In the latest issue:

Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Indefinite Lent

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The Yorkists

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Whitehall Spookery

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Gordon v. O’Connor

Rupert Thomson

Revism

Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

Climbing into HeptonstallTed Hughes
Close
Close
Vol. 8 No. 11 · 19 June 1986
Poem

Climbing into Heptonstall

Ted Hughes

315 words

The Tourist Guide, with his Group, in the ring of horizons,
Looked down onto Hebden. ‘You will notice
How the walls are black.’
                            ‘Wash the black walls!’
Came the madman’s yell. Birdlike, wordless.

It meant ‘Wash the blood
Wash the Calder
Of all that still drains down
Out of the walls

The weaver’s baffled, half-deaf shout
Condensed in the walls

The birth-death confinement
A candle over the psalms
The breathed-in and breathed-out
Sour odour of mould
In the survival cells

Soots of the cold
And substitute
Flame lit by Wesley.

So spring-clean the skull. Sweep from the soul’s attic
Spinners, weavers, tacklers, dyers and their infants.
All agitators of wool and cotton
Caught in the warp and the woof. In a nook of the hills,
In the web of the streets, the Mill’s own web –
All the jackets that hung there, the prayers that twitched!
And in the web of the Chapel, the graveyard web –
The shiver of empty names! So scrub

The stomach lining, rid it
Of the arthritic and vinegar cud
Of their swallowed heart-burn. “Penny-hunger”,
The anaesthetic herb, choked this valley.
Spirit-flower of a stone-deep deprivation.
Rampant – perennial – their sole plenty.

Burn the record break the monument.
Time broke their machine. Let forgetting
Ease down the old gut of the glacier.
Let the seas recycle their atoms.

What survived
Nothing’s left
Only a temper
Less than a nothing
                     a hymn a hymn
Of going without – of going without –’

           And he kicked up his legs,
A clowning dance, and let out a tuneless yodel –

‘This is what made the wild hareball
So beautifully witless,
The trout under the stone so light-hearted!’

Then his voice hardened – to a wail

And he lurched off, bird-faced, stiff-kneed, downhill.
                                                       The Guide
Half-smiled, recovering his flock. And
With a sweep of the arm, as if he’d heard nothing:

‘Before us – stands yesterday!’

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences