Hughes, Ted

British, (1930-1998)

View of a Pig

  1. The pig lay on a barrow dead.
  2. It weighed, they said, as much as three men.
  3. Its eyes closed, pink white eyelashes.
  4. Its trotters stuck straight out.
  5. Such weight and thick pink bulk
  6. Set in death seemed not just dead.
  7. It was less than lifeless, further off.
  8. It was like a sack of wheat.
  9. I thumped it without feeling remorse.
  10. One feels guilty insulting the dead,
  11. Walking on graves. But this pig
  12. Did not seem able to accuse.
  13. It was too dead. Just so much
  14. A poundage of lard and pork.
  15. Its last dignity had entirely gone.
  16. It was not a figure of fun.
  17. Too dead now to pity.
  18. To remember its life, din, stronghold
  19. Of earthly pleasure as it had been,
  20. Seemed a false effort, and off the point.
  21. Too deadly factual. Its weight
  22. Oppressed me — how could it be moved?
  23. And the trouble of cutting it up!
  24. The gash in its throat was shocking, but not pathetic.
  25. Once I ran at a fair in the noise
  26. To catch a greased piglet
  27. That was faster and nimbler than a cat,
  28. Its squeal was the rending of metal.
  29. Pigs must have hot blood, they feel like ovens.
  30. Their bite is worse than a horse’s —
  31. They chop a half-moon clean out.
  32. They eat cinders, dead cats.
  33. Distinctions and admirations such
  34. As this one was long finished with.
  35. I stared at it a long time.
  36. They were going to scald it,
  37. Scald it and scour it like a doorstep.

Ted Hughes. Lupercal. London: Faber & Faber, 1960.

Editor’s Note:

Here is an .mp3 (3,804 KB) recording of “View of a Pig” read by Canadian poet John Mackenzie (b. 1966): View of a Pig

[Pig]

  1. “A fox!” cried God’s Son, and clapped his hands, gripping his fingers together. He seemed delighted. But seeing God shake his head, the Farmer’s daughter called out: “Hear about our pigs!”
  2.  
  3. “Tell about the bees,” said the Farmer. “Tell about sweet things. What’s a pig but a pig?”
  4.  
  5. “A pig,” said his daughter sharply, “is anything but a pig. And no pig is ever really happy either.”
  6.  
  7. “Why is that?” asked God.
  8.  
  9. The Pig that ploughs the orchard with her nose
  10. Returns
  11. Strutting in her tiny tutu.
  12.  
  13. The Pig that lies unearthed out there, a giant potato,
  14. Or snores in the straw, an eyeless, legless
  15. Water-bed of wobble and quake,
  16. Can sprint faster than you can.
  17.  
  18. The sow fallen out there, cratered in mud,
  19. Like the circus fat lady
  20. Fallen off her tightrope, is not happy.
  21. She wants to be a real lady.
  22. The Pig that peers up at you, with blubbery nose
  23. And eyes red from weeping
  24. Wants to be you.
  25.  
  26. And the lean weaner, with his sawn-off shotgun grin,
  27. Squints his little Judas eye at you.
  28. Oh he’s wicked! He burps laughter!
  29. A flea
  30. Earthquakes the world of pig.
  31. And he’s splitting at the seams
  32. To keep in the explosion of laughter.
  33. His eyelids screw down tight, keeping it in.
  34. He wants to be a naughty comedian.
  35.  
  36. The big boar has problems
  37. With the battered swill-buckets of his ears.
  38. He keeps trying to arrange them over his eyes
  39. Like big poppy petals, but they’re too floppy.
  40. I know I’m no beauty, he says. I live for my children.
  41.  
  42. And the piglets, in elevens and thirteens,
  43. Galloping like apples poured from a barrel,
  44. Flogging themselves with their ears,
  45. Trying to escape from their tails
  46. Cry: Take us with you, take us with you.
  47.  
  48. All pine for the day they will be people.

Ted Hughes. Collected Animal Poems, 1930-1998. London: Faber and Faber, 1995.

Pig

  1. I am the Pig.
  2.  
  3. I saw in my sleep
  4. A dreadful egg.
  5.  
  6. What a thing to have seen!
  7. And what can it mean
  8.  
  9. That the Sun’s red eye
  10. Which seems to fry
  11. In the dawn sky
  12. So frightens me?
  13.  
  14. Why should that be?
  15. The meaning is deep.
  16.  
  17. Upward at these
  18. Hard mysteries
  19.  
  20. A humble hog
  21. I gape agog.

Ted Hughes. Collected Animal Poems, 1930-1998. London: Faber and Faber, 1995.

Crow Hill

  1. The farms are oozing craters in
  2. Sheer sides under the sodden moors:
  3. When it is not wind it is rain,
  4. Neither of which will stop at doors:
  5. One will damp beds and the other shake
  6. Dreams beneath sleep it cannot break.
  7. Between the weather and the rock
  8. Farmers make a little heat;
  9. Cows that sway a bony back,
  10. Pigs upon delicate feet
  11. Hold off the sky, trample the strength
  12. That shall level these hills at length.
  13. Buttoned from the blowing mist
  14. Walk the ridges of ruined stone.
  15. What humbles these hills has raised
  16. The arrogance of blood and bone,
  17. And thrown the hawk upon the wind,
  18. And lit the fox in the dripping ground.

Ted Hughes. Lupercal. London: Faber and Faber (1960).

About the Poet

Ted Hughes (Edward J.) (1930-1998), English. Hughes was a poet, dramatist, critic, short story writer and Poet Laureate of England (1984).

Hughes was married to the US poet Sylvia Plath (who committed suicide in 1963). He once stated that poems, like animals, are each one “an assembly of living parts, moved by a single spirit.” [DES-6/03]

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