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Ted Hughes: "Daffodils"
Transcript of Ted Hughes: "Daffodils"
The Early Days
Edward James (Ted) Hughes was born on August 17, 1930 in Mytholmroyd, the West Riding district of Yorkshire. *
After high school, Hughes joined the Royal Air Force, where he served for two years.*
He attended Camberidge and graduated in 1954, majoring in Anthropology and Archaeology.*
After graduation, he helped co-found the literary magazine
St. Botolph’s Review.*
The Career of Ted Hughes
Unlike other poets of "the Movement", who focused on rational lucidity, Hughes' writing exhibited a "mythical consciousness", embodied in "violent metaphors, harsh alliterative clusters, insistent assonances, and a dark brooding tone". ("Poetry Foundation") The rural landscape of Hughes' childhood left a lasting impression on him, which can be seen in his writing that is dominated by the powerful world of nature and animals.
"Birthday Letters" received the T.S. Eliot Prize and "reignited the famous controversy" of his traumatic relationship with his late wife. (Greenblatt) Featured in the collection of poems, "Daffodils" focuses on the beginning of Hughes' union to Sylvia Plath and remembers their happier years.
The speaker refers to a pair of scissors, saying, "Finally, we were overwhelmed / And we lost our wedding-present scissors." (lines 51-52) Hughes references the loss of the wedding scissors to illustrate the loss of his marriage. At the end of the poem, he mentions the scissors again, "But somewhere your scissors remember. Wherever they are." (line 62) He closes the poem, addressing Plath and his promise to never forget her or the union they shared.
At the launch party of his magazine, he met American poet, Sylvia Plath. A few months later, they were married. (Poets.org) Upon returning to England in 1959, they had their first child Freida. Two years later, they had their second child, Nicholas. In 1962, he left Plath for Assia Gutmann Wevill. Soon after, Plath committed suicide. Hughes didn't write for years and focused on promoting Plath's writing. (Poets.org) In 1965, Wevill gave birth to their child, Shura. Four years later, Wevill killed Shura and committed suicide. A year later, Hughes married Carol Orchard, to whom he remained married to until his death in October 28, 1998. (Poets.org)
Hughes' traumatic personal life
The speaker highlights the idea of memories and touches on the notion of death. In lines 24 -25, the speaker begins to realize that life is not everlasting and ends, just as quickly as the daffodils die. "We knew we'd live for ever. We had not learned / What a fleeting glance of the everlasting / Daffodils are." This harsh message sets the tone for the poem and allows the reader to understand the way Ted Hughes must have felt after all the loss he experienced in his lifetime.
20th Centruy Poetry
The growth of public education in England led to the emergence of a literature population and the production of mass-produced literature and cheap journalism. (Greenblatt) The 20th century also brought countless advances in technology, including the first airplane. Leading up to WWI, poetry saw the start of a revolution. The imagist movement began, which arose in reaction to the Romantic "fuzziness", and illustrated clear, precise ideas and images . (Greenblatt) Depression in the 1930s and the rise of Hitler deeply affected emerging poets of the time. Poetry, fiction literature, and drama each contributed to the movement away from Victororian sophistication and towards the modern ideals of the 20th century.
The pain and controversy that dominated most of his life, haunted most of his writing. Following the suicide of his wife, Sylvia Plath, Hughes' received much criticism regarding his handling of her writing. Much to the surpise of those critics, he published an intimate portrait of Plath in 1998 called "Birthday Poems'", which was a collection of prose poems covering the details of their relationship. ("Ted Hughes-Poetry Archive")
"The Hawk in the Rain" 1957
"Animal Poems" 1967
"The Birthday Letters" 1998
"The House of Aries" 1960
"The Calm" 1961
"The Wound" 1972
"The House of Donkeys" 1965
"The Head of Gold" 1967
"Meet My Folks!" 1987
"The Pig Organ" 1980
"Under the North Star" 1981
"The Iron Woman" 1995
"The Mermaid's Purse" 2000
A reading of "Daffodils"
"Daffodils" center around the theme of the fleetingness of life. Hughes uses daffodils, which only live for a short period of time, as an analogy to the shortness of life. This theme can be seen in lines 25-28, "What a fleeting glance of the everlasting / Daffodils are. Never identified / The nuptial flight of the rarest ephemera - / Our own days!"
Sylvia Plath, the late wife of Ted Hughes.
Hughes' use of imagery and his comparison to daffodils, fully supports the underlying message of the poem, that life is not certain and can end abruptly. His final lines beautifully capture the feelings that come with losing someone close to you, "Here somewhere, blades wide open, / April by April / Sinking deeper / Through the sod - an anchor, a cross of rust." (lines 63-66) He explains his feeling of misery as a cross or anchor, that drags you down. Grief and sadness are feelings that do weigh you down and leave you feeling lonely and lost. Ted Hughes' impeccable use of imagery beautifully grasps the harsh truth of life and death.
Greenblatt, Stephen. "Ted Hughes (1930-1998)." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9. ed. New York, N.Y.: W. W. Norton & Co., 2012. 2808-2815. Print.
"Ted Hughes." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/ted-hughes>.
"Ted Hughes." Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. <http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/113
"Ted Hughes - Poetry Archive." Ted Hughes - Poetry Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. <http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoet.do?poetId=7078>.
(cited from "Greenblatt")