Tales of Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes was born on this day in 1930. Apart from his fame as poet and husband, Hughes is highly regarded as a translator. Some feel that his best book, and "one of the great works of the century," may prove to be Tales from Ovid, his 1997 translation of twenty-four stories from Ovid's Metamorphoses. In his introduction, Hughes says that Ovid is a good match for us, in that he conveys "what it feels like to live in the psychological gulf that opens at the end of an era." The following is from early on, a description of how the world declined by Ages, from Gold to Silver to Brass to this:

Last comes the Age of Iron.

And the day of Evil dawns.

Modesty,

Loyalty,

Truth,

Go up like a mist -- a morning sigh off a graveyard.

 

Snares, tricks, plots come hurrying

Out of their dens in the atom.

Violence is an extrapolation

Of the cutting edge

Into the orbit of the smile.

Now comes the love of gain -- a new god

Made out of the shadow

Of all the others. A god who peers

Grinning from the roots of the eye-teeth.

Hughes also enjoyed writing tales for children, publishing over two dozen stories, picture books, and plays. Iron figures here, too: his The Iron Man (1968) and its sequel, The Iron Woman (1993), are on the rampage against a handful of modern ills and their ageless progenitor: "I am the Spider-god of wealth. Wealth. Wealth. The Spider-god of more and more and more and more money. I catch it in my web…." (The Iron Woman). A new children's book by Hughes and Jim Downer was published in 2010, the manuscript of Timmy the Tug found among Hughes's manuscripts after his death. 

 


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.