If our deepest grief could speak, it would speak Crow. Crow is Ted Hughes's most bleak and disturbing volume. No one who truly engages Crow can forget it; it becomes a terrible touchstone in one's memory field. In retrospect, Crow is clearly Hughes's 'dark night of the soul', and it is disturbingly prophetic. Hughes's fourth volume, published in 1970, Crow follows the dark world of Wodwo (1967), haunted shadows and ghosts, to its source, a black hole where neither light nor language can escape. In Crow's world the heaviness of History, with its perpetual genocides and wrong turns, crushes hope; mass graves litter the landscape. DNA, with its Darwinian determinism, intertwines with the self-fulfilling prophecies of Christianity in an Apocalyptic danse macabre. Logic and reason, severed from intuition and emotion, lead to deadly technologies and environmental disasters. The oppressed Id wreaks its revenge as Oedipus dies with Ophelia. In the end, only the singing 'soul' or savage spirit survives the scorched earth of Crow.
Death was the midwife that delivered Crow. Shortly after Ted Hughes's wife, Sylvia Plath, committed suicide in 1963, the American artist Leonard Baskin, in an attempt to engage the poet, asked Hughes to write poems to accompany a series of sketches. The sketches were of crows. Hughes, however, did not begin writing the poems until the mid-1960s. The first edition of Crow appeared in 1970 and contained 59 poems; in 1972 an augmented edition of Crow appeared containing 66 poems. In addition to the seven additional poems there are many uncollected Crow poems and a plethora of unpublished poems (now held by Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia). The manuscript poems, usually written on the backs of scrap paper, verify Hughes's comments that the poems came quickly and were a shock to write. Sifting through the piles of pages one senses the extent to which Crow took possession of Hughes and Hughes of Crow. This mass of material also confirms Hughes's comments that Crow is part of a much larger narrative project.
Crow, as a character in a narrative poem, is a polyglot of possible meanings. Crow is a life force; the embodiment of raw power, conscienceless, moving through time and space. Crow is what has been written out of the Bible. Crow appears as poetic poltergeist, a supernatural 'character' in a cosmic psycho-drama. Crow is a fusion of shamanistic and mythic figures from around the globe. Crow is a shape-shifting Celtic war goddess. Crow is an epic hero like Beowulf or Cuchulain fighting monsters and his own fate. Crow is Beckett's everyman, living on the edge of articulation in an absurd universe plagued by disembodied smiles, grins and laughs. Crow is a Looney Tunes cartoon character on the loose. Crow is the provisional self in a relative world. Crow is the poet's Yeatsian mask, the anti-self absolutely necessary for poetic creation of the highest order. Crow is a common bird found nearly everywhere on the planet.
Although Crow is an experiment in 'style' for Hughes, Crow is first and foremost a mytho-religious poem. Crow's poetic mainframe is supported by three mythic operating systems: the global, the national and the personal. At the core of Crow is the wound - three victims of suicide (Hughes's wife, Sylvia Plath in 1963, and Hughes's partner, Assia Wevill and their two-year-old daughter, Shura, in 1969); his mother's death in 1969, and his father's First World War 'shell-shock'. These personal tragedies, just under the surface of all the poems and occasionally erupting in a few, such as 'The Lovepet', 'A Bedtime Story' and 'Crow Improvises', compound the volume's sense of hopelessness and confusion. However, like Eliot or Yeats, Hughes avoids the confessional and disparaging by translating individual suffering into a universal experience through myth in Crow.
Hughes does not simply ask 'Why me?' in Crow; he asks 'Why?' and attempts to follow this question to its source. Crow fits Hughes's own view of myth in that it records a 'subjective event of visionary intensity'. He states: 'only when the image opens inwardly towards what we recognize as a first-hand-as-if-religious experience, or mystical revelation, [do] we call it visionary, and when "personalities" or creatures are involved, we call it "mythic"'. Hughes concludes: 'The world of the mythic poem . . . is a self-validating world' (Hughes, 1992, pp. 35-6). This 'subjective event of visionary intensity' is continued with revisions in Hughes's subsequent volume, Cave Birds (1975). However, in later volumes, such as Wolfwatching (1989) and Birthday Letters (1998), Hughes returns directly to the wound without the mythic machinery. While Hughes's personal myth is central to the power of Crow, his treatment of it within larger national and international mythic spheres is what demonstrates his genius and distinguishes the book.
