A Greek-less Tragedy (Ted Hughes)

We did it! We celebrated nearly every day in April with a poem. Let’s reach around and give ourselves a nice pat on the back.

The celebration for me wouldn’t be complete without inviting the husband to participate. Of course I wanted to pick up where we left off last year in the aftermath of Plath. We discussed Plath and the children but we never talked about the husband and father, Ted Hughes.

Before discussing the man’s poetry we had to discuss the man. teddy

In a Nutshell

Edward James Hughes was born August 17, 1930 and was affectionately referred to as Ted. He served in the Royal Air Force for two years as a ground wireless mechanic. He attended Pembroke College on an academic scholarship and studied Anthropology, Archaeology, Mythology and published a few poems while he was at it.
After graduating from Cambridge he co-founded a literary magazine. It was at the magazine’s launch party that he met Sylvia Plath. A few short months later they were married.

The couple returned to England in 1959 and their first child Freida was born the following year. Nicholas was born two years later in 1962.

In 1962 Hughes left Plath for a woman named Assia Gutmann Wevill. In 1963 (less than a year later) Plath committed suicide.assia and shura

In March 1965 Assia gave birth to a daughter nicknamed Shura.

She reportedly aborted her first pregnancy by Hughes after the death of Sylvia Plath.

In March 1969 Assia Wevill gassed herself but [unlike Plath] she took the child with her.

In 1970 Hughes married Carol Orchard whom he remained with until his death in 1998.

He was appointed Poet Laureate of England in 1984 and held the post until he passed away on October 28, 1998 in Devonshire, England, from cancer.

Let’s Discuss…

“So what do you think about that?” I asked and waited with anticipation. I don’t know what I was expecting as I watched him tip his head with one eyebrow cocked but his response caught me off guard.

“All I can say is poor bastard.”

“We partially agree but why on earth would you pity him?” I sincerely tried not to show my annoyance but after 30 years of marriage that is pretty much impossible.

“Who do you want me to feel sorry for?” he laughed, “You expected me to feel sorry for the women didn’t you?”

“We don’t have to feel sorry for any of them.” I’m sure I was blushing as it occurred to me he knew what I was thinking before I did.

“So he was with the last wife for nearly thirty years – was she a poet?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Well there you go. That’s probably why they were able to stay married. That or he kept her away from gas stoves.”

“Is that all you have to offer on the life of Ted Hughes?”

“At least he wasn’t around to know his son hanged himself. Other than that, yep, that’s all I’ve got. Let me get a beer and we’ll discuss his poem.”

Full Moon and Little Freida

By Ted Hughes

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket –
And you listening.
A spider’s web, tense for the dew’s touch.
A pail lifted, still and brimming – mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm
wreaths of breath –
A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk.
‘Moon!’ you cry suddenly, ‘Moon! Moon!’

The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
That points at him amazed.

Let’s Discuss More…


“According to the title I assume that was for his daughter.”

“I think that is safe to assume. So what is your interpretation of the poem?”

“Skunks, dogs, spiders and cows… it sounds like the man had been outside a time or two.”

“I’m sure at least twice.”

“But what is this thing with him and Plath about blood or bleeding and milk and moons?”

“They’re natural themes I suppose with blood and milk being the basic sustenance of life. What’s your take on it?”

“My take is basically I need another beer.”

“Okay. Give me a closing thought and I’ll leave you alone until next April.”

“Hmmm.” He thought for a moment, “It’s just another Greek-less tragedy.”

_   _   _

I suppose I will have to wait until next year to ask him the heck that means.




3 thoughts on “A Greek-less Tragedy (Ted Hughes)

  1. Janna, Have you read “Birthday Letters”? It is a book of poems that Ted wrote about Sylvia…really interesting. Full of insights into her personality and their relationship (well, at least from his point of view). Reading the book inspired me to write a poem…It gave me an impression of the energy that flowed through her, sometimes bright, sometimes dark…
    I recommend it.


  2. Pingback: Ted and Sylvia | Sued51's Blog

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