I’m looking for: the one who left the materials of his autobiography hidden in plain sight. find words for what had been experienced as intensely.
all-embracing sense. and all living things” but equally of “the Queen of Hell. spirits. Her laws shape and govern Hughes’s characters. goddess of witchcraft. Embracing all human conflict. He saw an overvaluation of rational. of the “the Queen of Heaven. Far from it. hounds etc. In her devouring/loving principle he saw “the key to all mythologies” (Shakespeare and the Goddess). As such. as the bringer of life and of death.” of “Isis. the underworld. her aspects and the laws of her world are easily recognisable under different names as aspects. and hence of the Goddess. however. Modern Western society Hughes diagnosed as being repressive against anything associated with the Goddess. At its heart. laws and an image of the world we live in.” (111– 2). motivate or animate them. lies his myth of the Goddess of Complete Being. as the image of the Goddess. for Hughes she was inseparably linked with his concepts of creativity. music—with the healing potential of art. is a powerful. while providing the overall background for his distinct cosmology.12 “Earth-Moon:” Ted Hughes’s Books for Children (& Adults) Claas Kazzer I am going to talk about one of the most intimately personal aspects of Ted Hughes’s work: his writing for children. darkness. it would be false to claim that the stories. He saw how centuries of “enlightenment” had lead to the . WP 136–53). mother of all the gods.” herself as presiding over the forces of the Unconscious (cf. to which Hughes’s children’s writings offer a most open access and of which they give a surprisingly full account. Her laws he considered as those governing our own “inner worlds. But they are also laws. Inseparable form the Female as a muse. abstracted thought. the moon. myth. Doubtlessly. esp.” of “Hecate. What she presents in Hughes. In her image he saw combined the aspects of Venus. the laws of the Goddess are the ones to which his protagonists must adhere or ultimately fail. He saw her as “Nature” in the widest. historically and psychologically charged image that unifies key conflicts under one common name and in one particular set of associations. any reading of Ted Hughes’s work will benefit greatly from an awareness in the reader of what he regarded as the creative/destructive powers of the world we live in. Yet. the Goddess was the major creative force in Hughes’s writing. as in most of his works for adults. poetry. sexuality. this is also a cosmology. all magical operations. poems or plays could not be enjoyed or understood without such an awareness.
Or we may see what the inner world may come to. to our inner selves (148–9). even under the worst of circumstances. Lumb (Gaudete). In social-historical terms. The rarity of such marriage scenes is matched by the difficulty. What he was after was the re-creation of a balanced relationship between “outside” and “inside. Consequently.” with . mutated. there are the rare “marriage” scenes as in “Bride and Groom Lie Hidden for Three Days” (CB. WP 136–53). Hughes saw all this as going hand in hand with a loss of contact to the “inner world” of the human psyche. In psychoanalytical terms we may encounter her force in the powers of C. he thought. Industrial ruins “must fall. Even Hughes’s early protagonists get to experience this redemptive aspect of the Goddess. It does not seem incidental in this context. the “outer world of man-created technology (and culture)” (“Parables” 149). like those described in “Moon-Freaks” (Earth-Owl 39) or “What will you make of half a man” (G 110). we mutate into half-men (and women). Life continues. Hughes wrote a poetry of life and of hope.G. we may be aware of the effects of male domination of most areas of Western society over the last centuries. where the actual balance between male and female. how the mistaken notion of Man as the Crown of Creation had effected (and was used to justify) an increasing abuse and destruction of Nature. the severed head of a dead lamb is given “all earth for a body” (M 33)—and though what has happened is hard to take. Lacking in contact to our inner selves meant lacking access to the most “important half of our experience” (144). as he was from romantic escapism into a world of cosy subjective fantasy. was healing. which Hughes ascribed to achieving the task. Yet Ted Hughes was as far from condemning the world of “objective. In terms of environmentalism (the “Goddess as Nature”). making whole (cf. inner and outer world is achieved. half-beings. while Crow must search for his creatrix/bride. humankind and nature. He felt that there was a terrible imbalance. Prometheus (Prometheus on His Crag) or the nameless protagonist of Cave Birds are given a second chance. Finally. The ultimate goal of art. humankind and our natural environment. we may realise the inevitability of the Goddess’ laws in the results of human misuse of natural resources or of environmental pollution. Having offended or failed her.” male and female.KAZZER suppression of the Female and her “darker” worlds.102 C. that “Bride and Groom. that Nature doesn’t just give up.” between “objective” and “subjective imagination. Life will try again. into earth” to “flower again” (RE 14).1 In Hughes. Clothed in story and myth. He tells us that Life doesn’t just give up. originally intended for Crow) or in The Iron Woman.” rational thought. Moreover. the level of communication which Ted Hughes considered most appropriate as a background for imaginative 1. the Goddess is given the force of a natural law—a force we may recognise as such in most of the spheres we live in.Jung’s Unconscious or of Anima/ Animus. in the terrible forces of neuroses. Imbalanced.
in which she is described with affection. e. etc. threatening presence. she makes her appearance at frequent intervals in more or less openly mythic connotations. 75). Cave Birds or Crow.” or “The God. where a visit to the rocky outcrop “Bridestones” has a sensitising effect so that “from now on/The sun/Can always touch you/With the shadow of this finger. The Iron Man and The Iron Woman. From such early pieces as “The Bull Moses” (L 37). Venus or the Moon-Goddess (cf. There is the famous “Two Legends. she also presents the “feminine side” of his inner world. As such. madwoman. and of course. WP 373–465 and SGCB). the Moon’s most frequent and telling occurrence is in the moon poem books and the Creation Tales and stories for children. the Goddess appears as all of these and more. the Goddess influences and haunts the whole canon of Western literature and culture. who is “Your moon of pain” (20). “Gog.” “NightRide on Ariel. In this paper. or where “Mount Zion. The Moon is one of the most frequently recurring images in Hughes’s poetry for adults. sometimes malicious.” “Isis. hag. Often. Interestingly.” in which “Sun and moon alternate their weathers” to hatch Crow (C 14). the connotation of the moon in Plath and Hughes is different. seductress. WP 111–2). adoration. She shows herself in Moortown and is more fully present in River. Birthday Letters more than any of the books for adults is littered with moon imagery—there are “Moonwalk. were the Moon (again in conjunction with the Sun) is responsible for the “Creation of Fishes” (R 56). in which she appears in the prominent guises of Isis. she occurs in significant conjunction with the Sun. fear. She makes her appearance in Gaudete.. into nature. In Plath (and subsequently in Birthday Letters). though immensely powerful moon prevails in Hughes.” for example. or “The Plaintiff” from Cave Birds. While we might be acquainted with the more threatening side of the Goddess from such works as Gaudete. In Hughes’s works. 34) and in Elmet.” a chapel. while a more positive. is “blocking the moon” (ibid.” “Full Moon and Little Frieda” (W 192). to clean it” (E 65). witch. esp.TED HUGHES’S BOOKS FOR CHILDREN 103 literature. . I will investigate her presence in the inner “moon world” of Hughes’s children’s books—a world. Hecate. She emerges as much from his experience of the natural world as from real and imagined women. (cf. reads like an account of the construction of his children’s story characters. The portray the balance its metal imagery. healing power. 2. But we may also find central aspects of her projected into the shapes of mermaid.2 However. and clearly represents an image of the Female as Hughes perceived her. This is a sphere. she is more of a foreboding.—just as Sylvia Plath’s poetry is full of moons. horror or respect. but a world in which she is also known and visited for her consoling. g. apart from some obvious links in Hughes’s prose writings (cf./From now on/The moon can always lift your skull/On to this perch. Hughes’s children’s books present her with her loving/creative aspect intact.
4 Those are exactly the parts of oneself that must “die” if one is to gain access to the creative world of the Goddess. Neill 12) or moving there. far more fluid and alert. like “Concealed Energies. offered the rare opportunity of communicating in a most open and direct manner. or The Rattle Bag and The School Bag (both with Seamus Heaney)—accounts for what Canadian scholar Lissa Paul so aptly called the “children’s Hughes” (Paul. intimately.” (WP) . Hughes thought. And his essays suggest that he considered such awareness and the subsequent shedding of false selves.” that it alerted him to what was false to himself. Hughes’s essays on Coleridge. “not just a miniature world of naive novelties and limited reality” but “still very much the naked process of apprehension. which offers a key to his work as a whole.” But children he could “get through to openly” (Hughes. that their division was more or less an artificial one. imagining and remembering. he felt. 1999 43): poems originally written with an adult audience in mind but staying “within the easy hearing of children” (Hughes. Writing for children. the Collected Animal Poems. Cf.KAZZER between outer and inner worlds. On the whole. From his teaching practice and his encounters with children he also knew that concepts of childhood (and adulthood) were changing along with the rest of society and culture. if at all. Plath. He knew that trying to conjure that feeling. shedding some of his own false securities. was about “smuggling” the message “past a tremendously vigilant defence system.3 And Hughes was aware that through this open mode of communication he was “intimately. Hughes knew that there were no fixed boundaries between writing for children and writing for adults. Writing for adults. But Hughes does not shy away from presenting the “dark” side of the Goddess to his desired child audience. humankind and nature. or Dickinson. far less conditioned than ours. anything like such a “child nakedness” of perception could be achieved in an adult. He was aware that this was as good 3. giving something away. Shakespeare. far closer to the real laws of its real nature. 4. This awareness reflected in his selections of poems for the New Selected Poems. tying to remember. and on children’s writing. male and female as an initial state of being or as a state that is achieved much more easily than in his books for adults. It afforded him with a carefree mode of playful exploration of the themes that most concerned him. Neill 12).104 C. Morrison). His approach was the most simple and most frequently employed by children’s writers: to remember the “feeling of what it was like to be the age of my imagined reader” (Hughes. He thought of it as a world of excitement. the childhood world offered possibilities that he found largely lost to an adult outlook. offered him opportunities for discarding his own adult defences. as a precondition to creativity.” (WP 29). the children’s books present Hughes at his most open and personally revealing—they show an approach to writing. and a book like The Iron Woman shows how the Goddess’ destructive energy—provoked by human ignorance and abuse —can be turned into something good. Many of his children’s poems are about death (and therefore about life). Like all children’s writers Hughes was faced with the problem of how. For Hughes.
Hughes is most at home in this realm of linguistic play. This is a kind of playfulness which is reflected in his repeated attempts at writing about one idea from different angles. That it meant to deliberately never playing it safe. and beauty.” testing one’s senses. The aptness of Ted Hughes’s approach to writing for children is supported by recent children’s literary theory. or from the tradition of medieval riddles5 and proverbs. It is inseparable from the rhymes and rhythms of lullabies. for coming to terms with the world. I suppose with a lot of adult writing that sense of play goes out and serious responsibilities arrive. is also linked to the sense of play which. expressed in sound. false selves.” that “there is always something missed. “Children’s writing. He knew that playing is essential for a child’s learning. for re-experiencing the world. And his late poems for children. there is language. or should be. for breaking free from adult concerns6. And he knew that “one poem never gets the whole account right. The shedding of false adult securities.TED HUGHES’S BOOKS FOR CHILDREN 105 as it gets for an adult. that Hughes never lost the taste for this kind enjoyment and risk-taking. Hughes. Paul 222–3). such child playfulness is essentially creative while inseparable from “finding one’s voice. that the process would be enjoyable and most rewarding. Writing for children afforded him with a means for replenishing his senses. Peter Hollindale writes about the structure of communication between adult writer and child reader. was intrinsic to writing for children. Then. his findings closely match Hughes’s more intuitive . like those from The Cat and the Cuckoo and The Mermaid’s Purse (both collected in The Iron Wolf) indicate with all their silliness. playing with it. loosening himself. Like other types of play. Sound and word play are enjoyed by children from a very early age. When. nursery verse or folk song. testing oneself and one’s position in it. Hughes felt. linguistic play is about getting a grasp on things and (repeatedly) trying to get it “right. one of the favourite human playthings. But he knew just as well that it was worth trying. What all this amounts to is an unmatched communicative openness in Ted Hughes’s books for children.” and that “at the end of the ritual up comes a goblin” (Faas 205). In all that. “must be very simple and immediate.” he said. it is linked with our need for reassurance.” At the same time. who wants to look at the world with a “comparatively unconditioned eye” (cf. risking failure and disclosure of the intimately personal (cf. Hughes was aware that a playful exploration with its attempts at a “child nakedness” of perception does hold as much excitement as risks. in his Signs of Childness in Children’s Literature. it also accounts for some of his most warmly personal and enjoyable writing: true-tohimself poetry and storying. You’re just playing. Overflowing and bubbling. for rehearsing major social and behavioral patterns or for exploring such puzzling events as death and birth. Morrison). But while this circumstance may account for the occasional silliness or whimsy of some of his work. sharpening one’s perceptions.” (Hughes. Play: maybe that’s what all literature is. comfort. Morrison). Hughes.
