Few poets are as capable as Ted Hughes at capturing the elemental, rending power of nature. “Wind,” which stubbornly refuses to acquiesce to soft pastoral breezes, shakes me with the force it contains, a force that threatens at the middle of the poem to escape its bonds. When Hughes writes that “we grip / Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought, / Or each other,” I feel as though he is speaking to us now, on the verge of climate catastrophe.
—Stephen Sparks, bookseller at Green Apple Books in San Francisco
This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet
Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.
At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up —
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,
The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house
Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,
Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.
Ted Hughes (1930-1998) produced more than forty books of poetry, prose, drama, translation, and children’s literature, 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 Euripides’ Alcestis; and Birthday Letters. He lived in Devonshire.
Stephen Sparks is a bookseller at Green Apple Books in San Francisco.