Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Crow, more explication

This is part three of Ted Hughes' 1976 reading at Adelaide, in which he interspersed a number of his Crow poems with a pretty detailed account of Crow's origin.

These poems were begun a few years after Plath's death, and from what I understand the last was completed during the week prior to Assia's suicide (and Shura's murder).

Make of that what you will.


"As (Crow) goes along and has many adventures, everything that he meets tells a different story about what he does or what happens to him. So these are just various little episodes from it. This one is about the Black Beast:"


Where is the Black Beast?
Crow, like an owl, swivelled his head.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow hid in its bed to ambush it.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow sat in its chair, telling loud lies against the Black Beast.

Where is it?
Crow shouted after midnight, pounding the wall with a last,
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow split his enemy’s skull to the pineal gland.
Where is the Black Beast?

Crow crucified a frog under a microscope, he peered into the
brain of a dogfish.

Where is the Black Beast?

Crow roasted the earth to a clinker, he charged into space -
Where is the Black Beast?

The silences of space decamped, space flitted in every direction - Where is the Black Beast?

Crow flailed immensely through the vacuum, he screeched after the disappearing stars -Where is it?
Where is the Black Beast?

"A certain question begins to trouble him more and more and more - a fundamental, simple little question, "Who made me?". This turns into a quest for whoever it was that made him and he's quite successful in this quest. He keeps getting very close to whoever or whatever it is that made him, and whatever it is that made him always appears, or nearly appears, in some female form. So his journeys are a continual adventure or recurrent adventures with the Female in various forms. He has a series of encounters, and his misfortune is that he always bungles the encounter. He never understands that this is what he is actually looking for. This is just an account of one of his bungles:"

(A Horrible Religious Error)

When the serpent emerged, earth-bowel brown,
From the hatched atom
With its alibi twisted around it

Lifting a long neck
And balancing that deaf and mineral stare
The sphynx of the final fact

And flexing on that double flameflicker tongue
A syllable like the rusting of the spheres

God's grimace writhed, a leaf in the furnace

And man's and woman's knees melted, they collapsed
Their neck-muscles melted, their brows bumped the ground
Their tears evacuated visibly
They whispered 'Your will is our peace.'

But Crow only peered.
They took a step or two forward.
Grabbed this creature by the slackskin nape.

Beat the hell out of it, and ate it.

"God, who was first of all indulgent to him, becomes worried, because he sees that this is an alert little beast. So he begins to try and frustrate him. And the more he frustrates him the more able this creature becomes - the more obstacles infront of him the stronger he gets. So he becomes wiser, cleverer, stronger, and he becomes involved in all the cultures, intrigued by all the possibilities and the interesting tales. And early on, he encounters the literature of Oedipus, since he's so involved with his own search, and he reads Sophocles, and he reads Seneca, and he reads Freud. He sees, obviously, that this is open to everyone and he makes his own version. And by now he's begun to produce his own literature but his own literature is very crude. He produces plays and stories but he can never get more than two characters into the plays and stories - always the same two characters. So when he comes to deal with the Oedipus theme, he's stuck again with these two characters. This is a song from one of his plays - presumably the play is mimed while somebody sings the song - and, as a matter of fact, he steals the entire thing from Seneca:"

(Song for a Phallus)

There was a boy was Oedipus
Stuck in his Mammy's belly
His Daddy'd walled the exit up
He was a horrible fella

Mamma Mamma

You stay in there his Daddy cried
Because a dickeybird
Has told the world when you get born
You'll treat me like a turd

Mamma Mamma

His Mammy swelled and wept and swelled
With a bang he busted out
His Daddy stropped his hacker
When he heard that baby shout

Mamma Mamma

O do not chop his winkle off
His Mammy cried with horror
Think of the joy will come of it
Tomorrer and tomorrer

Mamma Mamma

But Daddy had the word from God
He took that howling brat
He tied its legs in crooked knots
And threw it to the cat

Mamma Mamma

But Oedipus he had the luck
For when he hit the ground
He bounced up like a jackinthebox
And knocked his Daddy down

Mamma Mamma

He hit his Daddy such a whack
Stone dead his Daddy fell
His cry went straight to God above
His ghost it went to hell

Mamma Mamma

The dickeybird came to Oedipus
You murderous little sod
The Sphynx will bite your bollocks off
This order comes from God.

Mamma Mamma

The Sphynx she waved her legs at him
And opened wide her maw
Oedipus stood stiff and wept
At the dreadful thing he saw

Mamma Mamma

He stood there on his crooked leg
The Sphynx began to bawl
Four legs three legs two legs one leg
Who goes on them all

Mamma Mamma

Oedipus took out an axe and split
The Sphynx from top to bottom
The answers aren't in me, he cried
Maybe your guts have got em

Mamma Mamma

And out there came ten thousand ghosts
All in their rotten bodies
Crying, You will never know
What a cruel bastard God is

Mamma Mamma

Next came out his Daddy dead
And shrieked about the place
He stabs his Mammy in the guts
And smiles into her face

Mamma Mamma

Then out his Mammy came herself
The blood poured from her bucket
What you can't understand, she cried
You sleep on it, or sing to it

Mamma Mamma

Oedipus raised his axe again
The World is dark, he cried
The world is dark one inch ahead
What's on the other side?

Mamma Mamma

He split his Mammy like a melon
He was drenched with gore
He found himself curled up inside
As if he had never been bore

Mamma Mamma

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