This quality. there must be a shared component between adult writer and child reader—a component he calls “childness:” the “quality of being a child” (47).” allows children to grow by experimenting with their identities through interaction with adults and the world around them. Here. whose childhood is alive in memory and present existence because it is still essential to their mature procedures for articulating the self in time” (70). much of Crow. the intention of communicating the bare essentials. when the construct of remembered and imagined childhood finds its match in the actual (and constructed) childness of the reader. Moreover. Significantly. for about three years after Sylvia Plath’s death. “are often those who retain [a] childhood intensity and urgency of storying. thus providing a means by which we may “replenish our mature selves” (46). it must have been especially the “no-holds-barred approach to problems” (WP 29) which he was after. Moreover. For such an approach to be successful.106 C. childness was indeed an intrinsic part of Ted Hughes’s identity. imaginative. landscape and storying. Crow’s tricksterish take on the world is more than just “child’s play. interactive and unstable.” Hollindale says. Morrison). seems directly connected to adult childness through its dependence on memory: “Effective writers of children’s literature. This finds its correspondence in Hughes’s assertion that writing for children: “I imagine the reader I’m telling the story to as a combination of me and one or two children I know well. the author has to bridge a “cultural and historical gap” between himself and his desired reader. . as I argue. If. I am grateful to Lissa Paul for pointing this out to me. and in particular the “child nakedness” of approach. “the author must construct childhood from an amalgam of personal retrospect. 6. playful approach. a sense of personal continuity and rootedness. and should be. Hollindale says. experimental.” “Capturing Animals” and in various interviews like “The Art of Poetry” (Hughes. It is a rootedness in both. of storying. In the attempt. has been salvaged from the childness of the original narrative behind the poems (cf. like” (12). acquaintance with contemporary children.KAZZER take: Writing for children. “Timeline”). and an acquired system of beliefs as to what children are. which is “dynamic. Kazzer 192–9). Ted Hughes published/wrote next to nothing new for adults while several books for children appeared in very close succession of each other. And indeed. it is no surprise that it should directly inform some of his most successful pieces for adults.” (Hughes. Hollindale argues. Heinz) or “So Quickly It’s Over” (Hughes. inseparable from his own remembered childhood experience. which at several occasions he called a “children’s story” (Skea: “Adelaide”.” He embarks on an 5. Such rootedness is clearly evident in Hughes’s more biographical accounts as “The Rock. As a aspect of adult identity. while raising their children. Pero). childness may allow us to tap into that creative. A successful communication with a child reader is only possible when author and reader share some degree of childness.
complete with little foibles. For the critic. also WP 239–43). He was convinced that a healing potential for a story or poem could only arrive out of a healing process experienced by the author. If we accept the concept of childness as “shared ground. tragic biographical entanglements. however. between child and adult” (Hollindale 47). between aspects of his own self turn out. And no matter how his struggles with perceptions and preconceptions. then there should also be a match between the things that needed to be healed in the author and the healing potential a narrative holds for the reader. and about humankind’s precarious relationship with nature. he keeps tackling the world with undiminished optimist zest (cf. with making good and resurrecting. Just as the concept behind most of Hughes’s works for adults was the putting together of a healing narrative. the children’s books offer a most valuable source as their openness and honesty. It does not seem unimportant that many of them originated from actual stories or poems told to his own children—as such all of them were intended as stories or poems to grow on. At the most personal. Morrison. was an inevitable result of the process (ME 67). successes and failings—an utterly human picture. redemption. joys. Hughes knew that attempting to heal himself would mean attempting to heal others. wild. ME 66–7). He considered art as “the psychological component of the auto-immune system” which “works on the artist as a healing” and “as a medicine” on those who perceive it (Hughes. no-holds-barred” exploration (WP 29). Heinz 82). As childness is shared ground between Hughes’s books for adults and children. . The mythic aspect of such “healing” narrative.TED HUGHES’S BOOKS FOR CHILDREN 107 “original. their lack of pretence and clever manoeuvrings makes for some of the most intimate and straightforward writing that Hughes has ever produced. “In every moon-mirror lurks a danger. with the balancing of “male” and “female” aspects of one’s being. and because of that difference. his children’s books are concerned with providing psychological/spiritual blueprints for “putting together” little boys and girls (cf. Hughes thought. We find someone who repeatedly writes about death (and therefore about life). Hughes./ Look in it—and there glances out some stranger” (“Moon-Mirror. we encounter a poet with an near obsession with healing. The combination of Hughes’s insistence that art should be healing and of his attempts at a child nakedness of perception accounts for the sense that he was giving away some intimate part of himself in his writing for children. so are the fundamental concerns he brought to writing. though differently experienced and understood. creative level of this writing.” Earth-Moon 11). it becomes clear that children’s writing can be as enjoyable for adults as it is for children—though with that difference of experience and understanding mentioned earlier. which accounts for many of the surprising turns in those fragments of the story that have come down to us. They are books from which emerges a complex but personal picture of their author. If that is indeed the case.
which. A fifth book. rolling about in the sky” (PM 110). also WP 240–1 and Gifford 130–1).A. It collects seven of them and large number of “unrelated” children’s Hughes poems.” its creatures and oddities. like “Amulet. were an exploration of the “moon from the bottom of our dreams.” . came out during a time when the “Lunar Race” was in full progress. 7. and most of the more ferocious beings—but the healing “Moon-Ravens. since affects us more directly and profoundly. the integration of seeming opposites into a single whole (cf. Several stories from his Creation Tale collections and Ffangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth can be seen as directly related to these poems in their references to the moon. Some twelve years after that first book. she is symbolised in the common image of the moon and/or discernible as a presence behind the happenings in that inner “moon world” which Hughes explores.” “Coming Down Through Somerset” or “Horrible Song. much in the mood of Meet My Folks! The poems. the Ying/Yang ill. while a kind of fish-monster is drawn on one of the endpapers. his illustrations are marked by circular movements (cf. should be “much more our concern” than the “real moon. for “Moon-Walkers”). in 1976.KAZZER From what has been said so far it should not seem surprising to find a children’s book of Hughes’s chock-a-bloc with invocations to his Goddess of Complete Being. or R. The Earth-Owl and Other Moon People (illustrated by R. His “Moon-Mares” move in a burst of flame to which the water/wetness imagery of “Moon-Whales” provides a counterpoint. when reports of new moon probes and moon exploration projects hit the news at a steady rate.” too—are fitted with large claws. beaks and fangs.Brandt). for “Moon-Whales”). Life’s undiminished zest is presented in the spermy dolphins of his illustration for “Moon-Whales” —the sperm being a central image of survival for Hughes (cf. Hughes mentions. Ted Hughes’s moon poems were published in a succession of four volumes between 1963 and 1988. And a simple comparison of the illustrations with Chris Riddell’s magnificent work from 1988. ill. In the particular set of poems I will talk about. A pack of wolves—reminiscent of Norse myth8—opens the volume. Earth-Moon presents the Goddess in all her dark beauty as Hughes saw it.7 It may not be incidental that the first of them. The powerful combination of images and poems in this book offers a rare glimpse of Ted Hughes’s creative vision.A. strongly playful poems.Brandt’s marks the starkness of imagery of Hughes’s inner world. The EarthOwl was a book of rhyming. Like many of his poems.108 C. Hughes dedicated another publication to the topic: Earth-Moon—a limited edition and the only book fully illustrated by Hughes himself. There is an abundance of snakes (and of course moons). or Leonard Baskin’s. Moon-Bells and Other Poems does not strictly belong with this group as it only takes its title from one of the moon-poems.
and utterly different” from the outer world we know so well (WP 143). So that. and about Creativity in all her shapes. the poems remain within hearing of adults. Earth-Moon contains some markedly darker material— among them two rhymeless poems that were to become the introductory and concluding poems of the subsequent volumes. may easily become “a place of demons” (WP 149). illustrated by Leonard Baskin and available only in the US. And though aiming particularly at children. And it represents the dark and light of the “female side” of his own inner being. and obeying laws which tend to be the reverse of what we are accustomed to. As such. Hughes succeeds in painting a moving picture of the inner world: beautiful. nothing holds fast (“MoonWind. chaotic. ways and roads do not lead to expected or fixed destinations (“Moon-Ways” 17). strange plants and creatures (or mixtures thereof) and strange occurrences. Hughes provokes communication between them.TED HUGHES’S BOOKS FOR CHILDREN 109 Though still playful. they are also about the ways of the psyche. A place where the imagination is presented as so powerful that it can immediately bring things into existence (“Moony Art” 61). continually more primitive and beyond. Hughes’s moon world presents the laws of the Goddess. by some contraption of mirrors.” But the world of moon-poem books has not degenerated. finally. sad. the trade edition of Moon-Whales and Other Moon Poems. consoling—a mirror-world full of surprises. “if we do manage to catch a glimpse of our inner selves. confronts us with our own “Moon-Mirror. which Hughes seems to have had in the topic. In it. childly9 aspect. A world full of tiny little stories and parables set to challenge our perceptions of the dream-moon—the realm of the Goddess.” a “place of demons” (WP 149). It is a world that. but has retained a cheerful.” Earth-Moon 23). collected the poems from The Earth-Owl and Earth-Moon. Already this brief history of the moon poem books hints to a particular interest. neglected. the inner moon world is “more decisive. eg. Hughes shows that it is often just our (mis)interpretation that makes this world appear 8. threatening and dangerous. from which six of the poems had been dropped and which had been reillustrated by Chris Riddell. the tricks it seems to play. . In 1988. and the merits of close contact with its dream-world. funny. We refuse to own it. who appears more threatening the more alienated she has become. And in a delightful play with our perceptions. we recognize it with horror—it is an animal crawling and decomposing in a hell. being pursued by wolves or Fenrir who is to swallow the Sun at the Ragnarök. Placing the reader at the collision of these worlds. In his second “Myth and Education” essay Hughes describes how the adult “inner world” is under threat to “become elemental. Sol and Mani (Sun and Moon). but also a place that can be or appear menacing. separated from the outer world. Also published in 1976. They are books about the Imagination. ferocious. control. Cf. appeared a “revised edition” simply called MoonWhales. It is a place of weird and funny monsters.” Clearly. Naturally.
Like “childness. e. In “Visiting the Moon. The poem makes clear to its audience that a story (or play) can be conjured out of virtually nothing. though looking terrible and seeming furious. the poetic persona finds himself in a tower. in which the person to be married is being chosen by an (apparently totemic) animal.” (Earth-Moon 57). where “the moon. 7–18). earthy. A princess is invoked. for example. “The Moon-Hyena. joyous and memorable10. there is comfort. while bringing both. attracts moon-monsters. (45) 10.” one of the most puzzling of the poems. e. Moreover.” Earth-Moon 37). “The Moon-Hyena” presents another “musical” example of how misleading our perceptions of the moon world can be. Poetry. “Battling Over the Bard”).” “The Moon-Mare. Singing on the moon. e. who is abducted by an ogre from whom she escapes (disguised as a wolf) to find herself hounded until a flower-hero saves her. are just ferociously passionate about and grateful for music: “At your song’s end the monster will cry out madly/And fling down money. Hughes explicitly links his moon to poetry. Heinz 82). His children’s poetry has a strong leaning towards music. very importantly. In “MoonTheatre” (48–9).” “Singing on the Moon”). as “there’s no telling what bride/May choose you from the inside” (39). there are thrills and.110 C.” “The Moon-Hyena. Likewise. g.” I borrow this adjective from Hollindale. music. who plays such an important role in what he called Shakespeare’s mythic/tragic equation (cf. This is described as a process.” It is not by accident that Hughes ascribed to music an even greater healing capacity than to poetry (cf. There is fun to be had. a “Moon-Marriage” produces only poems as offspring.” “Music on the Moon. g. molten silver in a great cauldron. SGCB. ultimately rose from the same creative source (cf. which./Was being poured/Through the eye of a needle//Spun on to bobbins and sold to poets/For sewing their eyelids together/ So they can sing better. Though it has “A laughter of dark hell/Mad laughter of a skull/Coming to devour the living ones. he thought. myth and female sexuality. Apart from the connection between the inner moon world and music. and clumsy at times. Though apparently stompy. the poems are at once tuneful. Hughes even mentions the Adonis type hero. Hughes had his Iron Woman fall into a stomping dance when expressing her strongest emotions. probably far more than you can spend. lullaby or nursery verse. g. One of those cheerful and a most prominent characteristics of Hughes’s moon world is its creatures’ affection to music (cf. “Moon-Whales.” “Moon-Walkers” or “The MoonMourner”). Tellingly. Hughes. his Iron Man and The Iron Woman to a consoling musical end with the Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon providing music of the spheres. while rhyme and rhythm (as striking qualities of most of them) place them in the close proximity of medieval riddle./Then shudder away with cries of rapture diminishing sadly (“Singing on the Moon. ./And kiss your shoe with his horrific frontend.KAZZER threatening (cf. “Moon-Theatre” gives a clear hint 9.
