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"Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow" : Summary and Response

Uploaded by tlrodriguez on Jul 21, 2004

Ted Hughes, "Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow", Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1971.

Ted Hughes’s “Crow” is as vivid and terrifying a trip to hell as the artistic antecedents conceived by Dante, Milton and Hieronymus Bosch. The book, a poetry sequence with the character Crow at its center, is fraught with grotesque scenes of dismemberment, evisceration, castration and disembodied and exploding body parts. Hughes writes in a very sparse manner, with no surface sense of “poetry”. Its lines are brutal, ugly, and deceptively simple, but closer examination reveals the overwhelming presence of alliteration and assonance as an alternative to rhyme in verse.

The character Crow appears as a trickster figure the like of which appears in oral traditions worldwide. It is plain Hughes was inspired by the epic tales of old in the writing of “Crow” for these poems are filled with references to mythological and heroic figures such as Proteus, Ulysses, Hercules, Beowulf, and most strikingly Oedipus, whose legend Hughes shows hasn’t lost its ability to horrify in “Song for a Phallus”.

The majority of the poetry cycle’s symbolism, however, is Judeo-Christian. Fitting “Crow”’s overall sense of distortion, Hughes inverts the standard images in shocking fashion:

In the beginning was Scream

Who begat Blood...

Who begat Adam

Who begat Mary

Who begat God

Who begat Nothing... (“Lineage”)

So on the seventh day

The serpent rested... (“Apple Tragedy”)

And rather than God as the Word, “Crow”’s word is one of death and destruction:

There came news of a word.

Crow saw it killing men... (“The Disaster”)

Words swamped him with consonantal masses–

Crow took a sip of water and thanked heaven.

Words retreated, suddenly afraid

Into the skull of a dead jester

Taking the whole world with them–

But the world did not notice.

And Crow yawned–long ago

He had picked that skull empty. (“The Battle of Osfrontalis”)

God is a physical presence in several of the poems in “Crow”. While Hughes’s God is powerful, he is not all-powerful, and while his intentions are good, he is often inept. Within “Crow”, God’s attention tends to wander, often with devastating effects, as in “A Childish Prank”. At times God even abandons his creation outright:

When God, disgusted with man,

Turned towards heaven,

And man, disgusted with God,

Turned towards Eve,

Things looked like falling apart. (“Crow Blacker Than Ever”)

Hughes, with the mocking Crow as his alter ego, dwells on themes of disenchantment and alienation from the modern world in which he does not fit, finding its pervading culture and religion distasteful and essentially bankrupt. What should...

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Uploaded by:   tlrodriguez

Date:   07/21/2004

Category:   Poetry

Length:   3 pages (575 words)

Views:   6395

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