HUGHES, Ted Early Manuscript Poetry.

[Yorkshire]: n.p., n.d. [c. 1946].


One page of lined paper, (approximately 150 words) of a manuscript poem (16.3 x 20cm approx), complete with one page of latin notes of the same paper size. Both pages torn from a notebook with some loss around the punch-holes, lightly creased and browned but in very good condition overall.

Possibly a youthful exercise in translating part of a verse of Virgil's Aneid (a copy of the text of which - bearing his sister's Olwyn's early ownership signature - it is laid in to), or possibly an original work. If the former (and Hughes is said to have been much influenced by Virgil), the passage is unknown in any of Virgil's works that we know of. There are three different workings, the first of which reads:

"At the incredibly raving tempest's centre/ Coring the smashing thunder and bladed hail/ Is the absolute serenity of pure fire/ The invioable silence of pure ice/ The cruel violence is cored with peace."

If the latter, the work is in keeping with Hughes' poetry of the time, as in poems such as 'The Zeet Saga", written while Hughes was still a teenager. Perhaps more interesting are the few lines further down the page, a couple of which (although crossed out), appear to pre-figure some of the themes of his later work: "Though braced with purpose the hawk's eye shall fail/ To tear flesh out of a hare [in?] winter." (according to Sylvia Plath's friend - and co-dedicatee of The Bell Jar - Elizabeth Sigmund: "Ted's belief in shamanism would lead him to think of [Sylvia] as being like a hare - magic and mysterious and very powerful".)

Having contributed to a few early poems to the Mexborough School magazine Don and Dearne, Hughes published nothing until he left Cambridge in 1954. A handful of pseudonymous poems then appeared in the student magazines Granta, Delta and Chequer and four poems in the sole issue of St. Boltolph's Review in 1956 with which he was involved on the editorial side. The Hawk in the Rain was published the following year.

Also laid-in is a single sheet of notes on Latin grammar and translation in Hughes' hand. There is a small amount of Hughes manuscript material at Emory University, and any work from this period is rare.

Provenance: Frieda Hughes.