silly. the moon-poem collections bear witness to the fascination certain images and dramatic constellations held for Hughes. Ted Hughes’s moon-mirror world is as varied as the daylight natural world human beings prefer to inhabit./The only sure lure is//The music stolen/ From stars that have fallen” (58–9).” But there are .” running “On human mountains.” 7–8). e. Woman and Fox. how he places his favourite mythic (or personally totemic) animals next to God’s Mother and Woman in a close relationship to the moon-goddess and her realm (cf. he seems aware of the fascination. g. in which the reader must confront beings like the “Snail of the Moon” or the “Moon-Mourner” or “The Silent Eye. they show that the books for children and those for adults belong together in the single body of the work. The idea of the all-importance of the moon-goddess and her world to Hughes’s views gains further momentum when we take a look at the many animals that are linked with the inner moon world in his poems and stories for children. As in his books for adults. it is a world that has a healing. his imagination does not flinch from such topics. Rather.” who “moves like nightfall.//In her lunatic fury. Typically for Hughes.” who thinks Night is his bride.TED HUGHES’S BOOKS FOR CHILDREN 111 towards (shamanic) ecstasy/magic as “tap[ing] a drum and fix[ing] your eyes in a glassy stare” (Earth-Moon 48) is a precondition for the story/play to take off. It is a mad. in which life and death are entwined. one where sadness and mourning are not suppressed but lived through (cf. And though all of these animals are in some way or other associated with darkness. consoling power. Hughes must have felt a desire to write about them. however. “The Guardian. or cruel world. e. “The Moon-Lily. and which is also apparent as a popular theme of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. “A Moon-Lily. g. she is past. Hughes brings a great honesty to the books. beautiful. there is a bond between Moon. the many echoes of other poems and poetic sequences in the moon books provide further proof of the Goddess’ central place in the work. and the “Moon-Hare. It is striking to see. the moon or the Goddess./ Beautiful. funny.” Tales of the Early World 16–29). g. It is the sacred space of night and dream. to present them in their full beauty. there are poems in the moon books that deal with death or threats with extinction (cf. which death and extinction hold for children. sad. which Hughes writes about in “The Secret of Man’s Wife” (Dreamfighter 138–50). Simultaneously. while being central to his idea of the “child nakedness” of perception.” or the “Moon-Mare.” in which the moon crashes into earth). Like his other books for children. Many other mythic animals traditionally linked with moon-worship make their appearance in Earth-Moon. that greatly furthers communication with his desired child readers. and indeed. An honesty and openness. just as by allowing silliness and whim into the poems. There are the white “Moon-Bull. Naturally. Most of all. by not falsely “sheltering” his desired child audience from such topics. And as we might have expected all along. Moreover.//Wild as a ghost/ She is here. e.” “A Moon-Witch” or “A Moon-Hare.
verbal suit of armour. for example. The Earth-Owl and Other Moon-People seems to have been intended as a book similar to Meet My Folks!—a happy jumble of descriptions of “people.” daylight world of Hughes’s animal poems. shielding much of the energy he was trying to evoke. It is them. when she really began to write. and it must have been them who helped the warm tone in Hughes’s writing for children to come to the fore. The overall healing capacity of the poems comes from the collision of the moon world with one’s own actual experience. even worse and similar to some of the early poems for adults. shielding off energies rather than evoking them. which so unmistakably shines through the descriptions of most of his moon-creatures—even such unlucky “beings” as the haggis— finds its match in the “real. making themselves felt. Comparing the earliest book. almost make the impression of empty off-hand doodles or. the change in tone is striking. interesting in some of their associations.11 With Earth-Moon and the books that follow. so that one gets the impression of something being withheld. Many of them address the reader directly. to control that inner mirror-world that is being conjured. thus bridging the gap between outer and inner world. he was trying to tap into a primeval linguistic/mythic source.112 C. rhyme and rhythm occur for several important purposes. they served Hughes “amuse [him]self” (PM 111) while opening a door to the childly imagined self/ reader—but there is no denying that rhyme and rhythm also helped Hughes to control some of the energies evoked. detached. usually quite easy to digest but somehow undistinguished. From its overall design. The Earth-Owl. as in “The Moon-Haggis” (Earth-Moon 60). sometimes simultaneously. like the author. with the later ones.” too. also Bishop 18–21).KAZZER the “Moon-Ravens. Counterpointing Anglo-Saxon with Latin-based vocabulary. It does not seem difficult imagining Hughes telling the poems to his own children at bedtime. In other cases the cheerful verse forms are used. his most successful pieces from that time never fail to provoke a strong inner response (cf.” Most of its twenty-odd poems are funny. In both groups of poems. it is 11. to counterpoint a violent story. It allows the reader to maintain a hold and. And though he sometimes ended up with a clanking. There is not enough of Hughes himself in them. His many moon-plant descriptions. was looking for access to the realm of the Goddess in the clash of two traditions. the use of rhyme and simple rhythm serves the collections’ overall consoling purpose. The similarities with the use of strongly alliterative lines in Hughes’s contemporary verse for adults are striking. The shock of Sylvia’s writing. some come across as constructed. creative level. But most of all. to whom the poems are dedicated. conversely. was that she was doing the very opposite of what she would . On the personal. In his 1993 interview with Blake Morrison Hughes says: “My notion was always that it’s the one thing you don’t do: you don’t write about yourself. The strong affection. who swallow illnesses that leave your mouth in the shape of a moth (24).
as if he needed to gain the inner strength not to flinch from her glare. cf. Yet. one that exposed very much of himself (cf. like the “half-man” of “Moon-Freaks” (a poem that also features the “galloping” hand which recurs in The Iron Man) whose double is described in the opening poem of the “Epilogue” of Gaudete (177). We find them peopled as a typically laterHughesian universe. Losing in “child nakedness. also ME 66). and the origins of which date back to around the same time (cf. Hughes. they can open a door to the inner world. who has a snake in her mouth! Whomever the moon-girl kisses is instantly transformed into who he/she really is by the snake’s “deadly bite” (Ffangs 89). Hughes presents a challenge to our perceptions. But most importantly. 12 Moon poems. Morrison). like “Moon-Mirror” describe this more covertly (much of it tied to the reader’s response) than his stories for children. Hughes’s voice in the poems has become more compassionate. In the later books she has become more fully visible in detail and proper access to her world seems to have been gained. In all that. Worst of them all is “the flying strangler. Fighting off monsters that try to interfere. Another familiar feature is the deadly threat from numbers on the moon. numbers have specialised in killing and devouring people. we would “begin to lose validity as witnesses and participants in the business of living in this universe” (WP 29). presents books that both. They can—even if only momentarily—put us back in touch with that “child nakedness” mentioned at the beginning of this paper. It may be a part that urgently needs to be re-invited into our life before it becomes rotten.” “that specializes in hunting down the great hero” (16). ix). adult and child. George. less detachedly descriptive. however.” Obsessively he dissects every new “nest of numbers” he manages to find. and closest to his intentions in writing. can grow on. Hughes writes most openly about the kind of Truth most closely associated with the Goddess. which makes clear that whatever we might see in our own moon-mirror is a part of our selves.” losing in our openness of approach to the world. which recurs in Crow’s “Magical Dangers” (52). . as early as 1963 we meet some of the most charged beings and images that recur in Hughes later books. is its capability to bring out the Truth. where the protagonists meet a girl. It is as if the dark beauty of that inner moon needed to grow on Hughes. Selena. It does not seem incidental that he felt Ffangs was a very personal story. This is a context.TED HUGHES’S BOOKS FOR CHILDREN 113 otherwise. In “Crow’s Account of St. dangerous. which Hughes confronts us with in his poems and stories. he ends up slaughtering his wife and children (C 32–3. Or the “tree-disease” (Earth-Owl 31). Difficulties of a Bridegroom. Hughes believed. One of the most striking features of the inner moon-mirror. George” the protagonist “sees everything in the Universe/Is a track of numbers. the Truth is found on the moon.” As horrors in the moon world. “Moon-Horrors” (Earth-Owl 15–6) depicts numbers in a way we might be familiar with from “Crow’s Account of St. deadly. In their variety and playfulness. In the story. the silent zero. In Ffangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth. It is the Truth of finding out who one really is.
content and intimacy. a very pure. It’s almost like a myth in itself. 1992 70). Paul. Cf. What she’d done was to reclaim her entire psychology. in its meaning fully dependent on the readers’ response. Hughes was allowing more of himself to enter his poetry. For his children’s books it seems indisputable that the bringing-up of his own children had a decisive influence as regards tone. also his children’s book What is the Truth?. 12.” all of which belong to the original Crow context. the end of a story. Moreover. to find out the truth of whether he is a snake or a fish a truth that does indeed lead to a killing.” “Bedtime Anecdote” or “Love Song.” “Existential Song. which plays out the search for objective truth (cf. inevitably.114 C. I’ve often wondered how she would have gone on from there. From that time on. it can be seen as describing a condition which could easily be interpreted as that of the literary critic. from the moon world just visited. It describes a state we may recognise or one. where any other moon than the one rolling in the sky tends to threaten us. Cf. which we may see as a warning. With “Earth-Moon. also Hughes’s concern with the various shades of Truth in a poem like “Truth Kills Everybody” (C 84) or “The Snag” (Tales of the Early World 62–71). we must fall to Earth. the change in tone from his earliest books to those written after the midsixties must be linked to that realisation. .KAZZER Yet. Noted by many critics. With the poem “Earth-Moon” we reach the end of a book. where the moon features as a fortune-teller whom Eel turns to. clear story” (Hughes. Morrison). It is a very Hughesian end. normally have considered a proper thing to write about. much like the “Finale” of Cave Birds.” Hughes gives us a parable in the shape of “Bedtime Story.
criticises and deconstructs the necessarily conflictual pattern of ideas and preferences that structures his vision (I use the word deliberately) of the world and literature. frustrates. I will be concerned not so much with what might be called his mythical readings (one thinks. It is Romantic literary “science”—of which nineteenth century anthropological folk tale studies were a prototype—that will interest me here. More particularly. intertextual constellations. whose relation to the myth—and other forms like the fable or fairy tale or wonder tale— is problematic. since all poetry begins as narration. I would say. they are themselves caught up in patterns— movements. have concentrated on the novel. the period during which Jakobson was writing). notably. for example. This is largely because narratological studies. Jakobson’s famous analysis of poeticity has encouraged critics of poetry to follow narratologists in marginalising the syntagmatic axis in poetry. in his poetry Hughes both uses a form (free verse) whose forward movement is intensely syntagmatic and also dialogues with canonical narrative forms in many explicit .13 Ted Hughes & the Folk Tale Paul Volsik If all poets are pattern makers. that is by seeing him as a neoRomantic. it is perhaps useful to suggest hypotheses about the way this vision might be structured. and the history of literary forms. My hypothesis therefore is that. To my mind. I will begin by placing Hughes in a pattern. periods. or rather a neo-neo-Romantic with all that this implies in the space where the aesthetic roots itself in the epistemological.” a word that appears regularly in his poetry—more specifically a particular form—the folk tale. for though the poetic work of any poet—as we know—transcends because it escapes. with rare exceptions. If. however. this is a mistake. it will be because I am convinced that the problem of narrative in poetry is a vital problem and very little understood. this paper is more than simply intellectual curiosity about the more obscure corners of a particular poets’ work. of his reading of Shakespeare which brought him into headon conflict with academia) but with his reading of “tales. Today it is essentially the intellectual background of Hughes’s poetry that I wish to discuss—the question of ideas and the history of ideas. the syntagmatic axis cannot be structurally in conflict with the poetic (though of course it can be backgrounded in certain periods. seeing narration as a secondary problem in poetry—if not fundamentally and structurally in conflict with it.