In his first book, The Hawk in the Rain (1957), Hughes had distinguished himself from the mainstream Movement poets of the time by acknowledging in his poetry the symbiotic relationship between violence and the sacred. Hughes found this relationship pre-existing in nature and first articulated in ritual, myth and sacred song. Continuing the trajectory away from the 'myth kitty', as Philip Larkin called it, of poets such as Eliot, Lawrence and Yeats, the Movement poets adopted a detached and ironic tone (labelled 'suburban' by some) heard in the minor works of W. H. Auden. Ted Hughes returned to myth, not as an amateur, but as an adept. In addition to his exposure to the mythic in Anglo-Saxon literature, Shakespeare, Blake and Yeats, Hughes had studied anthropology and archeology in university. However, unlike Eliot or David Jones, Hughes had access to a broad range of 'new' thinking about myth. In addition to the standard works, such as the collected Jung and Graves's The White Goddess, Hughes encountered a wealth of mythic material, in Mircea Eliade's Shamanism and Paul Radin's The Trickster.
Moving beyond these secondary sources, Hughes immersed himself in the primary works (many only recently available at the time) of traditional cultures from the Balkans to Bali. His work as a reviewer of books of and on the 'literature' of traditional peoples, and his role as an editor of Modern Poetry in Translation (in the mid-1960s), provided a more global mythic framework. Hughes was going door-to-door in the Global village, long before many people knew it existed. Unlike the High Moderns who 'applied' myth to their poetry, Hughes internalized not only the materials of myth, but also its essential elements — its language, rhythms and structures. Crow does not 'use' myth; it is myth. Hughes was mythically multicultural before the concept was coined. From this perspective, Crow — as culturally other — may be seen as an early postcolonial response to the new world order.
Hughes's use of Irish myth in Crow is one important instance of his cultural diversity. In the late 1990s the literary exchanges between Britain and Ireland are as regular as Ryan Air, but in the mid-1960s this was not the case. Ireland before the EU and the Celtic Tiger was certifiably a developing nation, and not the hot holiday (literary) property of today. Hughes went beyond Yeats to the mythic core of Irish culture in an act of personal attraction and cultural affirmation. As mentioned, Crow is related to the Celtic Goddess of war and destruction Morrigna, a triadic composite that includes Macha, the Crow; Morrigan, battle-goddess; and Badbh, referred to as 'Badbh Catha' — the battle Crow. One of Morrigan's most famous appearances in Irish myth is in The Tain, the national epic of Ireland. Like Crow, she is capricious and capable of changing shapes. In a battle with the hero of The Tain, Cuchulain, Morrigan's shape-shifting from eel, to she-wolf to heifer is comparable to that of Crow. More directly, Cuchulain is the source of 'Crow's Battle Fury' and as consummate head-hunter, stands behind the 'King of Carrion's' 'palace of skulls'.
In 'Crow's Battle Fury' Crow's distorted body is that of Cuchulain in his 'warp-spasm' as described in Thomas Kinsella's (1969) translation of The Tain: "His [Cuchulain's] shanks and joints, every knuckle and organ from head to foot, shook like a tree in the flood. . . . His body made a furious twist inside his skin, so that his feet and shins and knees switched to the rear and his heels and calfs switched to the front. . . . Then, tall and thick, steady and strong, high as the mast of a noble ship, rose up from the dead centre of his skull a straight spout of black blood' (150). In 'Crow's Battle Fury', 'his [Crow's] heels double to the front, . . . Blood blasts from the crown of his head in a column — such as cannot be in this world'. More than mere allusion in his use of Irish myth, Hughes put a Celtic spin on Crow that is unique among contemporaries and charged with postcolonial potential.
This internalization of non-Western mythic materials by Hughes, unfiltered from its troubling colonial sources, is not the decorative Orientalism or fetishized exotica of the High Moderns. While the political implications of what 'happens' in
Crow are complex, the appearance of the book at a time of national and global crisis signifies a solidarity with those who foresaw the fall of Babylon. Crow sings along with the street-poets of Brixton and Berkeley in the 1960s. In Crow Hughes does not appropriate the mythic materials of other cultures, he translates them. This poetic approach gave Hughes access to the myths, and the mythic energy, he needed to articulate his dark vision. His vision was deepened by the belief that England was still suffering from a national spiritual crisis and that this crisis, only fully engaged in Elizabethan England, was also the 'skeleton key' to all of Shakespeare's work. Not surprisingly, then, this skeleton key also opens many of the doors to Crow's mythic passages.
