Selected Poems 1957-1994


Poems from every phase of the career of a great poet

This selection of Ted Hughes's poetry, made by the author himself in 1995, includes poems from every phase of his four-decade career. Here are poems from Hughes's first book, The Hawk in the Rain, and its successor, Lupercal, which introduced him as a major poet; from Wodwo, Crow and Gaudete, book-length poetic sequences in which the natural world is made into a thrilling and terror-filled analogue to our human one; and from ...

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Poems from every phase of the career of a great poet

This selection of Ted Hughes's poetry, made by the author himself in 1995, includes poems from every phase of his four-decade career. Here are poems from Hughes's first book, The Hawk in the Rain, and its successor, Lupercal, which introduced him as a major poet; from Wodwo, Crow and Gaudete, book-length poetic sequences in which the natural world is made into a thrilling and terror-filled analogue to our human one; and from six volumes of his maturity, here arranged thematically, in which the poet is at once rural chronicler and form-breaking modern artist. The volume also includes previously uncollected poems and eight poems later incorporated into Birthday Letters, Hughes's meditation in verse on his marriage to Sylvia Plath, which became an international bestseller the year after his death.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Whether he wrote poems about the farm, or wild birds and animals, or birthday masques for Royal occasions, Hughes had the same spontaneity of craft which came from some inner joy in the ceremonial powers of poetry." —John Bayley, The Times Literary Supplement

"Hughes has a great spiritual imagination—he is truly a visionary and a modern primitive." —Ian Sansom, London Review of Books

John Bayley
Hughes had the same spontaneity of craft which came from some inner joy in the ceremonial powers of poetry.
The Times Literary Supplement
John Bayley
. . . Hughes had the same spontaneity of craft which came from some inner joy in the ceremonial powers of poetry.
The Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374528645
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1 AMER ED
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 979,296
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

The masterful British poet and critic Ted Hughes (1930-98) wrote more than forty books, including, in the last decade of his life, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being; Tales from Ovid; verse adaptations of Aeschylus's Oresteia, Racine's Phedre, and Euripedes' Alcestis; and Birthday Letters.

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Read an Excerpt

from The Hawk in the Rain

The Thought-Fox

I imagine this midnight moment's forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock's loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow
A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.


O lady, when the tipped cup of the moon blessed you
You became soft fire with a cloud's grace;
The difficult stars swam for eyes in your face;
You stood, and your shadow was my place:
You turned, your shadow turned to ice
O my lady.

O lady, when the sea caressed you
You were a marble of foam, but dumb.
When will the stone open its tomb?
When will the waves give over their foam?
You will not die, nor come home,
O my lady.

O lady, when the wind kissed you
You made him music for you were a shaped shell.
I follow the waters and the wind still
Since my heart heard it and all to pieces fell
Which your lovers stole, meaning ill,
O my lady.

O lady, consider when I shall have lost you
The moon's full hands, scattering waste,
The sea's hands, dark from the world's breast,
The world's decay where the wind's hands have passed,
And my head, worn out with love, at rest
In my hands, and my hands full of dust,
O my lady.

The Jaguar

The apes yawn and adore their fleas in the sun.
The parrots shriek as if they were on fire, or strut
Like cheap tarts to attract the stroller with the nut.
Fatigued with indolence, tiger and lion

Lie still as the sun. The boa-constrictor's coil
Is a fossil. Cage after cage seems empty, or
Stinks of sleepers from the breathing straw.
It might be painted on a nursery wall.

But who runs like the rest past these arrives
At a cage where the crowd stands, stares, mesmerized,
As a child at a dream, at a jaguar hurrying enraged
Through prison darkness after the drills of his eyes

On a short fierce fuse. Not in boredom —
The eye satisfied to be blind in fire,
By the bang of blood in the brain deaf the ear—
He spins from the bars, but there's no cage to him

More than to the visionary his cell:
His stride is wildernesses of freedom:
The world rolls under the long thrust of his heel.
Over the cage floor the horizons come.