we need to study more and over a much wider range of types of poets. of course. that Hughes here uses Grimm’s version of the tale and not Perrault’s or the existing oral folk versions. Only when we are better able to make the relationship between the two axes (syntagmatic and paradigmatic) dialectic will we progress as analysts of poetry. particularly in the postModernist age. narrative rhythm—the deployment of text along a horizontal syntagmatic axis. Firstly. begins with the traditional opening: “Once upon a time” (C 57).” for instance. for example. I mean precisely that—in two ways. how and why the organization in lines and stanzas and collections. I would like to stress that when I say that Hughes was a neo-neoRomantic. neoRomanticism is not Romanticism. To understand how and why poetry uses narrative. via Seamus Heaney. I will proceed as follows: I will first try to root more historically the idea that Hughes is to a large extent a neo-Romantic poet. including a poet like Hughes who has made such brilliant use of the coyote tale2 and Ovid’s narratives in Metamorphoses. more subtly. for example. the diary is a miniature narrative form as Hughes’s uses it and so are certain letters in Birthday Letters). is rhythm and particularly what he called mysteriously. the Houses of 1. middles and ends) is constructed. As Hughes himself rightly pointed out. “Japanese River Tales” (R 14) or “Folktale” (CPH 788). on the other when. just as neo-Gothic is not Gothic. In addition he uses canonical narrative strategies (“Crow’s Elephant Totem Song. More explicitly even. Neo-Romanticism To begin with. It is interesting to compare his use of the form to Paul Muldoon’s. 2. Through organicism I will. but absolutely rightly I think.VOLSIK and implicit ways. on the one hand.116 P. I will then work out of particular texts to show how Hughes reworks a major structuring aspect of Romanticism: organicism. titles of poems like “Two Legends” (C 13) or “Revenge Fable” (70) or “Bedtime Anecdote” (CPH 262). He does so thematically in his use of the quest pattern. one of its most important structuring axes. . It is perhaps worth noting in view of what will follow. how our sense of sequence (beginnings. but he does so also in. Hughes underscores this dialogue intertextually when. as in Crow. Finally I will suggest some of the ways in which Romantic attitudes to the functioning of folk tales might suggest priorities in our reading of Hughes’s poetry—or at least priorities in Hughes’s own reading habits. he refers in “Gnat-Psalm” to “little Hasids” (W 181) subtly echoing the fact that Polish Hasidism used folk tales and parables as major entrances to religious understanding. for example. a poem like “February” begins with a reference to Little Red Riding Hood (“the wolf with its belly stitched full of big pebbles” (L 13)1) and. influences our perception of narrative. look at Romantic attitudes to folk tales which I think Hughes has reinvested and reactivated. what is characteristic of poetry.
in one sense. Secondly. then.Thomas’ lago Prytherch. David Jones’ series of Arthurian legend drawings (1940). Bacon’s “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion” (shown 1945). The reasons for the difference between the two such as the limitations in the freedom of a “folk” teller of folk tales. If one may be a little flippant. is that it gives access to an articulated intellectual and aesthetic universe.TED HUGHES & THE FOLK TALE 117 Parliament not a gothic building any more than a nineteenth century Parliament was a folk-mote (though the period liked to think it was) or Tex Avery’s retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” a folk tale. are beyond the scope of this article. that led him to Yeats and “the right kind of metre. Carl Jung’s The Secret of the Golden Flower (1941). does what the poets of the forties (Treece. etc. The importance of this rooting in Romanticism.—I was about thirteen [in 1943]—a craze for folk tales took their place. Henry. it is my conviction that Hughes was at least partially molded by the specific literary movement called neoRomanticism. or rather Romanticism at it was being reconstructed by both creative writers and the academic critics of the forties and fifties (Frye and Abrams for example). for instance or Kavanagh’s Paddy Maguire recall Hughes’s Billy Holt). I would like to recall that Hughes’s formative years—the forties —are precisely the years when neo-Romanticism as a movement was achieving the status of the dominant aesthetic mode in Great Britain. for example. Sutherland’s “Crucifixion” (1946). Hughes’s looks as a young man remind one inescapably of those of the neo-Romantic icon in the British cinema of the 1940s: James Mason. The discovery of these things came as a deep shock” (5–6) It was this discovery.) tried to do but did not succeed in doing—though more could be said. he says. . and Eric Hosking and Cyril Newberry’s Birds in Action (1949). Firstly. Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan (1946) and his gothic drawings. about the analogies between certain aspects the work of Hughes and that of other poets of the period (R. Eric Hosking and Cyril Newberry Birds of the Night (1945). “The New Apocalypse” (1939). Dylan Thomas’ Deaths and Entrances (1946)—of which Hughes said “it was my holy book” (Faas 202)—Robert Graves’ The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (1948). Vaughan Williams’ Fifth Symphony (1943)3. I would now like to enter his intellectual work via what could be seen as a back door by suggesting that the strength of Hughes attachment to what might be called a Romantic epistemology is revealed in his constant use of biological metaphors. I will here mention just a few of the elements that might constitute the planets in a galaxy (which like all galaxies of this sort. It is in this respect important that Hughes should recognise in “Fantastic Happenings and Gory Adventures” (WP) that “When [his] craze for comics fizzled out. Bill Brandt’s “Brontë country” (1945). requires a justification I cannot attempt here): Herbert Read’s The Green Child (1935).S.” Hughes’s interest in the folk tale was thus born in the heart of the neoRomantic movement and was to continue unabated for the rest of his life. Hughes.
Hughes is not accurate about the Celtic tradition of bardism—his “inaccuracy” is. my italics) Twenty-nine years later. and. a typically Romantic we. spanning thus his entire career as a poet. reviewing a book entitled Myth and Religion of the North by E. Firstly then. on the basis of a protoypical Romantic space. he claims.G. the symptom or the trace of his sense of the urgency of the issues at stake.” (368 my italics).— were “nations” (I insist on what I would see as an anachronistic word. but Celts: a “people” or “peoples” who occupy land from Bohemia to the Isle of Arran. since poetry is what matters most. I would add that they constitute only one—though to my eyes an important—thread in Hughes’s intellectual life. famous collector of folk-dance and folk-music: “Folk-music is the product of a race and reflects feelings and tastes that are communal rather than personal” (32) . the idea that the “arduous” poetic schools existed well into the seventeenth century is untrue. metaphors have to be taken seriously.VOLSIK A national legend. In 1964. The first reproduces. Secondly. Teutonic Mythology (Deutsche Mythologie).O. but a mainstay of Romantic historiography) and not “a people” or peoples or “a culture” or a “civilisation” is extremely problematic. the second from 1993. myths and nation My point of departure here is two particular quotations by Hughes the first dating from 1964. as the Welsh themselves in the seventeenth 3. say. that this art is ancestrally ours and instinctually close to us.” notably the structural importance of melody (as opposed. In the second quotation. in a word that this mythology “belongs to our blood” beyond and below chosen and constructed inheritances.” talking of Celtic culture he writes that it has survived to this day. like the slip of the tongue.118 P.Turville-Petre which. the legend of nationality—Hughes on poet. Metres. for example Vaughan William’s essays. in his very fine text on “Myths. I would like to subject these passages to serious but I hope not polemical scrutiny—though the texts themselves are intensely polemical. is constructed on very much the same lines as Jacob Grimm’s founding. Hughes states that “we” —whoever “we” exactly are—are more at home in the art. though I do not have time to prove this here. two things interest me: firstly—and least urgently—its cavalier attitude to the facts as we know them. secondly the fact that it too is structured around an important biological metaphor. to “harmonics”) or the appearance of the word “race” as in his approving quotation of Cecil Sharp (1859–1924). The idea that the Celts—and I use the word as Hughes uses it. but in many ways problematic. on “National Music” and “the Folk-Song. Rhythms. Hughes writes that unlike the “Greek-Roman pantheons that came in with Christianity. secreting the genetic remnants of a poetic caste selectively bred through many centuries. “like powerfully active glands. and again with the Renaissance…these other deities of our instinct and ancestral memory” the “Anglo-Saxon-NorseCeltic” alternative “belongs to our blood” (WP 41. not Gaels or Bretons or Welsh or Scots. see. literature and mythology of the North.
of course.” by which Hughes presumably means “eugenically. of course. thanks to a residual genetic structure. Briefly then this is a fantasy. Fundamentally. the fact that Hughes should be on shaky historical ground is of no real importance—what is important is that he should choose that ground and the particular way in which he configures its topography. Indeed it is comprehensible that a structure as complex as bardic schools. for example. poet and society.” To take the one example I know well. and—for better or worse—still with us. and thus “natural” because “unified” society. in many of its central articulations. This problem is. To put it even more simply what is at work here is a form of Romantic organicism which uses biological metaphors to include and to exclude. as we know from others sources. is a Romantic nationalist idea.” etymologically from acorn as in French—hence oaktree—for a gland is strictly an organ which separates certain constituents for use in the body and—and this is central—“naturally” rejects and ejects others. survive political dismemberment—a constant Hughesian theme—like “glands. in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 1977) . to whom we shall return. the introduction of hereditary (as opposed to non-hereditary) court poets (bards) was a late (twelfth century) import from Ireland and not “traditional” or “genetic” in the culture (any more than the functioning of the Laureateship is biologically rooted in the English “nation. indeed “nations” without a great poet tended to invent one like Ossian. See Dillwyn Miles. an idea that has as one of its main sources the German thinker Herder.” It is important to insist on the word “gland. have shown how this idea is a strategic moment in the genesis of the idea of the nation state in the late eighteenth century. to articulate past and present. secondary to that of Hughes’s constant recourse to biological metaphors of which “blood” is only one example. is a vision—whose roots I see in Romanticism—of the poet as a central sacred function in a pre-Modern. great nations were felt to be those that had a great founding poet. The idea that poets somehow “incarnate” this nation (that they are secreted by the nation. As we know. as a sort of quintessence) is also historically datable.” Indeed. its own art and its own poets-who are bred “selectively.TED HUGHES & THE FOLK TALE 119 century regretted4. Wales. like amber from a tree. These Celtic “nations. and this biological entity secretes. required stable political structures (the patronage of great Princes) which Wales.” says Hughes. the expression in French which says that English is “la langue de Shakespeare” is an example of this trope and all that it carries politically. directly linked to the imposition of a “national” “mothertongue. In the second extract the nation is seen as a biological entity. pre-Industrial. Historians of ideas and notably the idea of nation. What interests him. lost in the thirteenth century. society and 4.” and not a social fact which has changed in content and implication from AngloSaxon scop to Andrew Motion). This. The Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales (Swansea: Christopher Davies. however. with their years of study. citizen and society5.
another’s discourse notably in his use of the DNA metaphor. through Coleridge. mysteriously. French often in Hughes’s legend of the history of English metre. This is the part of him that recognized that myths and fairy tales were the poetic code. but its most systematic development was precisely the Romantic period notably in Germany. there is immense precision and that extraordinary ability of his—so different from Hughes’s magnificent forcefulness —to pick up. and then in Great Britain. This is the triumph of a certain vision of the “natural” —at the heart of Hughes’s visionary centering on the natural world. and essentially poetic and central to the culture. More particularly. The organic poem is where— among other things—the particular and the universal. and could see Dante’s eternal margherita. myths and legends To progress in my argument I would now like to return to a quotation from the remarkable address given by Seamus Heaney during the Memorial Service for Ted Hughes in Westminster Abbey. as for Hughes. As always with Heaney. we are in fact in vision of society that is essentially “tribal. poetic text and religious text etc. the biologically national and the Universal—as well as content and form—are in some sense coalesced and fused. In fact the notion of “citizen” here is problematic. the idea that the artistic work is a “living thing” is as old as Aristotle. chameleonlike.” . under what might seem a preconstrained code of discourse (the memorial service). It is this 5. also a textual metaphor. It is again quintessentially Romantic and would thus have been generally incomprehensible to earlier periods. I think. One of the great aesthetic and epistemological breakthroughs of Romanticism lay in its ability to see folk tales as themselves intensely. the locus of the legend of England. in a binary opposition with the idea of a “mechanical poetry. Here Heaney said another part of him looked through the microscope and telescope into the visionary crystal. to remind ourselves in a University context of the importance of this placing of myths and fairy tales in the same breath at the heart of the poetic code and on an equal footing. It is vital. but we know it functioned for the Romantics. the pearl of foreverness.” that is by definition foreign. Folk tales. insofar as the poetic text itself is concerned.VOLSIK its texts. in the interstices of the DNA.120 P. text and poet. In this the poem is an analogue of the folk tale. I do not have time to analyse all the implications of this belief. But it is the idea that the poetic code is to be found at its purest and equally in myths and fairy tales that most interests me. notably to mainstream Enlightenment. In the nineteenth century the triumph of this idea is total.