In addition to those Crow poems that move the narrative forward or those that seem to be meditations on the food-chain, there is a significant cluster of Crow poems that address the 'big' issues of life and death from Hughes's specific mytho-historical perspective. This angle was originally presented in Hughes's With Fairest Flowers While Summer Lasts: Poems from Shakespeare (in Britain A Choice of Shakespeare's Verse, 1971) and much elaborated upon in Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (1992). The majority of these poems in Crow explore three contending fields of discourse: the Great Goddess, Reformed religion, and the Scientific spirit. Though some early reviewers of Crow complained that it lacked an historical core, they failed to read carefully enough because everything in the book is considered from a highly developed mytho-historical perspective. Hughes sees the history of humanity (especially in the Western world) as one of steady decline. This decline began with Plato, whose distrust of passion (and certain poets) produced a sterile logic which worshipped abstraction and was ultimately appropriated by a masculine strain of Christianity that denied the body and demonized Nature and its sovereign Goddess. As Hughes states:
In both the Greek world and Shakespeare's the archaic reign of the Great Goddess was being put down, finally and decisively, by a pragmatic, sceptical, moralizing spirit: in Greece by the spirit of Socrates, in England by the spirit of the ascendant Puritan God of the individual conscience, the Age of Reason cloaked in the Reformation. (Hughes, 1992, p. 85)
Running parallel to this line but against its grain are those esoteric Hermetic forces that stayed in touch with ancient mystical beliefs and magical practices, as well as those still connected, through seasonal rituals and everyday experiences, to the Goddess and Nature. According to Hughes, Shakespeare's plays record the battle between these forces:
The Reformation in England, as it defined itself from the 1560s in the general rise of Puritanism, together with its accompanying materialist and democratizing outlook and rational philosophy, had very specific consequences. But the most important of these, as far as Shakespeare's poetry is concerned, was the drastic way the Queen of Heaven, who was the goddess of Catholicism, who was the goddess of medieval and pre-Christian England, who was the divinity of the throne, who was the goddess of all sensation and organic life — this overwhelmingly powerful, multiple, primeval being was dragged into court by the young Puritan Jehovah. (Hughes, 1971, pp. xii—xiii)
This crisis preoccupied Hughes for over thirty years, and he remained convinced of the verity of his mytho-historical prognosis. Written during the same time as With Fairest Flowers, Hughes's Crow examines the origins of this decline that brought us to the point where, as Yeats describes it in 'The Second Coming', 'The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world'.
Given the convincing case made for hopelessness in Crow (some say nihilism), it is surprising and instructive that Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney looks to Crow for a quintessential sign of hope in Hughes's work. When asked to contribute to the volume The Epic Poise, which was to celebrate Hughes's seventieth birthday, but which ultimately commemorated his death, Seamus Heaney wrote a short prose piece on 'Littleblood', the final poem of Crow. Heaney's singling out of 'Littleblood' from the immense body of Hughes's work is significant. The twelve-line poem begins,
O littleblood, hiding from the mountains in the mountains Wounded by stars and leaking shadow Eating the medical earth.
Sit on my finger, sing in my ear, O littleblood.
Heaney argues that 'Littleblood' is related to the pre-historic and archetypal spirits of the shaman's world, while finding closer relatives in Shakespeare's fairies: 'Little-blood. The name could belong to oral tradition, to fairytale, to the world of A Midsummer Night's Dream. . . . Like the names of Shakespeare's fairies (and the fact that Littleblood eats "the medical earth" confirms this impression) it could be the name of an ingredient in folk medicine. . . . It feels as if it might belong to a whole system of story or lore . . . preserved more for its anthropological than its literary interest'. Heaney concludes: 'I have always tended to read "Littleblood" as an instance of that kind of transition [from the tragic to the transcendent]. It is as if, at the last moment, grace has entered into the Crow-cursed universe.'
Heaney's comments direct us to W. B. Yeats's great poem 'Meditations in Time of Civil War', in which Heaney argues that Yeats succeeds in balancing the tender and the terrible: 'O honey-bees, / Come build in the empty house of the stare'. Hughes's 'O Littleblood' calls upon the same healing powers as Yeats's 'O honey-bees'. They are emblems of poetry's power to redress the historical and everyday imbalance between what Heaney calls the 'murderous and the marvellous'. Crow, published in 1970, with the Cold War's atomic core still engaged, with civil rights marchers being beaten in the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, with the Vietnam War brutalizing the world, with bombs in Belfast blasting the headlines, with the jungles of Africa aflame, and Hughes's own personal catastrophes, 'O littleblood' is anything but an escapist ploy. One can say of 'Littleblood' what Hughes has said of Vasko Popa's poems: 'they precipitate out of a world of malicious negatives a happy positive' (Hughes, 1980, p. 184). 'Littleblood' is a grace note - a note unheard in Crow's opening poem, 'Two Legends', or the sixty-five poems that follow it.
