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Ted Hughes, 15 May 1980

... The tree creeps on its knees. The dead branch aims, in the last light. The cat-bird is telescopic. The sun’s escape Shudders shot By wings of ashes. The moon falls, with all its moths, Into a bird’s face. Stars spark From the rasp of its cry. Till the moon-eater, cooling, Yawns dawn And sleeps bark ...


Ted Hughes, 4 February 1988

... When I peered down Onto Greenland’s appalling features Sheeted with snow-glare Under a hole of blaze in the violet (I had slid open the shutter Of the jet’s port-hole – I wanted to escape The film about a daughter’s rebellion) I mourned a little For my father. I thought of the pierced seal Down there under the ice Far from its breathing hole Straining as he finally strained With last breaths Against the steely bond Held by those aliens – His bones, his family ...

A Sparrow-Hawk

Ted Hughes, 17 March 1983

... Slips from the eye-corner – overtaking Your first thought. Through your mulling gaze over haphazard earth The sun’s cooled carbon wing Whets the eyebeam. Those eyes in their helmet Still wired direct To the nuclear core – they alone Laser the lark-shaped hole In the lark’s song. We find the earth-tied spurs, among soft ashes. And maybe we find him Materialised by twilight and dew, Still as a listener – The warrior Blue shoulder-cloak wrapped about him, Leaning, hunched, Among the oaks of the harp ...

Night Arrival of Sea-Trout

Ted Hughes, 25 October 1979

... Honeysuckle hanging its fangs. Foxglove rearing its opened belly. Dogrose touching the membrane. And through the dew’s mist, the oak’s mass Comes plunging, comes tossing dark antlers. Then a shattering Of the river’s hole, where something leaps out – The stillness snarls, moon-mouthed, and shivers. Summer dripping stars, biting at the nape. Lob-worms coupling in saliva ...

That Morning

Ted Hughes, 3 December 1981

... We came where the salmon were so many So steady, so spaced, so far-aimed On their inner map, England could add Only the sooty twilight of South Yorkshire Hung with the drumming drift of Lancasters Till the world had seemed capsizing slowly. Solemn to stand there in the pollen light Waist-deep in wild salmon swaying massed As from the hand of God. There the body Separated, golden and imperishable, From its doubting thought – a spirit-beacon Lit by the power of the salmon That came on, came on, and kept on coming As if we flew slowly, their formations Lifting us toward some dazzle of blessing One wrong thought might darken ...

The Great Irish Pike

Ted Hughes, 2 December 1982

... The pike has been condemned. The Virgin, dipping her lily in the lough, decreed it. This is no precinct for anything fishy That revives the underhang of the Dragon. He fell asleep in Job. He woke in The Book of Vermin. And in the Courts of Beauty-care and Cosmetics His picture is pinned up – as the criminal norm. No trial for those eyes. No appeal For that mouth ...

Manchester Skytrain

Ted Hughes, 6 March 1986

... The nightmare is that last straight into the camera – Dice among dice, jounced in a jouncing cup. Never any nearer, bouncing in a huddle, on the spot. Struggling all together, glued in a clot. The first dead cert I ever backed was Word From The Owner’s Mouth. Week before There was my jockey – ‘a day in the life of’ – Starred in Picture Post ...

Two Poems

Ted Hughes, 2 October 1980

... Eagle Big wings dawns dark. The sun is hunting. Thunder collects, under granite eyebrows. The horizons are ravenous. The dark mountain has an electric eye. The sun lowers its meat-hook. His spread fingers measure a heaven, then a heaven. His ancestors worship only him And his children’s children cry to him alone. His trapeze is a continent. The sun is looking for fuel With the gaze of a guillotine ...

Climbing into Heptonstall

Ted Hughes, 19 June 1986

... The Tourist Guide, with his Group, in the ring of horizons, Looked down onto Hebden. ‘You will notice How the walls are black.’                             ‘Wash the black walls!’ Came the madman’s yell. Birdlike, wordless. It meant ‘Wash the blood Wash the Calder Of all that still drains down Out of the walls The weaver’s baffled, half-deaf shout Condensed in the walls The birth-death confinement A candle over the psalms The breathed-in and breathed-out Sour odour of mould In the survival cells Soots of the cold And substitute Flame lit by Wesley ...


Ted Hughes, 4 December 1980

... No map or Latin ever Netted one deity from this river. TAW meant simply ‘water’. What became of her Who poured these pools from her ewer? Who wove her names for her people Into a shimmery tent – with alder and oak-leaf And the flowing deer? What were her real names? She painted men’s and women’s souls Into her tunnel water With the brother-blood of raven and otter As into cave-womb rock ...

Take what you want but pay for it

Ted Hughes, 29 September 1988

... I Weary of the cries God spoke to the Soul of Adam Saying: ‘Give me your body.’ And He Took Adam’s body and nailed it To a stake, saying: ‘This great beast Shall destroy your peace no more.’ Then God fortified with buttresses His house’s walls, and so devised a prison For the contorted body Of the beast. Outside, the Soul, in a shroud, Glorified the Majesty Of the defensive structure, towards which It fled from the enclosing And unappeasable cry Of the primaeval bush ...

Sing the Rat

Ted Hughes, 18 February 1982

... Sing the hole’s plume, the rafter’s cockade Who melts from the eye-corner, the soft squealer Pointed at both ends, who chews through lead Sing the scholarly meek face Of the penniless rat Who studies all night To inherit the house Sing the riff-raff of the roof-space, who dance till dawn Sluts in silk, sharpers with sleek moustaches Dancing the ...

An October Salmon

Ted Hughes, 16 April 1981

... He’s lying in poor water, a yard or so depth of poor safety. Maybe only two feet under the no-protection of an outleaning small oak, Half under a tangle of brambles. After his two thousand miles, he rests, Breathing in that lap of easy current In his graveyard pool. About six pounds weight, Four years old at most, and hardly a winter at sea – But already a veteran, Already a death-patched hero ...


Ted Hughes, 24 January 1985

... Little One Too Many – Born at the bottom of the heap. The baby daughter’s doll. She trailed after the others, lugging him. Little One Too Many grew up With a strangely wrinkled brow – fold on fold Like the Tragic Mask. Cary Grant was his living double. They said: when he was little he’d drop And kick and writhe, and kick and cry: ‘I’ll break my leg, I’ll break my leg!’ Till he’d ground his occiput bald ...


Ted Hughes, 1 March 1984

... I’d bought a bit of wild ground. In March it surprised me. Suddenly I saw what I owned. A cauldron of daffodils, boiling gently. It was a gilding of the Deeds – treasure trove! Daffodils just came. And they kept on coming – ‘Blown foam,’ I wrote. ‘Vessels of light!’ They ran under every gust On the earth-surge, ‘their six-bladed screws Churning the greeny yellows Out of the hard, over-wintered cholorophyl ...

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