his “Correspondence on Ossian and the Songs of Ancient Peoples” 1773). and folk art (the ballad. saw in folk art the expression of national identity (see. the child of the Romantic revolution. in a sense. for example. offering none of the guarantees of scientific rigour that we now expect of anthropologists and folklorists. another vital influence on Hughes and another narrative form) begins in earnest all over the world. It was with Grimm that collection of folk tales. founder member of the society for psychic research. for example. it will be remembered.Tylor (1832–1917) who drew massively on folklore in his two great works: Researches into the Early History of Mankind (1865) and Primitive Culture (1871). Herder. It is the interesting leader of this school. the savage is he who (extending unconsciously to the universe his own implicit consciousness of personality) regards all natural objects as animated and intelligent beings and. Thus this process of collection (that dialogued with other analogous Romantic priorities like philology) had spin-offs notably in the science of anthropology. for what was felt to be at stake here was more than the survival of undeniably beautiful and fascinating art-objects.B. Anthropology is. Anthropology is also. concern with origins. precisely. Lang. It is interesting to note that his theories were one of the questions in the Cambridge Anthropological Tripos exam called “The History of Ethnological and Sociological Theory” in May 1954. translator of French poetry.TED HUGHES & THE FOLK TALE 121 idea that fairy tales are as important if not more important (because they are “ours”) than the Greek myths that had nourished Renaissance and Enlightenment culture that marked a turning point. who concerns me here. at the very moment when the Welshman Iolo Morganwg was collecting (and rewriting if not inventing) old Welsh texts. we may remember. for example. in many essays and books elaborated a theory of “survivals” based on Tylor’s hypothesis that from the beliefs held and customs and art-objects of agricultural communities and contemporary “savages” the folklorist could reconstruct the ideas of prehistoric man. To take one example which finds echoes in Hughes’s work. Indeed in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth. both of which. the Tripos that Hughes took. to the creation of a national identity and flowers in the remarkable collections of the Grimm brothers in 1812–1815. The collecting of folk tales was undertaken originally with a view. as their titles suggest are part of a general nineteenth century Romantic. writer of fairy stories for children.” a movement away from the “foreign” Mediterranean to the “native” North. writer of poetry. anthropology is said to begin with E. Andrew Lang (1844–1912). Lang writes: In psychology. Tylor’s theories in turn contributed to the growth of a school of so-called anthropological folklorists. In England. but reworked by men who saw themselves as the direct inheritors of an ancient Germanic culture and who were searching to rediscover it. involved a mythical “return home. drawing no hard and fast . it was something infinitely vaster—something infinitely more “sacred”. texts which themselves were rewritten texts.
and stars. Nevertheless I would maintain that there is at least an analogy. fairy story—even certain forms of historical anecdote—difficult. legend. concerned essentially with continuity. divine and creative (31). Lang argued that folk tales are older than myths which are literary reworkings of them. and it is perhaps not important as Lang’s hypothesis has survived in the way that Grimm’s. like much of the twentieth (cf. What Hughes adds. and. It would be possible. Indeed. fable. Since it appears all over the world. Did Hughes read Lang? I have no proof either way. only a detailed study of Hughes’s course work at Cambridge. but essentially he argues that the folk tale appears in all animistic and totemic societies all over the world. and innovatively. How did Lang read folk tales? I do not have time to go into the detail.122 P. the Birthday Letters are more mythical than the earlier . There is little attempt by folklorists to define these categories by exclusion of the sort which asserts that myth contains the serious beliefs of a community. beasts. In this perspective the folk tale is a paradoxical archaic object. he reproduces a sort of (English?) cultural tradition of which Robert Graves would be another product: articulating a massive sweep of hypotheses with extreme pragmatism at the level of the use of individual concepts. folk tales do not. Franz Boas). in this domain. to suggest that paradoxically and despite their extremely anecdotal base. thus giving almost direct access to the (Ab)Original and the Universal and—for Hughes this is particularly important—to that mythic primitive moment when man was in unmediated contact with the natural world. and that the lower animals especially may be creatures more powerful than himself. and perhaps his letters will prove it one way or another. is that the myth/legend/fairy-story/folk tale is not presented as an object of scientific study but has an important social and psychological regulative function. Indeed it could be argued that Hughes’s choice of the “coyote tale. for example. folk tale. about the Indo-European origins of the folk tale have not.” whose social significance is often obscure. from the outside and in a discriminatory perspective. suggests that he did not want to work within a framework that is too clearly defined. Hughes is working in a similar intellectual space to Lang (though his vocabulary has changed). How precisely does all this influence Hughes’s use of the folk tale? For one thing. it makes rigorous definition of the categories myth. ballad. It is here that Jung enters into the complex of ideas that constitute Hughes’s intellectual background. for example investigate the problems of “good” and “bad” relatives—the jealousy of sisters or mothers-in-law for daughters-in-law that one finds in the story of “Cupid and Psyche” for example). The nineteenth century was. the folk tale presupposes the unity of mankind (all cultures. in a sense. Only future scholarship. firmly and deeply rooted in a particular culture yet manifestly universal in distribution. in this area as in many others.VOLSIK line between himself and the things in the world is readily persuaded that men may be metamorphosed into plants. Moreover. what perhaps distinguishes him—as poet—from the anthropologist.
e. and exists in opposition to a “high culture” less rooted.TED HUGHES & THE FOLK TALE 123 texts.” (Ww 2)By listening to a story or tale. the product of a nontribal. one is not simply witnessing some distant event that can be analysed (is Hughes here telling a tale about himself and a particular woman?). contains historical (i. a journey of initiation. enable Hughes to take on several other issues which I have only time to list here. despite their blackness. less authentic. What does it mean?/A pre-Columbian glyph. I would like to suggest that Hughes’s writing needs the map but is itself often “glyphic. on the other. being told a tale. in the sense that there is in them more of the tragedy of defeat than in the legends and folk tales associated with Crow which are invested. is a rite of passage.” “The Gulkana” articulates two metatextual metaphors. says Hughes. one feels. the “pre-Columbian. narrative) as well as ritualistic and religious information. a poem which is at the same time a picture. Before concluding I would like to look at two less obvious textual examples of the way “narrative” enters into Hughes’s works in what I would consider to be central ways.” (R 78) which enters and leaves its central space through the territory of the primitive. says the poem. Gulkana. The first is the poem “The Gulkana. But folk tales also. But this is arguable both in principle and in detail. and a tale—an account of a particular fishing trip to a particular place. like reading a poem. the trace of (Western/Scientific) man’s reading of the Universe. The myth/folk tale supposes a community.” Indian: “Strange word. one is involved in a complex process (the word is central) of parturition. of the shadow—one is born again. at their best” (151). for it is the means by which we have access to “the deeper shared understandings which keep us intact as a group—so far as we are intact as a group” (WP 310). desolate but renewed. “shallow” society and thus less able to negotiate with fundamental . in all senses of the word. in the poem “Go Fishing” (R 44). the glyph. However dim the land and violent the experience—perhaps all the more so if the story does tell of dark lands. “The Gulkana” is thus. This is the story that Hughes tells.” Centrally one needs to remember that the glyph is not simply a picture (as people often understand the word and indeed Hughes’s poems) but that the pre-Columbian glyph. according to the anthropological work done by Sir John Thompson which was contemporary to Hughes’s presence in Cambridge. on the one hand our (modern) map. Thus. one is undergoing something. with a certain type of vigorous optimism. a sacred ritual. My second example is taken from “Astrological Conundrums.” Section I —“The Fool’s Evil Dream. after a Tragic catharsis./A pale blue thread—scrawled with a child’s hand/Across our map. structurally. and this is why the Romantic background is so important. modern. For one thing the myth and the folk tale for Hughes is manifestly a political problem. of course. one is being dissolved into it. a metamorphosis into a radically modified state. Our inability to negotiate with myth is the sign of that we are socially and thus politically fallen. It is for this reason that he can talk of myths as being “tribal dreams of the highest order of inspiration and truth. and.
it is imaginative in that it involves complex aesthetic choices. cuckold. as a scientist. something he can use tactically against Christianity as one of his major enemies. Then again. the category “wonder tales”). no doubt.” like Crow. at least the mythical as enlightened—indeed Enlightenment— high culture understood it. in Hughes’s terms like his poetry. the folk tale enables Hughes to refer to a “natural. like us. rarely has that inaccessible grandeur associated with the mythical. Finally. the folk tale is. just as the marvellous in folk tales. I imagine.VOLSIK issues. the fierce and deadly creatures within ourselves that we are watching with awe and trepidation. It is all. . and it is healing—telling us notoriously how to negotiate with the “wolf” or the “cider” inside us if we are men. for example. as Hughes’s suggests. Linked to this is the fact that the folk tale is also a “popular form”. or in the opposite sex if we are women. rape and know fear with a lack of decorum that is fundamentally alien to the Christian tradition. a space which uniquely occupies the complete aesthetic. Perhaps this comes from a stance that is not unlike that of Hughes’s watching Crow. confront the forbidden with cunning rather than from the protected Archimedian distance of an absolute moral system. it will be obvious. though not as the Greeks understood it—the Greeks whose gods cheat.124 P. from Hughes’s particular form of “darkness”. who. visionary accounts of profound psychological dramas. after all. For one thing the “hero. and entertainment” (76). of the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” or of “Apple Tragedy” (C 78) is thus a social act: it is entertainment. the bane of Romantic thought. what it primarily was— imaginative art.” and manifestly pagan art-object. The creatures in authentic folk tales are thus beings who speak our dialects. one can be profoundly reticent about a poet’s intellectual universe (in this instance the constant recourse to biological metaphors for political issues) and still profoundly concerned by his work. not simply the object of scientific interest: “This literature is still. Frieda pointing at the moon in “Full Moon and Little Frieda” (W 182) or a child listening to a story in which fierce and sometimes deadly creatures are let loose. In this respect I find myself in the position of the Czech poet Miroslav Holub (Gammage 219) who marks his distance. and generally public entertainment. which had been a crucial issue in nineteenth century debates about folk tales (cf. Perhaps it is a sign that he is a really great poet that as with Eliot or Pound or Lawrence or Larkin. that I do not share Hughes’s epistemological or political views. In conclusion. The telling. folk tales that were used tactically against mechanistic and positivistic science. It is thus of the order of a shamanistic healing device. social and psychological nexus.
Thesis on “Ted Hughes’s Books for Children (and Adults). (1998. He worked as a research assistant and teacher at the University of Leipzig. currently collaborating on a translation of selected essays by Ted Hughes.uni-leipzig. (ed. His most recent publications are articles on fantastic elements in .Woodruff Library of Emory University in Atlanta.de/~angl/ hughes. (1995. School of Cultural Studies. Bretton Hall College of Leeds University. writing. Sylvia Plath. Terry Gifford.List of Contributors Carol Bere began her research on Ted Hughes for her doctoral dissertation at New York University. She taught English literature. and British poets. 1957–1994. and published articles on Ted Hughes. and poetry for several years at New York University and Rutgers University. most recently Whale Watching With a Boy and a Goat. He has been publishing on Hughes since 1978. Manchester UP). Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage. where he has completed his Ph. Research Co-ordinator. In that role he oversees the literary archive of Ted Hughes. Irish. “Birthday Letters. (1981. Her article. Stephen Enniss is Curator of Literary Collections at the Robert W. and other contemporary poets in Critical Essays on Ted Hughes. He is the author of Pastoral.Moulin). Green Voices. She is a writer specializing in both international finance and literature. The Literary Review. Her most recent article. he has maintained the Ted Hughes’s Page website: www. and co-author with Neil Roberts of Ted Hughes: A Critical Study. Since 1996. contributing six chapters to other books on Hughes.D.” was published in the Summer 2000 issue of The Literary Review. Ariel. Ted Hughes’s Sibylline Leaves. Southern Humanities Review. and was an officer in the corporate communications department of a New York investment bank. “The Road Taken: Adrienne Rich’s Poetry in the 1990s. J. He has five collections of poetry. as well as other leading American. and Concerning Poetry. has written for several venues including The Economist Group. Claas Kazzer is working for the British Council Leipzig (Germany).” He occasionally works as a freelance translator into German. Faber & Faber). The Legacy of John Muir. Redbeck Press) and is currently writing a collected essays for University of Georgia Press.” was published in 1999 in Lire Ted Hughes: New Selected Poems.
at Virginia Tech. Since 1978 he has taught twentieth century literature. Co-author with Terry Gifford of Ted Hughes: A Critical Study. New Selected Poems (Didier Érudition. science fiction. and Snyder) and attempts to counter the textual solipsism of Derrida with the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty. www. (Presses Universitaires de Lyon). He is also the author of Seamus Heaney.skea. Australia. 2000)— and edited a bilingual collection of essays— Lire Ted Hughes (Editions du Temps.D. Neil J. He is the author of La mystique du Prometheus Unbound de Shelley (Lettres Modernes). Merwin.org. lectures du Don Juan (Didier Érudition).Roberts is Professor and Head of the School of English at university of Sheffield.H. Her own book Ted Hughes: The Poetic Quest looks at the influence of William Blake and the traditions of alchemy in Cave Birds. He is the editor of the Blackwell Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry in English and is currently working on a study of D. des Chants d’lnnocence au Livre d’Urizen (Didier Érudition). William Blake. He has published two books and edited a volume of critical essays on the poetry of Ted Hughes. Travel and Cultural Difference.126 LLST OF CONTRIBUTORS Hughes’s children's books for the Inklings Jahrbuch 1999 and on the links between “Crow and the Creation Tales” for QWERTY. Leonard M. he has published two monographs— Ted Hughes. Author of numerous other essays on Hughes and other contemporary poets including his most recent book Narrative and Voice in Postwar Poetry (which has chapters on Crow and Gaudete). Elmet and River. 1999) and editor of the ejournal EREA. Wordsworth ou l’autre voix. Many of Ann’s papers can be read at her web-site at www. of which the latest volumes are Byron. Introduction a la poésie de Coleridge (Aubier Flammarion). Ann is a writer and reviewer who lives in Sydney.” a new course he developed in 1994. and the editor of collections of essays on English Romanticism.” evaluates the most recent poetry of four American ecopoets (Ammons. and “Literature and Ecology. On Ted Hughes. he is a Senior Lecturer in English and American literature at Université Lumière Lyon 2 and has written his thesis on the poetry of Theodore Roethke. 2000).Scigaj completed his Ph. la langue rémunérée (L’Harmattan 1999) and Ted Hughes. at the University of WisconsinMadison in 1977.ann. His most recent work is Sustainable Poetry. when she is not travelling or living in London. He has also published an essay on the poetry of Sylvia Plath. He is also the author of books on the poetry of Peter Redgrove and the novels of George Eliot and George Meredith. . Joanny Moulin is Professor of English literature at the University of Provence. l’éblouissement de l’impossible (Honoré Champion.” listing Hughes’s major works and the interests and life events associated with their creation is included in Keith Sagar’s new book (now available). Lawrence. Axel Nesme is a former student of the École Normale Supérieure of the rue d’Ulm.com. Her “Timeline. Christian La Cassagnère is Professor Emeritus at Université Lumière-Lyon 2. Berry.e-rea. Ann Skea has published a number of papers on Ted Hughes. a volume that defines “ecopoetry.
