Ted Hughes

1930-1998

 

Ted Hughes' funeral service was held on 3rd November 1998 at St. Peter's Church, North Tawton, Devon. His body was subsequently cremated in Exeter with only his close family in attendance. (At the church service fellow poet Seamus Heaney read two of Hughes' own poems and Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas.)
 


Ted Hughes Memorial Stone © Dartmoor Walks

His ashes were scattered at a remote location on Dartmoor, close to the source of the River Taw. A large granite stone bearing his name and dates was laid to mark the spot. 

Hughes first met fellow poet Sylvia Plath in 1956 when she was studying at Newnham College Cambridge on a Fulbright Scholarship from the USA. The couple were married the same year and after a spell teaching in the US they returned to England - first to London and then to Court Green, North Tawton in Devon. They separated when Sylvia discovered that Hughes was having an affair with Assia Wevill - the wife of a friend. She subsequently moved back to a flat in London where she committed suicide in the cold winter of 1963. 

In 1969 Hughes' relationship with Assia Wevill also ended in tragedy when she killed herself and their 4 year old daughter, Shura. His bleak collection Crow (1972) is dedicated: 'In Memory of Assia and Shura'.

Hughes continued to live in Devon following his second marriage to Carole Orchard in 1970.  For a number of years he worked as a farmer on her father's farm  - experiences which he recorded in Moortown.

The Devon rivers - the Dart and the Taw also provided some of the inspiration for his collection of poems River which was a collaboration with the photographer Peter Keen. The words on his Westminster Abbey memorial stone were from That Morning - one of the poems in River.


Ted Hughes

North Tawton Church (Photograph by David Dukes)

Hughes'  boyhood obsession with fishing and shooting made him a keen observer of nature. Many of his famous poems deal with the violence of the animal world e.g. Pike, Hawk Roosting and Thrushes.

His other collections include: Hawk in the Rain (1957), Lupercal (1960), Wodwo (1967)    and Wolfwatching (1989).

Hughes was offered the Laureateship in 1984 when Philip Larkin turned it down.

In December 2011 Hughes was honoured with a memorial stone in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London. The slab of kirkstone green slate, designed by the Devon stonemason Ronald Parsons, was set below that of T.S. Eliot and bore the words 'So we found the end of our journey./So we stood, alive in the river of light/Among the creatures of light, creatures of light.

The tractor stands frozen - an agony
To think of. All night
Snow packed its open entrails. Now a head-pincering gale,
A spill of molten ice, smoking snow,
Pours into its steel. At white heat of numbness it stands
In the aimed hosing of ground-level fieriness.

From Tractor

 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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