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By Ted Hughes
‘When I ﬁrst started writing,’ Ted Hughes acknowledged, ‘I wrote again and again and again about the First World War.’
He ascribed that compulsion to three factors: the stories told by his father, who had survived his regiment’s massacre at Gallipoli; a love of Wilfred Owen’s poetry; and the West Yorkshire landscape where he grew up believing that ‘the whole region is in mourning for the ﬁrst world war’. Despite his best efforts, Hughes never managed to free himself from his subject.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. threshing furrows clod bewilderment bayonet statuary patriotic
What does Drummond think of Hughes' poetry?
By Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes was born in 1930 and died in 1998. He was an English poet and children's writer. Critics routinely rank him as one of the best poets of his generation. Hughes was British Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death. Born in West Yorkshire, he studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge, later spending most of his life in Devon. He was fascinated by the First World War experiences of his father and uncle, imagining fearful images of trench warfare. As a child, he also gained an interest in the natural world and the violence required to survive in harsh environments.
“It is occasionally possible, just for brief moments, to find the words that will unlock the doors of all those many mansions inside the head and express something — perhaps not much, just something — of the crush of information that presses in on us from the way a crow flies over and the way a man walks and the look of a street and from what we did one day a dozen years ago. Words that will express something of the deep complexity that makes us precisely the way we are, from the momentary effect of the barometer to the force that created men distinct from trees… and in that same moment, make out of it all the vital signature of a human being — not of an atom, or of a geometrical diagram, or of a heap of lenses — but a human being, we call it poetry.”
Authors's Ideas and Background
Bayonet Charge Suddenly he awoke and was running - raw In raw-seamed hot khaki, his sweat heavy, Stumbling across a field of clods towards a green hedge That dazzled with rifle fire, hearing Bullets smacking the belly out of the air He lugged a rifle numb as a smashed arm; The patriotic tear that had brimmed in his eye Sweating like molten iron from the centre of his chest, In bewilderment then he almost stopped In what cold clockwork of the stars and the nations Was he the hand pointing that second? He was running Like a man who has jumped up in the dark and runs Listening between his footfalls for the reason Of his still running, and his foot hung like Statuary in mid-stride. Then the shot-slashed furrows Threw up a yellow hare that rolled like a flame And crawled in a threshing circle, its mouth wide Open silent, its eyes standing out. He plunged past with his bayonet toward the green hedge, King, honour, human dignity, etcetera Dropped like luxuries in a yelling alarm To get out of that blue crackling air His terror’s touchy dynamite. TED HUGHES
His terror's touchy dynamite Lugged a rifle as numb as a smashed arm Bullets smacking the belly In what cold clockwork of the stars
Skill: identify the Technique
Vunerable, confused state
What is he?
Double meaning. Explain them!
Confused and facing gun fire
Suddenly he awoke and was running - raw In raw-seamed hot khaki, his sweat heavy, Stumbling across a field of clods towards a green hedge That dazzled with rifle fire, hearing What poetic technique Bullets smacking the belly out of the air is this? Used to? He lugged a rifle numb as a smashed arm; The patriotic tear that had brimmed in his eye Sweating like molten iron from the centre of his chest, Suggesting that patriotism is irrational In bewilderment then he almost stopped In what cold clockwork of the stars and the nations Was he the hand pointing that second? He was running Like a man who has jumped up in the dark and runs Listening between his footfalls for the reason Of his still running, and his foot hung like Statuary in mid-stride. Then the shot-slashed furrows
Why does he stop? What is he thinking?
Emphasises the soldier's insignificance
Turned to stone by his indecision Threw up a yellow hare that rolled like a flame And crawled in a threshing circle, its mouth wide What has Open silent, its eyes standing out. happened? He plunged past with his bayonet toward the green hedge, King, honour, human dignity, etcetera Dropped like luxuries in a yelling alarm To get out of that blue crackling air What has the poet His terror’s touchy dynamite. listed here? Why does this list end with 'etcetera'?
Suggests that the soldier is about to TED HUGHES lose control of his emotions
Interpreting the text:
* * * *
How does the soldier feel as he wakes? What physical state is he in? What does he think as he hears the bullets? What happened to the tear in his eye? Why?
* What makes him hesitate and nearly stop? * What is he thinking about at this point? * How has instinct taken over?
* * * *
Why does he notice the hare? What does it make him think about? What does he think as he charges? Why does he scream?
Skill: Interpreting the Text
King, honour, human dignity, etcetera Dropped like luxuries in a yelling alarm To get out of that blue crackling air His terror's touchy dynamite.
* Why does he say king, honour and human dignity are 'luxuries'? * Is the use of 'etcetera' important? * What is suggested in the last line? Explain your ideas.
Look at the images below:
Can you find the quotation/idea that they refer to?
1. How does the poet show the soldier changing between the start and the end of the poem? 2. Why does the poet use enjambment rather than neat line endings? 3. Why does the poet use the pronoun 'he' rather than naming the soldier? 4. When in the poem does the soldier move from confusion to terror? 5. What does the poem suggest about the poet's attitude to war?
Spring Offensive Halted against the shade of a last hill, They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease And, finding comfortable chests and knees Carelessly slept. But many there stood still To face the stark, blank sky beyond the ridge, Knowing their feet had come to the end of the world. Marvelling they stood, and watched the long grass swirled By the May breeze, murmurous with wasp and midge, For though the summer oozed into their veins Like the injected drug for their bones' pains, Sharp on their souls hung the imminent line of grass, Fearfully flashed the sky's mysterious glass. Hour after hour they ponder the warm field And the far valley behind, where the buttercups Had blessed with gold their slow boots coming up, Where even the little brambles would not yield, But clutched and clung to them like sorrowing hands; They breathe like trees unstirred. Till like a cold gust thrilled the little word At which each body and its soul begird And tighten them for battle. No alarms Of bugles, no high flags, no clamorous haste Only a lift and flare of eyes that faced The sun, like a friend with whom their love is done. O larger shone that smile against the sun, Mightier than his whose bounty these have spurned. So, soon they topped the hill, and raced together Over an open stretch of herb and heather Exposed. And instantly the whole sky burned With fury against them; and soft sudden cups Opened in thousands for their blood; and the green slopes Chasmed and steepened sheer to infinite space. Of them who running on that last high place Leapt to swift unseen bullets, or went up On the hot blast and fury of hell's upsurge, Or plunged and fell away past this world's verge, Some say God caught them even before they fell. But what say such as from existence' brink Ventured but drave too swift to sink. The few who rushed in the body to enter hell, And there out-fiending all its fiends and flames With superhuman inhumanities, Long-famous glories, immemorial shames And crawling slowly back, have by degrees Regained cool peaceful air in wonder Why speak they not of comrades that went under? WILFRED OWEN
Dulce et Decorum Est. Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs, And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of gas-shells dropping softly behind. Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, But someone still was yelling out and stumbling And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.-Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams before my helpless sight He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin, If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs Bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori. WILFRED OWEN
Poet biography: http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoet. do?poetId=7078 http://www.bbc.co.uk/poetryseason/poets/ted_hughes.s html Footage of the Gallipoli battle unearthed: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-449533/Rarefootage-WWI-Gallipoli-battle-unearthed.html Ted Hughes discusses his work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18DdJO9Lg-s Sincerely, Ted Hughes: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3668375/Sin cerely-Ted-Hughes.html Sylvia - Film of relationship between Plath and Hughes: http://www.youtube.com/user/DragonflyNoir10 #g/c/587711353099B61C
Links and References