(October 2000). Gayle Wurst was a Senior Researcher with the Swiss National Science Foundation and a Fellow in the English Department of Princeton University until September 1999. she taught American and English literature at the University of Fribourg. His major research area is British Modernist Poetry (notably Dylan Thomas and the relationship between linguistics and literature). An Aspect of Late Nineteenth-Century Catholic Poetry” in Cahiers Victoriens & Edouardiens. Diane Middlebrook is the author of Her Husband. where she was working on a project in American literature. stride on two levels… Laying my host in metal. in my intricate image. and has published articles on. Her publications on Plath include numerous articles in French and English as well as Voice and Vision: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath.com. Her Anne Sexton. He is now writing on “Baudelaire” & “French Poetry since Baudelaire” for The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation Diane Wood Middlebrook is a professional writer and a Professor of English at Stanford University. She was a fellow at W. His recent articles include “I.dianemiddlebrook. He also has an interest in. where she teaches courses in poetry and poetics. Du Bois Institute of Harvard University from 1997– 1999. Hughes & Plath. Orléans and Bordeaux. From 1985 to 1995.LLST OF CONTRIBUTORS 127 Paul Volsik is Professor of British Literature at Paris 7 University. Switzerland.B. . translation theory and twentieth century poetry generally. and she has also taught at the Universities of Geneva. A Biography (1991) was a finalist for the National Book Award and for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Discussions of her work are posted on the website www.” on Dylan Thomas & the painter Ceri Richards in Interfaces (N° 15 1999) and “Dreams of Innocence and “Raptures of Submission.E. A Marriage (Viking 2003).
Bakhtin. Dorr. Plath’s Missing Journal. ed. Michigan:Ardis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1949. . Coates. Bundtzen.B. Sylvia Plath: The Wound & the Cure of Words. A Father’s Prayer. Culler. (1990). S. (1985). C. Battersby.Hall. R. Gender & Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetics. Barthes. R. Ann Arbor:University of Michigan Press. The Spell of the Sensuous. 172–87. Cullingford. New York: De Capo Press. Dostoevsky. New York: Hill & Wang. B. The Pursuit of Signs. Dostoevsky. J.) Daughters & Fathers.) Caryl Emerson & Michael Holquist. J. Nature. R. Bakhtin.). E. New York: Pantheon. P. David Magarshack. (pp. 233–55). Trans. tr. Ann Arbor. tr. G. Ed. Austin. (1989). A. Brecht. (1981).L. & trans.M. (Eds. Middlesex: Penguin. London. Alexander. Paris:Denoël. University of Texas. & tr. The Brothers Karamazov.Yeats & Sylvia P. Of Grammatology. (1961). N. Austin. University of Texas Press. J. The Dialogic Imagination (Ed. (2000). Columbia: University of Missouri Press. (1986).Works Cited Abram. The [London] Times 8 April.Booze & B. (1983). P. M. Derrida.E. (1998). Cambridge: Polity Press. E. Trans.M. Axelrod. Alienation Effects in Chinese Acting. Davids. Critical Essays on Ted Hughes. (1992). (1980).K. 91–99. “From Work to Text”. Re-making Poetry: Ted Hughes & a New Critical Psychology.K. (1977). Plath’s Incarnations: Woman & the Creative Process. Caryl Emerson & Michael Holquist. Image-Music-Text. Routledge. Broe. Burke. The [London] Times 11 April. Speech Genres & Other Late Essays. Bishop. 1969. Ed. (1991). Fontana. F. Hughes Papers Reveal Devotion to Plath. New York: Vintage. (1989).Flowers. John Willett. Introduction à la lecture de Lacan I.S. (1990). Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Brecht on Theatre. The Economy of Flesh in Ted Hughes’s Gaudete. McGee (Ed. R. J. Leonard Scigaj (Ed. (1981). (1964). Letter. (2000). J. F. In L. (1996). Stephen Heath. Western Attitudes Since Ancient Times. (1999). (1995). D. The Double: Two Versiom. The Times (11 April 2000). M.B. Bone. Campbell. (2000). London: The Women’s Press. Oxford:Oxford UP.G. Evelyn Harden.Phillips. (1974). London. (1958). Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Brandes. Davids. Protean Poetic. New York. Vern W. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.) Michael Holquist. A Daughter’s Anger: W. Harmondsworth. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime & Beautiful 1757. M. L.
London: Routledge. New York:Macmillan. D. James Strachey. Strauss & Giroux. Selected Prose of T. J. T. The Mark of the Social. Hughes. Mourning & Melancholia In P. J. radio script. . (1953). Robert W. Concurrence. 25 March). American Journal of Medical Genetics 96 (1) Feb. Ed. Spring). (1991). 9. Hughes. Hamilton. 2..D. Gammage N. (1965. (1941). Hargrove. The White Goddess: A historical grammar of poetic myth. Pastoral. Ted Hughes. (1999). The Journey Toward Ariel: Sylvia Plath’s Poems of 1956–1959. N. Gifford. Spencer & the Numbers of Time. 19 April). Hughes. E. January).Woodruff Library. D. Desk Poet.S. Harlow. P. Myth & Anti-Myth in Ted Hughes’s Crow. D. (1975). (1984). T. (1999).1 Hollindale. New York: Dell. Escape from Freedom. (1997). New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1933). The Paris Review. & Lapierre Y.D. Ted Hughes Papers. vol. 54–94. Horder. Fromm.) General Psychological Theory. The Guardian. Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. Bakish. T. Simians. London:the Hogarth Press. Hughes Papers Reveal Agony & Ecstasy of His Love Life. T. (Ed. Robert W. R. & Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Ted Hughes Papers. Greenwood. B. 7–6.) London:Faber & Faber. Graves. Fowler. Ted Hughes Papers. 3. (1995). Eliot. Freud.D. Hughes. (2000). Lockwood:Thimble Press. Ted Hughes: The Unaccommodated Universe. (1994). London: Routledge. The Death & Life of Sylvia Plath. E.G. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. The Art of Poetry LXXI. Signs of Childness in Children’s Literature. Contemporary Poetry.Eliot F. XXII. Faas. New York: Birch Lane Press. Friedan. New York:Norton. Cyborgs. Hayman.) The Epic Poise: A Celebration of Ted Hughes. A. (1964). The Sunday Times. Association of Polymorphism of Serotonin 2A Receptor Gene with Suicidal Ideation in Major Depression Disorder. London:Faber & Faber. T. Lund: Lund University Press. E. Santa Barbara:Black Sparrow Press. The SundayTimes 31. Farrar. Capturing Animals. Freud.S. (1975). (1980). Mythology.Kermode (Ed. (1999. Gifford. Capturing Animals. Emory University.Woodruff Library. T. (1977). (1948) New York. S. Battling over the Bard.Reiff (Ed. Robert W. London:Routledge & Kegan Paul. (pp. 1999. J. Green Voices. Heaney S. T. (1964). (1963). Hirschberg. Manchester:Manchester UP. (1966). The Golden Bough. (1963). (1974). Rpt. radio script. L. Emory University. (1997). J. (1995. Emory University. New York: New American Library. The Feminine Mystique. S. 37. S. (1917). R. London:Macmillan.: 56–60.Woodruff Library. Frazer. Speech at the Memorial Service for Ted Hughes (The Observer 16th May) Heinz. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. New York:Rinehart. (1991). New York:Norton. 164–79). Harraway. 134. Freud. (1992. 7. S.WORKS CITED 129 Du.
(1970 mars) Myth & Education. Fall). Robert W. The Offers. From the Life & Songs of the Crow. EmoryUniversity. Emory. Bloomington:Indiana Univ. 25 February). London:Faber & Faber.Woodruff Library. Woodruff Library. T. (1990). Hughes. T. An Alchemical Cave Drama. (1975). (1986). Bow. London:Faber & Faber. 12 May). Hughes. Hughes. T.Woodruff Library. Letter to Prouty Smith. The City. TL. Hughes. (1970). Hughes. T. (1966. T. Charles Newman. Press. October 26). 19 March). T. 110–7) London:Faber & Faber. Ted Hughes Papers. Emory University. Me. Emory. (1978). Ted Hughes Papers. Elmet. Hughes. T. Robert W. Ted Hughes Papers.Eliot. T. (1964. October 18). Ted Hughes Papers. Cave Birds. The Sunday Times. int’l edition. (1969). A Reply to Eric Griffiths. T. Possible Buyers. T. T. Hughes. Hughes. Hughes. (1964. (1988. London:Faber & Faber. (1976). Ted Hughes Papers. London:Faber & Faber. Hughes. T. Hughes. Robert W. Emory. Howls & Whispers. Crediton:Richard Gilbertson. London:Faber & Faber. T. London:Faber & Faber. Robert W. Ed. (pp. Ted Hughes Papers. Woodruff Library. Ted Hughes. Letter to Aurelia Plath. Emory. Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath. Ted Hughes Papers. Hughes. Woodruff Library. T. Hughes. (1976).130 WORKS CITED Hughes. Birthday Letters. T. Hughes. Birthday Letters. (1998. London:Rainbow Press. 5.Woodruff Library. Rockport. Emory University. Hughes. London & New York:Faber & Faber. (1997. Illustrations by Leonard Baskin. Letter to Roy Davids. Letter to Roy Davids. TL. Ted Hughes Papers. Robert W. The Sunday Times. (1972). T. Ted Hughes. Children’s Literature in Education. (1998). Tributes to T.Woodruff Library. Hughes. Robert W. (1981). Possible Buyers. (1998). Shakespeare & the Goddess. 25 February). Crow. Letter to Winifred Myers. Hughes. The Times. Ilkley:Scolar Press.. Hughes. The chronological order of Sylvia Plaths poems. Hughes. T.Woodruff Library. Hughes. T. 7 August). 14 August). The Art of Sylvia Plath: A Symposium. Hughes. The Gehenna Press. Life & Times. Ted Hughes Papers. London:Faber & Faber. Earth-Moon. T. T. (1975. T. Hughes. T. Gaudete. Moon Creatures. Hughes. Hughes. Emory. 7. (1962. T. Poetry in the Making. Hughes. Dust. TriQuarterly. T. Possible Buyers. London:Faber & Faber. Capriccio. Hughes. Illustrations by Leonard Baskin. T. T. 1 April). Woodruff Library. Robert W. T. Ed. Hughes. Hughes. Cave Birds. Robert W. Letter to Joseph Gold. T. (1992). T. 55– 70. 12 January). 7. Ted Hughes Papers. (1988. (1998). Animal Poems. Hughes. . T. Me. Robert W. (1967). Emory. Hughes. Robert W. Robert W. Searsmont. Emory University. Emory. Letter to Joseph Gold. Book section. Ffangs the Vampire Bat & the Kiss of Truth. (1994. (1975. Woodruff Library. T. Ted Hughes Papers.S. (1994). Hughes. T. Notes on the Chronological Order of Sylvia Plath’s Poems. A Dancer To God. Woodruff Library. Introduction. The Gehenna Press.