'Two Legends' introduces all that will follow in the volume. There is the stripped-down language, the use of repetition and parallelism of oral poetry, the predominance of body parts as central images, an informing Primitivism, a mythic infrastructure, and the breakdown of metaphor.
Black was the without eye Black the within tongue Black was the heart . . .
Black also the soul, the huge stammer Of the cry that, swelling, could not Pronounce its sun.
The absence of similes collapses the distance between word and thing or concept. The first line does not read: 'Black was like the without eye'. This fusion of word and thing essentially turns the word into a thing, thus solidifying the connection and increasing its impact. As with the Druids of Celtic mythology or medicine men of Native American tribes, in Crow words themselves possess the power to create and destroy. Hughes comments,
You see, I throw out the eagles and choose the Crow. The original idea was to write his songs, the songs that a Crow would sing. In other words, songs with no music whatsoever, in a super-simple and a super-ugly language which would in a way shed everything except just what he wanted to say without any other consideration. (Hughes, 1980, p. 208)
In opposition to the ability of words to become the essential thing itself, the ability of a word to signify many things at once and the indeterminacy of language is presented immediately in the play on 'eye' ('I') and later in 'sun' ('Son'). This postmodern word play is reminiscent of Shakespeare or Beckett and reappears throughout the book. (Of course, the potential of words to mean 'nothing' as in modern advertising is another concern of Crow.)
Another important aspect of 'Two Legends', as with many of the poems, is that the songs about Crow or that Crow sings border on the cacophonous. The physicality of the language adds to this discord. Also in the opening poem one is aware of the creation myth mirroring Genesis; however, this 'black' myth as worked out in the entire volume offers a more convincing anti-creation myth. In the beginning was not the 'word' but 'the huge stammer' that does not, could not, proclaim the Son. Long before the Deconstructionists, Hughes questions the absolute authority of the Logos and logocentrism. Biology and not belief makes Crow's world go round. Out of this devolving world comes the 'black rainbow', Crow.
The rainbow, God's covenant and a sign of reconciliation, is black. Like an eclipse in King Lear, it is an ominous omen. As with 'Two Legends', the poems that follow — 'Lineage', 'Examination at the Womb Door', 'A Kill', 'Crow and Mama' and 'The Door' — are mythic presentations of Crow's origins from a mostly non-Western perspective. These poems place Crow clearly within the tradition of pre-historic creation myths as it deconstructs those of Genesis.
A subtext for the entire volume, this deconstruction can be traced through a series of significant poems that deal explicitly with Christianity. The series begins with 'A Childish Prank' and 'Crow's First Lesson', moves through 'Crow Communes', 'Crow's Theology', 'A Horrible Religious Error', 'Crow Blacker Than Ever', 'Crow's Song of Himself', 'Apple Tragedy', and ends with 'Snake Hymn'. Hughes has referred to Crow as God's nightmare, and critics have seen this as Hughes's belief in a form of Manicheanism, where good and evil, light and darkness have fought on the earth since the beginning. Even if Hughes constructs a cosmos that was flawed from the start, based upon his mytho-historical perspective, the real trouble appears in the Garden of Eden. In 'A Childish Prank', 'Man's and woman's bodies lay without souls'. While considering this problem, God falls asleep. Crow's answer to the problem is sexual, not spiritual:
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.
Crow, as elemental life-force, causes the Fall and not 'the Worm'. Christianity's inability to accommodate the physical, sexual self is clear. In the poem Crow is the pagan 'Trickster'. This figure appears in many traditional cultures around the world, especially Native American mythology. Hughes was familiar with the Trickster from many sources. The Trickster is an amoral, comic, disruptive and dangerous figure, who often enters the scene when life has become stagnant and needs rejuvenating. The Trickster is a wild-card, often behaving in self-contradictory ways. He is a life-force for whom good and evil, right and wrong are meaningless categories. This amoral force often manifests itself sexually by breaking social and religious codes and causing 'trouble', while simultaneously bringing forth new life. Crow as the mischievous 'sexual' source also appears in the subsequent poem, 'Crow's First Lesson', where Crow's inability to 'Say, Love' as God instructs leaves man and woman struggling 'together on the grass. / God struggled to part them, cursed, wept — // Crow flew guiltily off'. In Crow's world Christian love is meaningless. This can be seen again in 'Snake Hymn', where Adam's blood is the 'everlasting' love that ironically engenders death.
