“Crow” by Ted Hughes, From the Life and Songs of the Crow

“Crow” by Ted Hughes (1970) – 89 pages

Crow Blacker Than Ever              

By Ted Hughes

When God, disgusted with man,
Turned towards heaven,
And man, disgusted with God,
Turned towards Eve,
Things looked like falling apart.

But Crow Crow
Crow nailed them together,
Nailing heaven and earth together-

So man cried, but with God’s voice.
And God bled, but with man’s blood.

Then heaven and earth creaked at the joint
Which became gangrenous and stank-
A horror beyond redemption.

The agony did not diminish.

Man could not be man nor God God.

The agony

Grew.

Crow

Grinned

Crying: “This is my Creation,” Flying the black flag of himself.

 The poems in “Crow” contain some of the harshest, blackest, bleakest images ever put into poems.  Ted Hughes wrote most of the poems between the time his first wife poet Sylvia Plath committed suicide by putting her head in the oven in 1963 and the time his lover Assia Wevill  committed suicide the same way in 1969 taking her and Ted’s four year old daughter Shura with her.  Life isn’t always beautiful.  “Crow” is dedicated to Assia and Shura.

The poem “Crow Blacker than Ever” is by far the most accessible poem in “Crow” and is justly famous.  However there are other great lines in these poems which the reader must look carefully for and study to appreciate.  I liked the following lines.

Crow realized God loved him-
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.

Even before I read “Crow”, Ted Hughes was one of my favorite poets due to his book of poems “Birthday Letters” (1998) which was his most accessible and explicit response to the suicide of Syliva Plath as well as his translations of “The Tales of Ovid”, “The Orestiea” by Aeschylus, “Phedra” by Jean Racine, and “Alcestis” by Euripedes.   I put Hughes’ translations in the same league as those by Anne Carson and Seamus Heaney which is high praise indeed.

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Good for you, Tony, reviewing poetry…it’s not my strength but I like to read about it all the same.
    Thanks

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    • Hi Lisa,
      I’ve always liked Randall Jarrell’s comment that writing a good poem is like being struck by lightning. Even the greatest poets writing for many years only had a few poems that lasted. I like to draw attention to these few poems and poets that I’ve discovered.

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  2. Ted Hughes is very talented. I love poetry. I really like your blog and the reviews that you post!

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  3. Hi Ana,
    I love poetry too, but it is difficult to find good poems, especially recent good poems.

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  4. Posted by Robert on December 3, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    We left speechless. Ted is a genious in his own way.

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    • Hi Robert,
      I can understand how ‘Crow’ could leave one speechless. I’m almost thinking that is what a good poem has the power to do.

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  5. Posted by Mike Playfoot on March 23, 2015 at 12:23 PM

    Crow falls – one of the great poems – stark imagery in but a few words, which sears into your mind

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  6. Have u read ‘Lineage’ by Ted Hughes ? can u please describe that poem to me, please??

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    • Hi Robin,
      “In the beginning was Scream”. This poem is a Creation myth, but instead of God, it is Scream. The Creation is both wondrous and devastating. For if God created the world, who created God?
      The last line describes birth, “Trembling featherless elbows in the nest’s filth”, differently from how birth is usually described but accurate.

      A powerful poem. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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  7. Thanks for this. I am writing letters to dead poets as part of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge and am doing some hasty research into Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, So, thanks for easing the way. I am quite concerned that I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew xx Rowena

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    • Hi Rowena,
      Your poetry project does sound exciting. Along with Hughes and Plath, favorites of mine are Philip Larkin, Emily Dickinson, Lord Byron, Robert Frost, Alexander Pope, and of course William Shakespeare. Also some Robert Lowell.
      Tony

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