Tuesday, 18 January 2011

November by Ted Hughes

The month of the drowned dog. After long rain the land
Was sodden as the bed of an ancient lake.
Treed with iron and was bird less. In the sunk lane
The ditch – a seep silent all summer –

Made brown foam with a big voice: that, and my boots
On the lanes scrubbed stones, in the gulleyed leaves
Against the hill’s hanging silence;
Mist silvering the droplets on the bare thorns

Slower than the change of daylight.
In a let of the ditch a tramp was bundled asleep.
Face tucked down into beard, drawn in
Under his hair like a hedgehog’s. I took him for dead,

But his stillness separated from the death
From the rotting grass and the ground. The wind chilled,
And a fresh comfort tightened through him,
Each hand stuffed deeper into the other sleeve.

His ankles, bound with sacking and hairy hand,
Rubbed each other, resettling. The wind hardened;
A puff shook a glittering from the thorns,
And again the rains’ dragging grey columns

Smudged the farms. In a moment
The fields were jumping and smoking; the thorns
Quivered, riddled with the glassy verticals.
I stayed on under the welding cold

Watching the tramp’s face glisten and the drops on his coat
Slash and darken. I thought what strong trust
Slept in him- as the trickling furrows slept,
And the thorn roots in their grip on darkness;

And the buried stones taking the weight of winter;
The hill where the hare crouched with clenched teeth.
Rain plastered the land till it was shinning
Like hammered lead, and I ran, and in the rushing wood

Shuttered by a black oak leaned.
The Keeper’s gibbet had owls and hawks
By the neck, weasels, a gang of cats, crows:
Some stiff, weightless, twirled like dry bark bits

In the drilling rain. some still had their shape,
Had their pride with it; hung, chins on chests,
Patient to outwait these worst days that beat
Their crowns bare and dripped from their feet.

7 comments:

  1. My favourite Ted Hughes poem.
    The poem is not only about November but about the tramp.
    The key line in the poem is: I thought what strong trust Slept in him-
    The tramp is left with a kind of peace that we don't have despite the driving rain and wind.
    Paul Jones.

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    1. Hi Paul - sorry not to have replied when I first read the post 5 months ago. But I don't think I had anything to add then.

      The tramp is like a child in his total trust and vulnerability. He has given himself up to this ditch. Claimed it as a sleeping place, made it his own.

      There is a strength in this. Strength or total exhaustion.

      David

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  2. can anyone tell me what poem this quote is from:
    ...Maker of the world,
    Hurrying the lit ghost of man
    Age to age while the body hold,
    Touch this frozen one.

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    Replies
    1. Hi I think the quotation is from a Hughes poem from his second colection Lupercal.I'll have a look and see if I can find the exact poem. It reads like a spell. Calling upon God to renew a life that is dead.

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  3. The quotation comes from the poem "Lupercolia" the last poem in Hughes's second collection Lupercol. The same collection "November" can be found.

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  4. Hi! I am looking for a good poem with references to March Hares has anyone any suggestions?
    Northumberwoman.

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  5. o y Perseverancia - his first publication - and his first poem. In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal "Selva Austral" under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). Some of the poems Neruda wrote at that time are to be found in his first published book: Crepusculario (1923). The following year saw the publication of Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago.

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