Crow’s Fall Questions and Answers By Ted Hughes
1. Give a critical appreciation of the poem.
In ‘Crow’s Fall’, Ted Hughes presents the hamartia of the mythological crow for his act of presumption. Ted Hughes illustrates the reason how the crow became black in color. The story of the crow also illustrates the effect of transgressing one’s limits. According to the poet, once the crow’s feathers were all white in color. One day he thought that the sun was shining brighter than him. He became envious of its radiance and decided to attack it. His ambition made him temporarily blind. Without thinking about the outcome he flew close to the sun to defeat it. This event led to the crow’s downfall. As he went near the sun, he “returned charred black” and lost his white feathers. Being a poem of the modern period, ‘Crow’s Fall’ hasn’t any specific structure. It is in free verse. It contains 17 lines with uneven line lengths. Some lines are extremely short having only two syllables in them while some lines are comparatively long. The poem has no rhyme scheme. Though there are some lines that rhyme together like line 5 and line 7. The metrical composition of the poem is also irregular which one of the chief characteristics of modern poems is. The majority of the lines are composed of trochaic feet with some spondees. Spondee is a foot having two stressed syllables. In a trochaic foot, the first syllable is stressed and the second one remains unstressed. The poet uses this meter to heighten the tension in the poem. This “falling rhythm” is also relevant to the overall theme of the poem.
‘Crow’s Fall’ by Ted Hughes is a plain and direct poem. It doesn’t have too many literary devices lingering here and there. Actually the poet isn’t in a mood of convincing someone by using ornamental epithets. There are some devices that are used only to maintain the flow of the poem. Readers can find such a literary device called anaphora in line 3-8. All these lines begin with the same word, “he”.
In “Crow’s Fall” Hughes describes the crow as first being “white” which in literature is associated with the sense of purity and innocence. Hughes takes the symbol of a crow, which is associated with darkness and evil and puts it under another spotlight. Hughes takes something that is known for its darkness and brings it into the light. Hughes continues his description of the crow as having the need to “attack” and “defeat” the “sun” that “glared much too whitely”. It’s as if even though the crow is “white,” he doesn’t like the fact that the sun is shining “whitely”. It’s as if the sun is shining innocently and the crow wants to get rid of it. Even though the crow is white on the outside, his inner self is still has the urge to be destructive. His urge to destroy the sun is later what causes Hughes to describe the crow as “charred black”. His actions were reflected in his appearance when he returned. His inner feelings and view in reality take over his body when he goes …s also the way that the crow flew the black flag of himself. There is the idea that the voice given to the crow was because he was the only one that could amend the link between heaven and earth. The way that he flew the flag of himself also allows the thought that there is a connection between the conquering the world a… middle of paper ….. …
and what the crow really did. The crow was given the qualities of greed and deception that humans have and used it for his own personal gain. The crow continued to demonstrate how one situation in life can be seen in two different ways depending on the person.
2. How is the crow associated with the biblical themes?
In “Crow’s Fall” Hughes describes the crow as first being “white” which in literature is associated with the sense of purity and innocence. Hughes takes the symbol of a crow that is associated with darkness and evil and puts it under another spotlight. Hughes takes something that is known for its darkness and brings it into the light. Hughes continues his description of the crow as having the need to “attack” and “defeat” the “sun” that “glared much too whitely”. It’s as if even though the crow is “white,” he doesn’t like the fact that the sun is shining “whitely”. It’s as if the sun is shining innocently and the crow wants to get rid of it. Even though the crow is white on the outside, his inner self is still has the urge to be destructive. His urge to destroy the sun is later what causes Hughes to describe the crow as “charred black”. His actions were reflected in his appearance when he returned.
In ‘Crow’s Fall’ it is explained the Crow was originally white, but grew angry at the white sun and went to fight it: But the sun brightened –
It brightened, and Crow returned charred black.
He opened his mouth but what came out was charred black. “Up there,’ he managed,
‘Where white is black and black is white, I won.’
The poem is a little akin to the types of stories told to children to explain tigers’ stripes, but the stark emphasis on colour difference relates to an ongoing debate in anthropology about the structure of thinking, language, and meaning.
In 1929 the German philosopher Ludwig Klages coined the term ‘logo-centricism’ to denote what he felt was a Western phenomenon of locating meaning within a ‘logos’. ‘Logos’ is a Greek word meaning word, reason or spirit; Klages and those who followed him felt that most Western philosophy saw all meaning residing in this transcendental concept. Jacques Derrida was one of the best-known inheritors of the idea of ‘logocentrism’, and he aimed to undermine its results. He and other ‘deconstructionists’ believed that lots of key ideas related to implied logos an assumption that some concept had special inherent meaning. For example, a traditional idea of male sexuality as something present and single and whole, whereas female is hidden and multiple could be explained by a false reliance on the logos’ of male sexuality.
