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 House of York

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Caroline Gordon v. Flannery O’Connor

Rupert Thomson

Revism

Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

How to set up an ICU

Lana Spawls

Take what you want but pay for itTed Hughes
Close
Close
Vol. 10 No. 17 · 29 September 1988
Poem

Take what you want but pay for it

Ted Hughes

338 words

I

Weary of the cries
God spoke to the Soul of Adam
Saying: ‘Give me your body.’ And He
Took Adam’s body and nailed it
To a stake, saying: ‘This great beast
Shall destroy your peace no more.’

Then God fortified with buttresses
His house’s walls, and so devised a prison
For the contorted body
Of the beast. Outside, the Soul, in a shroud,
Glorified the Majesty
Of the defensive structure, towards which
It fled from the enclosing
And unappeasable cry
Of the primaeval bush. Once inside
The locked sanctuary and seeing
Its own body nailed down
To silence, harmless and
No longer thirsting, it wept
Astounded at the sculpted and cold
Beauty of its own torment
And the stony peace
Cupped it, like hands, and breathed into it
Grace. No longer life,
Simply Grace, whispering: ‘This is Grace.’

II

Then the Soul of Adam
Gasped as if in airlessness and there came
In from his hands and feet up through
His bowels and in
Through his shoulders and down
From all the sutures of his skull a single
Cry braiding together all the uncried

Cries his body could no longer cry
A single flagellant thong
With which he drove his ghostly being shuddering
Back into his body and
In that sudden inrush of renewal
The nailed feet and the hands
Tore free of the nails and he fell
From the emptied gibbet to earth

And tried to rise and raised
His blood-anointed head and tried to cry
But could not move. Only raised
The blood-mask and its effort
In his broken attempt to get up.

Then God withdrew, horrified
Almost afraid, as He saw

Exhaling from the black pits
Of each nail hole and from each gouged
Inscription of blood an ectoplasm
Blueish, and from the blackest pit of all
That issued the despair and its noise
A misty enfoldment which materialised
As a musing woman, who lifted the body
As a child’s, effortless, and walked
Out of the prison with it, singing gently

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