The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Lacan. Miles. T. T. New Selected Poems 1957–1994. Green & Co. Hughes. Malcolm. London:Faber & Faber. Paris:Seuil. Macnaghten. Extra. Hughes. Paris:Seuil. 9. New York:Harper & Row. The New York Times. Le Séminaire. New Selected Poems 1957–1994. L’Ethique de la psychanalyse. 14 August). T. London:Faber & Faber. What is the Truth? London:Faber & Faber. Winter Pollen (Ed. Difficulties of a Bridegroom. (1988). Robert W. 187–201). Rougé (Ed).) William Scammell. Hughes. (1963). Finnegans Wake (1939). An Anthology of Poems & Programmes from Listening & Writing. Hughes. Hughes. (1994). Remains of Elmet. London:Longmans. (1983). (1995). London:Faber & Faber. (1992). Woodruff Library. C. Hughes. Livre II. H. (1966). Emory University. Joyce. J. London:Faber & Faber. New York:Alfred A. Le Séminaire VII. 1–3.G. (1998). J. Shakespeare & The Goddess Of Complete Being. (1978). (1960). J. London:Faber & Faber. Moortown. New York: Harper & Row. T. London:Sage. (1998).Knopf. Pau: Publications de l’université de Pau. (1995). J. T. (1970). The Hawk in the Rain. Lacan. (1995). (2003). Le Séminaire. Poetry in the Making. J. Italie. Ritual. Women in Love. Hughes. Chapters in a Mythology: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath. Ted Hughes Papers. The Dreamfighter & Other Creation Tales. London:Faber & Faber. Lyall. London:Routledge. Q/W/E/R/T/Y. London: Faber & Faber. Hughes. T. New York:Viking.H. TLS. Myth. T. Lacan. Moon-Whales & Other Moon Poems. Paris:Seuil. London:Faber & Faber. Hughes. T. (1999). Paris:P. T. Hughes. A Divided Response to Hughes’s New Poems. Ecrits. Kroll. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes. Princeton (N. D. Straus & Giroux. Bl. T. J. & Religion. (1962. Lacan. (1986). Lacan. (1976). & Urry. Le moi dans la théorie de Freud et la technique de la psychanalyse. Hughes. J. S. The Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales. Lang.U. J. Lacan et la philosophie. T. A. (1976). Lawrence. Man of Letters. London:Faber & Faber. (1979). 12 April).):Princeton University Press. (1973). Hughes. London:Faber & Faber. (1979). (1964). The Collected Poems. London: Vintage. C. (1975).J. T. . Roanoke Times. T.WORKS CITED 131 Hughes. New York: Farrar. 27 January). (1957). London:Faber & Faber. A. Tales of the Early World. D. Jung. Jung. (pp. Psychologie et alchimie. In B. Hughes. (1966). Lexington:University of Kentucky Press. Ecrits II. F. Livre XI. (1997). Juranville. (1998. (1977). (1887). (1995). P. T. Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. (1994). Hughes. Hughes. To Winifred Myers. Paris:Seuil. The Earth-Owl & Other Moon People. Paris:Buchet/Chastel. Swansea:Christopher Davies. (1998. Hughes. (1967). C. J. T. Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse.G. T. River. New York:Viking. Lacan. Selected Poems 1957–1994. Kazzer. Contested Natures. (1984). (1984). (1971). T. London: Faber & Faber. J. London:Faber & Faber.
). Lire Ted Hughes. New York:Dial. M. Raine.Freistat (Ed. 10 April). Literature for Children: Contemporary Criticism (pp. L’Eloge du rien. . Haunted by the Ghosts of Love. 1 January 1993–31 December Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey.: York University. 9. Intimations of Imitations. Man of Mettle. The Children’s Ted Hughes’s. Sky Burial. S. O. 43–53). So Quickly It’s Over. Letters Home. In N. G. (1984). Frances McCullough & Ted Hughes. T. 2 June). Moulin. (1994).). Ca. Plath. Ed. Coventry: Dangeroo. The Independent on CD-Rom. S. Letter to Jack & Maire Sweeney. Dublin:Dolmen Press. 4. The Complete Poems & Fragments. The Guardian. Tennessee: Proctor’s Hall Press. Ted Hughes. (1980. Plath. (1996).) (1999). B. 1–10. S. By Hugo Robus. Three Caryatids Without a Portico. Paul. (1962). Yeats. (1999. Paris:Didier Érudition. S. New York:Knopf.). S. L. S. Folder 6. (1973). Paris:Seuil. (1962. The Two Ariels: The (Re)Making of the Sylvia Plath Canon. The Earthenware Head. A. S. Chequer. J. Ted Hughes. Paul. L. London: Heinemann. The Nature of Poetry. E. The Times Educational Supplement. Ed. 32–4. (1975). S. (1989). The Journals of Sylvia Plath. la langue rémunérée. 22 August). the Tarot & the Golden Dawn. (1972). (1982). Independent on Sunday. Ploughshares. Paris:Editions du Temps. Paris: Editions du Temps. Winter). No 4118. H. (Ed. The Collected Poems. (1997). Moulin. (1981). 6. London & New York:Faber & Faber. Mort. Moulin. Telling Stories for Children & Adults:The Writings of Ted Hughes. Plath. S. Chapel Hill & London. L. Aurelia Schober Plath. Owen. 3. London:Routledge. (1981). 5. London:The Rainbow Press. Neill. (1995. Harvard University. Lire Ted Hughes: New Selected Poems 1957–1994. New York: Harper & Row. Ted Hughes. February 21).Moulin (Ed. 66–77). (1999. Plath. Dissertation. Box 7. Vol. Ted Hughes. J. Perloff. Negev. Winter). Sewanee. L. The London Review of Books. Ed. The Colossus. (Ed. The Illustrated History of the Countryside. W. 1950–1962. S. (1956. Pursuit. Ed. Pratt. In J.) (1981). Archetypal Patters in Women’s Fiction. H. University of North Carolina Press. (2000). Plath. Plath Manuscript Collection. Plath. You Hated Spain. Plath. 1986. Review. S.132 WORKS CITED Morrison. Plath. Houghton Research Library.TES2/ 12–3. Brighton:The Harvester Press. 5 Sep 93. (1984). Paul.2. 50–8. (1960). Rackham. (1980). Indiana University. Letter to Warren Plath. (2000). Ed. Burning the Letters. Plath. K. A Study in Sculptural Dimensions. J. 1. Correspondence 1950–1963.Kukil. Myers. Karen V. Toronto. Crow Steered Bergs Appeared: A Memoir of Ted Hughes & Sylvia Plath. New Selected Poems 1957–1994 (pp. Poems in their Place: The Intertextuality & Order of Poetic Collections (pp. Wild Steelhead & Salmon. Paris:L’Harmattan. Rey-Flaud. (1992). London: Faber & Faber. (1961. Collected Poems. 308–33). New Selected Poems 1957–1994. Lilly Research Library. 17 July). London:Orion. New York:Norton. (1999). (2001). Jon Stallworthy. Plath. 82–7.Hunt (Ed. Plath. New York: Harper & Row. Ltd. (1999). In P. Plath. The Journals of Sylvia Plath. Pero. S. 2.
K & Tabor. (2000). Cambridge:Cambridge University Press. Tennant.zeta. (1947). Boston: G. Sagar.WORKS CITED 133 Rich. Edinburgh:Canongate Books. 154– 70).P. (1980). Cockroft L.M. Scigaj. InL. Sartre. Voloshinov. The Concept of Mind. (1979). A. Torrance. (1989).htm>. Scigaj.) (1993). S. (Ed. 2nd ed. 1976. (1999).K. London:Macmillan. New York:Simon & Schuster.Hall/Twayne. Oxford:Oxford University Press. Robinson. New York:Philosophical Library. New Yorker 31 December: 66–70. Snyder. L. K. Skea. G.) Critical Essays on SylviaPlath (pp. Form & Imagination. (1987). H. (Ed. 1975. Centennial Review 32. 220–49. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge Mass. (1992). J. Rose. Marxism & the Philosophy of Language. Critical Essays on Ted Hughes. The Art of Ted Hughes.M. (1991).T. Ann. E.N.K. New York:Barnes & Noble. Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. The Challenge of Ted Hughes. Ted Hughes: A Bibliography. Sagar. Vendler. Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes. (1995).au/~annskea/ timeline. William Holt 1897–1977. R. M. New York:Macmillan. Van Dyne.zeta.W.C.org. Uroff [Dickie]. Adelaide Festival Transcript. (1973). The Laughter of Foxes. Vaughan. Ryle. (1949). Bernard Fechtman. S. From a reading by Ted Hughes at the Adelaide Festival Writers’ Week. (1984).M. (1927). Summer). G. L. Burnt Diaries.) (1978). A. Timeline. & London. New York: G. M. D. Trans.M.R. (1999). Todmorden: Estate of William Holt. M. Sutcliffe. <http://www. Scigaj. Ted Hughes as Shepherd of Being. Sylvia Plath: A Biography. Of Women Born: Motherhood as Experience & Institution. (1994). Iowa City: University of lowa Press.htm>. L. Strathern. Stevenson. (1986). (2000). Originally part of a 1982 facsimile edition pamphlet of Stings available at the Smith College Library Rare Book Room. Harvard University Press. J. July.W. R M. 1946–1995. (1998). Titunik. tr. London:Mansell. Wagner-Martin.M. L. 20 February <http://www. 2nd edition. Ladislav. L. The Poetry of Ted Hughes’. & Pease. (1999). D. After Nature: English Kinship in the Late Twentieth Century. Existentialism. Sustainable Poetry: Four American Ecopoets. Sagar. Scigaj. London:Virago. The Haunting of Sylvia Plath. Washington. (1976). D. (1987). (1999). The Painterly Plath That Nobody Knows. A Present from Hebden Bridge Comprising a Collection of 18 Local Stories & Folk-lore from the District called Hardcastle . Sagar. : Counterpoint. Ann. Urbana:University of Illinois Press. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. (Ed. Raptures & Rendings. Washington:Counterpoint. V.Hall. Matejka & I. Reprinted 1989. (1988. More Terrible Than She Ever Was:The Manuscripts of Sylvia Plath’s Bee Poems. (1989). National Music & Other Essays. K. K. Ted Hughes. Skea. C. Wilcock. Basingstoke:Macmillan. L. (1984). Encompassing Nature: A Sourcebook.au/~annskea/ adelaide.Wagner. Scigaj. A Place in Space. New York: Norton. Boston:Houghton Mifflin. (1991).org.
G. Voice & Vision: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath. London:Macmillan. (1991). F. W. Giordano Bruno & the Hermetic Tradition. Chicago:University of Chicago Press.B. Yeats. Yates. Collected Poems.134 WORKS CITED Grags with Complete Guide to the Crags & Heptonstall. Geneva:Editions Slatkine. (1933). Wurst. Hebden Bridge:Nexus Publications. . (1999).
Remains of Elmet. River Selected Poems 1957–1994 Shakespeare & the Goddess of Complete Being. BL CB CPH C DG E FI G HR L M NSP PM RE R SP SGCB .Abbreviations Ted Hughes Birthday Letters Cave Birds Collected Poems (The) Crow Dancer to God (A) Elmet Flowers and Insects Gaudete Hawk in the Rain (The) Lupercal Moortown New Selected Poems 1957– 1994 Poetry in the Making.
136 ABBREVIATIONS Tales from Ovid Winter Pollen Wodwo Wolfwatching. Children’s Literature in Education  (mars 1970) Sylvia Plath The Journals of Sylvia Plath Letters Home Collected Poems The Bell Jar TO WP W Ww ME J LH CPP BJ .
CONTEXT AND GENRE IN ENGLISH LITERATURE ISSN 1573–2320 1. Ted Hughes: Alternative Horizons Edited by Joanny Moulin 2004 ISBN 90 265 1973 7 .
M. F. 112 Broe. 69n. 35n–37. 24? Bacon. B. R. 90– 91. 19. 50.E. M. 41 Aeschylus 108 Alexander. 113. 93. 126. 132 Auden. 72. 24n Bedtime Anecdote 123. 132 Black Coat 22. 70 Battersby C. 126 Bedtime Story 123 Bee God (The) 11 Being Christlike 101 Bell Jar (The) 1. R. 3 Bird (The) 92 Birthday Present (A) 27 BirthdayLetters 1–15. 88–93. W. 107– 109 Boas.H. R. R. 132 Bone. J. 113. 88 Baskin. 72. 57–61. 7. 34. 57 Bull Moses (The) 113 Bundtzen. Susan 89 Alvarez. 127 Axelrod. 60 Cat & the Cuckoo (The) 115 138 . 20. 101. W. 50. 116 Caryatids (1) 13. 80. P.A. 63–65. 9. 31–32. 40 Browning. 64 Beuscher. 108n 59th Bear (The) 90 9 Willow Street 109 Abram. 9 Burke. 68 Booze. 17 Avery. E. 22 Apple Tragedy. 89 Brandt. 43 Capriccios 32 Capturing Animals 68. G. 75. 74– 75. F. 19–22. 21 Brontë. J. 28–30. 9 Allison. 5. 32– 33. 2. 97. W. 127 Brandt. 104–105. P. 127 Bakhtin. 93 Amulet. 60 Caryatids (2) 21. A. 55. 58. R. 135 Aristotle 49 Astringency.L. 88–89 Bardo Thodol (The) 69 Barthes. 90 Black Rook in Rainy Weather 23 Blackbird (The) 64 Blake. 63n–64. Apprehensions. T. 117 Bride & groom lie hidden for three days 35–36. L. 11. 15. D. 23.G. 61 Astrological Conundrums. 133 Ariel 1. 99 Capriccio 29–37. 107 Brueghel. 25n Brandes. 106. 2 Bruno. 5–9.Index of Names and Titles 100 Poems to Learn by Heart 57–8 18 Rugby Street 32. 117n Animal Poems 72 Anniversary. L. 103. 52 Burning the Letters 70 Campbell. L. 73. S.
29. 35. 78 Dostoevsky. 41. 35–6. Dead Leaves 39. L. M. 72. 114n. R.S. 26 Dogs Are Eating Your Mother (The) 12. 44 Cohen. P. B. Chinese History of Colden Water 42. J. 23. 17. 20. 15. 126 Crow Blacker than Ever 99 Crow’s Account of St George 122 Crow’s Battle Fury 99–100 Crow’s Elephant Totem Song 126 Culler. 41 Cockroft. F. 58 Fidelity 61 Fitzgerald. 51. W. E. 74. 55. 33 Dreamfighter 120 Du. 33. 51. 126 Fool’s Evil Dream (The) 132 For Billy Holt 45 . 100. 13 Dust 71 Earth-Moon 118–120. T. 105–106 Collected Poems of Ted Hughes (The) 32. 64. L. 107 Elm 27. 25n Daddy 3. 20. 92 Daffodils 93 Dancer to God (A) 95 Davids. 122 Earth-Moon 123 Earth-Owl & Other Moon People (The) 112. 43 Faun 18 February 126 Female Author 20 Fern 79 Ffangs the Vampire Bat & the Kiss of Truth 117. 98–101. 35. 104n Error (The) 31. 100. 95–96. 69 Flowers. 99 Conversation Among the Ruins 20 Creation of Fishes 113 Crow 3. 98–99 Colossus (The) 106 Colossus (The) 17 Coming Down Through Somerset 117n Concurrence. 68. 27 Dead Farms. 12 De Chirico. G.T. 63 Emory (Archives) 13. R. J. 135 Enniss. 128 Collected Animal Poems 114n Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath (The) 1. 58. 115 Fairy Tale 64 Falcon Yard 69 Fallgrief s Girlfriends 71 Familiar 35. 37 Euripides 108 Existential Song 123 Faas. 91 Dorr. 95–96. 92. 122 Ficino. T. E. 90. M. S. 30. 41 Deaf School 79.B. 100.INDEX 139 Cave Birds 3. 113–114. E. 58 Derrida. 112–114 Chaikin. 88 Cullingford. 3. 104–105. 25n Folktale 31. 73–74. 67–69. 37. 70n Coleridge S. 107 Flame 31. 30. 71 Contender (The) 79. 17. 72. 34–35n Fletcher. 104n Davies. 6 Drawing 108 Dream (A) 91 Dreamers (The) 29. 99.S. 117. 121 Edge 28 Egg Head 50 Egyptian Book of the Dead (The) 36 Eliot. 97 Descartes. C. 4 Descent 31. 9–10. 10–11. 116. 34 Dickinson. S. 80. 20–22. 35. J. 114n Difficulties of a Bridegroom 122 Disquieting Muses (The) 23. 26 De Quincey. K. 51. 6. 81 Della Mirandola P. 87. 44 City (The) 37n Coat (The) 35 Coates.
69. 24. J. 71 Hosking E. D. 126n. 78–79. 33 Walt (uncle) 44 William Henry (father) 44 In Memoriam M. 106 Horrible Song 117n Horse (The) 53. T. 77–78. 116–117.H. J. 49. 69n–70 Graves. 119n Holub.H. 97 Lawrence. 17–19. 68. 55. Shura (daughter) 30n. 82 Johnny Panic & the Bible of Dreams. 100 Jung. 19. 129 Heinz. 105– 106 Joyce. 128. J. 87–88. J. 33–35n.D. 22. 127 Juranville. 44 Gog 56.G. 72 Hughes Albert (uncle) 44 Carol (wife) 65n Frieda (daughter) 12. J. 115. S. 130 Hesiod 39. Edith 1 Hanged Man (The) 11. 101 Hargrove. 122 Iron Wolf (The) 115 Iron Woman (The) 112–114. 37. 113 Gold. 134 Galileo 4 Gammage. 67 Harraway.140 INDEX For the Duration 80 Frazer. 93. 44. 12. 126 Japanese River Tales 126 Jenny. 99. 134 Gerald (brother) 69n Nicholas (son) 12. 63. E. D. S. 25626 Kristeva. R. 127 Journals of Sylvia Plath (The) 5. 131 Larkin. T. 49. 113. 87. C. 89 Lang. 91. 119n. 46–47 Iron Man (The) 98. 88 Hawk in the Rain (The) 3. 10. Sir J. J. 97 Heaney. 8 Fromm. 132 Grimm. F.S. 62–63. 96 Freud. T. 23n–24n Harlow. 81 Friedan. 88 Kroll. 7 Full Fathom Five 28 Full Moon & Little Frieda 113. 14. 93 Jones. 112–114 Gifford. 134 Gaudete 52. 29–30. 113 Godwin. 117. 52. 95 Hollindale. 17–19.K. 105. 41 Harrison. 78–79. 36–37. 119n Isis. 91 Lonya 14 Hamilton. 98. 78. 127. D. 98. N. 81 Klee. (The Other) 31 Lesbos 27 Letters Home 2. 119 Herder. 2 Go Fishing 133 God (The) 101. J. 126. 114n. N. 113 Italie. P. J. 132 Gutman Assia 1. 5–6. 13 Jaguar (The) 53 Jakobson. 35n. H. 80 Ingold. 54. 116. 105 Life After Death 33. 26 Lady Lazarus. 88–89. 134 Horder. P. 69. 89 Gilling. D. P.M. 81 Lady & the Earthenware Head (The) 23. 95–96. 127 House of Aries (The) 69 Howls & Whispers 30. 105 Lacan. 41 Hill-Stone Was Content 43 Hirschberg. A. B. J. J. 53. 7. 63n Olwyn (sister) 106. 13–15. 10–11. L. 130 Guardian Angel 64 Gulkana (The) 80.G. 101 . 41 Laws of the Game. 79. A. 80. 71. R. 26–27. 99.
113 Muldoon. 121 Moon-Ravens 121 Moon-Theatre 120 Moonwalk 113 Moon-Walkers 118–119 Moon-Ways 118 Moon-Whales 118 Moon-Wind 118 Moortown 41 Morganwg. 24n–25 Once upon a time 126 Open to Huge Light 40 Opus 131. 127 Pease. 70 Myers. 12–13 . K. 88– 89. 44 Pero. 91 Ouija 23 Ovid 39. 119. 121 Meeting 51 Mermaid’s Purse (The) 115 Merwin W. 28. 22. 14 Paul. P. 105 Man in Black. M. 30 Neill. 119 Moon-Mourner (The) 119. 37. 122 Moon-Haggis (The) 121 Moon-Hyena (The) 119 Moon-Lily (The) 121 Moon-Mirror 117. D. 130 Morrison 114–117 121–122 Mort. 114n–115. L. 21 Offers (The) 37n Old oats 80 On the Decline of Oracles 23 On the Difficulty of Conjuring up a Dryad 23–24 On the Plethora of Dryads 22. 35. 77 Mount Zion 99–100. 10 Little Red Riding Hood. R. 41–2 Lumb Bank 45 Lumb Chimneys. 35. 93. 70n. 32n. & D. 69n. 98. 126 Owen. 128n Milesian Encounter on the Sligachan 81–82 Milton 50 Moon Art 119 Moon-Bells & Other Poems 117n Moon-Freaks 112. 100 Ossian 129–130 Other (The) (Laws of the Game) 31. J. 127. 45 Malcolm. 127 Night-Ride on Ariel 113 Ode for Ted. 114n Newberry C. 69 Lyall. 107 Miles. 123 Lowell. J. 42 Lupercal 3. W.INDEX 141 Listening & Writing 71 Little Fugue 9. 133 Locket (The) 30.1–4. L. 126n Music on the Moon 119 Myers. T. 19. 106 Lucretius. 73 Otto (father). T. D. 114n Neumann 33 New Apocalypse (The) 127 New Selected Poems 29–31. 116 Perseus 23 Pibroch 78 Picture of Otto (A) 14 Pike 70 Pindaros 96 Pit & the Stones (The) 35 Plaintiff (The) 113 Plath Aurelia (mother) 12–13. 31. Graham 41 Moulin. 69 Myth & Education (1) 97. 50. 30. 117. I. S. 31 Orghast 52. 104–105 Macbeth 27 Machine (The) 92 Macnaghten P. 122n Peake. 69n. 90 Mansfield. 35 Love Song. 41. E. 56. W. 122 Mythographers (The) 32-s33 Negev. 37. 107 Meet My Folks! 118. J. 14 Middleton Murry.
116 Sky Furnace 72 Skylarks 81. 89. O. 113–115n. 15 Poe. 108 Tales of the Early World 120. 64 Pratt. 59. 114n Sharp. 37. 118 Portraits. 100. N. Strumpet Song 23 Sutcliffe 44 Table (The) 63 Take What You Want But Pay For It 100 Tales form Ovid 40–41. B. 92. E. 88 Shibboleth 31. A. 55. 89 Rock (The) 116 Roethke. 35.A. 36n. 70n Queen’s Complaint (The) 21 Rabbit Catcher (The) 90 Racine. 69 Pursuit 18. 87–89. 65 Rattle Bag (The) 114n. 112 Shakespeare. 100 Salmon Eggs 98 Sam. Read. 51. 40 Rag Rug (The) 62–63 Raine. 99 Slump Sundays 43 Smell of Burning 30. 58.142 INDEX Sylvia 1–15. (Of Woman Born) 9 Risen (The) 100 River 58. 122n Ted Hughes: A Bibliography 31n. 109 Poetry in the Making 49. 93 Sonnenberg. Botolph’s 18 Stevens. 104–106. 73. 121 Warren (brother) 12. 127 . 35n. 58 Revenge Fable. 97– 98. 91. 43 Something Was Happening 92 Song 71. 69 Runaway. B. 60–64. 73 Roof (The) 30. A. H. 69 St. 64. 107–108. 20. 69n Ryle. 58. P. W. 92 St. B. 97. 79. 77. 84 Thomas. 110 The Moon-Mare (The) 119 There Was a Boy (The) 19 Thistles 82. D. 126 Rey-Flaud. J. 68–69. B. M. 81. 89 Secret of Man’s Wife (The) 120 Shakespeare & the Goddess of Complete Being 58. 44.J. 35 Smith. H. 107– 109. Scigaj. 93. 40. A. K. T. 4 Sacrifice 44 Sagar. 127n Sheep in Fog 73–74 Shelley. 106 Stevenson. 105 Rota. 108 Quaritch. 72n–75. 54. 23 Prayer for my Daughter (A) 25 Prometheus On His Crag 100. 20n.B. The Green Child 127 Recklings 43 Remains of Elmet & Elmet 39–47. 56. G. 95. 20. 43 Telegraph Wires 44 Tennant. P. 30. R. 108.S. B. 127 Thomas. 108 Rackham. Botolph’s Review 5. W. A. 35 Silent Eye (The) 121 Singing on the Moon 119 Skea. 69n School Bag (The) 114n. 98–99. 32n. 55. L. K. 17–28. 84–85 Rich. 12–14. 112 Public Bar TV. 36n. 25. C. 73 Snag (The) 122n Snail of the Moon l21 Snow 31. 40–41. 105 Stings 11 Stone. 35n. E. 35 Snyder. 46. 113 Roberts. 70n. 70n Strange Meeting 14 Strathern. 30n. 35 Rose.
107. 24 Urry. 25–26 Voloshinov. 45 Wilcock. 12 Walt 46 Waving goodbye from your banked hospital bed. 11 Ventriloquist (The) 63 Virgil 39 Virgin in a Tree 23. 80 Your Paris 13 . 51 You Hated Spain. V. 98. 69 Wolfwatching 100. E. D. 84.G. 44n Uroff. R. 36n. M. D. 19 Yeats l7. 119.INDEX 143 Thought Fox (The) 54. 123. 127 Wind 49–56 Winter Pollen 1. 88 Wagner-Martin. 30 What is the Truth? 122n What will you make of half a man?. 128. 97 Three Books 43 Three Caryatids Without a Portico 13 To Eva Descending the Stair 21 Trance of Light (The) 42 Truth Kills Everybody 122n Turville-Petre. 131 Uncle Walt. 52–53. 24n–25.O. 112 What’s The First Thing You Think Of? 44 When Men Got To The Summit 43. 45 Van Dyne. 96. 116.T. 126 Tylor. Wodwo 3. 71. S. 79. 55. 87.D. 74. 89–90 Wevill. 45 Williams. 63. 132 Woodruff.N. L.B. (see Emory Archives) 103–104 Wordsworth. E. 55–56. 9.W. V. 112–114. 128 Two Legends 113. W. J. 133.
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