For Derrida, terms always come in pairs, such as white and black, with one leaning towards the concept of ‘logos’, in this case white. In ‘Crow’s Fall’, Crow ascends to ‘where white is black and black is white’; that is to say, he achieved a suspension of logos, and still returned black. Derrida felt that the only way to begin to override the dependence on ‘logos’ was to begin examining the non-logos side of pairings. In this case Hughes has crafted a poem which does so. Indeed the whole of Crow, with its strange exploration of darkness and the absurd, could be viewed as part of the project envisaged by Derrida to shift human society away from its addiction to logos, which would be a fundamental change in the idea of humanity itself and hence a radical anthropological action.
We have explored some of the ways in which the type of thought Ted Hughes was exposed to during a degree in Archaeology and Anthropology both informs and creates the meaning of Crow. By placing the poems in an intellectual context-we gain insight to why their strange and alienating, yet familiar and engaging style and content have led them to be ranked amongst not only Hughes’ greatest work, but also the greatest poetry of the twentieth century.
3. Discuss the themes and objectives of the From the Life and Songs of the Crow, by Ted Hughes.
In Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow, Hughes, for the first time, wrote a sequence of poems within a framework which took the form of a folk-mythology of his own construction. Through the quasi-human figure of Crow, he continued his own journey of exploration into the human psyche and, at the same time, his handling
of the death/rebirth theme in his poetry began to be more complex. It took on the aspect of a quest, a Shamanic journey to the underworld, which Hughes believed to be the basic theme in many folktales, myths and narrative poems.
The poems included in Crow are part of a large number of poems which make up a “vast folk epic” which tells the story of Crow. Hughes began this story at the suggestion of American artist, Leonard Baskin, who wanted an accompanying text for some of his anthropomorphic bird engravings. Amazingly, Hughes once said that he began Crow as children’s story: but the eventual development of Crow’s character, the sardonic, sometimes gruesome humour of the poems, and Hughes’ sophisticated and heretical manipulation of Biblical stories, has made Crow very much a bird for adults. Speaking on the BBC before the publication of Crow an argument develops between God and his Nightmare about the adequacy of Man as a creation. “God is very defensive of Man. Man is a very good and successful invention and given the materials and situation he’s quite adequate”. The Nightmare plunges back to “ferment and gestate in matter” and a little embryo begins. That is how Crow was created. As a creation which is better than Man, Crow is a fáilure, for Hughes also said that “maybe Crow’s ambition is to become a man”. However, Hughes made it clear that the actual Crow story is “not really relevant to the poems as they stand: …. I think they have a life a little aside from it. The story brought me
to the poems … was a sort of machine that assembled them”.
This allegory of the folktale prince and his choice of horse is an interesting one, for it shows Hughes deliberately adopting the “wretched, black, horrible, little nothing”, as his vehicle and ‘mask’ for his new poetic journey. Crow comes complete with all the mythological and folk-loric accretions which crows have gathered through their long existence, and of course, all the natural characteristics of the crow species.
Hughes makes it clear that Crow has many characterisuos …. common with Man. Also, given the cheeky, interfering, and amoral, destructive and sometimes constructive personality which emerges through the medium of Crow’s “life and songs”, plus Hughes’ own predilection for mythological archetypes, the comparison of Crow with the Trickster figure common in many mythologies is natural. The counterpart of Hughes’ Crow, who, laughing, singing and eating, displays his supreme egotism by “Flying the black flag of himself” through the havoc and horror which he has helped to create. Trickster has never been restricted to one society. In European countries he appears in the guise of Jester or Fool, and his roots in the human psyche are deep.
We can see the characteristics of Hughes’ Crow and his connection with Man, but the psychological implications of Crow’s character are broader still. Radin writes that the Trickster cycle “represents our efforts to deal with the problem of growing up”: that it is a “speculum mentis wherein is depicted man’s struggle with himself and with a world into which he had been thrust without his volition and consent an attempt by man to solve his problems inward and outward”.
In Crow, Hughes, not only redefined God, he adopted Biblical language and style, recreated the Biblical Genesis story, perverted the message of the supreme power of God’s love and cast Crow in the role of “crucified” and reborn hero and survivor of the Apocalypse. Crow was subjected to teaching and to tests, he was meant to learn humanity and wholeness, to develop a soul, but only in poems published in a later poetic sequence did he achieve real progress on his quest.