The blood in Eve's body That slid from her womb — Knotted on the cross It had no name.
Many of the poems go to the heart of Christianity and question the significance of the crucifixion. Crow even participates, by 'Nailing heaven and earth together', in 'Crow Blacker Than Ever', with the final result being 'Man could not be man nor God God' — doomed to division. Crow appears demonic in this poem; however, even when attempting to do 'good', the results from Hughes's perspective are counterproductive, as in 'A Horrible Religious Error'. In the poem, 'the serpent' 'earth-bowel brown, / From the hatched atom', overcomes God, Adam and Eve: 'They whispered "Your will is our peace"'. Crow 'Grabbed this creature by the slackskin nape, / Beat the hell out of it, and ate it'. The 'error' is that, like evangelical Christianity, by demo-nizing the serpent, Crow has denied humanity access to a powerful natural life-force.
Later in the volume, in 'Apple Tragedy', it is Adam that kills this force:
Now whenever the snake appears she screeches
Then Adam smashes a chair on its head,
And God says: 'I am well pleased'
Again, fearing the biological, natural, sexual world, Christianity's attempts to 'save it', kill it. Ironically or tragically 'everything goes to hell' in the poem because of the demonization of nature and rejection of the instinctual self.
Hughes's reading of Christianity must be considered from a historical perspective. He is not advocating free sex and mindless bestial behaviour; it is the lopsided, irrational self cut-off from the naturally rational being that commits the crimes against the Goddess. He is arguing that Christianity made a huge mistake when it denigrated the physical and natural and elevated the spiritual and dogmatic.
Hughes argues in Crow that Christianity's distrust of nature and the natural self found a friend in the new science of seventeenth-century England. The logic and materialism of science when combined with the Puritanism of the Reformation was a brutal blow. Hughes is not alone in his historical view that the Western world took a turn for the worse in Elizabethan England; while Blake lived it, other writers, such as
Lawrence, Yeats and Eliot, held similar beliefs. But as Hughes notes: 'The Shakespearean fable, in other words, is really the account of how, in the religious struggle that lasted from the middle of the sixteenth century to the middle of the seventeenth, England lost her soul. To call that event a "dissociation of sensibility" [as T. S. Eliot did] is an understatement. Our national poems are tragedies for a good reason' (Hughes, 1971, p. xxi). The immense implications of this loss of soul can be seen in one of Crow's most significant poems, 'Crow's Account of St George'.
As the title suggests, 'Crow's Account of St George' immediately focuses our attention on a masculine, military and mythic England. This is not simply the patron saint of England; it is the saint of science who 'sees everything in the Universe / Is a track of numbers racing towards an answer'. As a representative of the Age of Reason, 'He picks the gluey heart out of an inaudibly squeaking cell'. The connection between St George and the modern-day scientist becomes clear when after a few glimpses of a 'demon', 'Something grabs at his arm. He turns. A bird-head, / Bald, lizard-eyed, the size of a football, on two staggering bird-legs / Gapes at him'. Crow-like, the dragon of the myth assumes its traditional role as demon, but in this case it has not appeared to eat a virgin but as a response to the heartless pursuits of the scientist. Science in its rational pursuit of abstract, absolute truths mirrors Reformed religion's apotheosis of abstract love. The demon dragon signifies the illogical and the natural world as seen through the Calvinistic lens of the Reformation and new science.
Smashing two more demonic creatures with a chair (as Adam does in 'A Horrible Religious Error'), St George faces 'An object four times bigger than the others'. The saint 'snatches from its mount on the wall a sword' and 'log-splits' the monster. For those raised on movies like Friday the Thirteenth or Alien, this is familiar stuff (and not unrelated to Hughes's vision). However, the intensity of the imagery and the savagery of the action, within a mythic framework and not simply trendy designer violence, can only be found in works like The Tain. The real horror closes the poem, when St George runs from the house where he has just savaged his family and not the dragon of his dementia. This is a hallucinatory scene straight from the Shakespearean stage, and it reminds one of bloody scenes in Kurosawa's Shakespeare adaptations Ran or Throne of Blood. Domestic in scope, universal in effect, this is the most intimate and deadly result of the fight between the Goddess and Jehovah.
