A Childish Prank

To follow ‘I have a noble cock’, one more phallic poem for the road. This one also involves an avian creature…

The Yorkshireman and former poet Laureate Ted Hughes (1930-1998), apart from having been Sylvia Plath’s husband, was best known for his nature poems. His vision of nature is very much ‘red in tooth and claw’ – bloody, savage, unforgiving, bordering occasionally on the hellish. He was a careful and honest observer of nature, from the soaring free flight of a swallow to the disastrous miscarriages of sheep on rain sodden moors.

But Hughes other great preoccupation was myth and religion. His vision of the spiritual world was no less savage than his vision of the material world. It was also darkly humorous.

In his 1970 collection, Crow, Hughes imagines a mythos based around a capricious, scrawny, ever-hungry, semi-divine but not otherwise admirable figure known only as Crow (who is, by the way, a crow). Each poem describes a different episode of Crow’s life, an episode that is a myth that helps to explain a cruel and pitiless world.

‘A Childish Prank’ reimagines the origin of the sex drive in men and women (which some of us have often suspected of being a cosmic joke at our expense.) Crow plays a rather crucial part. It is, I should warn readers, a little on the disgusting side, and – if taken too seriously – somewhat blasphemous…

 

A Childish Prank

 

Man’s and woman’s bodies lay without souls,

Dully gaping, foolishly staring, inert

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 headfirst into woman

And it crept in deeper and up

To peer out through her eyes

Calling its 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.

 

From Crow, Ted Hughes, Faber and Faber, 1970

 

4 Comments

Filed under Birds, Poetry

4 responses to “A Childish Prank

  1. I enjoyed chuckling with the crow at the end of this; it is an ingenious concoction…though I still don’t like Ted Hughes any more than I did before.

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