The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Monday, February 20, 2006


Ted Hughes took a gruff, no-nonsense, essentially English approach to the equally English imaginary landscape of nonsensical things "from poltergeists to pixies, from witchcraft to ouija boards, from astrology to apparitions, from dousing to divination and so on." That will be one of his many legacies.

With the exception of William Blake, England's radicals and romantics generally left it to the nation's conservatives to believe in things paranormal. Of the many justifications that the early, radical Samuel Taylor Coleridge gave himself in his notebooks for hating Samuel Johnson, Johnson's belief in ghosts was the easiest. His deep suspicion of the supernatural was part of his deep love of nature. (Luckily for Coleridge, the science of the time was kooky enough to provide explanations as interesting and easy to grasp as fairies).

Ted Hughes used sprung rhythm to express the rural conservative mystical experience of nature with an unembarrassing, down to earth language that could not embarrass anyone. At the same time as he did this, the British left was developing various roots to tap the rural imagination, through environmentalism, through the Lord of the Rings, and through the association of the ruling class with invaders (be they anti-Saxon Normans or anti-Druid Romans. He was the last of the great conservative English rural mystics, and cleared the way for the left-wing ones.