Almost everything that is life-negating and soul-destroying in Crow can be traced to 'Crow's Account of St George'. The detergents, the bulldozers, the 'excreta'-poisoned seas, the nuclear holocausts, all originate in the number-crunching mentality and the sanitized religion of the Reformation. This is clearly presented in 'Crow's Account of the Battle':
Reality was giving its lesson, Its mishmash of scripture and physics With here, brains in hands, for example, And there, legs in a treetop.
Hughes's vision not only helps to organize and move massive amounts of mythic and historical material; it also gives this material 'meaning'. Based on Hughes's reading of Shakespeare and impending global disasters, at least there is a logical explanation for our self-destructive behaviour and suffering - whether or not we like or agree with the explanation.
While many find this doom and gloom analysis off-putting (especially when presented in a primitive poetic package), what really disturbs them is the extreme to which Hughes took it in Crow. People suffering and dying because we have denied the Goddess of our complete being is one thing. People suffering and dying for no reason is another. Probably the most disturbing poem in Crow from this perspective is 'In Laughter'. Anticipating Oliver Stone's film, Natural Born Killers, 'In Laughter' depicts a cruel and violent world where the 'laugh-track' has been left on. The contrast between the horrible events and the laughter is beyond irony, beyond Nietzschean defiance, beyond the only sane response to the absurd:
Cars collide and erupt luggage and babies In laughter
The steamer upends and goes under saluting like a stuntman In laughter
The nosediving aircraft concludes with a boom . . .
in laughter The meteorite crashes With extraordinarily ill-luck on the pram
The poem encapsulates all that seems beyond good and evil in Crow - the random, the accidental, the meaningless, the truly tragic. These are life experiences that brutalize belief and logic. Many critics mistakenly took this apparent 'nihilism' as Hughes's final position.
Even if taken on its own terms and in isolation, Crow, like all great works, leaves the case open to appeals and even a retrial. As Seamus Heaney argues, something does survive the 'Crow-cursed universe' beyond 'two strange items remaining in the flames / Two survivors . . . / Mutations . . . / Horrors - hairy and slobbery, glossy and raw' of 'Notes for a Little Play'; what survives is a hard-won hope. To acknowledge this hope is not to 'soften' Crow and give it a happy-ever-after Disney ending. In Crow Hughes looks death in the face and fearlessly follows it into the abyss. All of the 'bad' things that happen in Crow are part of 'reality', but so are the possible 'good' things. Given Hughes's personal tragedies and history's compounding miseries, it would have been easier not to write Crow. But in Crow 'nothing' is 'something' - something to hold on to. Without Crow, Hughes could not have gone on to write his most powerful works of rebirth and redemption: Cave Birds, Moortown Elegies, River and Birthday Letters. 'Littleblood' comes out of the 'foul rag-and-bone shop' of the cosmic heart and was Crow's lifeline to the future. Ted Hughes's Crow is one of the most convincing poetic expressions of the human spirit's ability to keep faith of our time.
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Eliade, Mircea (1964). Shamanism. London: Routledge.
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Heaney, Seamus (1980). 'Englands of the Mind', in Preoccupations, pp. 150-69. London: Faber and Faber.
Heaney, Seamus (1999). 'Omen and Amen: On "Littleblood" '. In Nick Gammage (ed.), The Epic Poise: A Celebration of Ted Hughes, pp. 59-61. London: Faber and Faber.
Hughes, Ted (1971). A Choice of Shakespeare's Verse. London: Faber and Faber.
Ekbert Faas, Ted Hughes: The Unaccommodated Universe, pp. 197-208. Santa Barbara, CA: Black Sparrow Press.
Hughes, Ted (1992). Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being. London: Faber and Faber.
Kinsella, Thomas (1969). The Tain: From the Irish Epic Tain Bo Cuailnge. Dublin: Dolmen Press.
Radin, Paul (1956). The Trickster. London: Routledge.
Roberts, Neil (1999). 'Crow in its Time: Trickster Mythology and Black Comedy', in Narrative and Voice in Postwar Poetry. London and New York: Longman.
Sagar, Keith (1978). The Art of Ted Hughes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sagar, Keith and Tabor, Stephen (1998). Ted Hughes: A Bibliography. London: Mansell.
Scigaj, Leonard (ed.) (1992). Critical Essays on Ted Hughes. New York: G. K. Hall.
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