Famous Poet

Stare at the monster: remark
How difficult it is to define just what Amounts to monstrosity in that
Very ordinary appearance. Neither thin nor fat,
Hair between light and dark,

And the general air
Of an apprentice — say, an apprentice house —
Painter amid an assembly of famous
Architects: the demeanour is of mouse,
Yet is he monster.

First scrutinize those eyes
For the spark, the effulgence: nothing. Nothing there
But the haggard stony exhaustion of a near-
Finished variety artist. He slumps in his chair
Like a badly hurt man, half life-size.

Is it his dreg-boozed inner demon
Still tankarding from tissue and follicle
The vital fire, the spirit electrical
That puts the gloss on a normal hearty male?
Or is it women?

The truth — bring it on
With black drapery, drums and funeral tread
Like a great man's coffin — no, no, he is not dead
But in this truth surely half-buried:
Once, the humiliation

Of youth and obscurity,
The autoclave of heady ambition trapped,
The fermenting of the yeasty heart stopped —
Burst with such pyrotechnics the dull world gaped
And 'Repeat that!' still they cry.

But all his efforts to concoct
The old heroic bang from their money and praise
From the parent's pointing finger and the child's amaze,
Even from the burning of his wreathed bays,
Have left him wrecked: wrecked,

And monstrous, so,
As a Stegosaurus, a lumbering obsolete
Arsenal of gigantic horn and plate
From a time when half the world still burned, set
To blink behind bars at the zoo.


Whenever I am got under my gravestone
Sending my flowers up to stare at the church-tower,
Gritting my teeth in the chill from the church-floor,
shall praise God heartily, to see gone,

As I look round at old acquaintance there,
Complacency from the smirk of every man,
And every attitude showing its bone,
And every mouth confessing its crude shire;

But I shall thank God thrice heartily
To be lying beside women who grimace
Under the commitments of their flesh,
And not out of spite or vanity.