Crow’s interference in God’s work begins with ‘A Childish. Prank’. God, Hughes explained in his story, is at first “rather indulgent” towards Crow. “He tends to show it the beauties and let it look on while he shows the marvels of the beginning”. Having made Adam and Eve, however, God has problems getting their souls into their bodies. “The problem was so great, it dragged him asleep”. Crow intervenes, and in so doing invents sex as an urge which man and woman cannot control or understand.
Jhuman The Trickster element in Crow’s behaviour is obvious, but Hughes, too, is breaking taboos. God tries to teach Crow human skills emotions – tries to change his amoral, selfish nature. In ‘Crow’s First Lesson’, God attempts to teach Crow how to talk, but his efforts to teach him the word ‘Love’ result only in the creation of horror. Crow gapes, and vomits up his own devouring versions of love “the white shark”; “a bluefly, a tsetse, a mosquito”; and man’s bodiless head with woman’s vulva dropped over it and tightening around his neck. God, defeated, goes back to sleeping, leaving Crow to his own devices and Crow takes advantage of God’s slumber by inventing his own ‘communion’. This is a devastating parody of the Christian rite, in which Crow literally partakes of God’s body.
This sacrilegious reconstruction of Biblical lore, which is responsible for the stunning impact of some of the poems, is a clear indication of the way in which Crow resembles the Trickster Cycles, for Trickster is traditionally a “breaker of taboos and destroyer of the holy-of-holies”. It also illustrates the extent to which Hughes has adopted the Crow ‘mask’ in these poems, and how he takes on himself the role of Trickster. In Crow, Hughes is doing just what Jung describes when he says that “there is something of the Trickster in the character of the shaman and medicine-man, for he, too, often plays malicious jokes on people”
Crow may well seem to some like a malicious joke, and those critics who were convinced that Hughes enjoyed wallowing in violence and “the eager pursuit of blood and thunder” certainly felt vindicated. when Crow was published. Crow, however, is a very modern version of the Trickster Cycle fitting well with the surrealist and absurd sentiments of other twentieth century writers such as Kafka; of artists such as Francis Bacon; and of some of the Eastern European Poets whose works` Hughes has helped to make available in translation. In it he succeeds, as Calvin Bedient commented, in joining “the twin nihilistic themes of the century the Id and the Void with witty and enormous invention”. Hughes himself, however, seemed to feel that the Trickster Cycle had, in a way, taken him too far, too fast.
4. Comment on the writing style of Ted Hughes.
Hughes arguably personifies the notion of the ‘animal poet’, and through the spectrum of nature, he effectively magnifies and dissects the relationship between the animal world and that of humanity and social conventions, as well as the notion of identity via myth.
Perhaps it is only fair to label Hughes an ‘animal poet’, if we are willing to approach his poetry with our mindset firmly rooted in the notion of the animal world as one which is savage, sometimes sadistic and nearly always in some way capable of or prone to violence for survival. This idea is encompassed in a direct parallel of the human species as one which is equally capable of savagery yet essentially lacking in the kind of innocence animals possess naturally through their inability to execute rational thought or respond to conscience. The idea of creating myth out of personifying animals as a crude representation of human folly is integral to Hughes exploitation of animal imagery. He uses animals in various ways to expose the downfalls of humanity and to emphasise the viewpoint that humanity is transcendent and frail compared to the forces of nature. Hughes seems to have a horrified fascination of Darwin’s view of nature and consequently explores the idea of the survival of the fittest and adaptation.
As critics, we might assume Hughes’ motives behind such violent depictions of nature as part of a sort of social commentary, stem, for the most part, from his own personal life experience and the pain and sufferings thereof. Both Hughes’ wives, one being the poet Sylvia Plath, committed suicide while married to Hughes so it is little wonder his poetry demonstrates a rather tortured and bitter attitude towards life and indeed death. Hughes attempts to capture in writing, experiences which are beyond the restriction of mundane daytime life, borrowing from dreams and the unconsciousness in the small hours of the morning. He creates a link between the dream world and animals and this is reflected in the idea of myth in the collection Crow. Hughes uses this particular animal as a model for the entire collection and in turn creates a myth based on the crow with an emphasis on the violence and immorality of human energy. This myth making is a lineage which harks back to the romantic poetry. Hughes’ throw back to this tradition in Crow is reminiscent of Heaney’s North. Significantly both editions of poetry appeared within a few years of each other. It is easy to draw a parallel between Heaney’s motives for mythmaking with regard to his dilemma over national identity and the conflict surrounding his native Northern Ireland and to Hughes’ own inclination for highlighting the folly of his own society in England.
