Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ted Hughes (17/8/30 -28/10/98) - The God

You were like a religious fanatic
Without a god- unable to pray.
You wanted to be a writer.
Wanted to write? What was it within you
Had to tell its tale?
The story that has to be told
Is the writer's God, who calls
Out of sleep, inaudibly: 'Write'.
Write what?
Your heart, mid-Sahara, raged
In its emptiness.
Your dreams were empty.
You bowed at your desk and you wept
Over the story that refused to exist,
As over a prayer
That could not be prayed
To a non-existent God. A dead God
With a terrible voice
You were like those desert ascetics
Who fascinated you,
Parching in such a torturing
Vacuum of God
It sucked goblins out of their finger-ends,
Out of the soft motes of the sun-shafts,
Out of the blank rock face.
The gagged prayer of their sterility
Was a God
So was your panic of emptiness - a God.

You offered him verses. First
Little phials of the emptiness
Into which your panic dropped its tears
That dried and left crystalline spectra.
Crystals of salt from your sleep.
Like the dewy sweat
On some desert stones, after dawn.
Oblations to an abscence.
Little sacrifices. Soon

Your silent howl through the night
Had madeitself a moon, a fiery idol
Of your God
Your crying carried its moon
Like a woman a dead child. Like a woman
Nursing a dead child. bending to cool
Its lips with tear drops on her finger-tip.
So I nursed you, who nursed a moon
That was human but dead, withered and
Burned you like a lump of phosphorus.

Till the child stireed. It's mouth-hole stirred.
Blood oozed at your nipple,
A drip feed of blood. Our happy moment!

The little God flew up into the Elm Tree.
In your sleep, glassy eyed,
You heard its instructions. When you woke
Your hands moved. You watched them in dismay
As they made a new sacrifice .
Two handfuls of blood, your own blood,
And in that blood gobbets of me,
Wrapped in a tissue ofstory that had somehow
Slipped from you. An embryo story.
You could not explain it or who
Ate at your hands.
The little god roared at night in the orchard,
His roar half a laugh.

You fed him by day, under your hair-tent,
Over your desk, in your secret
Sirit-house, you whispered,
You drummed on your thumb with your fingers,
Shook Winthrop shells for their sea voices,
And gave me an effigy - a Salvia
Pressedin a Lutheran Bible.
Youcould not explain it. Sleep had opened.
Darkness poured from it, like perfume.
Your dreams had burst their coffin.
Blinded I struck a light.

And woke upside down in your spirit-house
Moving limbs that were not my limbs,
And telling, in a voice not my voice,
A story of which I knew nothing
With the smoke of the fire you tended
Flames I had lit unwitting
That whitened in the oxygen jet
Of your incantaory whisper.

You fed the flames with the myrrh of you mother,
The Frankincense of your father
And your own amber and the tongues
Of fire told their tale. And suddenly
Everybody knew everything.
Your God snuffed up the fatty reek.
His roar was like a basement furnace
In your ears, thunder in the foundations.

Then you wrote in a fury, weeping,
Your joy a trance-dancer
In the smoke in the flames
'God is speaking through me,' you told me
'Don't say that,' I cried. 'Don't say that.
That is horribly unlucky!'
As I sat there with blistering eyes
Watching everything go up
In the flames of your sacrifice
That finally caught you too and you
Vanished exploding
Into the flames
Of thestory of your God
Who embraced yo
And your mummy and your daddy,
Your Aztec, Black Forest
God of the euphenism grief.

Reprinted from

New and Selected Poems 1957-94


  1. Originally part of 'Birthday Letters', which is - as you know - in my opinion one of the best collections of verse ever put together.

    I hear the establishment is laying a plaque for him in Westminster Abbey this evening.
    I'm sure he'd be chuffed. roy

  2. yep...... I knew you liked it......
    wherever he is his
    i'm sure metaphorically if he could speak, it would be a growl.......

  3. Admiring the time and energy you put into your blog and in depth information you provide.
    It's great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same old rehashed material.

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