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Table of Contents

The Thought-Fox 3
Song 4
The Jaguar 4
Famous Poet 5
Soliloquy 7
The Horses 7
Fallgrief's Girlfriends 9
Egg-Head 10
Vampire 11
The Man Seeking Experience Enquires His Way of a Drop of Water 12
Meeting 13
Wind 14
October Dawn 14
The Casualty 15
Bayonet Charge 16
Six Young Men 17
The Martyrdom of Bishop Farrar 19
Song from Bawdry Embraced 20
Mayday on Holderness 23
February 24
Crow Hill 25
A Woman Unconscious 25
Strawberry Hill 26
Fourth of July 27
Esther's Tomcat 27
Wilfred Owen's Photographs 28
Relic 29
Hawk Roosting 29
Fire-Eater 30
To Paint a Water Lily 31
The Bull Moses 32
Cat and Mouse 33
View of a Pig 34
The Retired Colonel 35
November 36
An Otter 37
Witches 39
Thrushes 39
Snowdrop 40
Pike 41
Sunstroke 42
Cleopatra to the Asp 43
Stealing Trout on a May Morning 45
Water 48
Memory 48
Tutorial 49
Trees 50
The Lake 51
A Match 52
Small Events 52
Crow Wakes 53
Thistles 55
Still Life 55
Her Husband 56
Cadenza 57
Ghost Crabs 58
Public Bar TV 59
Kafka 60
Second Glance at a Jaguar 60
Fern 61
Stations 61
The Green Wolf 63
The Bear 64
A Haunting 65
The Mascot 66
Wit's End 67
Two Minutes' Silence 68
The Red Carpet 69
Theology 70
Gog 70
Kreutzer Sonata 71
The Dream Time 72
'The dead man in his cave beginning to sweat' 73
Remembrance Day 74
New Moon in January 75
The Warriors of the North 75
The Rat's Dance 76
The Rat's Vision 77
The Rat's Flight 77
Heptonstall 78
Skylarks 78
Pibroch 83
The Howling of Wolves 84
Gnat-Psalm 85
Full Moon and Little Frieda 87
Wodwo 87
Two Legends 89
Lineage 90
Examination at the Womb-Door 90
A Childish Prank 91
Crow's First Lesson 92
That Moment 93
Crow Tyrannosaurus 93
The Black Beast 94
Crow's Account of the Battle 95
Crow's Fall 97
Crow and the Birds 98
Crow on the Beach 99
The Contender 99
Crow's Vanity 101
A Horrible Religious Error 101
In Laughter 102
Robin Song 103
Conjuring in Heaven 104
Owl's Song 104
Crow's Elephant Totem Song 105
Dawn's Rose 107
The Smile 107
Crow's Battle Fury 109
Crow Blacker than Ever 110
Revenge Fable 110
Bedtime Anecdote 111
Apple Tragedy 112
Crow's Last Stand 113
Fragment of an Ancient Tablet 114
Lovesong 114
Notes for a Little Play 116
The Lovepet 117
How Water Began to Paly 118
Littleblood 119
The Scream 121
The Executioner 122
The Knight 123
A Flayed Crow in the Hall of Judgement 124
Leaf Mould 158
Moors 160
Chinese History of Colden Water 160
Rhododendrons 161
Sunstruck 162
Curlews 163
For Billy Holt 164
When Men Got to the Summit 165
The Canal's Drowning Black 166
Cock-Crows 167
Mount Zion 168
The Long Tunnel Ceiling 169
Tree 170
Heptonstall Old Church 171
Widdop 172
Emily Bronte 173
Rain 175
Dehorning 176
Bringing in New Couples 178
Tractor 179
Roe-Deer 181
Sketching a Thatcher 182
Ravens 184
February 17th 186
Birth of Rainbow 187
Coming Down Through Somerset 188
The Day He Died 190
A Memory 191
Earth-Numb 193
A Motorbike 194
Deaf School 195
Life is Trying to be Life 196
Speech out of Shadow 197
from Seven Dungeon Songs 198
Tiger-Psalm 201
In the M5 Restaurant 203
That Star 204
Poets 204
Grosse Fuge 205
Children 206
Prospero and Sycorax 206
The Stone 207
TV Off 208
A God 208
Remembering Teheran 211
Bones 214
Do not Pick up the Telephone 215
Reckless Head 217
from Prometheus On His Crag 218
A Violet at Lough Aughresberg 223
Two Tortoiseshell Butterflies 223
Where I Sit Writing My Letter 225
Tern 226
The Honey Bee 227
Sunstruck Foxglove 227
Eclipse 228
In the Likeness of a Grasshopper 232
New Foal 235
The Hen 236
The Hare 238
The River 243
Milesian Encounter on the Sligachan 244
Low Water 246
Japanese River Tales 247
Ophelia 249
Strangers 249
The Gulkana 250
Go Fishing 255
Salmon Eggs 256
A Cormorant 258
An Eel 259
Performance 260
Night Arrival of Sea-Trout 262
October Salmon 262
That Morning 265
The Fool's Evil Dream 267
Nearly Awake 268
Tell 268
Dust As We Are 269
Telegraph Wires 270
Sacrifice 271
For the Duration 273
Under High Wood 275
The Atlantic 276
Little Whale Song 278
Sitting Bull on Christmas Morning 280
Nightvoice 281
The Ghost Dancer 283
Rain-Charm for the Duchy 285
Old Oats 289
The Last of the 1st/5th Lancashire Fusiliers 290
Anniversary 291
Chaucer 293
You Hated Spain 294
The Earthenware Head 295
The Tender Place 297
Black Coat 298
Being Christlike 300
The God 300
The Dogs Are Eating Your Mother 304
The Other 305
The Locket 306
Shibboleth 307
Snow 308
Folktale 309
Opus 131 310
Descent 311
The Error 312
Lines about Elias 313
A Dove 316
Index of Titles 319
Index of First Lines 327
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