Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow is a series of poems by Ted Hughes placing the titular animal at the centre of a series of poems that characterise the bird as a mythical, mischievous and totemic creature that resides at the heart of the world's creation.
I first read them whilst queueing for coffee in a cafe in Glastonbury and was so immediately taken by them I bought the book along with my drink.
They are a departure from Hughes' earlier work and offer a more fabled or mystical read that I find to be utterly absorbing and as such this is a book I come back to again and again.
Featured below are a couple of extracts from the series (starting with my favourite) and once you've read them I heartily recommend you read Professor Neil Robert's excellent article - Crow: From the Life and Songs of Crow - from the Ted Hughes Society Journal website.
A Childish Prank
Man’s and woman’s bodies lay without souls,
Dully gaping, foolishly staring, inert
On the flowers of Eden
The problem was so great, it dragged him asleep.
He bit the Worm, God’s only son,
Into two writhing halves.
He stuffed into man the tail half
With the wounded end hanging out.
He stuffed the head half headfirst into woman
And it crept in deeper and up
To peer out through her eyes
Calling its tail-half to join up quickly, quickly
Because O it was painful.
Man awoke being dragged across the grass.
Woman awoke to see him coming,
Neither knew what had happened.
God went on sleeping.
Crow went on laughing.
Crow Goes Hunting
Decided to try words.
He imagined some words for the job, a lovely pack-
Clear-eyed, resounding, well-trained,
With strong teeth.
You could not find a better bred lot.
He pointed out the hare and away went the words
Crow was Crow without fail, but what is a hare?
It converted itself to a concrete bunker.
The words circled protesting, resounding.
Crow turned the words into bombs-they blasted the bunker.
The bits of bunker flew up-a flock of starlings.
Crow turned the words into shotguns, they shot down the starlings.
The falling starlings turned to a cloudburst.
Crow turned the words into a reservoir, collecting the water.
The water turned into an earthquake, swallowing the reservoir.
The earthquake turned into a hare and leaped for the hill
Having eaten Crow's words.
Crow gazed after the bounding hare
Speechless with admiration.
Crow Blacker than ever
When God, disgusted with man,
Turned towards heaven.
And man, disgusted with God,
Turned towards Eve,
Things looked like falling apart.
But Crow . . Crow
Crow nailed them together,
Nailing Heaven and earth together -
So man cried, but with God's voice.
And God bled, but with man's blood.
Then heaven and earth creaked at the joint
Which became gangrenous and stank -
A horror beyond redemption.
The agony did not diminish.
Man could not be man nor God God.
Crying: 'This is my Creation,'
Flying the black flag of himself.
Buy it here - Crow