Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday Poetry: Haunted Hughes

Crow's Theology

Crow realized God loved him --
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.

And he realized that God spoke Crow --
Just existing was His revelation.

But what
Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?

And what loved the shot-pellets
That dribbled from those strung up mummifying crows?
What spoke the silence of lead?

Crow realized there were two Gods --

One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.

Ted Hughes

Crow: From the Life and the Songs of the Crow dates from 1970. It's said that Hughes had intended an optimistic and happy ending but the death of his common-law wife Assia Wevill along with their young daughter Shura had prevented him from doing so.

"Haunted," from The Guardian Unlimited:

"On the morning of March 25, 1969, Assia Wevill, the common-law wife of poet Ted Hughes, took their four-year-old daughter Shura to play in the park. Preoccupied by a telephone quarrel with Hughes, Wevill returned later to their Clapham flat, set the table for lunch, then abruptly sent her au pair out on an errand.

Wevill then dragged a bed into the kitchen, shut and sealed the door and window, dissolved sleeping tablets in a glass of water and gave the drink to her daughter. Gulping the rest herself, she turned on the gas stove, got into the bed with Shura and cradled the child in her arms. Together, they slipped into death."

It's one of the most tragic stories in the lives of twentieth century writers. Assia was of course the second of Hughes' wives (actually Ted and Assia never formally got married,) the first having been Plath, to have committed suicide. The loss of her and their beautiful girl must have been incomprehensibly devastating.

Continuing from the excellent and informative Guardian article:

"Assia was my true wife and the best friend I ever had," Hughes wrote in his letter. But not in the public memory. For many years, the identity of the woman for whom he had left his wife, was not revealed. When a year after their death, Hughes dedicated his book Crow "in memory of Assia and Shura", few inquired who they were.

In a strange coda to the tale, Hughes had packed all of Assia's personal things and sent them by boat to her sister Chaikin in Canada. The ship and all its contents sank. But the crates with Assia's items oddly resurfaced and Chaiken obtained these months later.

1 comment:

BillyBob said...

How very interesting. By the way Ive tagged you. (check my blog)