The crow seems to represent the ‘gangrenous’, marred, evil side of society; he is Hughes emblem of what is wrong with a Britain which is ‘Blacker than ever’. In ‘Crow Blacker than. Ever’, Crow cries, ‘This is my creation’. He is for the most part sadistic and revels in the infliction of pain upon man and their God- In ‘A childish prank’ Hughes writes, *Crow went on laughing’. This is perhaps a reflection of the fact that Hughes did not believe in Christianity but rather advocated Darwinism theory and chooses to explore the evolution of animal nature as fact while depicting religion as myth.
In ‘Crow and the Birds’, Hughes employs contemporary, mechanized words among birds who are acting romantically except for the crude image of the crow. He builds up to the concluding line with romantic descriptions of the various birds-‘And the swift flicked through the breath of a violet’ and delivers a very contrasting and effective end with the description of the crow- ‘spraddled head-down in the beach- garbage, guzzling a dropped ice-cream.’ He invokes at very unromantic view of the modern consumer world that has given up on the notions of morality and consequently is left with a squalid hunger and lust like the crow. It is not a very flattering depiction of contemporary society to say the least.
Considering Hughes is often praised for his poetry about war, ‘Crows Account of the Battle’ is an apt piece for discussion with its brutal images of war and violence. There is a sense of criticism on societies growing complacency towards killing and the numb normality of war, as well as an underlying bitterness towards a God who would let such atrocity occur. The crow is like the God figure watching from above, allowing the bloodshed to occur and then relating his version of events as a means of commenting on the mindlessness and atrocity of war. Critic Daniel Hoffman has remarked “Hughes is the most haunted inheritor, of the sensibility shaped by the appalling slaughter in World War I. His father was gassed in the trenches in that war; growing up in its aftermath, Hughes has come to see the cosmos as a battlefield. His is the world-view of a betrayed Fundamentalist, who, discovering that God has no care for man’s fate, understands the universe to be governed not by divine love but by power.”
Crow is a deeply painful book and is an expression of Hughes’ own agony. It appears to be an attempt on Hughes’ part to identify him with a culture or society which is unable to identify with the feminine. Hughes is possibly influenced by Robert Graves’ White goddess in which he talks of how Western society undervalue the feminine and disregard the myth and power of the mother. In ‘Revenge Fable’ Hughes implicates science and technology in the hostility of the feminine. He highlights this hostility by juxtaposing it with nature. The poem is about the tree of life and mans impulse to discover the truth behind it by means of ‘numbers and equations and laws’: Scientific research tears nature apart and we are left with ‘rifles and whisky and bored sleep’. Hughes critiques modernized mechanic warfare and how society has become wrapped up in violence and lack of appreciation for the mother figure through their obsession with technological advancement.
In many cases animals and their characteristics are assumed as both metaphors and statements for a wider and more complicated message. His animal poetry is a medium to indirectly vent his opinions on sociological and personal issues in an aptly animalistic manner with regard to violence and the natural order of life, love and death.
VERY SHORT QUESTIONS
1. What is the identity of the crow?
Thought crow Hughes creates a unique mythology with al scavenger as the reader can see the description of a crow can identify all the characteristic of a crow with himself at times.
2. How this poem is related to human beings?
In this poem Hughes want to related how human beings trap themselves in different situation because as free, but with introspection.
3. What do we see as readers?
We can see that many times in poem use to similes and adjective words. We are trapped by something whether it is fate, society, or ourselves.
4. What is the likeness of the crow with us?
We are trapped, still like crow of poem. We can see that to poem in the world as limited. Yet, we still wish to be unique and individualistic in our ways hoping that we can escape the monotony of the world.
5. What does the poet make clear in the poem?
Hughes in crow’s fall there for makes it clear that a crow has many characteristic in common with man like the crow a man is sometimes constructive and sometimes distractive in personality.
6. How has the crow been chracterised by the poet?
Here Hughes has gives this characteristic which emerges thought, the medium of crow, ‘life and songs’ plus Hughes own comparison and details of mythology archetypes, the comparison of a crow with trickster figure common in many mythologies which is nature to poem.
7. What does the poet want to show man?
In this poem, poet wants to show how man victory, wants to be superior that poses many vices and many times are defied by jealous pride and arrogance..
8. What is the justification of his argument?
He says that to supposes that all human attack better and superior things and generally people in their jealousy lose emphatically, and it may be that attempt to save face by claiming a victory, when the reality is that we are charred and blackened in defeat.
9. What reference has he given for this?
He says that to this lines refer to ‘when crow was white, he decided the sun was two white’, and again in the line ‘But the sun brightened’ it may be that to brightened and crow whitened, charred black’.
10. How the poet does make us realize that there is a bit of crow in our lives?
He says that is perhaps a little bit of crow in all of us for example if we can clain, that black is white than we can claim that defeat is victory by the same tipsy curvy logic of a crow.