30: Plath & Hughes

Plath and Hughes in 1956.

Texts: the poems of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes :
Plath: “Among The Narcissi” and “The Moon and the Yew Tree”
Hughes: “The Black Beast” and “A Childish Prank”

[sound files from this session still being edited, not yet available for posting]

Recorded on Saturday, February 26, at the Baltimore Free School, 1323 N. Calvert.
****************
Sylvia Plath

(1)
AMONG THE NARCISSI

Spry, wry, and gray as these March sticks,
Percy bows, in his blue peajacket, among the narcissi.
He is recuperating from something on the lung.

The narcissi, too, are bowing to some big thing :
It rattles their stars on the green hill where Percy
Nurses the hardship of his stitches, and walks and walks.

There is a dignity to this; there is a formality-
The flowers vivid as bandages, and the man mending.
They bow and stand : they suffer such attacks!

And the octogenarian loves the little flocks.
He is quite blue; the terrible wind tries his breathing.
The narcissi look up like children, quickly and whitely.

(2)
THE MOON AND THE YEW TREE

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky —-
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness —-
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness — blackness and silence.

*****************

Ted Hughes

(1)
THE BLACK BEAST

Where is the Black Beast?
Crow, like an owl, swivelled his head.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow hid in its bed to ambush it.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow sat in its chair, telling loud lies against the Black Beast.
Where is it?
Crow shouted after midnight, pounding the wall with a last,
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow split his enemy’s skull to the pineal gland.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow crucified a frog under a microscope, he peered into the brain of a dogfish.

Where is the Black Beast?
Crow roasted the earth to a clinker, he charged into space –
Where is the Black Beast?
The silences of space decamped, space flitted in every direction –

Where is the Black Beast?
Crow flailed immensely through the vacuum, he screeched after the
disappearing stars –
Where is it? Where is the Black Beast?

(2)
A CHILDISH PRANK

Man’s and woman’s bodies lay without souls,
Dully gaping, foolishly staring, inert
On the flowers of Eden.
God pondered.

The problem was so great, it dragged him asleep.

Crow laughed.
He bit the Worm, God’s only son,
Into two writhing halves.

He stuffed into man the tail half
With the wounded end hanging out.

He stuffed the head half headfirst into woman
And it crept in deeper and up
To peer out through her eyes
Calling it’s tail-half to join up quickly, quickly
Because O it was painful.

Man awoke being dragged across the grass.
Woman awoke to see him coming.
Neither knew what had happened.

God went on sleeping.

Crow went on laughing.

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